§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, the Bill to which I am going to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading proposes to alter the licensing system in one point only, but in a very important point. It proposes to create a new licensing board and a new court of licensing appeal. The Bill does not propose in any way to alter the laws of licensing. It proceeds on the understanding that these new courts, if they are substituted for the present courts, will administer the licensing laws as they may stand from time to time. It may seem to your Lordships that it is a small thing to introduce a Bill dealing with one point, and with one point only, but the constitution of the licensing board is so important, and opens the field to so much discussion, that I think it is very desirable to deal with this matter, even if it is not possible to deal with any other points in the licensing system. Many licensing Bills, whether put forward by Government or by private individuals, have failed because of the many subjects—the many contentious subjects—which they contained, and it appears to me, if we can get rid from any future licensing Bill of this defect, we stand some chance of passing it. I venture to submit to your Lordships that it is desirable that on our licensing boards there should be some 12 degree of popular representation. I do not wish to discuss at length the past administration by the existing licensing boards, but if your Lordships care to read the proceedings that took place before the Licensing Commission which recently reported, you will see that in the opinion of a great majority of persons some change is required; and it is, I believe, the universal opinion of all the Commissioners that in some form or other popular representation should be conceded. I am not one of those who are in favour of anything in the nature of a Permissive Bill, a Local Veto Bill, or measures of that kind, but, if it is the intention of Parliament to resist measures of that description, Parliament must provide in some degree for a certain amount of popular representation.
I think I may appeal in this matter to the present Government, because in their Bill of 1888 they conceded popular representation to a much larger degree than I am asking your Lordships this afternoon to concede it. Under the Government's Bill of 1888, the licensing boards were to be appointed solely by the town councils and the county councils. The proposal in this Bill does not go nearly so far; it introduces the principle of popular representation indirectly, and that to a very limited extent. I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Windsor, who also has a Bill down for Second Reading this afternoon, which may appear, at first sight, to conflict in some degree with this Bill, concedes the principle of popular representation, and that our only difference, so far as the licensing boards are concerned, is limited to the amount of popular representation which shall be given. I think I may now proceed, very briefly, to explain to your Lordships the provisions of the Bill. It proposes that there shall be established in every licensing district a licensing board, consisting of such number of members as may be fixed in each case by a Secretary of State, of whom one half shall be justices and the other half shall (where the district is a petty sessional division of a county) be members of the county council, and (where the district is a borough having separate licensing jurisdiction) be members of the borough council. In each case the 13 members are to be chosen from the justices of the district and from the county council itself. They are to be elected for three years. The remaining provisions of the first clause relate to the mode in which they shall be elected. Perhaps I may say a word here, with the permission of the House, with regard to the difference between my proposal and that of my noble friend Lord Windsor. My proposal is that one half of the licensing authority shall be composed of justices, and one half nominated by the county council. Lord Windsor's proposal is that two-thirds shall be nominated by the justices and one third by the county council, so that the only difference between us is one of degree, which is a matter that can be easily considered by your Lordships in Committee.
The second proposal of the Bill is to establish for every licensing district a board of licensing appeal, which shall consist of the members of the licensing board, together with such number of additional members as may be fixed in each case by a Secretary of State, so that such number shall in every case exceed the number of members of the licensing board. The object of that proposal is that, when there is an appeal against the decision of a licensing board, the members of the licensing board, who presumably have knowledge of the facts and who possibly may be divided on the question, shall all be present, but that, besides them, there shall be a number larger than themselves nominated by the justices and by the county council in the same way, the number being fixed by a Secretary of State. With regard to that matter there is a considerable difference of opinion between my noble friend Lord Windsor and myself. My noble friend proposes that the court of appeal shall be drawn from the justices, either of the county or of the borough, as the case may be, and shall be composed exclusively of justices. When we come to that point, if we ever do come to it, I shall be prepared to argue it. Clause 3 proposes that all the powers and duties of the licensing justices with respect to the granting and transferring of licenses shall be transferred to and exercised by the licensing board; and that all the powers and duties of the existing authorities 14 for confirming the new licences, and all the powers and duties of quarter sessions with respect to appeals from refusals to renew or transfer licences, shall be transferred to and exercised by the board of licensing appeal. I should like to say one word with regard to the court of licensing appeal, and I wish to speak specially with reference to the position of the boroughs in this matter. As your Lordships know, when there is an appeal from the licensing authority in a borough it is not referred, as in the case of a county, to the quarter sessions to which the licensing body belongs, but it is taken away, so to speak, from the borough and transferred to the justices of the county in which the borough is situate. The justices of the county have, of course, nothing to do with, and cannot be supposed to have any special knowledge of, the circumstances in connection with licences in a borough, and therefore the large boroughs have resented—I think very naturally—the provisions of the existing law. With that both I and my noble friend opposite propose to deal, though we propose to deal with it in different ways. The only other clause to which I need call your Lordships' attention is Clause 5, which provides that every licensing board and every board of licensing appeal shall appoint a clerk, provided that the persons, being at the commencement of this Act clerks to the justices or clerks of the peace, shall, so long as qualified for the offices aforesaid, be the clerks of the licensing boards and boards of licensing appeal. Clause 6 applies to the City of London, in which the circumstances are peculiar, and therefore have to be dealt with by a separate enactment.
