§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I must at the outset express my regret at having to move the Second Reading of a measure of this great importance at such a late period of the session, and I wish especially to do that because I know that in your Lordships' House there are a considerable number of Members with practical experience of the matters with which this Bill deals, and who take a very deep interest in it. I think it would have been a great advantage if we could have discussed the Bill at a time when we should have had a fuller attendance than is perhaps possible in August. At the same time, I think I can assure your Lordships that there will, at all events, be ample time given for the discussion of the Bill at its different stages, thereby affording your Lordships full opportunity of coming to a deliberate conclusion upon the proposals in the Bill.
I am reminded, in moving the Second Reading of this measure, that this is neither the first nor the second time that I have had the honour of having charge of a measure for licensing reform. Two years ago I had charge of a Bill which made very important amendments in this direction, and that Bill was received with the general, I may say with almost the unanimous, assent of the House. I am under no misapprehension with regard to this Bill. I know that I am not in the same happy position that I was then, and that this Bill, as the Notice Paper shows, will meet with opposition from your Lordships. I know also that this Bill deals with a branch of licensing reform involving most complicated, difficult, and delicate questions, and I do not think it would be possible for any solution of these problems to be brought forward which would meet with the unanimous, 165 or even the general, support of your Lordships or of those outside who take an interest in this question. I hope that in the remarks I have to make in recommending the Bill to your Lordships I may he able to show that there is real need that this question should be dealt with without delay, and that I may he fortunate enough to persuade some of your Lordships that the Government are making a serious effort to settle the question in a fair and equitable manner.
I do not think it necessary to describe the unsatisfactory position of affairs now as regards the manner in which magistrates feel they can use their discretion, and as regards the position of the licence-holders.
We all remember the time when it was the almost unanimous belief of the magistrates that when questions of renewal of licences came up they had no power to refuse renewal on the ground that the licences were redundant and not required. I know, my Lords, it has been said that there were people who knew what the law was even at that time; but I can only say, from my own experience as a licensing magistrate, which I am sure will be borne out by that of other noble Lords, that we were invariably given the advice by those who were competent to advise us that we had no power except to renew the licences unless there were grounds of misconduct or other matters of that kind. The result has been that the great bulk, the enormous majority of the magistrates have invariably acted in that belief. Not only so, but the fact that they universally acted in that way gave licence-holders the belief that as long as there was no misconduct on their part they were secure in the tenure of their licences, and there was no power to turn them out on the mere ground that the licences were not required.
Then, my Lords, came a great change. The decision in the case of "Sharpe v. Wakefield" came almost like a bolt from the blue; and as soon as the full force of that decision was made known it became clear that the magistrates had been acting under a misapprehension for years, and that it was legal for them to consider whether the circumstances of the case justified them in refusing licences on the ground that they were not required. I think no one is surprised that having acted for years in the firm belief that they had not that power, having led the licence-holders to 166 believe that they had not that power, it was not considered that it would be reasonable or equitable for them to turn round on the first occasion when they found that the law was different, and say that, having those powers, they were prepared to do away with licences on those grounds in spite of the fact that they had led the licence-holders to believe that they had secure tenure. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that the present position is thoroughly unsatisfactory from both points of view.
On the one side you have the large majority of benches of magistrates who decline to make use of their discretion in this direction because they think it would not be equitable, and, on the other hand, you have a few benches, of whom I do not wish to say anything disrespectful, but whose enthusiasm for a reduction of licences has overcome a considerable part of their sense of equity, for we know there were a certain number of cases in which licences were reduced in a somewhat wholesale manner when the magistrates found they had the power. That is the state of things which has to be remedied. I do not think, from whichever point of view you look at it, it can be desirable that that state of things should continue any longer. What is the proposal which the Government now make for remedying it? They propose in the first clause of the Bill that the power to refuse the renewal of an existing on-licence on any ground other than the ground that the licensed premises have been ill-conducted or are structurally deficient or unsuitable, or grounds connected with the character or fitness of the proposed holder of the licence, or the ground that the renewal would be void, shall be vested in quarter sessions instead of the justices of the licensing district, but shall only be exercised on a reference from those justices, and on payment of compensation in accordance with the subsequent provisions.
The Bill goes on to point out how that compensation should be raised. In Clause 3 the Bill enacts that quarter sessions shall, in respect of all existing on-licences renewed in respect of premises within their area, impose charges at rates not exceeding, and graduated in the same proportion as, the rates shown in the scale of maximum charges set out in the first schedule to the Bill—practically that every licence-holder shall pay a charge to 167 this fund assessed on the value of his premises. It is proposed that the compensation which shall be paid out of that fund to licence-holders when their licences are not renewed shall be calculated on certain terms, and the terms laid down in the Bill are, that when a licence is refused a sum shall be paid equal to the difference between the value of the licensed premises, calculated as if the licence were subject to the same conditions of renewal as were applicable immediately before the passing of the Act, and the value which those premises would bear if they were not licensed premises. Therefore, it is clearly laid down how that fund is to be raised and in what manner it is to be spent. It is practically an insurance fund, the premiums of which are paid wholly by the licensed holders themselves. The compensation which they are to receive out of the fund is described beforehand, and therefore when they pay the premiums the licence-holders know to what they will be entitled. The only difference between this and ordinary insurance is that this insurance is compulsory.
I do not wish to deal at any length with the figures or details of this portion of the Bill; but, with regard to the charge which is made upon the licence-holders, I will only say this, that it is a very considerable charge in addition to what licences have been paying before. A difference may arise in Committee as to whether this charge is a sufficient one or not; but, at all events, the Government think that it is a very considerable extra charge put upon the licence-holders, and that it will produce a sum sufficient to do away with a very considerable number of licences year by year. With regard to the point as to how far this fund may be considered sufficient for the purposes for which it is intended, I would like to say one or two words. If the full powers under the Act are used by all the magistrates, the total sum which this fund would amount to year by year would be £1,209,500. I think it will be seen that that is a substantial sum to be raised from the licence-holders of the country.
I am very unwilling to make any prophecies as to the average number of licences that it will be possible to reduce annually by means of this fund; but at all events in the earlier years, the years immediately after the passing of the Act, 168 the houses abolished will probably be the poorer class of houses, houses that are not required and which are not suited structurally to this trade, and, therefore, in the earlier years the fund will probably be sufficient to do away with a larger number of houses than would be possible at a later period, when the houses have increased in value. I know that different estimates have been given. I will only mention one or two of them. I think that a great many of the estimates with regard to the amount which each house will receive are largely exaggerated; but, taking a very moderate estimate, an estimate that the average would be £500, the fund would enable, in one year, no less than 2,420 licences to be done away with. Then, if you take a larger figure, if you take the average sum at £800, it would allow of over 1,500 licences being done away with in one year. I mention this to show that it will be possible to do away with a large number of houses of not very great value, particularly beerhouses, in the earlier years, without increasing the fund.
The next point I should like to call the attention of the House to is how this fund is to be administered. I wish to dwell a little on this point, because I notice that in the attacks that have been made on the Bill in the country it is asserted that it is proposed to take the discretion away from the local magistrates. That is an attack which has been most prominently put forward. There have been petitions after petitions, all putting that question in the forefront, immediately after the question of the time limit, and calling upon this House and the other House of Parliament to throw out the Bill in consequence of the fact that the discretion of the local magistrates is interfered with by it. I ask the House to look at what are the real facts of the case. What is the law as it at present stands? At present the licensing justices are subject to control in two directions. In the first place, if they grant a new licence, the grant of that licence has to be confirmed by the present licensing committee. That committee is very much limited in power, because this is practically the only work its members have to do. It is also limited in numbers, because the Act lays down that it cannot consist of less than three or more than twelve members; and, therefore, it is quite impossible that in a large county 169 the licensing committee can be very representative of the different districts.
With regard to renewals of licences, in every case where the decision of the licensing justices to refuse the renewal is not accepted, there is an appeal to quarter sessions. That is to say, in every case where the licence-holder thinks he can get it set aside, he has an appeal to quarter sessions, and naturally there is an appeal in the large majority of these cases. The appeal goes to the full Court of quarter sessions sitting as a Court, and is practically a re-hearing of the case, with, as very often happens in such cases, fresh evidence produced which was not put before the magistrates at the original hearing. Now what is the change that this Bill proposes? The Bill proposes that the actual power with regard to the renewal of licences and the giving of new licences shall be exercised by quarter sessions; that these two powers shall always be exercised by a committee appointed by quarter sessions; and the Bill lays down that that committee shall be appointed subject to regulations which will be made by the magistrates and which have to be approved by the Secretary of State. Therefore, it is presumable that the Secretary of State will, as far as possible, insist that that licensing committee shall be a properly constituted committee, and that in the cases where it is possible it shall fairly represent the different districts of the county. More than that, it is especially laid down that this committee shall always have a report made to them from the magistrates who have originally considered the case, and that they shall considered the case, and that they shall consider all reports so made to them. They will, therefore, always have before them all the facts on which the magistrates originally came to their decision.
There is also this very important provision, that the Secretary of State, who has the power of making certain rules for carrying this Bill into effect, may, amongst other things, by those rules provide for the consultation of the committee of quarter sessions with the justices as to the reports which they make; therefore, if there is any doubt in the report itself, it may be provided, and will be provided, that the quarter sessions committee in such a case such personally consult with the magistrates who have made that re- 170 port. As I have said, this committee of quarter sessions will have the power, not only of dealing with new licences, but also of deciding with regard to the renewal of licences, and I think your Lordships will see that this is a very great improvement in the procedure. Whereas under the old procedure the decision had to be come to by one body with regard to the giving of a new licence, and by another with regard to the renewal of a licence, under this Bill the same body has to consider the two different matters, which are certainly very much akin to one another.
Now, what is the actual change with regard to the taking away of discretion from the local magistrates? The whole difference between what is proposed in the Bill and the present law is this, that with regard to the renewal of licences anybody who so wishes can at present appeal from the decision of the licensing justices, but as the Bill puts it, every case of renewal, whether there is an appeal or not, will have to come before the committee of quarter sessions. I have only dwelt upon the actual changes. I would like to say one or two words about the reasons. It does seem to me that it is not unreasonable that where you have a sum of money provided for doing away with licences throughout a whole county, the county authority should be the authority to deal with it. It might cause great inconvenience and great confusion if different magistrates in different parts of the county dealt with the fund at their disposal in an entirely different manner, and irrespective of what was going on in other parts of the country. I am confirmed in that view by the very strong remarks in the Majority Report of the Licensing Commission, in which it was pointed out that if there was to be a compensation fund, it was most important that it should be administered over a large area, such as a whole county. As the Majority Report points out, you cannot lay down a rule with regard to the number of licences required in different districts when the conditions and circumstances are so varied. In one part of the county a much larger number of licences may be required than in another, and the only fair way of administering such a fund would be for a central body to administer it who are acquainted with the whole circumstances of the case.
171 I have had some experience as a chairman of quarter sessions myself. I have been chairman for a longer number of years than I like to think of, and I may, in consequence, be considered to be prejudiced in favour of quarter sessions; but this I certainly can say with perfect confidence, that, so far as my experience goes, it would always be the first wish of quarter sessions in these matters to give consideration to the views of local magistrates, and if the committee is, as I hope it will be, made a representative committee, I cannot see that the proposals in the Bill can in any way interfere with the discretion which the local magistrates have hitherto had, and which, I think, they will to a large extent have under the proposals of the Bill.
I now come to what, I take it, is the pregnant point in the Bill—the compensation scheme. I know that the proposal of the Government has been attacked, and is attacked, because there is no time limit put upon the operation of their compensation scheme, and there is an Amendment to be proposed by the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Peel, to the Motion for the Second Reading. It is to the effect that this House cannot accept, as a satisfactory settlement of the licensing question, a Bill which creates a perpetual interest in a terminable licence. Although I cannot say I see it from quite the same point of view as the noble Viscount, yet he has, at all events, selected the words of that Amendment somewhat more carefully than some of the critics of the Bill have on former occasions. But, my Lords, I honestly say I cannot see that the Bill creates a perpetual interest in a terminable licence. How can a Bill under which practically every licence that at present exists may be taken away, supposing your fund is sufficient, and under which neither the State nor any public authority will provide one penny of compensation—how can that Bill be said to create a perpetual interest in a terminable licence?
What the Bill clearly does is this. It does enable the licence-holder who has paid the premiums to receive his share of the compensation fund at whatever period his licence may be taken away. And I myself fail to see how, if it is equitable that a licence-holder, whose licence is taken away in five or ten years from the passing of the Bill, should, 172 receive his share out of the fund to which he has contributed, it can be contended that a licence-holder after he has a larger number of premiums, after he has paid premiums possibly for fifteen or twenty years, should be entirely debarred from any benefit or from any share of the compensation. I quite understand that there may be other schemes which, in the opinion of the noble Viscount and of other noble Lords, are preferable, but those schemes cannot be grafted on to this Bill. It is perfectly out of harmony with the principle of the Bill to put a time limit at the end of it.
