* THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I rise to move to resolve—That it is desirable that legislative effect be given to such of the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Liquor Licensing Laws as are common to the 'Majority Report' and the 'Minority Report' of the Commissioners.I undertake the task, my Lords, with genuine and unaffected diffidence. There are many noble Lords in this House, Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual, who are more qualified by personal experience of the difficulties which attend this question than I am to introduce the subject to your Lordships' notice. Specially should I have wished to see the matter taken in hand, on their own initiative, by Her Majesty's Government, who appointed the Commission to which my resolution refers, and who, it would seem to me, have some measure of responsibility for dealing with the unanimous conclusions to which that Commission ultimately came. But as no one else has shown any inclination or evinced any anxiety to undertake the duty, I venture to ask your Lordships' attention for a short time while I explain the intention of my resolution and ask you to support it. I doubt whether there is any subject of modern debate on which the official literature is so voluminous, about which the questions at issue are so complicated, and on which seems to be prima facie so irreconcilable a difference of opinion as the one with which my resolution deals. It is not, therefore, a very tempting subject for a short speech, which must endeavour to condense what is a very large mass of material. 1005 The mass of material in itself is a depressing thing to face for anyone who strives to thoroughly grapple with and understand the subject. Every inquiry which has taken place on the subject has added to the immense pile, and it is literally by the hundredweight rather than by the page that the literature on the topic is to be measured. I will take as illustrations of this fact two instances only. Some years ago a Select Committee of this House sat under the presidency of the noble Duke whose loss we all deplore—the late Duke of Westminster—to consider this subject, and the result of their lucubrations was given to the world in five folio volumes of some 2,100 pages. But that is a mere bagatelle as compared with the matter which has seen the light as the product of the Royal Commission appointed a few years ago. The Royal Commission to which we are to-night making reference has issued eleven folio volumes, containing 4,168 closely printed pages. If there is any member of your Lordships' House who has really faced and mastered that portentous mountain of matter I offer him to-night my congratulations and my sympathy, and I am quite sure there are many of your Lordships who will be very glad to be enlightened by what one, who has so fortified himself, can tell us. I can claim credit for no such herculean task, but I have read with care the final volume containing the Reports, and also a great deal of the evidence; and my motion is based on the firm conviction that the public at large has failed adequately to realise how large, how unexpectedly large, is the body of recommendations upon which the Commissioners are practically agreed, and how firm a basis is thus laid upon which legislation might without much difficulty be built. The Commission was appointed in April, 1896, and consisted of twenty-four members—of whom, roughly speaking, eight may be said to have represented the interests of what is known as "the Trade," eight were men who had more or less identified themselves with the Temperance cause, and eight were men supposed to approach the matter without bias and to look with impartiality upon the evidence which would be brought before them. The Chairman of the Commission was, as your Lordships all know, the noble Viscount (Viscount Peel), whose almost unique experience, as well as his high qualifications 1006 in other ways, seemed to mark him as an ideal chairman for a task of no small difficulty. The Commission appointed as its Vice-chairman Sir Algernon West, whose long administrative experience as well as his other qualifications it would be impertinent for me to refer to or to praise. The Commission took evidence from no less than 259 witnesses, and sat almost constantly for nearly three years. It did not report till July, 1899, when two Reports saw the light. The two Reports appeared to be complete each in itself, and to a superficial observer were practically independent of one another. One Report is signed by seventeen of the twenty-four members, headed by the vice-chairman of the Commission—that is to say, by the whole of those representing the Trade and by the party who claimed the attribute of approaching the matter with open minds. The second Report was signed by the Chairman of the Commission and by seven of his colleagues who were ranged upon what is commonly called the "Temperance" side. One Commissioner of great ability —an Irishman—signed both Reports. The Reports wore accompanied by a large number of individual Reservation in which separate members of the Commission stated the details upon which they dissented from the conclusions of those with whom in other respects they agreed. Anyone who examines those Reservations with care will find how very slightly they detract from the unanimity existing on each of the two sides in the Minority and Majority Reports respectively. As soon as those two Reports were issued there: arose what was perhaps to be expected, a public outcry. "How could it be otherwise?" we were asked, when a Commission had been appointed in this sort of way, and when people irreconcilably committed to diverse opinions beforehand were asked to sit together and to come to a joint conclusion. We were told that it was the worst possible course, in appointing a Royal Commission, to name people who were already committed on the subject, that we ought to have jurymen rather than counsel, and that only eight out of the whole Commission could be described in that particular way. I am far from wishing to enter on the difficult question as to what is the manner in which a Royal Commission ought to be appointed, but I think the argument I have quoted is a plausible one, and on 1007 the whole I am inclined to agree with it. In this particular case, however, there is a good deal to be said in arrest of judgment before we come to that conclusion. Suppose these Commissioners, appointed from such alien quarters, had arrived at a unanimous conclusion. Would not everybody have said it was a triumph for the noble Marquess at the head of the Government who had appointed them? But it is not generally known how near the Commission was to arriving at one unanimous Report. We have, in the last few weeks, had the advantage of hearing on that particular subject several Members who served on the Commission itself. In an article written by the Vice-Chairman of the Commission (Sir Algernon West) appears the following—Up to this time [towards the close of the drawing up of the Report] there appeared to he every probability of She Commission coming to a nearly unanimous Report, mainly owing, I am bound to say, to the concessions of those interested in the liquor trade, who always appeared willing and ready to acquiesce in any reasonable reforms that the most experienced Commissioners considered for the public good.'The most rev. Primate who sits behind one, and who, as your Lordships are aware, has taken no small part in the work of this Commission, has within the last few days spoken to us from the opposite side to the same effect. In a speech delivered about a week ago the Archbishop of Canterbury said—At one time I certainly thought that we should have had a unanimous Report; but it was not to be, and we have got two Reports instead of one. But I must say that the two Reports are a very great advance, even if you confine your examination of them to those points in which they both agree.The Blue-book itself and, still more, the articles which have recently been made public show us that it was not entirely upon abstract questions of temperance legislation that difference arose, but that there were questions as regards the administration of the Commission itself, upon which it would be entirely out of place for me to enter, but which obviously contributed in sonic measure to the result that two Reports instead of one saw the light. No sooner were the two Reports published than the enthusiasts on either side, and the ordinary cynical critics who discount all such endeavours to arrive at a solution of a problem, emphasised what they called the "irreconcilable difference" between the Reports, ignoring the fact that the 1008 great mass of the recommendations were common to both the Majority and the Minority Reports. The public, strange to say, has accepted this view, and most people now suppose the two Reports to be incompatible with one another if not absolutely antagonistic. Now, my Lords, it is certain that those who so think and speak are simply blind, or blundering, as to the actual facts. Prefixed to the summary of recommendations with which the Majority Report concludes is a statistical table. In that table the recommendations of the majority are summarised numerically. The number of recommendations which are so referred to or described amount to no less than ninety-nine, but some allowance must be made for overlapping and repetition, since the paragraphs relating to each country are separately numbered, though the recommendations are sometimes identical. The table goes on to show that of these ninety-nine recommendations fifty-five are absolutely common to the two Reports, and twenty-two are nearly so; that is to say, seventy-seven out of the ninety-nine recommendations are substantially common to the Reports of the minority and the majority, or, in other words, more than three-quarters of the recommendations are practically given to the world on the advice of the Commissioners as a whole. Will anyone contend that that is a result to be disappointed at, considering the difficulty of the subject grappled with, or that Her Majesty's Government can properly regard the Commission as having failed to arrive at a substantial basis of agreement? With your permission, my Lords, I will now try briefly to state what are the salient points in this great area of common ground, omitting minor matters which are of great importance, but which, for the sake of clearness, it is absolutely