I think I have given your Lordships a complete explanation of the provisions of the Bill, and I only wish, in conclusion, to say a word with regard to the objections which may very likely be taken to it. I may be told that this is a small Bill—that it is a very partial Bill. As I have already pointed out, I consider that if your Lordships decide to deal with and settle the constitution of the licensing authority and the court of appeal, you will have taken a very great and important step in advance. The Bill may be objected to on the ground that this is hardly a 15 matter for a private Peer to deal with. In that connection I have only to refer to the invitation which we received from the noble Marquess the Prime Minister, who reminded us that legislation was not solely the property of the Government, and that it was open to anyone who took an interest in the matter to themselves bring in a Bill. I believe that a great many persons are very much in earnest on this question of licensing reform. Speaking for myself, I do not wish to introduce any revolutionary procedure or do an injustice to anyone, but, on the other hand, I regard this as the most important social question at the present time, and, so far as my own opinion goes, I think it is incumbent upon Parliament to attempt to deal with it. I have reason to think that this is the opinion of a great number of your Lordships, and particularly of the independent Members of the House. Your Lordships will remember that in recent divisions regarding this matter, and in which the Government has opposed itself to the measure which was before the House, in spite of the large number of official votes which there necessarily are in the House, the majorities in favour of the Government have been very small indeed. With these words I commit the Bill to your Lordships' consideration, and I venture to hope that you will give it a second Reading.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl of Camperdown.)
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, my noble friend, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, has rightly said that it is a small measure and only deals with certain points in the licensing question. But those points, as he has also remarked, are of the utmost importance. The Bill deals with a very delicate and difficult question—a question which has given rise to the greatest differences of opinion, and which, even on the Commission itself, was treated in different ways by the two parties into which that Commission divided itself. I am not going to complain of the Bill because it is too small in itself. The point which I should like to bring to the notice of your lordships is that this question of altering the authority for licensing is mixed up with 16 far larger and even more important questions of licensing reform, and that it is very difficult, with any fairness, to deal with this question without in some way also bringing in provisions to deal with those questions. The Secretary of State for the Home Department has asked me to express his view, and my right hon. friend is of opinion that if the constitution of the licensing authorities is dealt with, it will be necessary to deal also with the question of compensation for license-holders. Undoubtedly at the present time the magistrates exercise their jurisdiction to a large extent in a judicial way. Whatever their powers may be, they have looked at things from an equitable point of view, and in the large majority of cases they have declined to confiscate licences except in cases where there was some complaint of the way in which the houses were managed. I do not mean for a moment to say that if you alter this authority you would necessarily place a less competent body in their place. That, of course, may be argued on the one side or the other; but it certainly is the case that if Parliament deliberately supersedes the authority which now exists, avowedly on the ground that it is not giving satisfaction to the bulk of the people, the new authority will, at all events, and very properly, feel that they are entitled to act with much more freedom with regard to this matter than the old licensing authority. Even supposing that the authority proposed by my noble friend is one which would have the confidence of the country and would act in a fair and impartial manner, I think it cannot be denied that, after a deliberate change, the new authority will feel that they are entitled to act with a much freer hand, and take into consideration points that are not now dealt with by the magistrates acting in a judicial capacity. Under these circumstances the Secretary of State does not think that it would be fair or desirable to pass any measure through Parliament unless it contained provisions dealing with other and more important questions than that of the licensing authorities. I do not think, therefore, that it is necessary for me to say much about the provisions of the Bill.