Let me take one instance. There is a quite intelligible scheme—some of the schemes that I have seen are rather the reverse—containing a time limit. In that scheme is contained the principle that every licence-holder should be given a certain period during which he should be entitled to hold his licence, and that at the expiration of that period it should be subject to withdrawal, but that in the meantime he should have the opportunity of recouping himself for the fact that he may lose his licence after a particular date. I merely refer to that because I think that was a scheme to which the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury gave his adhesion in a speech he recently made in the country. He said he had no objection to a long time limit, because it was quite fair, if a licence-holder was to lose his licence, that he should have sufficient time to save up in order to recoup himself for that loss. That, I venture to think, is a perfectly intelligible alternative to the Bill now before the House; but that it is a proposal which, either from the point of view of the licence-holders or from the point of view of the public, would meet with much approval, I venture very much to doubt. For what is the effect of it? Up to the time you fix there will be no power whatever of doing away with any licence at all; and, therefore, the whole of these licences, which are now in such excessive numbers, will have to be continued unless the State chooses to step in and find a fund to do away with them in the meanwhile.
I feel the difficulty of discussing an Amendment of this sort, which objects to the general principle on which this Bill 173 is drawn, without knowing the alternative which may be put in its place. I regret, therefore, that an Amendment is to be moved which would practically destroy the Bill, instead of noble Lords waiting for the Committee stage, when the House would have full power of considering what scheme was most likely to be equitable and satisfactory to the public. I would venture to make another criticism on the Amendment. Are noble Lords who support that Amendment prepared to sacrifice all those clauses of the Bill which it has been admitted are valuable improvements on the present law? Are they prepared to sacrifice those clauses in order to get rid of the compensation scheme under the Bill? Even if they feel so strongly about the scheme of compensation, why cannot that matter be left until we come to Committee, when noble Lords can have the whole question discussed?
Let me, in a very few words, point out what I think are the valuable reforms which the Bill makes. I take first the fact that the Bill for the first time recognises that the privileged position of the ante–1869 beerhouses should no longer continue. There is no matter which has been more strongly animadverted upon in this House than the fact that the keepers of the poorest class of house, the beerhouse, should be in a privileged position and that it should be impossible to touch them. It has been represented over and over again that the privileges which these houses possess block the way to all temperance reform. Are we to say, on the very first Rill that proposes to take away their privileged position, that we will sacrifice that proposal because the particular form of compensation proposed to be given them is not entirely approved of?
Then, my Lords, take the provisions in Clause 4. That is a most important clause, and I do not think it has met with the attention in the country tha it deserves. With regard to new licences, it makes most important proposals, and gives the opportunity for very valuable reforms. That clause gives power to the justices of a licensing district, on the grant of a new licence, to attach to the grant of the licence such conditions, both as to the payments to be made, the tenure of the licence, and as to any other 174 matters, as they think proper in the public interest; and I can conceive no wider words than those, or words which might have more far-reaching effect in altering the present conditions and in putting licensed houses in a really satisfactory position. Not only that. It is also laid down specifically in that clause that such conditions shall in any case be attached as, having regard to the proper provision for good management, the justices think best adapted for securing to the public any monopoly value which is represented by the difference between the value which the premises will bear, in the opinion of the justices, as licensed premises, and the value of the same premises if they were not licensed. That provision really meets the objections of those who are so dissatisfied with the state of existing licences; it meets their objections with regard to future licences. The monopoly value is to be taken away from the licence-holder and put practically in the hands of the public.
There is another proposal in the same clause to the effect that a new on-licence may be granted for a term not exceeding seven years, but that at the end of that term it shall be considered not as a renewal of the licence, but shall be treated exactly as an application for a new licence. I do not know how largely that provision may be taken advantage of, and it is very difficult to say what may be the full effect of it; but, at any rate, what this particular clause does is to give an opportunity for magistrates to try experiments with regard to the best way of managing public-houses in the future. They can make such conditions as they think fit. They can give a licence for seven years if they approve, and this will be a great advantage in testing what is likely to be the value of such provisions. That, I think, is a clause which even those who are strongly opposed to some parts of the Bill will admit is a very valuable provision as to future licences.
I have given your Lordships some explanation of the principal clauses in the Bill. I do not think it will be necessary for me, having detained You for some considerable time, to go further into the details of the measure—some of which are very intricate—which can be much better discussed in Committee. I have 175 tried to explain the main features of the Bill, and I believe that when those features come to be considered it will be found that they provide a reasonable solution of a very vexed question on fair and equitable lines; that, in addition to that, they make a great advance in temperance reform by making not only possible, but probable, a very large reduction in the present excessive number of public-houses; and that they will enable regulations to be made which will put licensed houses in a much more satisfactory position than they have ever been before. It only now remains for me to move the second Reading of the Bill, and to commend it to the fair, and, I hope, the favourable consideration of the House.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Belper. )
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I ask your indulgence in no conventional sense, while, in as short a space as I can, I state the reasons which, in my opinion, justify me in putting the Motion on the Paper which stands in my name, and the general objections which I have to this measure. The noble Lord, whose candid, moderate, and able statement I fully recognise, has rather implied that I am not justified in putting down an Amendment to the Second Reading of this Bill unless I can suggest a substitute for this Bill. Well, my Lords, before I sit down I hope to offer in very rough outline a suggestion of an entirely different kind from that contained in the Bill. My objections to this Bill are so strong, not only on the ground which I have stated in my Amendment but on other grounds, that I shall respectfully ask your Lordships to divide at this stage.
I would first ask Your attention for a moment or two to the circumstances under which this Bill was introduced. I am not alluding to what has passed in the other House. I would be, perhaps, the last person in this House to transgress Your Lordships' rules, if I knew what they were, by alluding in detail to some of the circumstances which have curtailed discussion in another place. For the moment I am not alluding to those circumstances. I am alluding to the feeling which has prevailed in the country 176 for the last eight or ten years on the subject, and which culminated in the granting of a Commission by the present Government. I assure Your Lordships I am not going to compare the Majority and the Minority Reports, or to enter into small details of controversy which I hope are buried for ever. But what were the circumstances under which the Bill was introduced? There was a very strong and almost unanimous feeling in the country as to the great evils of intemperance. If I were to quote from speeches made by Prime Ministers living and dead I could present to your Lordships a catalogue of very condemnatory epithets. Every class almost in the country was roused by the extent to which the liquor trade had been pushed and the evils it was producing in England. The Nonconformist and Free Churches to an extraordinary degree were unanimous in their condemnation; and as a member of the Church of England I deeply regret to say that, rightly or wrongly, there was prevalent in the country a feeling that the Church of England were not equally strong in their denunciation of the evil, and were, for some reason or other, comparatively lukewarm in the assertion of what the remedy should be. I hope, however, that before this debate closes that misconception, for such I believe it to be, may be utterly eradicated, and that the representatives of the Church of England in this House will realise that there is an immense body of feeling in this country which they could adequately and fully represent, and that they will bring their great authority to bear in responding in some degree to the deep convictions and the earnest aspirations of some of the best minds and characters in England.
I think the one remarkable thing about this Bill is the extraordinary difference of opinion which is held concerning it. You meet one man and he will say that it is a temperance measure; you meet another and he pronounces it a retrograde measure. The Prime Minister himself has declared that if we could see its results we should think it the greatest measure ever introduced in the cause of temperance reform. There are some who think it is a great concession to popular opinion; others there are who think that the public are, I will not say purposely, 177 but effectively, precluded from any concern with, or control of, licences in the future. There are some who think that by the Bill magisterial discretion is increased; there are others who, like myself, think that discretion "cribb'd, cabin'd, and confin'd" in such a way that the authority of magistrates at brewster sessions will, for the future, be a farce and a delusion. I may be wrong in that. I feel so very strongly that the licensing magistrates in brewster sessions have done so well in their great office, and have discharged their duties with such impartiality and fairness, that it requires a very strong case to be made against them before they are deprived of their disciplinary and administrative duties.
The diversity of view regarding t he Bill arises, I think, from this fact, that some men look to the motives of the Bill—and I am willing to put the best interpretation on the motives of those who have introduced it—whilst others look exclusively at the way in which it is proposed to carry out those motives in the different clauses and provisions of the measure. I cannot help thinking that a close and searching examination of the provisions of the Bill will show that the motives are not carried out, and that so far from this being a measure calculated to produce temperance reform, it will—I am sorry to say it in the presence of so many who differ from me, but I do say it with a deep sense of conviction—hinder the progress of temperance reform, prevent the reduction of that redundancy of licences which is the great and crying evil of the day, and will tie up the hands of future generations, so far as this Bill can do it, from introducing these reforms which thousands, nay millions, in this country have set their hearts upon.
I may, of course, be met by the assertion that those with whom I am acting have proposed compensation themselves. I for one have always been in favour of compensation. I have always said it is impossible to get the magistrates, or either House of Parliament, to act unless there was some fair and equitable arrangement by which, if licences were taken away; some compensation should be paid to their holders. But what was the compensation that we 178 offered, and what was the advantage given to the public in return? It was not a mere compensation for licences when they were taken away. It was on the following terms that it was proposed. A great scheme of reduction was in our minds, a scheme by which there should be effected in the course of a short time a reduction of half the licences in the country. It was in view of that that we said—"This is a great and sweeping revolutionary change, necessitated by the circumstances of the day, and it must be accompanied by some kind of consideration for those who hold the licences." It was for that reason that we advocated compensation. But the compensation that the Government propose in this Bill is a new and revolutionary principle introduced into the history of licensing legislation.
It is absolutely a new idea that if a licence is taken away it should be attended with compensation. It has never before been heard of in the course of our temperance legislation. There have been multitudes of Acts, it is true. It was said the other day—The trade has always been legislated against.No, my Lords, it has not. If legislated against for the last three or four centuries, then it is obvious, from the position it holds today, that that legislation has been of very little effect in curtailing its powers and diminishing its privileges. But, be that as it may, compensation with a great national object in view is a very different thing from attaching henceforth to every licence the claim to compensation for abolition, and so for the first time in history transforming a licence—a permission to sell liquor—into a permanent vested interest which cannot be destroyed except on payment of compensation to the holder. That is one of the principles against which, in common with many others, I venture to protest. It is a new principle which will defeat any idea of great temperance reform, and which will tie our hands and the hands of those who come after us in introducing great reforms in accordance with the feeling and convictions of the people.
There is in this Bill a great show of machinery. Licences are to be reduced 179 and great privileges conferred on quarter sessions. There is, as I say, a great show of machinery in the Bill, but where the motive power is to come from I do not know. The motive power, it seems to me, has been taken away. The motive power was in the magistrates at brewster sessions. They knew the circumstances of the case better than anybody else. They were cognisant day by day and hour by hour with all the circumstances of their districts, and now, in spite of what the noble Lord has said, though he has said it with great moderation and clearness—in spite of what he has said their disciplinary power is curtailed, and there is now to be a duality of disciplinary control which will end in this, that between the quarter sessions and the brewster sessions the holder of a licence will snap his fingers at any attempt to remedy his house or his conduct of it.
The compensation fund is the whole pivot of the Bill. It is to be the means by which the extraordinary redundancy of licences is to be reduced. How will the compensation fund act? We have heard it stated that it will reach £1,200,000 annually, a very large sum in itself, but when it is divided amongst all the licensing districts in England and put into watertight compartments so as to act only in comparatively small areas, I do not think we can look forward to its having any great effect on the redundancy of licences over the whole area of the kingdom. Take the county of Hampshire. It has been calculated by Mr. Shaw Lefevre, who has made himself very conspicuous by his ability in dealing with the licensing question in his own county, that with the sum which will be at the disposal of that great county the number of licences that it will be possible to get rid of in one year will be fifteen at the outside, and anyone who knows the circumstances in the county of Hampshire, which is blessed with far more than its ample supply of licences. will see that it will take a very long time before it is brought to a reasonable condition in this matter, having regard to the reasonable proportion of supply and demand.
I will next take the county of Huntingdon. Referring for a moment to the Minority Report, we did venture to propose a maximum. It was laid down, not 180 as a hard and fast line, but as a sort of indication to the magistrates of the limit beyond which it was not advisable to go in the interests of temperance—we suggested one licence to every 400 of population. If this Bill passes into law it would take 188 years before that county was brought into the happy condition of having only one licence to every 400 of the population. Everything turns upon this compensation. I am sorry to say so, but the Bill is so brief, and so much lies outside it in the rules and regulations which will have to be made, that I am satisfied that if it passes in its present shape, there will be a harvest for gentlemen of the legal profession. About one-half of the Bill was never discussed in the House of Commons at all. The Government Amendments which were introduced as improvements in the Bill—and I recognise some of them as improvements—were never even explained, much less discussed. It is in the brevity of the Bill, and in its constant reference to rules and regulations to be made by the Home Secretary and other authorities that I see great danger in the future, and great hindrance to the smooth working of the Bill. I will take one instance of the procedure of the Bill. The compensation fund has been based upon no intelligible principle. There is no valuation. It is impossible even now to say what is the value of a house subject to the conditions which this Bill introduces, and the value of that house without a licence attached to it. It is impossible to get at any value. The noble Lord stated £500 as the value of a licence.