necessary to set on one side. In the first place, what I would say concerns itself with the "England" part of the report alone. There were practically separate Reports presented on England, Scotland, and Ireland, but the same principles run through the whole, and there is obviously a great deal of overlapping in what concerns the different countries. One point that struck me I may perhaps mention; I hope it will not wound the susceptibilities of any noble Lord connected with Ireland. It came out in the evidence that of the persons of all sorts 1009 committed to prison in Scotland during any given year one man in every three is an Irishman. I come now to the actual points I desire to call your attention to as belonging to both Reports, and I would ask you to bear in mind throughout that those whom we may roughly call the trade representatives are committed to these recommendations as much as the most ardent reformers on the Commission. First and foremost among the joint recommendations is the need which they all feel for the consolidation and simplification of the existing law. There are at this moment no less than twenty-five Acts of Parliament dealing with the licensing question, and through those Acts of Parliament those who desire to arrive at a conclusion on some knotty point of law connected with licences have time after time to make their way. Abundant evidence was before the Commission showing the conflicting advice which is given to magistrates, many of them not lawyers, by magistrates' clerks, on whom devolves the interpretation of the law, and who, it was shown, are not always free from an involuntary bias due to their professional relation to the trade. It is no wonder that confusion should follow from such a state of things, and that the Minority Report should amplify its recommendation in these words—It is a serious drawback to the effectiveness of a law whose operation touches such a vast number of people and whose administration is in the hands of so many laymen, that it can hardly be understood without reference to a lawyer, and we concur in the opinion expressed by nearly all our witnesses that any future reform of the law should include its simplification and consolidation.The majority and minority accordingly recommend in identical terms that steps should be taken for the simplification of the existing law so that it may be more clearly understood than at present. Then we come to another point involving more difference of opinion—namely, the reconstitution of the licensing authority, both original and appellate. It is commonly said that there is a hopeless difference of opinion between the two Reports upon that particular subject, but that is not so. The matter is one of paramount importance, and, while the details of the recommendations differ, both Reports, as regards the initial licensing authority at all events, recommend practically the same thing. They 1010 recommend that the licensing authority should be selected triennially, and that a certain number of its members should be chosen by the magistrates, and a certain number by the county council or the town council, as the case may be which has to give the licences. That is not confined to the Minority Report. Both Reports recommend the same thing, although they slightly differ as to the numbers of members who should be thus elected by each local body. Both are in favour of the introduction in a mild form of the popular elective principle in what may be called the Court of First Instance. Then we come to the appellate jurisdiction—to the body to whom an appeal is to be made. Upon that point there is rather more difference of opinion between the two Reports. The majority recommend that the appeal court (if we so designate it) shall consist of justices only, who shall be selected by the justices, the Secretary of State settling what in each case shall be the number for the area affected. Both Reports agree that the body before whom the appeal shall come shall be a selected and not an ex-office body. The minority of the Commission recommend that the principle of indirect popular election shall be thus far preserved that those before whom the original application came, and against whose decision the appeal is made, shall themselves form a part of the ultimate Court to whom the appeal lies, so that the facts which led to the original decision can be stated by those responsible for it. They provide, however, that care shall he taken that the new element in the appeal court predominates over the old element in the proportion of at least three or two. I think it is not too much to say that the difference between the two Reports in this respect is not a vital one. At least, anyone who has followed the discussions which have taken place outside upon the subject will have seen that there is no irreconcilable difference of opinion, and that a compromise is very far indeed from being impossible. Passing from the licensing authority as thus reconstituted, we come to a large number of details as to the qualifications of its members and the powers they are to exercise, upon which practically the whole of the Commission are agreed in desiring certain definite changes. First of all, they are agreed that connection with a brewery company or the like, which dis- 1011 qualifies a magistrate from sitting as a member of a licensing authority, shall similarly disqualify the magistrates' clerk who has to advise them. Instances were given of the difficult position in which a magistrate's clerk is placed who has to advise magistrates on this matter whilst he is professionally connected with those whose interests are under the consideration of the magistrates. Both Reports recommend, also, that the watch committee in a town, upon whom so much depends, shall be subject to the same disqualifications as are the licensing authority. All agree in advising, on the other hand, that the technical disqualification of a magistrate by reason of the fact that he happens to be a shareholder in a railway company which has refreshment-rooms shall be abolished. Again, both bodies agree in recommending that the licensing sessions shall be held in March rather than in August or September, when so many of the justices are more agreeably employed, and find it difficult to attend. Again, both are agreed in recommending that there shall be a substantial interval of time between the granting of a licence and the appeal against it. It was shown quite clearly that often not sufficient time was allowed, and that, therefore, the rehearing was practically impossible. Both further recommend that the licensing authority shall have jurisdiction over what are known as "off" licences, which at present are not, in any clear or certain way at any rate, subject to the licensing authority, Both agree that what are called the ante-'69 beer-houses, which have certain special privileges, and are therefore in a somewhat exceptional position, shall come under the magistrates jurisdiction, and have their special privileges abolished or diminished. The majority recommend that in that case compensation should be given to them. Then, upon the great question of tied houses, the recommendation is made by both the minority and the majority that the agreements which exist between the brewer or the company and the actual publican shall be laid in full before the licensing board at the time the licence is under consideration, and that agreements of that kind which are withheld shall be ipso facto invalid. Then there is the extremely important recommendation that in lieu of the present endorsement upon a licence when 1012 a conviction has taken place—the endorsement at present disappears when a new licence is issued, and a house with a bad record gets a fresh start with a clean sheet—the licensing authority shall have before them in each case a record of all the convictions that have taken place with regard to that particular house when a renewal or a transfer of the licence is applied for. Both reports also lay it down as imperative that the chief constable must be relieved from any liability to dismissal without the sanction of the Secretary of State. The evidence made it clear that chief constables are restricted in doing what they otherwise would do by reason of the idea they entertain, whether rightly or wrongly, that their position would be imperilled if they acted as they felt prompted by duty to act. Such, my Lords, are some of the salient points upon which there is agreement between the two Reports. Is it to be thought possible that the whole of the labour which has been expended in arriving at this agreement is to be practically wasted, and that no legislative effect is to be given to this great body of really important recommendations in favour of amendments in our licensing laws? I find it difficult to believe that such can be the wish of Her Majesty's Government. Let me now turn, shortly, to another branch of the subject upon which the two bodies in the Commission are agreed—actual offences on the part either of the publican or his customers. What restrictions ought to be introduced with regard to Sunday opening? What about the protection of children? What a bout a actual drunkards? It is perfectly obvious that in a free country each one of these points presents features of very great difficulty, if we are to avoid the danger of interfering with the legitimate liberty of the individual, a liberty which every Member of your Lordships' House would desire as far as possible to protect. For myself, I am surprised at the virtual unanimity of opinion expressed by the Commission on these difficult matter's. As regards Sunday, both Reports agree that some further restriction is necessary as to the hours of opening in other places than London and some of our great cities. The hours suggested are not exactly the same in the two Reports, but the difference is only in detail. Both agree in very emphatic terms as to the flagrant abuse 1013 of the existing law known as the "bona fide travellers" clause. The epithets used by chief constables and others in referring to the bona fide traveller are not complimentary. He is referred to as a humbug and a delusion. Instances are given from every part of England of the way in which the enactments intended to meet what we should all desire to see safeguarded—the legitimate needs of actual travellers—are being set at naught in a manner which, if it were not melancholy in its result, would be ludicrous. Men take a penny ticket on the