The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill has referred to the 17 fact that the Secretary of State gave an even larger popular control than this Bill proposes in the Bill which he introduced in 1888, when he proposed that the county council should itself appoint the licensing authority; but he must remember that that Bill was a very large one, and one which dealt with the other questions to which I have referred. In making this radical change in the licensing authority the Secretary of State at all events made provision so that the position and status of the license-holders should not be changed for the worse owing to the alteration in the licensing authority. Perhaps I may be allowed to express my own opinion, and my own opinion only, on the point whether the county council would be a good authority for electing part of the licensing board or not. I deprecate very much the county councils having any connection with licensing affairs. The Bill which the Home Secretary introduced was quite at the beginning of the county councils, and before they had started. The county councils have been working very smoothly for a number of years. Men of the largest experience have since sat on these councils, and I think it will be admitted that they are doing their administrative work very well. I greatly fear that, if they were also the licensing authorities, a large number of the councils would be made the arena for the two extreme parties with regard to licensing matters, with the result that moderate men would prefer rather to sacrifice their seats on the county council than give distinct pledges to either party. I must say I was rather struck by one point in this Bill. My noble friend proposes to give the county council absolute power to elect any member of their body to these licensing authorities, and, therefore it might be perfectly possible that, so far from giving more direct local control than at present, they might elect on the licensing body gentlemen who were totally unacquainted with the wishes or requirements of the district in which they were to exercise local control—men who might live in a different part of the county altogether. With regard to another point in the Bill—the proposal as to setting up a board of licensing appeal—I must say I am somewhat surprised that the scheme of the 18 Bill should be considered a satisfactory court of appeal. I wish to speak with all respect of the proposal, because I am aware that it is the proposal of the members who constitute the minority of the Royal Commission. But what is the proposal? It is that the county council or the borough council should elect a certain number of members who, with others, would not only sit as a licensing board, but, with certain modifications, as an appeal court as well. Then they are to add a number of other gentlemen appointed in the same way. It is perfectly obvious that the most competent members, and those who take the greatest interest in this question, will elect to sit on this licensing board, because they will not only adjudicate at the original hearing of the case, but also sit on the court of appeal.
§ LORD BELPER
Nominated by the county council. I am perfectly aware of that; but the county council will have the same considerations in view in appointing them, and would very probably, if it was the wish of those members to sit, appoint the most influential and most competent on that body. You are going to add a number of members appointed in the same way, and taken from the same body, with no more judicial experience than the gentlemen who have already been elected, and who would bring no new light to bear on the case. The result would be that you would water down your original licensing board, and your court of appeal, instead of being stronger, would be, except numerically, a weaker body than the licensing board which had already given its decision. I would respectfully ask whether such an appeal court would give confidence to the public, and whether it would be a real and satisfactory appeal court in any sense of the term. I do not wish to say anything more upon the details of the Bill. I notice with some surprise that the noble Lord, who is a great authority on Scottish local government, does not apply the provisions of this Bill to Scotland.
§ LORD BELPER
He does not apply the provisions of the Bill to Scotland, although the Bill contains precisely those recommendations which the minority Commissioners recommended for Scotland. I do not know what may be his reason for that, except, perhaps, that he prefers, when an experiment is being tried, that it should be made south of the Tweed. For the reasons I have stated, and because the Bill in itself would not, if passed, be a permanent or satisfactory solution of the question, the Government are not able to give their assent to the Second Reading.