§ LORD BELPER
I beg the noble Viscount's pardon. I did not quote £500 as a figure which I expressed any opinion about. All I said was that if it was £500, the number of licences done away with in one year would be 2,420.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I quite admit that; but the noble Lord, when he says "if" it is £500, shows the uncertainty that exists. What opportunity will quarter sessions have of putting a value on these licensed houses? There is a part of the Bill which says that if the parties interested come to an agreement, and quarter sessions think it is a fair agreement, that agreement shall hold good, but that, if 181 not, the question shall be relegated for appeal to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, and from them to the High Court. Now, my Lords, suppose a licensed victualler and his tenant have come to an agreement which is very satisfactory to them, who is to test the question whether it is a fair arrangement between the two parties? Is it not quite likely that quarter sessions, bothered and, if I may use the word in this House, badgered by the prospect of having an appeal to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, and from them, possibly, to the High Court of Justice, will look with a very lenient eye on an arrangement which may save them so much trouble, and will sanction an agreement which may be utterly and absolutely unfair to the rest of the claimants on the fund? And there will be many claimants sucking at this fund. Looking to the legal expenses of the fund, I very much doubt whether a very great effect will be produced upon the number of redundant licences.
Compensation is one thing when it is given as a quid pro quo, as a means of easing the transition from the present state of things to what was hoped would be a new and a better state of things; but when it becomes a question of payment of compensation as a right, when it becomes an essential condition attaching to a licence, does it not strike your Lordships as absolutely necessary to look into the question very narrowly as to who is to be compensated, and what is to be the amount of the compensation? Why should a great brewery company, if they possess the whole of the licences in a particular town, be compensated if two or three of their licences are withdrawn, when, on their own showing, it makes no difference to the drinking: the drinking that would have gone on in the two or three houses that are suppressed gravitating to the remaining houses? The value of the houses that are left will be enhanced, to the great benefit of the brewers themselves, so that they will be paid not only for the extinction of the houses winch are lost, but will be absolutely compensated again out of the compensation fund. Is there no danger under this Bill, from the absence of care displayed in the preparation of it, of a man paying on one system and being compensated on another—paying a very small sum into the compensation fund and getting a very large sum out of it? There 182 is really no reason why he should not as the Bill is framed.
I venture to say there must be some more definite statement made as to how compensation is to be allotted, and who are to be the recipients. I have always fully sympathised with a poor man, or with any man, puts his whole substance into a small freehold house, not a tied house, and is then threatened by the magistrates with the loss of everything he has invested. That man has my sympathy, and I do think some scheme ought to be devised by which such a man's interest should be cared for. I am most unwilling, and I am sure your Lordships will be the last persons in the world to be willing to do an injustice to anyone. But in the case of the great brewery companies, who have swallowed up house after house, who have put their tenants in under most rigorous conditions, who monopolise whole territories, who occupy the whole field, when their houses are abolished, I do hope, not that they will have no compensation at all, but that there will be a very rigid examination into the circumstances of those companies and as to the sums which they are respectively entitled to receive.
It is said to be inconsistent with the scheme of the Bill to provide a time limit Why should it be so? Why is every licence that exists now to be turned into a vested interest? I will not use the word freehold after what the noble Lord has said, and still less after what the Prime Minister has said. Mr. Balfour, in another place, has declared that it is a great fallacy to talk of a freehold, but his explanation comes, in my unlegal mind, to pretty much the same thing, his explanation being that the mere fact that the interest does not come to an end does not constitute a freehold. No, it does not; but an endless continuation of years during which the occupation of a licence lasts appears to me to establish what is perilously near a freehold interest.
The noble Lord says we are under an obligation to propose some counter scheme to this Bill. There is a counter scheme which I think can be easily proposed. I do not presume to do more than merely to sketch it in the broadest outline. Our plan to reduce licences to a reasonable limit, and do away with the terrible evils which attend the redundancy of licences, was to have a national levy. The Government take credit to themselves 183 for enlarging the areas, but this proposal is quite apart from county areas; it was to be a national levy imposed by high licences on the holders of licences. It may be asked, Can they afford it? In my mind I have no limit which I think the licensing trade cannot afford to pay; their profits are so enormous. When you consider that in London the average value which they will pay under this Bill as a contribution to the fund is about £38, to talk of a high licence smothering them or being an injustice to the trade, is, I think, an absurd statement.
They can surely afford a high licence for the purpose of eliminating from their own number undesirable houses, or houses which exceed a reasonable limit. That is compatible with a time limit. If seven years is too little, we would accept more; but at the end of a certain time it is reasonable to say, "You have had time to turn round; you have had this system of mutual assurance; it comes out of your own pockets, but it has been sanctioned by and arranged for by the State." Is it impossible, at the end of seven or, say, ten years, for this great trade, having been taught a system of mutual insurance under Government supervision, to he able to stand on its own feet, and to devise a mutual insurance scheme which should guard it against the terrible evil to which the members of it think they are exposed? High licensing should continue after the licences have been reduced to a certain number, and the high licence would then go to the State for fiscal purposes. A time limit is compatible with a scheme of mutual insurance.
I will not anticipate the Amendment which is to be moved by the most rev. Primate, but I do say we ought to be able to look forward to an end of this interminable system of licences, and to see daylight; we ought to be able to cheer ourselves with the knowledge that there will come a time when licences will be at the disposal of the magistrates to be adjusted and re-adjusted at given periods as they in their discretion think fit. The Prime Minister, I think, has argued it in this way. He has said that at the end of this period of, say, seven years, you are going to hand over every man who holds a licence to the mercy of a public authority, 184 which may at once abolish the licence; but I would ask, Have the licensing authorities hitherto been so exacting? Does the Prime Minister suppose that the magistrates, whether at quarter sessions or brewster sessions are at the end of this period going to indulge in a sort of fervid crusade against all existing licence-holders, and sweep the country clear of them? No such thing will happen. They will be as reasonable then as they are now, but we shall have ceased to attach to this question of reduction of licences this fettering and disabling question of compensation. That is a counter scheme, which holds out a hope of an immediate reduction of licences, and a hope of a time coming when compensation shall not be associated with the idea of a licence.
Is it beyond the wit of statesmanship to devise some scheme of time limit by which justice should be done, not only to licence-holders, but to the public? Is it inconceivable to put these licences up to auction—I do not advocate it—or to grant them only for a term of years, or lease, which would abolish all idea of compensation? If the arrangement for a term of years were coupled with high licences it would preserve the monopoly to the public while taking it away from the individual. I am here met, of course, by the fact that the Government do propose a system of seven-year licences. Gladly recognising the advantage of that scheme, I say that the argument by which. the Prime Minister has advocated his seven-year system cuts away the whole ground on which the proposals for perpetuity have been based.
If there are such evils in the present system, as is admitted, if these evils exist, why are we to bear them longer than is necessary? Why not at once, instead of giving a permanent vested interest to all the licences which now exist, treat them as if they were monopolies which were detrimental to the State and harmful to the community, and then introduce your system of leases whereby no harm would be done to anybody? What did the Prime Minister say when he introduced his proposal with regard to seven-year licences? He said—Magistrates under the Bill are obliged to make terms with the new licence-holder which will prevent those enormous monopolies growing up, which I think have been tine greatest absurdity of our present licensing law.185 And he speaks of the new system as—A system less utterly irrational than the present, under which a monopoly has been allowed to grow up in this country. Parliament in its wisdom has created a monopoly, and has given that monopoly to individuals—a monopoly which we ought to do our best to prevent growing up in the future.Therefore, if it is advisable to prevent a monopoly growing up in the future, is it beyond the wit of man to devise a scheme by which the present monopoly shall come to an end within a reasonable time? I have put down this Amendment because no hope is held out to us of it coming to an end. Every noble Lord knows how few new licences are granted now; but, even if that system were to come into general operation it would be a standing menace to the existing system. As is we have not had enough of different licence-running concurrently under different circumstances ! As if we have not been plagued to death by the 1869 beerhouses, which have been the great difficulty and crux of the licensing question, and which the magistrates have not been able to touch except under four conditions, with which I need not now trouble your Lordships! We have had them running pari passu with ordinary beerhouses, and now we are to have licences created before 1904, and the seven-year licences running after 1904. Can anything be more confusing and more embarrassing than having this series of concurrent licences on different conditions?
The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill claimed as one of the great advantages of this Bill that it put the 1869 beerhouses under the discretion of the magistrates in certain cases. But by this Bill you are giving a value to things which have no value. You are giving a value to things which have been a source of the most tremendous evil in the purlieus of our great towns, and which the brewers have held as a quid pro quo in order that they might get some advantage in some rich and growing suburb of the town. I have never been in favour of bartering, because it gives to the person who receives a new licence for the surrender of an old one a vested interest, a claim on the magistrates which he ought never to have been allowed to make. I am bound to confess, however, that it has been productive of a reduction of licences in some places, but without a penny of compensation. The Birmingham system proceeded on 186 the principle of agreement between the brewers and the magistrates. That was going on happily; but now it is at an end, and every rotten beerhouse dating its privileges before 1869 will have its value attached, and will be a fresh source of evil.
How many of these licences have in the past died what I may call a natural death? Take the town of Liverpool. It is wonderful to think how many licences have died in that town of inanition, but now every wretched weakling, every little public-house or beerhouse will be stimulated into prolonged existence by the administration of this potent drug of compensation. There will be no such thing as natural death. If they die they will have a very handsome compensation allowed to them. I submit, therefore, that you cannot regard the inclusion of the 1869 beer houses in this Bill as an advantage. The conferring of this privilege on every kind of licence, so far from being an improvement, is an absolute detriment and loss, and that is one of the reasons why I ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper.
May I, before sitting down, make an appeal to your Lordships? I do not suppose any one of your Lordships will be actuated in giving his vote on this Bill by any question of expediency. I have no doubt that you are too fond of the right to pursue an expedient; but if right and expediency can be made to combine together in this instance, if your conscientious convictions go to refuse to entertain this Bill as a settlement of the question, then, if I may say so, it will be a great day for your Lordships' House and for the representatives of the Church of England. There is a feeling, as I have said, that the Church of England has not been so strong as it might have been in denouncing this evil, or in bringing forward some plan for remedying it. After all, why are we actuated in this question by such, it may be, imprudent fervour? Why do multitudes of the people of this country feel so strongly on this point? It is for this simple reason, that the trade of which we complain and which we are seeking to confine within narrow and reasonable limits—I say this without any reference to individuals, for I freely admit that some members of the trade are among the 187 most honest and beneficent persons in the community—has made the poor more poor, has added intensely to the misery under which they live, and constitutes, in the proportions it has now attained, a serious menace and danger to the happiness and welfare of the State. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
To leave out all the words after 'That' for the purpose of inserting the following words, this House cannot accept as a satisfactory settlement of the licensing question a Bill which creates a perpetual interest in a terminable licence.'"—(Viscount Peel.)
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, on occasions like this it always seems to me that there is an element of difficulty, if not even of unreality, in our discussing at the close of a long session, as though it were a new matter which had come before us, a subject which has been discussed in Parliament for weeks past, and the discussion upon which has formed the subject of a good deal of our reading and a good deal of our thought and conversation. One scarcely knows what to take for granted, or what to suppose is already known, as regards discussions which, having been held in another place, it is in a technical sense out of order for us to allude to here.
It is constantly urged by these who are opposed to the Government measure now befor us that at this juncture no Bill at all is wanted, that matters might be very well let alone. I entirely differ from that statement, and think that had they been let alone, a good many pledges in more than one quarter in either House of Parliament would have been violated and broken. Some Bill was, in my judgment, indisputably wanted just now. Whether it was exactly the Bill we have before us I am not prepared to say—indeed, I think I am prepared to say it is not. A few years ago we did try in this House to obtain a good deal of what is proposed in the present Bill, and it was a disappointment to many of us that the efforts which were then made proved unsuccessful. But the Bill as it stands has, with all its faults, which I think are not a few, some admirable features. It is a genuine endeavour, as it seems to me, to pro- 188 mote a reduction of licences upon a reasonable plan, although that plan is, in its details, open, I think, to a great deal of the criticism which the noble Viscount has just levelled at it. Secondly, it does distinctly stand to the credit of this Bill that it is a straightforward endeavour to deal with that most difficult and trying of all our problems in licensing matters, the 1869 beerhouses. Thirdly, I am most grateful for the assertion, in a clause which has been introduced during the passage of the Bill through the other House, of what I believe to be the right principle upon which alone legislation of this kind can profitably go forward, namely, that the ultimate ownership of the monopoly value rests properly in the community, or, if you will, in the State rather than in the licence—holder. Therefore, if we can get the Bill elucidated in some of its at present obscure details—details which, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, have not been even explained in the other House—and if we can further get it amended in some of the ways in which it seems to us most to need amendment, I believe that the Bill may yet be made a workable and satisfactory measure, provided there is introduced into it something which will prevent what the Amendment speaks of—namely, the conferring of a perpetual interest upon terminable licences.