line to a distance beyond three miles, and they there have a right to demand that during the closing hours they shall have drink supplied to them. Many places are named both in Yorkshire, in Wales, and in the suburbs of London, where, upon a huge scale, the bona fide travellers clause is being used for the sole purpose of making possible drinking which would be otherwise illicit during certain Sunday hours. Both parties on the Commission are agreed in desiring to see the number of such available houses limited, the distance proscribed in the bona fide travellers clause extended, and the conditions made more stringent. It is very significant that on those points both Reports come to the same conclusion. As regards the protection of children, both Reports agree that an enactment is absolutely required which shall make it a definite offence to be drunk whilst in charge of a little child or little children. The evidence of Sir John Bridge - -whose death we all deplore, and who had a unique experience of such matters in his capacity as the leading police magistrate of London—is worthy of the consideration of those of your Lordships who have any doubt as to the need for a provision of this kind. He contrasts his power of punishing a man for being drunk while in charge of a horse with his inability to punish a man or woman for being drunk while in charge of helpless children. I now come, my Lords, to another point on which nearly every one has been surprised to find the degree of unanimity which exists between the Minority and the Majority Reports. Both recommend that the sale cither "on" or "off" of any kind of intoxicants to children under the age of sixteen should be forbidden; but inasmuch as this touches what are called child messengers, and is felt to be not so 1014 much a trade question as a question affecting the convenience of the working classes, the majority couple their recommendation with this, as it seems to me, not unreasonable clause—Legislation in this direction, therefore, should only be undertaken after the fullest discussion with those best qualified to speak for the class affected, otherwise a strong reaction of opinion might follow.Even with that safeguard, it is a startling thing to find that the whole of the Commissioners have arrived at such a recommendation as I have referred to. It is exactly one of those cases in which people who marvel at the decision arrived at ought to read in detail the evidence—on which the conclusion is based—as to the bribes of sweets and toys given to little children to induce them to come into the public-house, and in some parts of England the additional amount of liquor, known as the "long pull," put into the jug, with the result that the child can without detection drink some of it on the way home. It is not my wish to argue now whether the conclusions of the Commission on this point are right or wrong, I desire simply to bring them before your Lordships and to say that if the Commissioners were biassed they were biassed by the evidence adduced before them. Then we come to the remarkable provisions for dealing with habitual drunkards. Almost all the points under that head are points upon which the whole Commission are absolutely agreed. They recommend that drunkenness in public shall be in itself an offence rendering a person liable to punishment, even apart from the disorder which usually accompanies it, and that habitual drunkenness shall be regarded as cruelty under the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women's) Act, 1895, entitling the wife to separation for herself and protection for her children Then there is the striking and novel clause that a black list shall be formed of habitual drunkards, who are no longer to be trusted to indulge in a public-house because of the results which have been shown to follow, that publicans should be furnished with such list, and that knowingly to give liquor to one who stands on that list shall be an offence. It has been pointed out that in large cities such a provision would be ineffective; but in country towns and in very many districts of England it obviously could be carried out without difficulty. 1015 Both parties in the Commission agree in recommending it. I pass to the complicated and perplexing question of clubs. Everyone who has studied this subject knows how immense is the difficulty we have to face in any temperance legislation from the knowledge that restrictions upon drinking in public-houses may result in the greater evil of unrestricted and uncontrolled drinking in what are known as clubs. That is, I am afraid we must admit, a growing evil. The total number of clubs in which intoxicants are sold is 3,390, but besides those which are of a useful or harmless character, there are what are called bogus clubs almost the land through, which, while they profess to have some social or political object, do, as a fact, exist simply as places for drinking. There can be doubt about that, but I will give one single instance. Captain Anson, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire, who is well known to many of your Lordships, gave before the Commission a detailed description of a working man's club registered under the Friendly Societies Act, and standing upon a level which renders it absolutely exempt from police supervision. Such a club can be opened at all times of the day and night, with no prescribed hours of closing and no restrictions as to the behaviour of those frequenting it. This particular club had or has a membership of 250, and the annual subscription was a shilling per head. The objects of the club were defined in its rules to be—To afford to its members the means of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement, and rational recreation. Any person over eighteen is eligible, except parsons, police, and publicans.The accounts of the club are necessarily made public and are accessible to all. The annual expenditure was £770. Out of that, mental and moral improvement— as shown, presumably, by the purchase of newspapers and books—consumed £2 12s. 5d.; rational recreation (entertainments and games), £4 5s.; and refreshments, £764, of which £4, so far as we can make out, was for bread and cheese and £760 for drink. Captain Anson somewhat cruelly concludes his evidence by saying—The last item, 'mutual helpfulness,' is brought into play at one o'clock hi the morning, when the sober members arm their friends homewards.1016 There are, of course, large numbers of properly-conducted clubs which we should all desire to encourage. Both the majority and the minority agree in recommending that every club shall be registered; that there must be proof given that no individual makes a profit from the drink that is sold in the club—that is to say, if a profit is made it must go to the members as a whole; and that there shall be no "off" sale for drink away from the premises. Upon these main points both parties are agreed, and it is felt that these restrictions would afford some protection against the growth of what is a real danger. Upon that point I should like to make it clear that I, for one, feel that whatever restrictions are imposed as regards clubs, they must be applicable to all clubs —to the clubs of which your Lordships are members as well as other clubs; but the restrictions recommended are not such as would cause inconvenience to an well-conducted club whether in Pall Mall or Shoreditch. My Lords, I have, I fear, wearied you with these details; but it was necessary to show what I mean when I say that the great mass of matter on which the two sides are agreed affords an ample basis for legislation. But I have left untouched, it may be said, the most important point of all—the question of the reduction in the number of licensed houses and the results that would follow therefrom. The Minority Report says that "the number of licensed houses should be immediately and largely reduced." The Majority Report, it might have been supposed, would have objected to that recommendation, but it does not. It merely omits the adverb "immediately" and says: "The number of licensed houses should be largely reduced." That, my Lords, looks at first like agreement; but the conditions with which in each case the recommendation is coupled vary so greatly that I am not any longer upon ground upon which I can speak of the Commissioners as coming to a unanimous or joint recommendation. It is quite clear, if you agree to a joint recommendation but couple that recommendation with conditions differing so widely as do the conditions laid down by the Majority and Minority Reports, that the idea of unanimity comes practically to an end; but, personally, I take a sanguine view, and believe that the 1017 difficulties in the way of a harmonious settlement are more apparent than real. As the Vice-Chairman of the Royal Commission says in an article in the Nineteenth Century for February last—On the thorny question of compensation there is a serious difference of degree between the two Reports, but scarcely one of principle.However that may be, I do not want to dwell upon it now. In my view, when once the subject is taken in hand for practical legislation the advantage and the possibility of a material reduction in the number of existing licences will become apparent, but it is by no means self-evident that you will reduce intemperance by reducing the number of public-houses. It is constantly said by Temperance speakers that the amount of intemperance varies just in proportion to the number of licensed houses, and it is easy to produce a string of statistics in support of that statement. But, my Lords, it is equally easy to produce a string of statistics to prove exactly the opposite. The police statistics—which are, after all, what we must rely upon—mean, of course, arrests. Arrests mean activity on the part of the police, and that depends largely on the support they receive from the magistrates who are behind them. Therefore we may be misled if we rely on statistics as to the real amount of drunkenness at any given time in any particular town. Statistics of this sort may be so handled as to prove almost any theory in a discussion which has many sides. That, I think, is quite evident from a study of the statistics in the Blue-book which is at this moment under your Lordships' consideration; but it was still more markedly brought out in the deliberations of the Committee which sat under the chairmanship of the late Duke of Westminster in 1878. A very striking