My Lords, as I have a Bill on the Paper, part of it dealing with this subject, I should like to say a word as to the course I propose to take. In the first place, I was glad to hear from the noble Lord who represents the Home Office that one of the chief objections he has to the Bill now before the House is that it does not deal also with other very important questions which are involved. I heard that statement with some satisfaction, because the Bill standing in my name is more comprehensive, and does deal with some of the other matters referred to. At the same time, I must inform the House that I gave private notice to the noble Lord and to the Home Office that I did not think it would be convenient for me to bring on a discussion on my wider Bill after this discussion had taken place this afternoon, and so I am afraid I shall not have an opportunity to-day of asking the noble Lord what his objections are to my Bill, if he has any. I have no intention whatever of opposing the Bill before the House, or of voting against it. In the first place, I agree with my noble friend to a great extent in the objects which he has in view. Although there were in the Majority Report and the Minority Report of the Royal Commission considerable differences in many particulars with regard to the reconstitution of the licensing authority, there are many points of agreement, and it is quite true, as the noble Earl pointed out, that the principle of having the county council represented on the licensing board was recommended by both Reports. It is not unnatural that, personally, I prefer the form in which it is recommended by the Majority Report, because I was one 20 of those who signed that Report. It is with regard to that court of appeal that I have my greatest difference with my noble friend. There was certainly very strong evidence before the Royal Commission that the appeal to quarter sessions from the large towns was open to very great objection, and I entirely concur with him in his desire to give a court of appeal to the county boroughs. I agree that they should have a board of licensing appeal of their own, and should not be compelled to come to the county quarter sessions. But I have an objection, similar to that expressed by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government, to the original licensing authority being part of the court of appeal. I believe that a better tribunal would be a selected body of county and (where the borough is one having separate licensing jurisdiction) borough justices for the county, and a selected number of borough justices, with the Recorder sitting as chairman, for the county boroughs. Like the noble Lord who spoke on behalf of the Government, I should like to see this question of the licensing authority determined, in conjunction with some wider reforms, and I venture to think that if the question of compensation can be dealt with now, the duties of the new court of appeal would be so much more strictly defined, and would, I think, be more strictly judicial than they are now. In that case I believe that an appeal court such as was suggested by the Majority Report of the Commission would be the best tribunal to hear appeals, and that it would be better that it should not have the strong local element of the court of first instance as part of the court of appeal. I agree with my noble friend with regard to the question of the county council having some part in the constitution of the licensing board of first instance, and it is for Parliament to decide whether the proportion he has proposed or the proportion I have proposed is the best, if such a Bill were passed. I think that the objections to the appeal from patty sessions to quarter sessions—objections that I know have been raised—would disappear if there was a properly selected appeal court from the justices which was not liable to be swamped by the whole of the county justices. As I have said, I do not intend to oppose in any way the Second Reading of this Bill, but if the Bill passes its present stage I shall move 21 Amendments, which I hope will bring it more into conformity with what I have suggested.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will give favourable consideration to this very moderate and tentative Bill. In default of a larger Bill, of which I have not much hope, I think the noble Earl has succeeded in dealing with a point of subordinate but of very great importance; because, whatever he the state of the law, you must have somebody to administer it. I do not think you could begin better than by altering the constitution of your administrative bodies, whether they are the court of first instance or the court of appeal. I think the noble Lord who spoke for the Government has confused between the administrative and judicial functions of the licensing authorities. The licensing authorities are in no way a judicial body—certainly not the court of first instance. They are simply there in an administrative capacity, and, without casting any slur upon those who administer the present law, I am certain that in many cases they would be only too glad to have seated by their side men who were selected in some form or other as representative of the people, and who would be able to inform the magistrates, as they cannot under the present system be informed, what is the state of public opinion in a particular district, and what is the general feeling as to the planting of a new public-house or the surrender, say, of ten rotten beerhouses in one part of the town for a gigantic gin-palace in another part of the town. I think the public have a right to be taken more into account, and, though we are not asking for a measure of local option, I think that if you will admit now the elective principle you will be going far to allay the strong feeling of dissatisfaction which exists against those who are trying to administer the law to the best of their ability. I do not say that by so doing you will stave off the time, for I believe that time is coming, but you will at all events defer the time when the public will insist on some more right than they have now of saying what the number of public-houses should be and where they should be placed.