The elementary truth that, if we are greatly to reduce the drinking of alcoholic liquor, somebody must he the poorer for our doing so, is often forgotten in dealing with this matter. It is constantly spoken of as though we were to bring about this change without anybody being a penny the worse. If the Bill is going to be a temperance Bill, as the promoters believe and desire it to be, and if it is going to bring about a large diminution in the consumption of alcoholic liquor, it is indisputable that somebody must be the poorer in consequence; it is playing with the subject to try and imagine that, if such reduction be the real result of tine Bill, we can at the same time guarantee the present holders of licences and the owners of licensed premises against any loss whatever in the process as years run on. What we desire is to take care that the loss which we think must come about should 189 come about with the least possible measure of unfairness to anybody, and with the greatest smoothness and the best advantage to the community as a whole. It is in our anxiety to find out the right way that we are taking the line that most of us are taking in desiring a good many Amendments, and. above all, the introduction of a time limit.
Everybody now agrees, I believe, that it is desirable that licences should be diminished in number. I need not recall the fact that the majority of the recent Royal Commission were as emphatic as the minority in declaring that a great reduction in the number of licensed premises was desirable. But it is not by any means proved statistically that there is a necessary and absolute connection between the number of licences and the amount of drunkenness. There are not a few people who dispute the fact altogether, and there are, I believe, some even now who would go so far as to say that they disbelieve in any advantage arising from a diminution in the number of licences. We all remember in this House no less an authority than the late Prime Minister the Marquess of Salisbury telling us, in one of those trenchant sentences which remain in people's minds for years, that there are in Hatfield forty bedrooms, and that that did not make him feel any more inclined to go to sleep, and that in a similar way the number of licences in a town did not seem to him to be the least likely to make the consumption of alcohol become less. If that be so, let the argument be remembered when we are asked, as we shall be, to consider what tax the surviving houses are able to bear in the way of levy put upon them. If it is true that the amount of liquor consumed will be as large after a diminution in the number of houses as it has been before, clearly the profit to the surviving houses will be very much greater, and obviously we would have the right to use that as an argument when we come to consider how much these houses will be able to bear for the purpose of paying compensation to the houses that are abolished.
I do not argue in favour of a diminution of the number of licensed houses solely because of the direct or statistical results that might follow in the diminution of drunkenness or drinking. I look far more to the indirect gains that would 190 come from securing better and more careful tenants, and from greater facilities for the supervision of these houses, and, above all, the gain that comes from the lack of that kind of competition which compels the weaker kind of houses to resort to tricks and dodges in order to sell liquor which they would not otherwise be able to sell. For these reasons I share in the general satisfaction which I believe we all feel in looking forward to a considerable diminution in the number of licensed houses throughout the land.
In regard to the financial details of the scheme, I do not claim for the clergy of the Church of England any technical knowledge or capacity more than other men possess. But I do claim for them exceptional knowledge of the manner in which this evil operates in the homes of England, and I believe it is impossible to exaggerate the interest with which the proceedings in your Lordships' House are being watched, in order to see whether we can do anything to make the Bill mere satisfactory in all its parts than it seems to many of us to be as it stands.
If your Lordships will accept the principle as to the need for the introduction of a time limit in this Bill, and the need of making that time limit bear upon the scheme for compensation, I for one shall certainly not quarrel about the financial details of the scheme. The noble Viscount Lord Peel has been somewhat severe in the kindly and helpful criticism which he has made on the action or rather the inaction of a good many of the clergy in this particular matter. It is not in that direction that we are accustomed to find ourselves most harshly and sternly criticised. But I am prepared to agree that the clergy and laity alike have been not nearly so keen as they ought to have been in carrying through some strong and drastic measure for reforming what I believe to be, if not the greatest, certainly one of the greatest of the evils by which we are encompassed.
I think it is sometimes forgotten that, as regards financial sacrifices, the Church has been taking a lead in this matter of a very remarkable kind. I believe I am correct in saying that in the last twenty or twenty-two years the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have taken care that when leases have 191 fallen in on town properties over which they exercise control a genuine reform should be made as regards the number of licences that exist. It has been estimated by competent authorities that the values of the licences so surrendered during that period would amount to £300,000, which is practically a donation from the Church to the people, on behalf of temperance. I think these facts ought to be remembered when it is said that those who are responsible for the central management of the affairs of the Church of England are not doing all they might do in endeavouring to promote reforms of this kind. Only a few months ago the Upper House of Convocation of Canterbury by a unanimous vote passed a resolution in regard to this Bill, expressing the earnest hope that such Amendments may be accepted by the Government as will more effectively lead to the reduction of licences throughout the country on equitable terms, and declaring its opinion that it is essential to impose a time limit to such arrangements may be made for compensation. On a subsequent date a large number of the laity were joined with the Bishops and clergy in discussing this matter, and there was nothing to show that there was any practical change of opinion on the part of Bishops and clergy generally as to the necessity of the introduction of a time limit if the measure as a whole is to be satisfactory.
The opposition of the clergy to the present state of things is felt by the trade to create a situation with which they must deal, and they have retorted by vigorously carrying the war into the enemy's camps. The line taken is to state that the real fault lies with the clergy rather than with the publicans, and that public-houses are the most healthful and desirable of resorts, especially for children. I would like to read your Lordships the following quotation from the official journal of the licensed victuallers—It is an undoubted fact that may be proved by statistics that the families of publicans turn out better than the families of the clergy. They obtain a more practical training, are raised in a lees exotic and more natural atmosphere, and are taught some useful trade or calling. They very rarely in their moral conduct exhibit foolish or extreme, tendencies or eccentricities. From such logic one might easily deduce the conclusion that the public-house is really the best kind of moral sana- 192 torium, nor would such an argument be fallacious, If the proper study of mankind is man, where can you discover a similar academy in which you can become acquainted with all sorts and conditions of men?This attitude of the licensed trade towards the clergy has been emphasised in the private correspondence which reaches me. I happened a few nights ago to listen to a debate in the House of Commons. and I received the next day a letter in which I was described ashovering like a bird of ill omen over a den of howling confiscators.Moreover, we are told that when the time comes for disestablishment we shall see what the result will be of the action we are taking on the question of the liquor laws to-day. I believe I am right in saying that one large association of brewers in Yorkshire have passed a resolution to the effect that for the future all its members are to be committed to the policy of disestablishment and disendowment, as an answer to the action taken by the clergy throughout England upon the question of licensing reform. But we have in all that we are doing in this matter the support of those whose opinions are most worth listening to. I do not know how many of your Lordships have received the circular letter signed by Sir Thomas Barlow, Canon Barnett, Professor Bernard Bosanquet, Sir Victor Horsley, Sir Oliver Lodge, the Master of Balliol, the heads of the Oxford and Cambridge Houses in East and South London, and others, leaders in all that concerns social reform of the best sort. These men, who are recognised as men of quiet thought and wide knowledge, express their opinion as follows—The concession of the right to compensation without any time limit, and without any equivalent advantage to the public, and the curtailment of local power are in our opinion open to the gravest objections, and calculated to obstruct necessary reforms.It is indisputable that the custom of annual renewal has given to a licence a value that cannot be arbitrarily withdrawn. Goodwill in any trade has a practical value, and this trade should not be made an exception. Therefore, by what is common consent, it has been felt that some compensation or solatium ought to be paid to those who are dispossessed for no fault of their own; but the crux comes with the application of 193 the principle. No doubt magistrates all over the land have, for many years, shrunk from reduction of licences, because they feared to do injustice to individuals. The Bill proposes to free magistrates from this difficulty, but differences of opinion immediately arise as to the method. The Bill proposes to enact that for all time licences shall have full value paid for them if they are terminated, and to that end a tax shall be levied on those that survive. It is to be a tax—and I emphasise the word, for what are euphemistically called the "contributions from the trade" are to be compulsory and levied by law. If that arrangement—namely, either retain your licence or receive its full money value—is to hold good for all time, then it seems to me we shall be doing exactly what the Amendment says should not be done—creating a perpetual interest in a terminable licence. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill declined to accept that as a definition of what the Bill will do, and if the Bill does not create such perpetual interest there will be no harm done to it by our accepting the Amendment. Perhaps the Government will themselves, on that account, accept it. The Prime Minister, in his criticism of the past action of magistrates, has repeatedly urged that the ultimate ownership of the monopoly value of a licence should revert to the State, admitting that it has in the past been given away by the State to individuals. The harm was done by starting from a false basis of ownership, and a state of things has been created that must be brought to an end. Admitting that a mistake in policy was originally made, I would make the largest possible allowance for possible hardships that may to some extent fall on individuals in correcting that mistake, and should have thought that all that was required was that due notice should he given to owners to enable them to provide against the time when the State would resume that which originally belonged to the State. That view I will ask the House to adopt when the Bill comes to be considered in Committee. Effect is in Clause 4 given to the principle as regards new licences, and I desire to apply it to existing licences also, treating licence-holders with all possible fairness and consideration upon the loss of a monopoly value which they had come 194 to regard as their own property. If we do not take some step to bring about this change we shall be complicating the problem for generations to come and doing scarcely less mischief than has been done in the past by the giving away to individuals property that belonged to the State.
Whether the time is long enough or the terms sufficient are matters of detail on which I am ready to be convinced and to act with more than fairness, with extreme generosity, to present licence-holders. The proposal I desire to make when the time arrives for doing so is as follows—After the end of fourteen years from the passing of this Act, existing on-licences shall not be renewed, but in place of every existing on-licence which is still in existence after the end of such period there shall be granted, at the next ensuing general annual licensing meeting, a new licence for the term of seven years, subject to the provision of Section 4 of this Act, but without the imposition of any payment or conditions under Sub-section 2 of such section other than the conditions (if any) attached to the existing licence. Provided, nevertheless, that such licence may be refused on the same grounds and subject to the same terms and conditions as the renewal of the existing licence might have been refused.The details of this proposal I will at the proper time explain. It has been said that such a proposal would be open to objection because it would be a system under which no licence at all could be withdrawn for a term of years. That criticism would be fair if the seven years "close" period were at the beginning, but all the difference in the world is made when we enact that during the first fourteen years any one who is dispossessed shall receive full compensation, and then, when the greater part of the work will be done and the worst houses suppressed, will come the period during which the surviving licence-holders will no longer be called upon to pay any compensation levy and will be able to recoup themselves out of the considerably increased profit which is theirs owing to diminution of the number of houses. At the end of the time the whole thing would stop and the country would resume its ownership in the monopoly value. I am prepared to submit to the criticism that this arrangement taken as a whole is too generous, but I wish to avoid anything that might be construed into hardship upon individuals. With twenty-one 195 years to make provision, and during a third of the time no compensation levy to pay, there would be ample time to provide against the contingency that would arise when the country would enjoy its own again and snake a new start.
A time limit is opposed on more general I grounds; it is said that good tenants would not be obtained without security against disturbance, and that this would apply especially towards the end of the term. But who are the worst tenants now? Undoubtedly those in the 1869 beerhouses whose security of tenure is so assured. A man would be the more anxious to conduct his house in the best possible manner if his tenure be uncertain, in order that he may secure a renewal. A warning that a licence may come to an end is not really a great deterrent to applicants for licensed premises. In the licensing district for Farnham the magistrates have given to every tenant—not merely new tenants, but to every applicant for transfer or renewal—a notice in the following terms—If the transfer you are applying for is granted the justices wish you to understand clearly that the licence will expire on the 5th of April, and after that date is renewable only year by year in the justices' discretion. If, therefore, you pay a sum on entering which in any way represents fixity of tenure the justices would remind you that if for any reason it should be decided not to renew your licence there is no fund known to the justices out of which you could be reimbursed the money, or any part of it, you may have paid on entering. You are by no means to take it for granted that so long as you do not infringe t he licensing laws so long will your licence be renewed. The justices wish to make this quite clear, so that persons taking licensed premises may be fully aware of the conditions under which the licences are granted.Nothing could be more explicit, but this notice has not had the effect of deterring applicants in one single case. There is, therefore, no reason to fear that we should not be able to secure proper tenants if the arrangement I desire to see brought about came ultimately into force. In support of the argument that the trade cannot afford the introduction of a time limit, it is pointed out that brewery shares have fallen as it is. They have fallen 1.6 per cent., while other investments have fallen five or six times as much, and even Government stocks have fallen 3.5 per cent. Therefore, the brewers' 196 stock, with a war tax at the time, fell an average of 1 per cent., while the Government stock fell an average of 3 per cent. I see no reason why the State should permanently guarantee the trade against possible loss or deterioration in their stock. We are all sorry that anybody should lose money by the passing of laws for the public good; but surely, with twenty-one years notice, arrangements could be made sufficient for their protection.