example may be adduced from the evidence given before the Committee by no loss a person than the present Secretary of j State for the Colonies. Mr. Chamberlain was not at that time giving evidence as a politician but as the ex-mayor of Birmingham, in which capacity he had had special opportunity of dealing with criminal statistics and the like. He was cross-examined, I believe, by the noble Earl who leads the Opposition in this House. Tables were put in showing that particular offences in a given year had increased from 802 to 1,850, 1018 while in a corresponding period other offences had diminished to an almost corresponding degree; and Mr. Chamberlain, after the cross - examination had been proceeding a little while, said: "My Lords, I do not pretend to explain these figures." Another witness was Mr. Hoyle, who had written several statistical works on these points, and was recognised as the foremost authority on the subject. He was cross-examined at great length as to his statistics, and in the end the noble Earl who was cross-examining him said—You have had considerable experience of such statistics, Mr. Hoyle. Do you not think it would be easy to prove almost anything you wished to prove by judiciously manipulating statistics from various parts of the country?Mr. Hoyle admitted, in reply, in specific terms, that he had ceased to lay stress on local statistics, while he still attached great importance to great statistics of national drink bills and the like. For myself, I honestly believe that a considerable reduction in the number of licences would conduce to temperance by limiting the temptation offered to the weak, and, still more, by improving the character and responsibility of the licensed houses that remained. At the same time it is always to be remembered that a large reduction in licensed houses has perils and difficulties of its own. In the first place it will almost certainly mean a corresponding increase in the number of clubs, the danger of which I have already referred to; and, in the second place, it is certain that if you desire to largely reduce licences you must pay a heavy price for it. That no such reduction can take place without reasonable and adequate compensation seems to me so obvious as hardly to require arguing in Parliament or out of it. Whatever may be said as to the abstract right of one who is technically only an annual holder, I am perfectly certain that the words of Sir Algernon West are true, namely—Parliament will not depart from the principle, so long recognised in the practice of the law, that a going concern or business required for a public purpose must be purchased at its market value.But, my Lords, do not let anybody think that it depends on questions of "compensation" whether or not we should have legislation. Bring about the practical, prosaic, uncontested reforms that are asked for by all parties on the Royal 1019 Commission, and even if you let the question of reduction and compensation entirely alone you will do untold good. My Lords, I must apologise for the inadequate way in which I have dealt with a complex and difficult problem, hut I do not apologise for bringing it forward. The need of action is universally admitted by magistrates, by the police, by social inquirers and social reformers of every kind, and certainly not least by the clergy, on whose behalf in some measure I speak to-night. A week ago the Upper House of the Convocation of York passed a unanimous resolution—That the points of agreement between the Majority and Minority Reports of the Royal Commission on the Licensing Laws constitute a practicable basis for legislation.And this very day the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury have passed with absolute unanimity a resolution practically recommending the same thing. I call your Lordships' attention to that fact, for I am quite sure it is one which is worthy of consideration, and ought to have weight given to it. Of course, it would be quite easy to quote by the thousand resolutions to the like effect passed by temperance societies, but I know these would be discounted as coming from people who were practically committed to particular theories on the subject. I would rather quote a resolution which was passed the other day by a body entitled to consideration from a somewhat different point of view. On the motion of so staunch a Conservative as Sir John Kennaway, the magistrates sitting at the Devon Quarter Sessions unanimously adopted the following resolution—That in the opinion of this Court, it is desirable that the practical suggestions for the improvement of the existing licensing laws and their administration, on which both sections of the Commission were agreed, should be embodied in a Bill to be brought before Parliament with as little delay as possible.That resolution, my Lords, asks for more than I do, but it is the opinion of men conversant alike with the difficulty and the facts. I do not ask that a Bill should be brought in at once, but I do ask that some action shall be promised when the proper time arrives. It needs no argument, to emphasise the fact that there is at this moment an evil which requires setting right, and which has remained without attention too long. Your Lord- 1020 ships will perhaps remember that the very first regular Licensing Act which was passed some 3.10 years ago was passed, as stated in the preamble, to remedy—The intolerable hurts and troubles to the commonwealth of the realm which did daily grow and increase through such abuses and disorders as were had and used in common ale-houses and other houses called tippling houses.I ask you to compare that with the almost similar statement, though couched in rather different phraseology, which was made last year not by the minority of the Royal Commission, but by the majority; that is to say, by the body comprising the representatives of the trade. They say—It is undeniable that a gigantic evil remains to be remedied, and hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in a marked diminution of this national degradation.It does not seem to me that words like those can be passed by without endeavouring to see if it is not possible to give them some practical response in action. We are occosionally told that it is impossible to grapple with the evil because the trade is too strong for us. I do not think your Lordships would assent to so humiliating an allegation. If it were true that the trade was firmly opposed to reform Parliament should set its hands to overcome such opposition. But it is not true. The recommendations I am making are adopted by many of the representatives of the trade themselves. I notice that in a speech delivered only a few days ago by Mr. E. N. Buxton, President of the Central Board of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, occur the following words—Now, gentlemen, there is a very considerable measure of agreement in the executive proposals of the two reports, and I dare say you have noticed that the Bishop of Win-Chester is about to propose a most important resolution in the House of Lords in favour of legislation in those matters which are common to the two reports. …. I am in favour of legislation on those lines.I mention that important speech not because I wish to rest my authority on the evidence even this eminent member of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, but because I am anxious to meet the statement which may be made that I am speaking for one side only. Then, again, we are told that because property in breweries, distilleries, and the like, which used to be in the hands of the few, has now become the possession of the many, it is impossible to 1021 go forward in the matter owing to the interests being so widely distributed. I prefer to look at it in exactly the opposite way. I know that thousands of those who have thus acquired a personal responsibility in the matter are people with a keen interest in the welfare of the community at large, while on the other hand they are not biassed by what can be called professional identification with the trade. What has happened is this. They have acquired a locus standi; they have assumed a new responsibility; they are people who do care for the national well-being, and they do not wish to be supporting at this moment what the trade representatives on the Royal Commission themselves call "a gigantic evil." To them we have a right to appeal for help in giving effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It is a commonplace to say that in questions of social reform the greatest danger comes when everybody says, "You must do something." The danger is that the thing you do thus hurriedly and by a forced march is the wrong thing. Abundant harm comes from hasty and inconsiderate tinkering with a great question. The recommendations to which I am asking your Lordships to say that effect ought before long to be given are not of that character at all. We are not dealing with some crude and ill considered scheme forced upon us by the enthusiasm of a few faddists who are going to interfere unduly with that sacred thing, the liberty of the subject. Nothing of the sort. What I am asking your Lordships to say is that effect should be given to the deliberate thought-out series of administrative proposals made by men who have for three years weighed the whole of this great question—proposals practically complete in themselves, and which, if effect were given to them to-morrow, would leave nothing that would afterwards have to be undone even if afterwards much had to be built upon them. Of course, my resolution does not satisfy the extreme people on either side. I have received letters from extremists stating that from a Temperance point of view the proposal I am making is miserably and contemptibly inadequate. I do not myself say that my suggestion leaves nothing to be desired, or that if effect were given to the Report in the manner I propose I should feel that nil that was necessary had been done. 1022 But it will be a step in the right direction. I am not asking Her Majesty's Government to take immediate action. I merely ask the House to say that action is desirable. I may be told that the closing years of a Parliament are not the time when forward action should be taken, and possibly that your Lordships' House is not the quarter from which such legislation should emanate. I have not said it is. I have simply asked the House to express the opinion that it is desirable that legislative effect should be given to such of the recommendations of the Commission as are common to the Majority and Minority Reports. That proposition seems to be only fair to the Commissioners themselves, who for three years gave their time to the consideration in detail of this thorny and anxious question which Her Majesty's Government propounded to them. They were directed by the noble Marquess and his Government—to inquire into the operation and administration of the Laws relating to the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors, and to examine and report upon the proposals that may be made for amending the aforesaid Laws in the public interest, due regard being had to the rights of individuals.This, my Lords, they have carefully and adequately done. Are their labours to be entirely wasted? Are your Lordships aware that the cost of the Commission to the country was £7,880 17s. l0d.? It is a low point of view to take, but I ask, "Is that money to be entirely wasted?" It is fair to the Commissioners that effect should be given to their joint recommendations. It is only fair also to the trade, who tell us by their representatives that they want to get rid of certain acknowledged evils. It is fair also to temperance workers, to whom we owe so much; and, most of all, my Lords, it is fair to the English people as a whole, who do desire, I am quite certain, with an earnestness which is growing every day, to roll back a reproach which, in some degree, rests upon us all. I beg to move the resolution standing in my name.