I am very glad, indeed that my noble 22 friend Lord Windsor is not going to oppose this Bill, for he represents on this occasion the majority report, while I only represent the minority report. The noble Lord who spoke on behalf of the Government said that my noble friend did not propose to extend the provisions of the Bill to Scotland, but you have already got the elective principle in the boroughs in Scotland. The magistrates there who deal with licensing are elected in the boroughs by the town councils. Here our justices, by the nature of the case, represent nobody, and if you admit this elective principle you will do something to satisfy a complaint which I believe is very much growing. If you admit this principle as to the court of first instance, I hope it will not stop there, but be carried onto the court of appeal, for I can conceive nothing more anomalous than that you should introduce the elective principle into the court of first instance, and exclude it from the court of appeal. I hope I may say we are all agreed as to the impossibility of allowing the present form of appeal to quarter sessions to continue. I feel very strongly, whatever may be the nature of the Bill which the Government are to introduce this session, that the administration of the licensing laws requires drastic remedy, and I hope, as a first step, your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ LORD NORTON
My Lords, this Bill deals with only a small part of a very important subject. Who should be the licensing authority is, of course, an important point, but the question is whether any body is fit or even able to be a licensing authority so as to say what number of licences should be issued in any locality. I think that of all licensing authorities the magistrates are the best, and that any attempt to alter them by an infusion of elements from other bodies, especially of popular election, would to a very great extent damage their usefulness. The abuse which is alleged is that too many licences have been issued. I maintain that the only way in which the number of licences properly wanted anywhere can be determined is by the legitimate operation of demand and supply. In the matter of drink the demand is specially liable to mischief and excess. 23 Intoxicating liquors are only intoxicating to blockheads who don't know how to use them, but there are many such. The great mistake that has been made in dealing with this question is that we have always tried to deal with the use of alcoholic liquors instead of their abuse. So long as we try to determine how many shops are wanted or how many miles a man shall walk on Sunday in order to get drink, so long we shall be going on wrong lines. From the peculiarity of this trade there must be some form of licence guaranteeing character and fitness for its conduct; but for anybody to say how many licences are wanted is a folly which can only lead to worse confusion. We should only make matters worse by passing this Bill.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I am not going to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken in the discussion of the general question as to the use or abuse of liquor, but I wish to say a word with regard to what fell from the noble Lord who represents the Home Office. The noble Lord complained that this was a small Bill.
§ EARL SPENCER
The noble Lord stated that it would not be right or wise to pass this Bill with regard to licensing without joining with it the question of compensation. I entirely differ from the noble Lord on this matter. I agree with what fell from the noble Viscount who was chairman of the Commission. I think it is of the utmost importance that Parliament should begin to deal with this great question, and in dealing with the subject of licensing we shall be making a safe step towards its settlement. We are now dealing with the question piecemeal. We have the Bill of my noble friend Lord Camperdown, there is Lord Windsor's Bill, and we have several Bills standing in the name of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. A large measure introduced by His Majesty's Government—who, with their large majority and with the report of the Commission they themselves appointed, could deal comprehensively with the question—would be hailed with satisfaction. But the Government 24 decline to take that course, and therefore it is necessary that those who feel strongly on the matter should themselves propose measures. I rather think the noble Marquis opposite invited individuals, in preference to the Government, to deal with this matter. As to the necessity of joining this Bill with compensation, the noble Lord who represents the Home Office said that he did not think it was fair to throw this power on this new body without giving them new directions. He seemed to think they might go beyond the actual present law; but the bodies that my noble friend represents will be bound to act within the law, and cannot go a step beyond that.
I would like to remind the House that there is a very important body—the largest county council in England—which already deals in a great measure with the liquor traffic. The County Council of London deals with many places of recreation and amusement in London, and in dealing with them they have very large powers with regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors. I know there was a discussion at one time as to how the London County Council performed their duties, but I believe that now the County Council have given great satisfaction by the way in which they have discharged them. The noble Lord seemed to be sorry that this question should be brought into elections in connection with county councils. It has already been brought into county council matters in London, and though it may have affected the elections to some extent, it has not done so to a great extent. I always stand up to defend County Councils and prevent their having put upon them duties which would throw them as it were out of gear, and bring a great deal of argumentative discussion before them. But I certainly do not feel that the mere fact of electing these two bodies—the licensing authorities and the court of appeal—from the county council would have any pernicious effect upon them. I associate myself entirely with what my noble friend Lord Peel has said, and I venture to think that the introduction of the elective element into these courts will not only allay a great deal of dissatisfaction that now exists, but that it will materially strengthen those bodies. No one who has had experience of county bodies will 25 hesitate to say that the powers which were in the hands of quarter sessions, and which I always say were carefully used, are now exercised with much more vigour and confidence, and receive the support of the county at large to a greatly increased extent owing to the elected element. I believe these licensing bodies would in that respect resemble other bodies. If my noble friend proceeds to a division I shall certainly feel it my duty to support him.