I trust the Prime Minister's reference to the Bill as "the greatest contribution ever made to the cause of temperance". will prove true, but that will largely depend on whether the Bill is altered in the way some of us desire. There are at this moment in the air many movements in the direction of social and temperance reform. Most of your Lordships desire that a free chance should be given to those who are endeavouring in so many varied ways to set such experiments forward. Their ingenuity will find many new ways of solving the problem in local districts, but if for all time they are to be compelled to follow the provisions laid down in the Bill their hands will be tied. I agree to the full with those who contend that we must not rely on legislation to effect what depends far more upon a steady improvement of the habits of the individual; but surely it is right to add that legislation should help and not hinder or tie our hands. Your Lordships will notice in the Report of the Physical Deterioration Committee published a few days ago how much stress is laid on the expectation of legislative assistance. Because I want legislation to be helpful and not harmful I urge your Lordships to make the changes in this Bill which I believe will transform it into a wholesome measure. Without a time limit. the Bill, whatever its merits, will, I fear, distort and disturb our whole position by establishing a permanent right where there was none before. With a time limit, generous, considerate, and ample, and with other Amendments which I hope to see introduced, I believe this Bill may become, not merely innocuous, but even fruitful of good to the life of the English people.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF BATH
My Lords, I venture to interpose in this debate, because although I am unable to speak with the experience of the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, I can at all events address your Lordships with some knowledge, both of difficulties which stand in the way of the solution of this great question, and also from the point of view of those who have endeavoured for some time past to balance the principles upon which they believe they ought to act. I desire cordially to support this Bill, because my experience convinces me that it is a thoroughly honest measure, which aims at solving very difficult social problems on the basis of justice and equity. I can remember the days when magistrates in connection with their duties as licensing justices were subject—I will not say to unmitigated abuse, but certainly to very uncomplimentary criticism at the hands of some of those who now pose as their friends and protectors, and who declare that the provisions of this measure are an insult to the justices sitting at petty sessions. I do not suppose that we were ever unduly depressed by that hostile criticism, and I trust that we are not now unduly elated at this exaggerated estimate of our past services. This Bill appears to me to avoid two extremes, and surely of all legislation that of temperance reform should follow the golden mean. The two extremes are very plain. There are those who say that every man shall drink what he likes, and there are those who say that no man shall drink any alcoholic liquor whatever. Those who follow the first dogma are restrained by the licensing laws, by the magistrates who administer those laws, and by the custodians of the peace in our streets and public places; and above all they are restrained by the mass of average public opinion which is ever increasingly on the side of decency, order, and moderation. Those who favour the second dogma are restricted from the exercise of their arbitrary wishes by the overwhelming mass of public opinion, which insists that your legislation shall be founded upon the broad principles of individual liberty—provided it does not degenerate into unicensed excess—of justice] to all classes, trades, and occupations, and of equitable 198 treatment of those who pay taxes to the State: but above all, of confidence in the people themselves that religious teaching, sound education, and healthy social surroundings will induce them to conduct themselves with sobriety, with self respect, and with due regard to the good opinion of their fellows.
The principal features in this Bill, which I venture to think should commend it to your Lordships' approval, are the adoption of a wider area for jurisdiction, the prospect of the steady reduction in the number of licensed houses, the recognition of the principle of equitable compensation, and the surrender of the ante–1869 licences to the control of quarter sessions. The noble Viscount who moved the Amendment described the result of this measure as being to the effect that the powers of the local justices would be cribbed, cabined, and confined. Surely so far from the justices having had unfettered authority in the past, they have been subjected to appeal to quarter sessions in the case of every refusal to renew a licence. By this Bill they are to be actually delivered from that, because quarter sessions will have, in determining the matters which are referred to them, to take into consideration, the report which will be sent up to them for their assistance and guidance by the local justices. If, as is the case, the granting of a new licence is not valid until it has been confirmed by the county licensing committee, an if, as I suggest, the refusal of justices to renew an old licence has always been subject to appeal—a power which has very frequently been exercised—how can it be contended that their jurisdiction is any more fettered by giving to quarter sessions the right also to determine whether the refusal to renew existing licences should be confirmed or not?
Then I should like to say a few words on the question of compensation. Some of the opponents of this Bill have denounced compensation, but would grant consideration; others object to the equity of compensation, but acknowledge its expediency. I would only observe with regard to the so-called distinctions that things which are equal to the same are equal to one another. I would ask your Lordships to consider what happens 199 in the case of a licensed house being demolished for the purpose of some public improvement? The interest of the licensee is taken into consideration, and very justly so, in awarding him compensation, and in indemnifying him, not only for the loss of his premises, but for his holding. Further, how is the interest of the owner of a licensed house treated in this respect? It is treated as a taxable commodity on the sale of a public-house—it is treated as a going concern from year to year with a reasonable expectation of renewal. I own I am not a lawyer, and I am not going to argue whether a publican who conducts his business properly has a legal, equitable, or moral claim for compensation if he is arbitrarily deprived of the business in which he has embarked his capital, and on which his livelihood depends. What I do assert is that it is contrary and absolutely repugnant to the average views and the general instincts as to what is right and fair; it is absolutely contrary to the average opinion of Englishmen that you should tax a man's business on the basis of the tenure being permanent, and that in other respects you should treat him as having no claim to compensation in the event of arbitrary disturbance and deprivation of his holding. Public opinion will not condone confiscation, and it is because I believe that this Bill acknowledges that compensation, properly regulated, should go hand-in-hand with the reduction of licences that I submit it should command the approval of all temperance reformers. Is it temperate, moderate, and practical to say, better have no temperance reform at all than to admit the principle of compensation?
I think it right, however, that I should say that I personally deeply regret the introduction that has been made since this Bill was first laid before Parliament. I refer to the sub-section in Clause 4, which creates a wholly new form of on-licence. New licences are to be granted for seven years, during which period, as I understand, they will not be subject to annual renewal, but at the end of that period their renewal may be refused without compensation being given. The Government, in my opinion, most properly and wisely refused to insert a time limit on the compensation for old licences; but I fear that under 200 this dual control you will have friction and jealousy, and a rankling sense of insecurity and injustice on the part of the seven-years licence-holders. I foresee an agitation to put all licences on an equal footing, and that agitation will take the form, not of granting compensation to the new licences, but of taking it away front the old. I am bound to say that I regret that that proposal, which was not originally contemplated by the Government, should have been grafted on to a Bill otherwise so equitable, and that an opportunity should thus be provided for future strife and, it may be, future injustice.
With regard to the Amendment of the noble Viscount and the Amendment of which notice has been given by the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, it seems to me that the suggestion of a time limit upon that compensation which is to be provided by the trade would, if accepted, work a very serious injustice. It is, I grant, quite possible that financial provisions could be framed which might get over the difficulty, but under the proposed scheme you will have, at the end of the time limit, those very licence-holders left without compensation who during the existence of the time limit. have provided compensation for their fellow-traders. Social legislation, to be useful and successful, must be directed not only to the wants, the welfare, and the comfort of the vast majority of the nation, but must also appeal to their sense of what is right and fair. The English people are not a nation of drunkards. They are not prone to excesses whether in eating or drinking. They are a people, as a whole, essentially sober in thought, judgment, and habit, and it is for the people as a whole that Parliament is ca11ed upon and ought to legislate. It has been said that you cannot draw up an indictment against a whole people, and you cannot, by Act of Parliament, deprive the whole nation of alcoholic drink without arraigning the people, as a body addicted to excessive drinking, incapable of self-control, and unfitted for the exercise of their individual liberty and private judgment. The author of the saying which I have just quoted also laid down the maxim upon which I believe this Bill and every successful legislative effort 201 must be based. He said that "all government, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and prudent act, is founded upon compromise and barter." But what does this Bill propose to do? It proposes to reduce the opportunities of drinking by reducing the number of houses from which drink can be obtained. It proposes to restrict the opportunities for temptation of the weaker and less well-conducted and less well-informed minority of the people. But in doing so it seeks to avoid the injustice of confiscation of the property of orderly and well-conducted members of the community, who have embarked their property in a business which is licensed by the State and demanded by the legitimate requirements of the people. I claim that this Bill is founded on the principles enunciated by Mr. Burke as of the essence of all government, of every human liberty and enjoyment, of every virtue and every prudent act. It is essentially a temperate measure, promoted in the interests of temperance. It is a Bill which if it is added to the Statute Roll will mark the first real effort for over a generation in the cause of temperance reform, which will convert platform promises into Parliamentary performances, translate the platitudes of the agitator into the actions of a responsible Legislature, and substitute for the frenzies of the impractical fanatic the sober schemes of the practical statesmen, who, I believe, are is yympathy with the nation which they locally strive to serve.
§ *LORD SHUTTLEWORTH
My Lords, if on rising for the first time to address Your Lordships I make a claim upon your indulgent consideration, I can assure you it is no empty form. I would especially claim the indulgence of those Members of your Lordships' House within whose recollection may still lurk some remembrance of the transition from the other Chamber of the Legislature, and who may have been accustomed to speak in that House, where one is assisted by the expressions of approval and disapproval which meet orators in that Assembly. I may perhaps say that I have been accustomed to swim with corks, and I am afraid that that kind of assistance is not so usual in this House.
202 I will not attempt to set up again the case which was so eloquently and firmly built up in the moving of the Amendment by the noble Viscount. It is not necessary—especially as the views which. he expressed and the principles he laid down have not been traversed by subsequent speakers—that I should go over the ground of his speech. I may perhaps he allowed to express the pleasure with which I have listened to a speech of great ability delivered by the noble Marquess, whom I recognise as one with whom I have sat in another place, but I think there will be very few in this House who will go the length in supporting the Bill that he went. We have heard several expressions lately, such as "out-and-outer," "whole-hogger," and so forth; I think that, so far as this Bill is concerned, the noble Marquess is entitled to the epithet "whole-hogger." The earlier part of his speech was to a large extent devoted to pushing an open door. I do not suppose there is a Member of your Lordships' House who is not prepared, in one form or another, to recognise the principle of compensation; and I do not think there is any Member sitting upon this side of the House who is prepared to say, after all that has happened in the past, that we can take away the interest which has been acquired by the owners of public-houses through the practice of magistrates without some compensation, whether it be in form of time, or of money, or possibly of both. But when the noble Marquess went on to say that all he wanted was a steady reduction in the number of licensed houses, by which, I am afraid, he meant a slow reduction, my agreement with him ends. I should like to see the evils from which this country and the homes of the working; classes suffer removed not at the vary slow rate to which he pointed, but at a much more rapid and effective rate.
My Lords, I will not attempt to go over all the points, but I will select those which have most impressed themselves upon my own mind. In the first place, this Bill is a totally new departure in several respects. I will take two points in particular. The first is a point upon which a good deal has been said to-night, and upon which, therefore, I will not dwell longer than I can 203 help, viz., that a freehold or perpetuity value is being bestowed upon that which is an annual licence; and the second is that the local magistrates in small areas are no longer, except in the case of county boroughs, which have not been alluded to to-night, to have control of this matter. I will deal with the latter point first. The noble Viscount who moved the Amendment alluded to the good work which has been done by brewster sessions in the past. I will not follow him on that point, because he stated very fully and ably what brewster sessions had done and how much better fitted they are for certain purposes than persons less intimately connected with the locality. But I may point to this—that the spirit of past legislation on the licensing question, even if you go back to a considerable period, has been based on the principle that the local magistrates should have the responsibility. Why has that been? Because the local magistrates are those who are best acquainted with the wants of the locality. This has been brought home to me with very considerable force by my experience in the county with which I am connected—the county of Lancaster. I have seen the repeated efforts of non-county boroughs—and particularly of one non-county borough—to reduce the number of licensed houses and the temptations which they afford, I have seen these efforts with great sympathy, and some of them have been defeated by the action of quarter sessions, action taken no doubt most conscientiously, but without the advantage of the local knowledge upon which the action of the local magistrates was based. That has been a great grievance. During the time I represented a Division of the county in the House of Commons it was brought under my notice over and over again, and the hope which has filled the breast of those who have seen the evils which spring from the continuance of an unnecessary number of licensed houses, has been that the next step in legislation would be to take away the appeal to quarter sessions, and to leave the decision of the local justices as final. What a discouragement and disappointment is this Bill to local magistrates in that respect, and not to the local magistrates only, but 204 to the communities over which they have jurisdiction!
Now, my Lords, I come to the point of the value of the licences. I think the objections that we have to the system of compensation set up in this Bill would be met by the insertion of a time limit. There is a general feeling, at all events amongst those on this side of the House, and I think it is shared by many on the other side, that something considerably less than perpetuity, and less than the speculative value which individuals are ready to give for these houses, is due, and that the justice of the case would be met by a time limit. I will venture to express my own personal opinion as to the form which I think the time limit might best take. The argument has been used over and over again that there would be a danger that at the end of the time fresh claims for compensation would arise. I think there are many answers to that argument, but an unanswerable case would be set up against it if the compensation were in a graduated form, and if the time limit were such that compensation would be given in a diminishing amount from year to year. For example, if the time mentioned by the most rev. Primate were adopted, namely, fourteen years, and if two-fourteenths were given in the last year but one, and one-fourteenth in the last year, I think it would be an outward and a visible sign to all persons concerned that the time for compensation was drawing to an end, and that at the end of the time limit it would come to an end. I confess I should myself greatly prefer that to the form of time limit which the most rev. Primate has announced his intention of proposing in Committee. He suggests twenty-one years, but I feel averse to continuing the evils from which we suffer for so long a period. The most rev. Primate laid great stress upon our giving liberal compensation, and our treating extremely liberally those from whom something was to be taken away. I am thoroughly in favour of treating them fairly and even generously, but I do not see why we should go to an extreme of liberality.