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is desirable that legislative effect be given to such of the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Liquor Licensing Laws as are common to the "Majority Report" and the "Minority Report" of the Commissioners.—(The Lord Bishop of Winchester.)1023
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, if I am unable to profess my assent to the motion of the right rev. Prelate, it is not on the ground of any opinion I may have formed upon the various administrative and speculative questions with which he has dealt, although, no doubt, it would be necessary, if we proposed to legislate, to form an opinion upon them, and a very careful opinion. But I am now proposing to demur to the motion of the right rev. Prelate because it introduces a new method of legislation which I never heard of before, and the results of which might be exceedingly inconvenient. Everybody who votes for this motion will accept en bloc such of the recommendations contained in the final Report of the Royal Commission as are common to the Majority and Minority Reports. My Lords, we have a very ancient system of legislation in the two Houses of Parliament, and I do not see why we should depart from it. If the right rev. Prelate has any distinct recommendations to make on the various subjects on which he touched, the obvious course for him to take is to bring in a Bill. Let him draw up his Bill, and then we will give to it the most respectful attention. I do not promise to assent to it before I have seen it; I do not know precisely what provisions it might contain; but I am certain that it would be an enormous departure from anything we have hitherto done to allow all the propositions to which he pointed to be, as it were, pitchforked by one effort on to the Statute-book without examining them clause by clause and determining how far we can accept them. For what reason should we take this very exceptional course? The right rev. Prelate has given some very odd reasons why we should. One was that the Commission cost £7,800, and that we ought not to lose that money. Another was that the Commission should have some consideration at our hands, and the temperance reformers also. I desire not to yield to anyone in the respect and consideration I wish to pay to the Commissioners, who undoubtedly have gone through a labour of extreme severity and have attained results that are perhaps not altogether satisfactory. But why is this Commission to have this special consideration? Does any man in this House 1024 remember any other instance in which it was proposed to pledge all the Members of the House voting for it to all the recommendations of any Commission? I remember no such instance, and I do not believe that such a proposition would be looked at for a moment in this House. Why, then, is an exception to be made in the present case? Because we are dealing with a Commission which quarrelled over half of its recommendations and was unable to come to a unanimous opinion as to the rest? That undoubtedly is a great achievement of human virtue; but we have had Commissions which have agreed on the whole of their recommendations without any preliminary process of quarrelling about half of them, and I have never heard that on that account it was supposed that without any of the ordinary precautions of legislation we were to accept entirely all the proposals they unanimously made. The right rev. Prelate has not even told us in formal language what were the opinions to which he desired we should pledge ourselves. I do not say that would have been an acceptable mode of proceeding, but it would have been at all events less embarrassing than that which the right rev. Prelate has actually pursued; because he has not put down any statement of the opinions in which the majority and minority have concurred. He tells me there is in one page of the Blue-book an account of the number of matters upon which the majority and minority have agreed. Well, I have tried my best to pick out by examining the references what are the common recommendations of which they entirely approve. In the list of propositions on which the minority and the majority are agreed we constantly come across the adverb "partly," but that does not help us much to know what it is that is recommended to us unanimously by the two Reports. We are next told that we should agree to the recommendations of the Majority and the Minority Reports. What are the recommendations of the Majority Report? I hope I may be pardoned some difficulty in finding the matter on which I am asked to legislate. That is not entirely my fault. I find that there were seventeen members in the majority—an imposing body—but out of that seventeen ten signed with reservations. It is very difficult to obtain guidance for legislation from recommen- 1025 dations of that sort; and if the measure which you are asked to pass is not put down at all, if it is merely referred to by a series of figures, and those figures be of an absolutely ambiguous and doubtful meaning, it is a now process of legislation which the right rev. Prelate is inviting us to undertake. Do not let it be imagined that these are matters on which, with so little clear indication of what the right rev. Prelate asks, we can legislate by one single blow. Do not let us imagine that they are easy or plain sailing questions to which we are introduced. There is, for instance, one question on which it is said the majority and the minority are agreed. It is that all persons who hold licences granted previous to 1869, and which they hold to a certain extent under a public guarantee, are to be placed under the licensing authority with liberty to dispossess and to compensate. If you stop at the word compensate there may seem to be no injustice. But "compensation" in the language of the Majority Report means money levied from the other publicans. That may be just or it may not be just. I do not know that it has been discussed in this House. It is a measure of extreme importance and difficulty; but I am quite sure that it is not a change which you should adopt in this haphazard way. On the contrary, you should apply all the safeguards you are accustomed to apply in other matters. Another equally strong proposal laid down is that off-licences and the wine and the grocers' licences should be brought under the licensing authority. It may be right or it may be wrong; but surely it is not a matter on which you should pledge yourselves this evening without seeing the enactments to which you are asked to subscribe. Then there is a proposal that no public-house shall be licensed in future of less than £12 rateable value, which means less than £15 rent. Here in London that might be a harmless, or not very embarrassing, proposal; but I am quite sure there are many parts of the country in which it would mean depriving vast areas of the population of any facilities for drinking beer at all. There are many other matters which you cannot call less than important. I do not hold with that proposal to prohibit a girl from fetching her father's beer if she is under sixteen. It is a proposal which you could not adopt without very careful consideration. What it means is 1026 this. It means that there is no one else to fetch the beer. The boys are out at work, and the mother naturally sends a girl. Suppose she has two girls, one under sixteen and the other aged seventeen. Which would you prefer to send into a contaminating place? Is not the danger to morality in its wider sense infinitely greater to force the mother to rely entirely upon a girl of seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen because you do not allow her to send the younger children who are too young to meet the pollution which in some places they are likely to meet? Then there are some other odd recommendations. There is a recommendation that steamboats should be placed under the licensing authority, so that even at the moment of your greatest agony, when leaning over the leeside, you are not to have temporary relief unless with the permission of the licensing authority. I have some sympathy with people who want to have beer on Sundays. I do not drink beer myself, but I confess that if I did I should want it as much on Sundays as on any other day. Why should the unfortunate inhabitants of Monmouthshire be deprived of their beer during the whole of Sunday because some of them on the western border of the county speak more Welsh than English? Is it reasonable? All these are, no doubt, very difficult questions— what I mean to say is that they are not questions to be pitchforked on the Statute-book. They are questions which ought to be examined with all the care and debated with all the attention which we ought to give to important subjects. I do not wish to enter into the general question, but allow me to point out that there are two considerations which I think should impress upon you the great care and circumspection which