§ LORD HENEAGE
My Lords, I should like to call the attention of your Lordships to the fact that this is the first occasion, in the debates that we have had on licensing questions this year, that no mention has been made of a Government Bill. On two occasions we were told that the Government could not accept private Members' Bills, because they were going to introduce one of their own. But now we have a message from the Home Office in which this Bill has been strongly objected to as too small a measure, but not a word has been said about any licensing legislation by the Government. This absence of licensing legislation is becoming a scandal. When the Bishop of Winchester brought forward his resolution last year the noble Marquess invited him, if he had any recommendations to make on the various subjects on which he touched, to bring in a Bill, and had invited private Members to do so. It is already nearly two years since the Royal Commission reported, and the Government have had plenty of time in which to digest the Report. At any rate, the Report has been thoroughly digested in the country, and resolutions have been passed by quarter sessions and other bodies urging the Government to take immediate action in regard to those recommendations on which the Royal Commission were unanimous. But the Government have done nothing. I think it is the duty of everyone interested in the subject to support any measure dealing with the question—that is to say, so far as the principle is concerned—on the Second Reading, and thus show the Government their desire for legislation. I took part in opposing the Local Veto Bill in another place, and I recollect that our leaders 26 said at the time that they did not object to legislation, but desired to legislate in an equitable manner. This was one of the test questions at the election of 1895, and there was not a Unionist candidate at that time who was not pledged to deal with the question in an equitable manner. Since then the Government have appointed a Royal Commission, and that Commission has reported, but no legislation has been introduced by the Government, who either throw cold water or obstruct all Bills brought in by private Members, and at the same time tell us that they take no interest whatever in the question.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I wish to correct what has been said, that I asked private Members to bring in Bills. I do not remember ever having made so indiscreet a request.
§ LORD HENEAGE
When the Bishop of Winchester's Bill was before the House the noble Marquess made a request for Bills.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
To bring in "a" Bill. That is a very different matter; but to exhort private Members generally to bring in Bills is an amount of indiscretion of which I have not been guilty. The noble Lord represents the most remarkable type of opinion that I have yet heard. He does not want any particular measure; he is not enthusiastic for any particular cause; all he wants is that some Bill shall be brought in, and he promises it his support.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
He did not say the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I entirely demur to the doctrine of ministerial duty which the noble Lord and others have laid down. When we are of opinion that certain measures are for the public benefit, it is no doubt our duty to introduce them and recommend them to the House. But, when we have come to no conclusion of that sort with reference to this particular 27 subject, that it should be nevertheless our duty to introduce some sort of measure that might satisfy the vague and blind desire that some measure shall be passed—that I can never admit to be part of the duty of His Majesty's Government. I should have thought that nobody, looking over the history of the last thirty years, would need to be convinced that this is a matter of the extremest difficulty. Even when we appointed a Commission consisting of most distinguished persons who knew most about the matter, they were not able to refrain from the most active measures of mutual antagonism in their effort to come to a conclusion. I shall not attempt, when the Government has not indicated the policy which they intend to recommend to Parliament, to forestall the decisions which the Government or either House of Parliament may come to. I repudiate as the most dangerous of all fallacies the idea that it is the business of the Government to legislate on the matter when the Government have not stated that any particular measure is in their judgment one that requires the sanction of Parliament. I have my own strong opinion upon this subject; but the matter is not now a Government question, and I do not feel that I am at all justified in attempting to represent the opinion of my colleagues about it. My own opinion is that we have wandered too far from the doctrine of free trade, and we have attempted too much the functions of a paternal Government. We have found, consequently, all the difficulties which usually fall as an obstacle in the way of a paternal Government. We have not the force to carry out that which some of us desire, and we cannot avoid the necessary differences of opinion which arise from any attempt to hammer out a scheme of policy by simply listening to the criticisms and conflicting recommendations that are made.