Who, after all, are the people who suffer? It is the working classes of 205 this country, and the working women in their homes; they suffer from the evils which arise from so large a proportion of the income of the working classes being spent upon drink. Under this Bill a terminable licence is treated as a freehold or perpetuity, and an insecure to lure is converted into what has been called a fixity of tenure. Why this endowment? We are all acquainted with brewers; the owners of the retail trade are persons known to us, and so are the directors of brewery companies. They are not a particularly distressed or suffering class; they are not a class who have special claims upon us for compassion. I have no doubt some of your Lordships may be to some extent unconsciously influenced by the fact that these men are personally excellent men, whom you have known at school and at college, on the cricket field and on the river. They are admirable persons in their domestic relations. But I think your Lordships' feelings ought not to be worked upon too easily. I sometimes wish that my friend the brewer could be transplanted from his domestic hearth, and that, instead of spending his evenings agreeably at his billiard table, or in a game at bridge, he could be carried to two scenes in succession. The first scene to which I should like to take him would be one of his own tied houses, where he might see what was actually going on, and with what results the wages of the working men were spent. The second scene to which I should like to transplant him would be the home of that working man, where he might see the wife, her struggle to do her duty by her children, to clothe and feed them properly, and to keep a decent home. What brave creatures those wives are! In Lancashire I have known many cases of the better cotton operatives who make a great struggle to keep their wives at home, instead of sending them to the mill. Two great evils which arise there, are the spending by the working man of his income at the public-house and the sending of his wife to the mill. I was conversing only the other day with a man who has risen high in the working classes, and who now holds a responsible position at the head of one of the great trades unions; he was telling me his own experience, how, as a young weaver, with a wife and 206 two or three children, and earning wages of 23s. a week, he was extremely anxious to keep his wife at home from the mill. But how did he do it? Tie did it by spending next to nothing upon himself, he drank no beer and he smoked no tobacco. As I say, I wish the great brewers could see something of the lives of these people in their homes, that they could see how those lives are ruined by the way in which wages are spent in these tied houses. The brewers and the directors of brewery companies have no special claim upon Parliament to indulgence, endowment, or excessive compensation. They have a claim to justice, and that we are all prepared to give, but they have no claim for more. We are opposed to going beyond just compensation, especially in the case of a trade like this: we are opposed with all our might to the idea of converting these terminable licences into freeholds, and giving a dole to the brewery and a handsome endowment to the liquor trade. I think we are bound to remember that every man who enters this trade and becomes the possessor of a public-house invests his money in a speculation; he enters into the business with a full knowledge of the law and of the uncertain nature of his tenure, and the most rev. Primate has reminded your Lordships that it has of late been the practice, at any rate of some benches of magistrates, to give a special warning to owners of public-houses as to the real nature of the tenure under which they bold.
Now, my Lords, may I say a word or two on the source of the fund for compensation? The noble Marquess opposite alluded to this subject, but I do not think that otherwise it has been referred to in the course of the debate. The compensation comes out of a tax which the State had a perfect right to impose and very likely presently would have imposed for general purposes. If you look at the taxation on licensed houses in other countries, and especially in the United States of America, you will find that the licence duties are very much higher than in this country. The noble Viscount who moved the Amendment alluded to the fact. And the average tax on a house in England is £38, whereas in the State of New York it is £240. The only wonder is that the tax to be imposed under this 207 Bill—aye, and a great deal more—was not imposed long ago upon this rich and flourishing trade for the general benefit of the people of the country. Therefore, the claim that the trade itself pays the compensation is subject to that qualification. But if, for the sake of argument, we grant that the trade pays, I am prepared to argue that it scarcely pays in the right way. The noble Viscount alluded to cases in Hampshire. I also cite a case in Hampshire which was brought to my notice by a pamphlet written by Mr. Shaw Lefevre. He mentions a village in which there are six licensed houses and a small population, and in which he says there would be only one opinion in the minds of all respectable persons, namely, that the houses are certainly double the number that the requirements of the place demand. They all belong to one owner, curiously enough not a brewer but a collegiate owner. This college owns the greater part of the land in the parish. If these licensed houses were reduced by one-half, what would happen to the college? Under this Bill it would receive compensation out of the county fund for the three houses that were suppressed, while the three remaining houses would be increased, perhaps doubled, in value by the process, and therefore the owners would receive compensation twice over. I will not pursue the point further, but if any one wishes to see further facts he need only refer to Mr. Shaw Lefevre's pamphlet and read the remarkable facts there given about Basingstoke and Portsmouth.
I quite recognise that this Bill has been improved since its introduction. The other House has done something, in spite of the conditions under which the Bill was debated, and in consequence of which only a fraction of the Bill came under consideration, but the most fatal blemishes remain. Here, then, is your Lordships' opportunity. You possess an independence, a knowledge, and an experience as magistrates and landowners, which specially fit you for dealing with this subject. Your Lordships know what are the evils arising from the multiplication of temptations, the growth of the tied-house system, and the overriding of the local knowledge of divisional benches by quarter sessions, and your 208 Lordships can surely see what mischief will come of converting into fixity of tenure the present insecure tenure of licensees, the brewers, and their servants. There is one respected section of this House to which perhaps a member of the Church of England may specially appeal on a question so vitally affecting the social and moral well-being of the people. But I would appeal not only as a member of the Church of England. The right rev. Prelates sit in this House as representatives of the State Church; every citizen belongs by right to that State Church, and therefore all earnest citizens of the country who desire to see one of the greatest blots on its fair fame and well-being removed, are looking to the right rev. Bench on this question. They have special experience to help them. Right rev. Prelates who sit on that Bench have had parochial experience, and they know that it is no rhetorical flight to speak of the fight with the demon of drink, because the demon of drink has been one of the greatest obstacles to their work when they have been in charge of parishes, especially in the great towns of the country. It seems to me that they have a great opportunity. If by the action of the right rev. Prelates this measure is purged of the vice which is attacked by the noble Viscount's Amendment, they will have rendered a notable service to humanity, and gone far to justify the exceptional position which they occupy in this House of the Legislature. If, however, they are found wanting, may I venture to say that they will have failed to seize that "tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune," and, if I may finish the quotation, may I remind them of the warning that—Omitted, all the voyage of their lifeIs bound in shallows and in miseries.And we must take the current when it serves,Or lose our ventures.and with those ventures are bound up the happiness of thousands of British homes, the welfare and the prosperity of the people, and the stability of the commonwealth.
§ The House adjourned for a short time.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, and also the last speaker before the 209 adjournment, spoke against this Bill, largely on the ground that it does away with the discretionary power of local justices—a course of action which they consider in itself to be wrong and extremely disadvantageous to the cause of temperance, their view being that the local magistrates are likely to know the needs of the locality, and that it is a retrograde step to interfere with their discretion and refer the matter to quarter sessions. I think it is admitted that the two great difficulties which meet us in trying to deal with this question of licensing reform are, first, the tied-house system, and, secondly, the unnecessary number of public-houses. In regard to both these difficulties I would ask whether it can really be denied that they are very much due to the action of the local magistrates in the past. I remember talking this matter over with Mr. Gladstone, and I recollect very well his saving what an evil he felt the tied-house system to be, and how it was an evil which might have been avoided. I quite admit that it is an extremely difficult matter to deal with at the present time, but it is a very serious element in this question of licensing reform. It would always have been possible in the past for the local justices in granting new licences and in renewing or transferring old licences to call for the agreement or the lease of the owner of the property. The idea was one public-house and one only, and the fact that the magistrates have not taken that course in the past is one of the causes of the tied-house system being so general at the present time. The growth of that system has made the difficulty of dealing with the licensing laws infinitely greater than it need have been. In the second place, the difficulty is surely partly due to the action of local magistrates in this way. We are face to face with an excessive number of public-houses. I have no sort of wish to blame local magistrates at all; I am quite aware of the difficulties of their position; but I think he would be a bold man who would say that local considerations have not had something to do with the granting of licences in the past. Therefore, I for one confess that I am extremely glad of the provisions of this Bill by which the matter wilt be referred to quarter sessions, because I believe it will have a very 210 salutary effect in regard to the granting of licences for local reasons.
Then, my Lords, I sometimes doubt whether it is sufficiently realised by those who find fault with this Bill how extremely difficult it is to close public-houses. Will your Lordships allow me to state a fact out of my own knowledge which occurred only last autumn in South London? The right rev. Prelate who presides so admirably over the diocese of Rochester, with a good many clergymen and dissenting ministers, approached the justices of the Newington Division in South London with a demand for the reduction of licences. The magistrates said that they were fully alive to the difficulties of the situation, that they were entirely at one with the Bishop and those who accompanied him in regard to the need for a reduction in the number of licences, and that. whatever His Majesty's Government might be going to do, and that whatever might be the provisions of the Bill that was to be introduced, they had marked down ten licences for extinction. I happen to know these circumstances, having some relation to South London myself. What was the result? Here you had every conceivable circumstance which should have led to the reduction in the number of licences, but what was the actual result? The owners of eight out of the ten public-houses marked down for extinction were able to produce such evidence as to the need for their houses and the general satisfactoriness of their character, that the magistrates found themselves quite, unable to withdraw the licences, and out of the ten only two were withdrawn, one of which was a house in such a dilapitated condition that it was perfectly useless trying to preserve it, and in regard to the other there was some difficulty about the lease which made it nobody's interest to contest the withdrawing of the licence. The noble Viscount who moved the Amendment and the noble Lord who spoke last, seemed to speak as though members of the Church of England and the right rev. Bench were less interested in getting rid of the excessive number of public-houses and less anxious to promote a measure of reform and to put down drunkenness than some of the leaders of the Free Churches. I venture to think that there are no persons who desire more to do what they can to remedy the great 211 evil of drunkenness than the members of the Church of England, and I am quite sure that there are none who desire to do more to remedy those evils than the members of the Episcopate. But I think the members of the Church of England, and probably the Episcopal Bench, have a greater sense of proportion and a greater sense of justice than appears to be possessed by some of the leaders of the Free Churches.
§ *LORD SHUTTLEWORTH
Perhaps the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting him, but he is not quoting me correctly. I cannot answer for my friend the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, but my recollection of his speech does not bear out the statement the noble Viscount has just made.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
Of course, I entirely accept what has fallen from the noble Lord. I understood him to say that the Episcopate, at all events, were at this moment on their trial before the country in regard to the action they would take on this Bill. I entirely withdraw my statement if I have in any way misrepresented him. For myself I do not believe that you are going to make men temperate by Act of Parliament. I think Parliament may do a great deal to withdraw temptation from their way, but as to supposing that you are going to make men sober and moral by an alteration of the licensing laws or by any Act of Parliament, I do not believe you can do it. But I think there is a great deal that might be done, and there is much that I should like to see added to this Bill. I should like to see something more done to deal with the question of tied houses. I should like to see some steps taken to prevent the adulteration of beer. It is well known that one of the greatest possible evils is the adulterated stuff which is sold to people for drink instead of pure malt liquor. Above all things, I should like to see something done to deal with the question of clubs. Anybody acquainted with the state of the country knows that clubs are a much greater instrument of demoralisation than public-houses. They are at present under no necessity of obtaining a licence, they are not under police supervision, and it would be a very desirable thing 212 that they should be compelled to have a licence, that they should be legislated for like public-houses, which they practically are. If we could see such an enormous reduction of licences as the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment contemplated, I have very little doubt that it would lead to an increase in the number of clubs, and that, I think, would be a very deplorable result so far as the sobriety of the nation is concerned.
It is not always the best-sounding schemes that really promote temperance. The most rev. Primate alluded to a measure which passed your Lordships' House some time ago by which children were prevented from going to the public-houses to fetch beer. What could sound more admirable than a provision of that sort? Yet I believe that those who are most acquainted with the workings and the real ins-and-outs of the matter are by no means sure that that alteration of the law has been to the advantage of temperance. Under the old system the amount of beer was put ready for the children, they stayed hardly a moment in the public-house, and they took the beer home; whereas the result now is that the wife has to fetch the beer, and she is much more open to the temptation to stay in the public-house. It is well known that within the last few years the increase in female drunkenness has been very great, and those who are best acquainted with the facts of the case are by no means sure that there is not some relation between that increase and the alteration of the law by which children were prevented from being sent to fetch the beer. At all events, it is certain that in many cases the result has been that people have kegs of beer in their own houses, and that instead of sending for the quantity they require, they have beer ready to hand, and, consequently, it is doubtful whether the alteration has really made for the increase of sobriety. The real truth about this question is that a moderate and possible scheme of reform has, up to this time, been defeated by the extreme intransigents of the teetotalers, who have objected to any scheme of reform that was possible, with the result that nothing has been done.
I think the most hopeful element of the scheme before your Lordships' House is the 213 proposal for compensation, which really does remove one of the greatest difficulties in the way of refusing licences to houses which are otherwise well conducted. It is really impossible to disregard equity on this subject. I do not know whether your Lordships followed certain proceedings not far from this place a few weeks ago. The laity representing the Houses of Convocation of the Provinces of York and Canterbury met at the Church House and gave a general support to this Bill on the ground that it was a reasonable effort likely to do something in the direction of really enabling magistrates to reduce within reasonable limits licences which otherwise they would find it extremely difficult to deal with. It is quite open for some to say that the magistrates can now do what they like, and that there is no vested right in a licence. That is true, but there is such a thing as equity in the matter, and I entirely endorse what has fallen from the noble Marquess opposite to the effect that the ordinary sense of justice in Englishmen will not admit that those who are heavily taxed, and who pay heavy probate duties upon their houses, should have their licences withdrawn without due and proper compensation.