are necessary in legislating on this question. I do not wish to say that they should prevent you from legislating, but they seem to negative anything like haste or precipitation. The first is that it is the habit, when you wish to prevent an offence, to direct your punitive efforts on the person who commits it, and that runs through the whole of our criminal law. But here you have one splendid exception. You wish to prevent a certain number of people from getting drunk; therefore you are asked to prevent four, five, and six times as many, who are sober con- 1027 sumers, from having an opportunity of the indulgence and the sustenance to which they have a right. Why are you to punish the innocent in order to save the guilty? It is so great an exception to your ordinary legislation that before you consent to reduce public-houses to a degree that may be inconvenient to the sober consumer you are bound to take the utmost care and to reflect with the greatest circumspection. But there is another circumstance also. There are many ways in which you may divide the people of this country—rich and poor, those having power and those not having power. But your temperance reformer strikes one new line of division—that part of the population which possesses cellars and that which does not. Those happy persons who possess collars fly too high for the attacks of the temperance reformer or the censures that are passed upon them. No one tries to make them sober; no one interferes with the amount of time or the place they like to drink in; no one suggests that their habits, be they good or bad, are a matter on which the Government of the country ought to interfere. But directly you get away from that part of the community who possess cellars to that part of the community who do not possess them, then you come into the very thickest zone of paternal legislation, and appear to be very indifferent as to the amount of inconvenience you may cause to those who are innocent, if only you can carry out your wish. This kind of legislation is absolutely of a class character. I may be told that the working classes wish this legislation. I wish I could see any emphatic proof of that. We have the proof that many most excellent persons who take a great interest in the working classes wish for it; but how far they represent the people on behalf of whom they speak is, I think, a matter of doubt. You must remember in this popular Government under which we live the people have two votes. They have one vote by their representatives; but if they do not take much interest in affairs the representatives are not moved, and the voice of the people is but little heard. But when the Act is passed and comes into execution, especially if it is an Act which interferes with their own personal and daily comfort, you will then find to your cost that they have another vote, because the Act will 1028 be vetoed by their refusing to obey it. It is a matter of very great danger, or at least very great inconvenience, to enter upon legislation of this kind without thorougly ascertaining the views of those for whom you are legislating; but the curiously perverted condition of this question is shown by the fact that all this legislation is passed by the cellared population and not by the cellarless population, who are very deeply affected by it and, however unwillingly, are made to suffer by what has been provided for them. On that one matter of sending children to fetch beer—a matter on which I quite admit at first sight a good deal is to be said for the reform proposed—I have been told by persons who know the working classes well that there is nothing which they will resent with more indignation than to be told they may not send their children to fetch beer for their daily meal. I am not advancing these considerations to convince anyone on one side or the other in relation to the speculative questions which are being discussed. I am well aware that a very strong feeling exists on this subject; and it will be a very long time before we argue one another into anything like a unanimous opinion. But in dealing with this question I urge that you shall show to all the world that you do not deal with it as something on which you are at liberty to legislate on slender grounds or in the absence of thorough investigation. I ask that you will apply to this question, as to every other question, those precautions and safeguards which you have always applied in any legislation up to the present time. For these reasons I am afraid that it is impossible for me to accept the motion of the right rev. Prelate.
§ * VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I am very unwilling to trouble your Lordships, but, as Chairman of the Commission which has undergone severe labours to arrive at what the noble Marquess has, I am sorry to say, described as unsatisfactory results, I may be allowed to say a few words. I had hoped that Her Majesty's Government would have taken the initiative in this matter, and not have loft it to the right rev. Prelate to introduce the subject to your Lordships' notice. But it is evident, from what the noble Marquess has said, that the Government have paid no attention whatever to a question which, outside this House, is 1029 exciting the very deepest interest amongst the most earnest-minded people of the country. I deeply regret that the noble Marquess has touched only on what I may call the light and insignificant matters, and has left entirely out of sight the great questions dealt with by the Commission. The petty squabbles which were supposed to have occurred in the Commission are of the past, and no one cares anything about them. The main point is, what did the Commission recommend? It is not a fair representation of any portion of the recommendations of the Commission to say that it was a question of those having cellars against those not having cellars. Put in that way, the legislation of this country for 350 years at least has proceeded on that principle; it has throughout adopted a restrictive policy, which in its nature must operate more upon the poor than upon the rich. The noble Marquess has said that this is a poor man's question. It is indeed. Any one who reads the evidence before the Commission will find what a congestion of public-houses there is in the poorer parts of this great city, what misery is caused by them to the immediate vicinity, and what efforts the more respectable of the working classes have made to escape from the degradation of the public-house by getting into districts where they are fewer. Anyone who reads the evidence will understand how this question touches the social and domestic happiness of the poor. I am bound, my Lords, to admit, as the noble Marquess has said, that it is a little difficult to ascertain the exact points of agreement between the minority and the majority of the Commission. There were really three Reports, including the Report of Mr. Whittaker, M.P., which for lucidity and cogency of argument leaves nothing to be desired. The Majority Report declared that the evil was so great that it amounted to a national degradation. That is a basis on which, I should have thought, any superstructure could be raised. But immediately some of the members of the majority began to whittle that basis away, to make reservations, and, finally, to recommend legislation which would be in no wise adequate to the circumstances of the case. They stated that—Hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in the marked diminution of this national degradation.1030 But immediately after they affirmed that—The licensing laws may be left to the operation of time, without the application of any special remedies.So that this national degradation is to be met by the quiet efflux of time. There is another reservation made by members of the majority, who say—No sufficient reason has been shown for imposing a tax either upon the trade or the public for effecting a diminution in the number of licences.The Minority Report I am responsible for, and I had the support of seven of my colleagues on the Commission; but that Report was naturally, in the course of circumstances, taken by the majority of the Commissioners, when we unhappily came to a point where the road parted, as the basis for their Report, and they instantly began to water it down and dilute it to such a degree as would, had they been publicans, have brought them within the penalties imposed by the licensing laws. I am glad to know that on many points there was agreement between the two Reports, and they are points of importance in themselves, as the right rev. Prelate has shown, if they are made effective. But the noble Marquess does not hold out any hope that the matter will be considered by the Government. It is now eight or nine months since the Secretary of State for the Home Department said the Government would be in no hurry in considering this matter, but would give it their consideration. The noble Marquess now implies there is no hurry, and that the Government will not even give it their consideration. The people outside, however, have considered the matter, and have, unlike Her Majesty's Government, formulated distinct opinions as to what is practicable. I hope I say without egotism that the consensus of opinion in the country as to the Minority Report is very remarkable. The Church of England Temperance Society has over and over again advocated the special points of the Minority Report, whilst not an hour ago I received a memorial from the great Wesleyan Methodist body in favour of the provisions of the Minority Report. The memorial is signed by the president, all the ex-presidents, and by every president of the thirty-four districts with one exception, and that gentleman, 1031 being in America, has had no opportunity of signing it. This shows that consideration has been given to the subject, and that it is not unreasonable to adopt the recommendations of the minority as a basis for legislation. The right rev. Prelate has dwelt upon the points of agreement between the two Reports. They are, I am happy to say, numerous; but, compared with the points of difference, they are not so remarkable. It is not that we (the minority) set so much store by little questions, though important in themselves it is true, such as that of allowing children to be sent to the public-house. I must remind your Lordships that there is already a restriction as to the age at which children shall be served; and it does not seem to me to be a