We have to deal not only with private interests, which on any equitable system require the most careful consideration; but we have to deal with that inability which any Government, and especially such a Government as ours, finds in attempting to impose upon the people a matter so entirely within their own judgment and within the guidance of 28 their own knowledge as the course that they shall pursue in satisfying their own individual tastes. We are stepping out of that which ought to be the wisely restricted sphere of Government action. We have before us a great example. We know that the class with which we ourselves are most familiar 100 or 200 years ago were as deeply affected by this evil which you lament now as any of the lower class at the present day may be. We know that it was not by the attempt to set up paternal government—it was not by an attempt to substitute in that particular matter our judgment for that of the people themselves—but by allowing the gradual growth of intelligence and education to guide them to make the choice which they can make and which we cannot, and by that wise liberty to obtain the freedom from this evil which no paternal Government can ever attain for you. That is the example which we have before us. We see the use of the principle which we have applied in every other part of our policy. We see that, wherever it has been tried, it has been brilliantly successful. On the other hand, we have been induced in the past by advisers, who, I think, were not wise, to take upon the shoulders of Parliament a responsibility which belongs to the individual and the community themselves. Can anyone say we have been successful? Will anyone say that we have any prospect of success? Are we not hindered by that hopeless conflict between divergent opinions and the interests, feelings, and prepossessions of the various members of the community?
The present state of the matter I believe to be this—that, with regard to the vast body of the people, the matter has not deeply attracted their attention, and they will not join us in any effort we may make. There are, on the other hand highly organised bodies—organised by ethical or religious opinion—who are trying to enforce the views they take—no doubt they are great and noble views—upon their neighbours. I have told you that the Government have expressed no opinion or determination on any policy. Neither positively or negatively am I authorised to pledge the Government in the matter. I merely wish to joint out to you the numerous difficulties that lie in the path of this legislation, 29 and to call attention to the fact that they arise because, in despite of the examples pointing in the other direction, you have chosen to desert those principles of individual liberty which you have followed in every other part of your policy, and in place of it given your allegiance to practices and systems which rather are imported from abroad than generated in this free country, and which will never, I am fully convinced, so long as you are determined to adhere to your present views, thoroughly and satisfactorily get rid in the mass of the people of this country of those evils which, in regard to the more educated portion of the people, the natural working of intelligence and education has now for several generations satisfactorily disposed of. I earnestly exhort you in this matter rather to think of the guidance we have received from experience and to distrust the exhortations which merely come from zeal, from philanthropy, and misguided attachment to theories which will not stand the tests of experience.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I am quite sure, whatever our opinions may be on the licensing question, we are all unanimous on one point, which is our sincere pleasure and gratification at seeing the Prime Minister restored to the arena of our debates in good health. Nor do I intervene for any length of time to discuss what he has said. It is weighty, as all is weighty coming from one in his position, and who has held that position for so many years. But I confess he fills me with a feeling of despair on this question. He seems to live in a hermitage contemplating the history of two centuries ago and the genial habits of our forefathers. I give up the task. I do not think he goes quite so far in his genial views as does Lord Norton, behind him, whose views on all that conduces to health and longevity are entitled to the highest respect. It is impossible to catch the noble Marquess on this question. You speak of a Royal Commission. That I know is the usual preliminary to legislation in this country. The noble Marquess, with a struggle, appoints a Royal Commission, and when it has reported—reported in a twofold form, giving him the choice of either 30 option—[The Marquess of SALISBURY: Hear, hear.]—he disdains either option, and casts contumely on the Report and reporters. Then the right reverend bench try their hand. They bring forward a resolution. The noble Marquess says he does not care for a resolution. Abstract resolutions on a question of this kind, he says, are of no value. What he wants is a Bill. That is taken as a happy hint by his ingenuous audience, and the fathers of the Church vie with distinguished laymen like my noble friend in submitting Bills for his approval. But no, that will not do either. "I do not want Bills," says the noble Marquess, "I want a Bill." That is a very difficult distinction to draw.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
A Bill with respect to the very limited subject with which the Bishop of Winchester was dealing. I did not say that I wanted Bills ranging over the whole field of the licensing question.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