Then, my Lords, if I may add one word, as to the time limit. It seems to me that if it is just to give compensation to those who have licences now, it will be equally just at the end of any time limit that might be proposed, and I cannot conceive how it will be possible, having granted compensation under existing circumstances, to refuse equal compensation to those whose licences are refused at the end of the time limit. I would add in conclusion, that it seems to me—than whom there is nobody more alive to the dreadful ravages that drunkenness produces in the country and to the great need for everything possible being done to make drunkenness difficult—that this measure of the Government is a well-considered measure, dealing with a very difficult subject, and I am very much disposed to agree with what fell from the Prime Minister when he said that if this Bill was carried and well worked it would mark an epoch in temperance reform, and be a very efficient and helpful measure in the way of bringing about a diminution of the evils which we all deplore.
My Lords, I rise in opposition to this Bill because I do not believe that it is really a measure of temperance reform. I should not have risen were it not that I have been for the last three years chairman in my county of a scheme which is generally known by the name of Earl Grey, by which an attempt is made on lines other than legislative to promote temperance. Before I go into the question of why I believe this measure will not conduce to temperance I should like to enter a bumble protest, as an individual Member of this House, against the way in which we have been treated upon a matter of such extraordinary importance and complication. We were told by the noble Earl who introduced the Bill, that it was quite evident that such a change had been made by recent practice that it was necessary suddenly to introduce legislation. I venture to think that for 300 years the course of legislation on this subject has gone on without much interruption, and on the whole in accordance with the wishes of the country, and that there was no reason whatever for the enormous hurry by which we are asked to consider in forty-eight hours a measure that entirely changes the history of licensing legislation for 300 or 400 years. I say that this is another instance of what I think is far more important than the individual Bill, namely, the growing power of the Executive in this country, which, in my opinion. is a danger which has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.
I do not believe, my Lords, that there was any call for this Bill. I will go back to what I said was my main reason for rising on this occasion, namely, the experience that I have had, which is perhaps somewhat different from that possessed by most of your Lordships. It is an almost daily experience in conducting three or four public-houses on the trust system, and I think in the common English phrase that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory. I certainly do not think that the measure now proposed will induce temperance in this country. The nominal reason for the measure given b the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading was that 215 there were admittedly too many licensed houses. Of course we may all say—How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds Makes ill deeds done.But I am glad to be in agreement with the noble Lord that that is not the main or the only reason for attempting a measure of temperance reform. Under the scheme of the Bill. if carried out, the number of houses that may be reduced is so small that it will really be of no value in reducing drinking. As far as my experience goes, the root evil is in the interest which the worst class of house has in pressing the sale of liquor in opposition to the sale of other refreshments. Nobody who has dealt practically with this question can doubt that that is a very real evil which can only be increased under this Bill, by the making of the sellers of alcoholic liquor into a privileged class by themselves. Throughout the whole of England 80 per cent. of the fully licensed houses are tied houses, while in my own county the percentage is 90. In my opinion the tied house is the greatest enemy of temperance that exists. It is not only because the tied house is bound to sell practically as much liquor as it possibly can, but because there is no real interest to the individual managing the business to sell anything else but alcoholic liquor, that there is no interest in altering the character of the house.
Perhaps I may best illustrate what I mean by an illustration of one of our own houses. When we took it over, the sale of alcoholic liquors represented 60 per cent, of the total gross receipts, while the non-alcoholic liquors and other refreshments represented only 40 per cent., hut within six months. by giving the manager an interest in the sale of non-alcoholics, we exactly reversed the proportions, and I am glad to say that in the two years we have had to deal with the experiment we have trebled the takings, and the proportion of non-alcoholic to alcoholic liquors is still increasing. That, I think, shows that in an ordinary common public-house much can he done in altering the character of the house and of the refreshments supplied. I was much struck with that fact as recently as Saturday last, when I was at one of our public-houses on the road to Goodwood. The 216 manager told me that dozens of people had been refused because they were in a semi-drunken condition. But what is the case with the ordinary manager of the tied house on such occasions? His interest is to sell to these men, provided the police are out of the way, and to let them go and lie on the roadside. Anybody who cycles or travels along the roads of the country must have seen near any race meeting half-drunken people lying about the roads, and as long as the manager knows there are no police about he will naturally have an interest in serving these people who may be in a doubtful—or an undoubtful—condition. I am sorry to say that the tied-house manager has every inducement to follow that course, and I think you may take it that the managers of these houses are put in for the sake of selling as much liquor as they possibly can. I do not wish to quote my own experience only. I will quote from the organ of the licensed victuallers themselves, the Licensing World. What does that journal say?—Men of little standing and less experience will commence to trade on borrowed capital, for which they will have to pay heavy interest, owing to the uncertain character of the only security they can offer. Such men will not be particular as to the means they adopt to draw customers, and even if they succeed in avoiding, any conviction which would forfeit their licence, they know they will lose it at the expiration of a fixed period.I admit that that is the strongest possible condemnation of they s present system. It means, in fact; that we are to support a much larger number of police for the sake of seeing that a certain set of people do their duty. Why should we be asked to do this? We are asked to do it because it is said that it is an injustice to people to deprive them of their licences without compensation. I am rather afraid, after all the discussions we have had for so many weeks, to refer your Lordships to the elementary question of what a licence is. When I consider these questions I always like to go to a good Tory source for my inspiration. I, therefore, looked out the words "licence" and "licenser" in the dictionary of Dr. Johnson, a Tory of the most robust character, and also an Englishman of the most independent mind. If the 217 House will allow me I will quote his definition of what a licence is—To license is to permit by a legal grant.…, A licenser is a granter of permission, commonly a tool of power.A licence is a grant for certain purposes by the public, represented by the Government, to an individual. I should like at the same time, as it has not yet been quoted, to refer the House to the principal Act that governs the question of licensing—the Act of 1828. What are the words of that Act, under which every one of these people holds his title? The reference is to George IV., cap. 61. sec. 13—Every licence which shall be granted shall be granted for one whole year and no longer.I utterly fail to understand the reason why we are going in future to grant not only new licences for seven years, but to allow the licences that were granted under that Act to go on in perpetuity, unless, indeed, one may take the view of a cynical friend of mine who said to me, "However immoral the measure may be, at least we get 10,000 Conservative election agents throughout the country."
But there is a further reason why I think we should hesitate before adopting this very stringent change in our legislation. No one has ever proved to me that the insurance of existing licences is impossible. In our own houses we have found no difficulty whatever in insuring with the Licensing Assurance Corporation, and I believe I am right in saying that that corporation is most prosperous and does an extremely large business. The original prospectus put forward by the corporation would prove this. In 1898 the company stated that—The objects of a licensing insurance is to remedy the defects of the security of the investments in licensed property, owing to the licence in which the chief value lies being an annual grant liable to forfeiture or non-renewal.In the same prospectus they say that—The continuity of the licence is entirely at the discretion of the magistrates, whose decisions are granted upon the evidence brought before them every year as to the suitability of each house, the manner in which the business has been conducted, and the needs of the neighbourhood.The proposal forms issued by the company state that they now insure £60,000,000 worth of licensed property as 218 against £30,000,000 worth in 1899. That does not look to me as if there ware any serious difficulty in insuring licences.
But even supposing that objection fails, I object to the Bill as it stands because it appears to render impossible all chances of experiments in other directions. If your Lordships will look at the wording of the Bill, you will see that it leaves to quarter sessions what is said by the Prime Minister to be an ample field for new experiments. But what is the real interest of quarter sessions? As regards the old licences, they are not allowed to be freehold, but a 999 years lease is very much the same thing as a freehold. At, any rate, if quarter sessions, or in the old days the magistrates, wished to suppress one of these houses, it is perfectly evident that there was a tendency, though it was not legal, to take the surrender of certain bad licences in its stead. It appears to me that under the wording of this Act that tendency will be strengthened, because it will be in lieu of an actual payment of compensation; therefore those surrenders will put the brewers who have bought up these worthless licences all over the country in a stronger position than ever.
As regards the new licences, I see no reason whatever why quarter sessions should not put them up to the highest bidder. I am afraid from my experience in my own county that the demands for taxes of all sorts are going up, and the interest of quarter sessions will un doubtedly be to get as much as they possibly can for new licences. I should like to quote again from the brewers' paper, the Licensing World, a sentence that seems to show that what I say is correct. It says—If the Licensing Bill passes in the form in which it has emerged from Committee—and with a few minor alterations it seems destined to do so—the trust will have to buy in the open market any new licences it may desire to acquire in villages, on such terms and conditions as the licensing authority may impose, and the payment of 5 per cent. seems even more problematical than ever.I venture to ask your Lordships not to give a Second Reading to this Bill for four reasons: first, I think it will lead to worse administration in the country; second, that it will confirm the brewers' monopoly; thirdly, that it gives taxable money of the public away without any real return; and fourthly, that there is no real feeling on 219 the part of the country in favour of such a measure.
§ *EARL GREY
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken may be perfectly correct in his law, that there is no legal necessity for compensating a licensee whose licence the licensing authority refuses to renew, but I think this is not altogether a question of law. The problem before Parliament is one which calls upon us to exercise our common sense. We have to settle how we are to bring about a reduction in the number of licences without doing injustice to any party concerned. I hope I shall be able to satisfy the noble Lord before I sit down that this Bill is not quite so bad a Bill as he believes it to be. The noble Lord in the course of his remarks stated that he was in favour of putting up the new licences to auction.
§ *EARL GREY
I understood the noble Lord to say that he thought that if the licences were put up to auction it would secure for the public purse large sums of money which the public do not now enjoy.
§ LORD FARRER
I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but what I said was that the tendency of quarter sessions would be to put up such licences to the highest bidder. I am not in favour of it personally.
§ *EARL GREY
I am glad the noble Lord is not in favour of such a course. I could not understand how such a remark should have come from him, because he is one of the chief supporters of the Public-House Trust movement and the chairman of the Surrey Public-House Trust Company, and he is aware, as I am aware, that if licences were put up to public auction with the result that high duties were paid by the owners of licences, there would be a very great inducement to push the sale of alcoholic liquors in order to make the money the licensee was required to pay.
With regard to the speech of the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, no one could have listened to that speech without being powerfully impressed with 220 the sincerity of the noble Viscount's conviction that the public well-being demanded a great reduction in the number of licences. It is true that the national consumption of alcoholic liquors is very great. It has been computed that the average consumption per head in the United Kingdom is twice that in the United States, and that if we could bring down the consumption of alcoholic liquor in the United Kingdom to the level which exists in the United States there would be a saving of £80,000,000 per annum, which, if paid to the National Exchequer, would give us a sum capitalised at thirty-three years amounting to over £2,640,000,000, or more than three times the amount of the National Debt. But that would not be the only saving to the country. There would be the still greater saving represented by the improved health, the increased efficiency, and the greater collective vigour of the nation.
I believe we are all agreed that it is most desirable that the national consumption of alcoholic liquors should be reduced. The whole question is as to what steps we should take to bring about that reduction. The view of the Government and of the noble Viscount is that the best and shortest way to bring about a reduction in the consumption of alcoholic liquors is to reduce the number of licensed houses. My noble friend who moved the Amendment said that the reduction of the licensed houses to the extent of one-half was the ideal at which we should aim. But the most rev. Primate pointed out that the connection between the amount of alcoholic liquors consumed and the number of licensed houses was by no means proved, and Messrs. Rowntree and Sherwell, in the publication which doubtless most of your Lordships hate had an opportunity of perusing, have pointed out that the number of licences reduced in ratio to the population during the last twenty years has been 19 per cent., but that the consumption of alcoholic liquor per head of the population during the same period instead of being reduced has actually increased by 12 per cent. That fact goes to show that there is no connection between the number of houses and the amount of liquor consumed. I am one of those who believe that the management 221 of public-houses has more to say to the national consumption of drink than the number of houses themselves. I think we are nearly all of the opinion that the public-house is a necessity to the working man. If we once recognise that, it should be our object to make the public-house as respectable as possible and as free as possible from the deteriorating influences which are now connected with it. I do not think it is necessary for me to prove that a public-house of some sort is a necessity to the working classes of the country. I will take your Lordships, for instance, who have the opportunity of living in large houses. Notwithstanding the charm of the society which you meet in those houses, I will undertake to say that there is hardly a Member of your Lordships' house who does not seek the seclusion of the smoking-room with very great frequency. The public-house is the smoking-room of the working man, and, recognising that, we have to make the public-house a fit place for him to go to. The present system of management is responsible, in my opinion, for the excessive consumption of alcoholic liquors.