great advance to say that children under a certain age shall be forbidden to go into a public-house, whether to be served for their own consumption or to be served as messengers for others. But every Commissioner would be glad to ascertain the wishes of the working classes on that point, and to cooperate in the work of carrying them into effect. I am afraid there are deeper differences than those which I have indicated. On the great question of compensation the Commission split, I was going to say, into its component parts, but, happily, that was not so. There was, however, a great divergence of opinion; and here may I interpose a remark on the constitution of Commissions? I am of opinion that it is not a good process, in appointing Commissions, to adopt the principle of balanced interests. To appoint a certain number of gentlemen who have committed themselves on this side, and a certain number who have committed themselves on the other side, and then to sandwich in between them a set of gentlemen who are supposed to be neutral, is, to my mind, an unsatisfactory method of procedure. I should have thought that it would have been quite possible to find half a dozen men of impartial and judicial minds to constitute a Commission and to receive and form conclusions upon the evidence which might be submitted to them. As to compensation, the question arose as to whether it was to be a question of right or a question of favour. As chairman of the Commission, I came distinctly to the conclusion that in point of law there is no sort of case for compensation if, in the 1032 exercise of a judicial and judicious discretion, the magistrates decided to take away a licence at the end of the year. But I hope we are practical men, and in dealing with interests which have now become very vast the view which we took was that it was expedient to provide compensation in some shape or other for the cessation of a licence. We, that is the minority, propose that a seven years notice be given to the whole trade, together with money payments, for withdrawal of a licence, if withdrawn within that time, calculated on the number of years which had elapsed since the general notice was given, and that at the end of the full period of (in England) seven years compensation should absolutely cease and determine. This would be a scheme which would enable you to reduce the licences all over the country. If that is a bad principle, do not accept it; but at the same time it must be remembered that these licences are increasing in the great towns, in the old towns and in the new towns that are growing up, and that there is a congestion of licences which is a degradation to any civilised country. I am one of those who think that the more licences the greater the temptation, and that the more licences are spread over a town the more the drunkenness. Statistics prove anything, I know, but it is a matter of common observation. I state my own conviction that where licences abound there crime, degradation, and drunkenness abound. It is certainly a scandal that over 19,000 people should be found helpless and unconscious in the streets in one city in one year. Is this to be allowed to go on without something being done to remedy it? Cannot the Government give us encouragement that these evils will be in some degree grappled with and abated? I believe that if you are going to stave off the cry for local option you must introduce into the licensing authority the popular element in some shape or other. It might be said that this is the thin end of the wedge; but I only hope that people into whose locality public-houses are introduced against their wish shall be enabled through their representatives to say, "We have enough for the wants of the place and we object to licences being granted in this neighbourhood." Let the people in some way have a voice in the distribution of licences. Compensation, then, is not to 1033 be a right. It is a favour at the end of seven years; and I am sorry to say that here I differ in toto from the Majority Report, which would clothe licences with a vested interest after seven years for another period of seven years. Under these circumstances I cannot see when a vested interest would come to a close. Whatever may be the issue of the discussion which has taken place to-night, I am deeply impressed, from what I have seen and heard during the three years of the Royal Commission, that even if what is proposed were carried and the points of agreement put into effect a reform to that extent would not be entirely satisfactory. It would have to be taken as an instalment only. So far, I am glad to be with the right rev. Prelate, but his solution of the difficulty would be by no means regarded as a final settlement of what I believe has long been and is now more than ever a great social and domestic danger.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I have listened with very great attention to the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, and while he was speaking I could not help asking this question in my own mind—If this is the case, why did you issue the Commission at all? The noble Marquess discussed every point exactly as if the Report, or Reports, produced by this Commission had not in any way whatever anything to do with him or with the Government. It is exactly as if the Report of the Commission had been a paper drawn up by some influential people who thought the matter of grave importance, and wished to bring it before the whole country, and, therefore, submitted what they thought would be of real value for the improvement of the legislation of the country in this direction. That this was the Report of a Commission appointed by the Government seems never to have entered his Lordship's mind at all. He seems to speak as if he had nothing to do with it. The noble Marquess said over and over again that all these various proposals require very careful consideration. What were the Commissioners doing all through the three years during which they sat? They were giving these questions the most careful consideration. They listened to a very large amount of evidence; they had given time and toil, and at the end of it all their Reports are spoken of as if 1034 there had been no investigation at all—nothing done during the three years. The noble Marquess tells us now that we must not have legislation without most careful consideration—as if we had not given long and careful consideration to all these points! It seems to mo that this is not quite the way in which a Royal Commission ought to be treated. Here we had twenty-four gentlemen, most of them—certainly I myself—overwhelmed with work, and I hardly think they were inclined to take this investigation as a recreation. I repeat, then, that I think it is very strange that we are told we must consider the matter, that it has not been properly considered. My Lords, I do not deny that when you come to legislate you will have to consider every one of these points very carefully; but the very beginning of such consideration must be some distinct attempt at legislation. There must be something put before us. The noble Marquess seemed as if he would throw upon others than the Government any action that was to be taken on this important question. I venture to suggest to the right rev. Prelate that he should put his motion into a more definite and distinct form, and move these words—That it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should on an early day lay before Parliament proposals founded on such of the recommendations contained in the final Reports of the Royal Commission with regard to the Liquor Licensing Laws as are common to both the Minority Report and the Majority Report of the Commission.We think it is time that some legislation should follow, and that the best guide the Government could take would be to consider those recommendations which are common to both Reports, and make proposals in the shape of a Bill which would be in the direction of such recommendations. There is a strong reason why we should not wait. We are doing much more than merely permitting drunkenness. We are really sowing the seed for greater drunkenness afterwards. The drunkards who are most difficult to deal with are, generally speaking, those who have imbibed from their parents into their system this strong temptation to yield to the attraction of drink. We know that of those whom we try to bring to a better mind a very large number indeed owe the strength and intensity of the temptation to the fact that their parents, or, at any rate, their fathers, indulged in 1035 this way themselves. This hereditary character of a great deal of the drunkenness lays a heavy responsibility on those who are postponing, postponing, and postponing all attempts to remedy this state of things, because it is making the difficulty of dealing with this evil perpetually larger. I entreat your Lordships to press on the Government that it is not right that in this country we should allow what even those who are engaged in the trade call a gigantic evil and a national degradation. It is not right that we should stand by quietly and say, "We will see. The time has not come." This seems almost as much as saying, "The time will not come." I would urge upon the House the fact that delay in this matter is a very much greater evil than it is generally considered to be. Of course, I myself signed the Minority Re-port. I do not deny that I should prefer the Minority Report to the Majority Report, and prefer it very much, but I am sure we should at any rate gain by adopting so much of the Majority Report as agrees with the Minority Report—so much as you can fairly say are the unanimous views of this Commission of the Government's own appointment. I think it is quite reasonable that the House should press on the Government the necessity of not long delaying their handling of this matter.