But then his own agent objects to the Bill of the noble Earl because it is too limited. He shows a leaning possibly to the Bill of the noble Lord behind him, which we are to see another day, but which is of a little more expansive character. But what you come to is this—you will not have a Royal Commission, you will not have the Report of a Royal Commission, you will not have a resolution, you will not have a big Bill, you will not have a small Bill; and that is the declaration of the head of the most powerful Government of modern times. I think that I am right in saying that I feel a certain sentiment of despair, perhaps of lethargy, creeping over me when I listen to the utterances of the noble Marquess in regard to this question. On a former occasion I remember, he said that, after all, this question was merely one of civil war between those who have cellars and those who have not. That was a disheartening 31 comparison, because cellars existed two centuries ago—in the times upon which the noble Marquess looks back with such lingering affection; and if this is to be a question between those who have cellars and those who have not, it is clear that all legislation is impossible on this question. I really do not know where I am to find any consolation, because the noble Marquess says that he has no authority on behalf of his colleagues and no inspiration on his own behalf to communicate any determination on this subject to the House. I snatch one crumb of comfort from a document of an authentic character, with which, I presume, the noble Marquess has not refreshed his memory—I mean the King's Speech. In His Majesty's Speech we had a promise, possibly a qualified promise, but still a promise—at any rate, we had a sentence—which did not indicate that rooted distrust of all legislation which has appeared in the speech of the noble Marquess. "Legislation has been prepared"—now those words could not have been put in the Sovereign's mouth if there was no authority from the Cabinet to deal with the question—"and if the time at your disposal should prove to be adequate, will be laid before you, for the prevention of drunkenness in licensed houses or public places." How was that announcement made if the noble Marquess is opposed to all legislation and the Government had not made up their minds on the subject? The legislation had been prepared in February, and we understood that it had been the breathless anxiety of the Government to introduce this Bill at the earliest possible period. Where is this Bill which was prepared in the middle of February, and which was announced in the Speech from the Throne? It must be somewhere. Presumably it was prepared in the Home Office. I see no guilty consciousness of such a Bill creeping over the face of the noble Lord who represents the Home Office in this House; and yet somewhere or other, in some pigeon-hole or in some pocket, that Bill must exist. And two questions arise. Why is it, if that Bill was solemnly announced from the Throne in February, we are told that no legislation is to be expected now?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
No legislation on the subject that has been raised by the noble Lord below the gangway. This question of dealing with, and possibly punishing, persons who are drunk in public places is an entirely separate question. It has been brought forward by the Bishop of Winchester with our approval, and I imagine that, when the time promises, our approval will be expressed in a somewhat more emphatic manner.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
Then are we to understand that it was the Bishop of Winchester's Bill which was prepared and announced?
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
Now we are getting on the track of this mysterious document. It has taken some time. The noble Marquess's speech has been a declaration of the strongest kind against any kind of legislation attempting to deal with the question at all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I deny that. My speech had nothing to do with drunkenness. This question of licensing raised the limitation of the supply of things people had a right to buy and the extent to which that limitation was to be applied. We have never indicated that has anything to do with the penal treatment of drunkards behaving in a manner contrary to public order in the streets.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
If the penal treatment of drunkards means anything, what becomes of the argument to leave drunkards to education and intelligence? Does the noble marquess mean, when he was alluding to the question two centuries ago, that he was dealing with the question of licensing boards, which troubled our ancestors considerably little? I think if he reads the report of his speech in The Times tie will find the area of his investigation spread considerably beyond the Bill of the noble Earl. When I heard that everything was to be left to education and intelligence, and that legislation was 33 to be deprecated, I thought that in the rather veiled clauses of the Education Bill recently introduced in the House of Commons there might be some provision dealing with the subject under discussion; but I understand that is not the case. I also understood from the King's Speech that it is not to unaided intelligence that the remedy for this great evil is to be left. I might humbly suggest that the noble marquess could not better signalise his return to the House than by indicating the date on which the measure for preventing drunkenness in public-houses is to be introduced.
|Camperdown, E. [Teller.]||Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Heneage, L. [Teller.]|
|Carrigton, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Chesterfield, E.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Knutsford, V.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Peel, V.||St. Levan, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Barnard, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Cranworth, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Windsor, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (E. Chancellor.)||Jersey, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Harris, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Morley, E.||James, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Kenyon, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Selborne, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Lindley, L.|
|Bath, M.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Ludlow, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Macnaughten, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Cross, E.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Goschen, V.||Morris, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)||Powerscourt, V.||Norton, L.|
|Ponsonby, L (E. Bessborough.)|
|Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain||Alverstone, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Avebury, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Balfour, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Feversham, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)||Templemore, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Churchill, L. [Teller.]||Trevor, L.|
|Howe, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Wimborne, L.|