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I quite agree with the suggestion made by the most rev. Prelate to amend the motion, because I see plainly that, as it now stands, it is open to the very obvious objections made to it by the noble Marquess. But, having said that, I must express my astonishment at the manner in which the noble Marquess has dealt with the subject. To me it is a matter of extreme surprise that the head of the Government, after having appointed a Commission upon this important matter, should really appear to have considerable doubt whether there should be any legislation at all on this subject. Although the noble Marquess did not say so, I am sure those who heard him had the impression left on their minds that, at all events in the opinion of the noble Marquess—I put it no higher than that—there were considerable doubts whether any legislation on this subject-was desirable. I will be quite candid and will say at once that I am not and 1036 never was an extreme temperance reformer. Personally I attach far more importance to the general improvement of habits and of the practices of the whole population than to any law which we can pass. I believe that a general improvement is shown now in the diminution of crime and in the matter of drunkenness, and that improvement, I believe, will go on. But then I think there is room for legislation by which that improvement may be hastened and assisted, and hence I am in favour of some legislation. The subject is, no doubt, a very difficult one, but I have always felt that it is disastrous that those who are strongly in favour of what I should call temperance legislation have never been willing to adopt some moderate stop in the direction they desire to move which there might be some reasonable hope of seeing passed into law. The noble Marquess deprecated haste and precipitation. That has certainly not been the character of the proceedings of the Government in this matter, unless I should call it haste to appoint a Commission in order to stave off a disagreeable question. Perhaps there was some haste in that, but when it comes to acting upon the matter, to doing something, then the noble Marquess says, "For heaven's sake don't let us do anything with haste and precipitation." So far from there having been haste and precipitation in regard to this matter, there has been nothing but delay and inquiry and enormous talk, until many people were sick of hearing the question mentioned. There is room for some moderate legislation on this subject. I do not pledge myself, any more than I should expect the Government, who ought to make themselves responsible for a Bill dealing with the subject, to pledge themselves, to every part of the Report of the Commission. But what I insist upon is that there is in the recommendations agreed upon by men differing very much on other points a fair basis for some future legislation of a reasonable character. I do not think that any legislation which is more stringent than that suggested in the agreed recommendations of the Commission can be carried. I rejoice that there are certain things clearly laid down in this Report. There is one point of very great importance upon which, no doubt, the majority and the minority were not agreed, as the noble Viscount who was 1037 Chairman of the Commission pointed out. They were not by any means entirely agreed as to the reduction of public houses and the compensation to be awarded to those whose houses were closed. There is a very great difference of opinion between the two bodies as to the manner in which the principle is to be carried into effect, but there was agreement upon two very important points—namely, that there should be a reduction and, which is still more important, that any compensation which was to be given to those whose houses were closed was to be levied on the trade. That I look upon as a very important principle, and I do not believe that in any other mode but that will compensation be possible. It is a matter of common observation that there are an undesirable number of public-houses in many parts of the kingdom, but if I am asked if I think the essence of the question consists in the number of public-houses I say "No, I never did." The statistics placed before the Commission of which I was a member, and to which the right rev. Prelate alluded, showed that in the northern part of the island there was more drunkenness, as a rule, than in the southern part; but it could not be shown, I recollect, that where there were a great number of public-houses in many cases there was by any means a proportionate amount of drunkenness. I believe that the habits of the people, the wages of the people, the nature of the climate, and a variety of other circumstances do have an important influence in this matter. On the other hand, I am not prepared to say that drunkenness is not increased by there being so many public-houses. The mistake is to say that it is the sole cause of intemperance. There are other causes at work which must be taken into consideration. But I anticipate that a wise and moderate reduction in the number of public-houses would have good effect in the direction we all desire. The noble Marquess said it would be dangerous to legislate without a careful consideration of the habits of the people who would be affected, and it was necessary to have their assent to the legislation. I quite agree that that is a reason for proceeding cautiously; but, if we are to proceed cautiously, does that mean that we are not to proceed at all? That is the point upon which we differ from the Government. Bearing in mind that the Govern- 1038 ment is largely supported by those who have an interest in public-houses, and seeing that they themselves put this matter before the country by means of a solemn inquiry, it would be reasonable to conclude that they had made up their minds that legislation on the subject was absolutely necessary. We know that this is one of the strongest Governments under which we have ever lived—strong, that is to say, in having an enormous amount of support in the House of Commons and in this House. But, when it comes to using that strength, we have never had a Government which was so afraid of running any danger of legislation, of taking any step that would produce controversy in the country. This question has been before the country for years; a Royal Commission has declared it is one that should be dealt with by Parliament, yet we are now told that we ought not to act with haste and precipitation. I must say it fills me with despair. I rejoice that the right rev. Prelate has brought the question before the House in a form which, as amended by the most rev. Prelate, may be voted for without any fear by those who think that the time has come for legislation in some reasonable form on the drink traffic.
To leave out 'legislative effect to be given to' and insert 'Her Majesty's Government at an early date lay before Parliament proposals founded on.'"—(The Lord Arch-bishop of Canterbury.)
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Moved, To agree to the original motion as amended.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The proposal we have been considering is whether we should recommend any legislation upon a certain number of propositions, more or less clearly indicated. That is now turned round practically into a vote of want of confidence in the Government on the subject of this legislation. I have no objection to accept battle on that point with sufficient notice. I have not received such notice on the present occasion. I shall certainly object to the resolution being put. It is contrary to the practice of the House, and if the amended motion is carried I should not accept the decision as the 1039 decision of the House, because it will have been obtained by craft.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I venture to ask what the noble Marquess considers a decision of the House. The attendance is not below the level of the ordinary quorum. Has not the subject been sufficiently debated, at least by one side of the controversy? I would ask, therefore, why we are to be debarred by the protest of the Prime Minister from proceeding to a division on the question after a discussion, detailed, adequate, and relevant, certainly from one side of the House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I venture to think that this, as a question of censure of the Government, has not
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Chichester, L. Bp.||Burghclere, L.|
|Ely, L. Bp.||Chelmsford, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Lichfield, L. Bp.||Coleridge, L.|
|Lincoln, L. Bp.||Davey, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||London, L. Bp.||Hawkesbury, L. [Teller.]|
|Carrington, E.||Norwich, L. Bp.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Jersey, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Monkswell, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||St. Asaph, L. Bp.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Reay, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Salisbury, L. Bp.||Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]|
|Stamford, E.||Southwell, L. Bp.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Truro, L. Bp.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Peel, V.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Ashcombe, L.||Welby, L.|
|Bath and Wells, L. Bp.||Barnard, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Romney, E.||Digby, L.|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Glanusk, L.|
|Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Verulam, E.||Glenesk, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||James, L.|
|Portland, D.||Kinnear, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Bristol, M.||Knutsford, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Landaff, V.||Ludlow, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Powerscourt, V.||Macnaghten, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Hopetoun, L. (E. Honetoun.)||Pirbright, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||(L. Chamberlain.)||Poltimore, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Ampthill, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Belper, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Brampton, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Calthorpe, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Ventry, L.|
§ been fully discussed; and it is not the custom in either House of Parliament to propose a censure of the Government without due notice.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CAN-TERBURY
I should like to say that, although I have proposed this Amendment to the resolution, I have not at all lost my confidence in his Lordship's Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The most rev. Prelate may most kindly say what he likes, but what I care for is what he does.
§ On Question, whether to agree to the original motion as amended, their Lordships divided:—Contents, 42; Non-contents, 45.