There are three evils connected with the present public-houses which ought to be remedied. The first is that from 70 to 80 per cent. of the houses are tied houses. The second evil is that it is not only the interest but, the duty of the manager of the ordinary public-house to push the sale of alcoholic liquors. The third evil is that the profits which result from the fact that the house has a monopoly, instead of going into the pockets of the community to whom they belong, are diverted into the pockets of private individuals. I maintain that it is the duty of the State to protect its citizens against these evils. If the State establishes in a new district a monopoly house, I think it is bound to secure to the inhabitants of that district, who can go nowhere else but to that house for the liquors they require, the certainty of being able to obtain the best liquors that are obtainable. The State would be unfaithful to its trust if it allowed a monopoly house to be tied to any particular firm of brewers or distillers, however eminent. I am of opinion that the liquor supplied by tied houses is, as a rule, good liquor, but where a brewery or distillery has the ownership of tied houses 222 it is only natural, if they have a bad brew, that instead of throwing it down the gutter as they ought to do, they should take the opportunity of selling it to the frequenters of their tied houses. if they can safely do so. It is also the duty of the State not only to secure to the inhabitants of the district that the liquors obtained from a monopoly house are the best obtainable in the open market, but also to ensure, in the interest of temperance and of the general wellbeing of the locality, that the monopoly house shall be brought under a management which is under no inducement whatsoever to push the sale of alcoholic liquors. At present it is the interest and duty of the manager of a tied house to push the sale of alcoholic liquors.
The Prime Minister said the other day that he did not hold that the blame for excessive drinking was to be laid at the door of the manager of the public-house, but that the man who consumed the liquor was principally to blame. There is a certain truth in that statement, but there is also great truth in the assertion that if it is to the interest of a publican to push the sale of alcoholic liquors, there will be much more alcoholic liquor consumed in that house than would be the case it there were in charge a man who had no, interest whatsoever in pushing the sale of intoxicants. I cannot impress this upon your Lordships more forcibly than by repeating a statement made to me by a publican who informed me that he was one of the most ardent advocates! of the public-house trust movement. He went on to say that I should be surprised when he informed me that he was the owner of a public-house, and, he continued, "Do you think I am connected with this business because I like it? I hate it. I am a publican because I am an employer of labour." He then went on to point out that in every village in the United Kingdom there were a certain number of men, and probably the most manly, energetic, amiable, and lovable members of the community, who had to be protected against the defects of their own virtues. He said—If you have behind the bar a man whose, interest it is to press the sale of alcoholic liquors, these men will very likely become drunkards. But if you have behind the bar a man who, without being patronising in any 223 way, uses his influence to prevent these men from drinking more than is good for them you will do much. If your public-house trust movement does nothing more than put behind the bars men who will take sufficient pains to ascertain the characters of the people who come to their houses, and to help the weak men when they require a helping hand, your movement will be one of the greatest blessings to all employers and working men.The experience of our public-house trust movement has proved that, when a public-house is conducted as a refreshment room and not as a mere drinking bar, when food and non-intoxicants are served as readily as beer and spirits, when food and drink of the best quality only are served, when managers are paid a fixed salary and have no interest whatsoever in pressing the sale of alcoholic liquors, when they are encouraged to promote the sale of non-intoxicants, when you have a system of management under which no man is obliged to drink for the good of the house, when men feel that they can enjoy the society of a public-house being without called upon to buy alcoholic liquors, the result is a considerable diminution in the sale of alcoholic drink. I need not quote to your Lordships much evidence upon this point, but I may give a few instances. In connection with one hotel a report has been issued showing that before the installation of public-house trust management in March last, the management pressed the sale of alcoholic drink, a trade which gives less trouble and more profit, the non-alcoholic trade gave only a few pence per day, whereas it now often reaches £3 a day. There is another case in a neighbouring county where the manager considers it to be his duty to wean working men from excessive drinking habits. It is re-reported that working men come now for tea and other non-alcoholic drinks. There is a certain moral cowardice which prevents them from asking for non-alcoholic drinks when the bar is full, but they do so more often when they are alone, and the practice will naturally be mere followed when they get more supporters. There is also the story of the drayman of a brewers' firm watching his horse and cart from the doorstep of a public-house, drinking a cup of coffee instead of a glass of alcoholic liquor. Another hotel near Leeds reports that working men drop in constantly for a pint 224 of tea or coffee instead of beer. Lord Farrer recently stated how in one of his own houses under the Surrey Public-House Trust Company for the first four weeks after they took over the house the total takings were £127, but for the last four weeks before his speech to the shareholders they were £214. At first the proportion of alcoholic liquor to non-alcoholic was 60 per cent. against 40 per cent., while in the second case, although the sum was larger the proportions were 42 per cent. of alcoholic liquors and 58 per cent. of non-alcoholic. Then there is the case of a Hertfordshire public-house called the "Waggon and Horses," where the sale of non-alcoholic liquors has reached 68 per cent. of the total takings. These facts show that under disinterested management there is a tendency to reduce the consumption of alcoholic liquors.
As to the third great evil associated with the present management of public-houses, viz., that the special profits resulting from monopoly rights go into the pockets of individuals instead of being secured for the State, according to Messrs. Rowntree and Sherwell, whose figures have never yet been challenged, the net profits realised from the public-houses in the United Kingdom amounted for 1899 to the huge total of £19,100,000, and it must be recollected that from 70 to 80 per cent. of the houses are tied houses from which the brewers would secure a large profit in addition to this £19,400,000. From that the House will realise how vast are the profits connected with the public-houses of the country.
I think I have shown that it is the duty of the State in all houses, both new and existing, to provide that, whenever possible, a management shall be established which will secure to frequenters of those houses the certain knowledge that they will be served with the best liquors only, a management under which there will be no inducement to push the sale of alcoholic liquors, and further, that the monopoly values shall be secured to the public instead of going to a private and privileged class. These three advantages can be secured only in proportion as you apply the principle of disinterested management to the public-houses. I am most grateful to His Majesty's 225 Government for having introduced a Bill which provides machinery which will enable the principle of disinterested management to be applied not only to new houses but to existing houses also. Clause 4 acknowledges that it is obligatory upon licensing authorities to bring every new licence they create under management which will secure for the public the special profits of a monopoly trade. That is one great advantage which we shall obtain from the passage of this Bill. But I also entertain the hope that not only will this Bill secure the benefit of disinterested management in new houses, but that it will also provide the machinery which will enable us to secure the application of disinterested principles to existing houses.
Under this Bill, as I understand it, the licensing authorities will be empowered practically to transfer licences from the trade to the trust. I will explain how I think that will be done. In a certain village with which I am acquainted there are two public-houses, one belonging to a trust company and the other to the trade. It is a mining village, and, as your Lordships are aware, on pay Fridays miners consume far too large a proportion of their wages in drink. If both houses in this mining village were under trust management, nothing would be easier than for the people responsible for the management of the houses to close them earlier on pay nights, or to withdraw spirits from the bar, or to adopt any other temperance regulations which might be approved and which might respond to the progressive temperance sentiment of the locality. But it is impossible to do that at present. If the trust house were to refuse to serve alcoholic liquor an hour before the legal closing time, it would not reduce the consumption of drink at all. The only result would be that the trade of the trust house would go to the house belonging to the trade. But suppose the trust company could go to the licensing authorities and say, "In the interests of temperance and of the general well-being of the locality we want to secure for trust management this house which is now run on ordinary trade principles. We will give you the statutory compensation which you will 226 have to give to the license if you refuse to renew his licence." If the licensing authority agree with the managers of the trust, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent them from refusing to renew the licence belonging to the trade, and creating at the same time a new licence in favour of the trust company. If that can be done, and I believe it can be under the Bill, you will have the machinery provided for which we have all longed since Mr. Chamberlain tried to municipalise the public-houses in 1877. We shall have the machinery provided which will enable us gradually to deal with entire districts.
The whole question is, Will it be possible for us to do it? Will the price we should have to pay for compensation to the trade house, the renewal of whose licence is refused, be so large as to make the operation impossible? That entirely dedends upon the compensation clauses. I confess that I am much disappointed with that part of the Bill which deals with compensation as it has come up from the House of Commons. I preferred it in its original form. The compensation to be given to existing licences was to be the compensation to which they would be entitled on the value calculated as if this Act had not passed. Certain words have now been introduced into the Bill which show that that is not to be the case. In its present form the publican is entitled to the full value of the unearned increment which his house may enjoy from the suppression of competing and redundant houses in his neighbourhood. That, I think, is perfectly opposed to the whole principle and spirit of the Bill. You have, by your Bill, provided that the monopoly value resulting from new licences shall be secured to the public. If you once take up that position are you not bound to take such steps as may be necessary to secure the increased monopoly value which existing houses will enjoy, because you have suppressed under this Bill the houses with which they compete? Are you not bound to secure that that monopoly value shall be appropriated also to the public? It is my intention in Committee to move an Amendment which will make this 227 quite clear, and provide that when compensation is given to existing houses whose licences are renewable upon grounds other than misconduct, the measure of compensation shall be the value attaching to the licences at the time of the passing of this Act. If such an Amendment is not inserted, although I have hitherto been an opponent of a time limit, I must say that unless you introduce some provision which will secure to the public that increase in the monopoly value which all existing houses, will enjoy after the neighbouring houses are suppressed—unless you put in provisions that will effect that purpose, then I shall certainly be bound to support the Amendment of which notice has been given by the most rev. Primate. I trust His Majesty's Government may see their way to incorporate such an Amendment in the Bill. I am one of those who think that this Bill, with Amendments of that character, may be justly regarded as a great temperance measure on the grounds which I have endeavoured, very imperfectly I admit, to explain to your Lordships. I support this measure on the ground that you will by this Bill secure the application of the principle of disinterested management to all new houses, and because this Bill will also provide the machinery by means of which you will be able to Gothenburg entire districts.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The MARQUESS Of SALISBURY)
The noble Earl in the speech he has just delivered has touched upon what is to all of us a most interesting experiment with which his own name has been associated. I can assure him that there is nothing in the Bill which is in the least inconsistent with what he has said upon that branch of the subject. I think he has rightly said that it will be perfectly open to quarter sessions to grant facilities to the trust of which the noble Earl speaks. I believe that, by the method which he has described, it would be possible, provided he could convince quarter sessions that his claim was a good one, for them to transfer the exercise of a licence in a particular locality from the trade to one of the houses under his control. The only conditions which are necessary is that adequate compensation 228 should be provided, and that the noble Earl's trust should be under the condition to surrender the monopoly value of the trade to the public. At an earlier period of this afternoon a most eloquent and earnest speech was delivered by the noble Viscount, to which I am certain all your Lordships listened with the greatest interest. While I was listening to that speech I could not but remember that on the last occasion upon which I addressed him I should not have dared to have criticised anything he had said, but I hope that the great respect with which I then treated him may still linger about my words, and that nothing I shall say in the course of the few observations I am addressing to your Lordships this evening will derogate from that standard which I hope I have set up for myself. But, my Lords, it was, if I may say so, the earnestness of the noble Viscount which frightened me. He spoke of the evils of drink, and we all agree with him in that. The evils of drink are patent and undeniable. He spoke of the unanimous feeling that something should be done. It has often been said, and it cannot too often be repeated, that that is always a formidable statement, but one always has the natural terror lest the zeal of good men may do grave injustice when carried forward upon the wave of an earnest and popular feeling such as the noble Viscount has described. He tried to enlist upon his side, with the comsummate skill of an old Parliamentary hand, all those bodies of men in this country who are by temperament and profession attached to philanthropy. He appealed to this Bench and to the right rev. Prelates who sit upon these Benches, and he said, if I am not putting an unfair gloss upon his words: "Are you going to be behind other religious bodies; you, the Church of England, are you going to allow the Nonconformists to be first in temperance reform; you who are competitors for popular approval in these great works of charity, are you going to be behind those with whom you are in competition." My Lords, I think the temptation is a very dangerous one even for the right rev. Prelates, and it was apparent. and I say it with great respect, that the appeal which the noble Viscount had made was not without a certain effect upon the most rev. Primate who followed 229 him. He spoke in the name of the Church of England, and he told us how recently in Convocation he stood at the head of a united body of Prelates in criticising and condemning one of the main provisions of this Bill. Yes, my Lords, I observe that he confined himself to Prelates, but the Church of England does not consist entirely of Prelates. I cannot forget a certain great meeting of the representative Church Council in which these issues were submitted. I think the most rev. Prelate did say that the laity of the Church of England, as there represented, did not quite agree with their decision. But it was not only a matter of the laity. What about the clergy? After the decisions to which that great council came it is impossible to say that the Church of England has condemned this Bill, or has at all insisted that a time limit should be included in it. The truth is, my Lords, that when the noble Viscount speaks of the strong public feeling against public-houses, and when other noble Lords remind us of the awful evils of intemperance—as Lord Shuttleworth, for example, did—the only conclusion which you would draw from these observations is that the trade in drink is utterly bad and that the people of this country repudiate it. But neither proposition is true. The trade in drink is not bad but good. It is a necessity for the people and it is also a luxury. It is a luxury even to noble Lords, which all of them, or nearly all of them, avail themselves of, and which they are certainly not entitled to deny in the case of their poorer fellow-citizens. Public-houses are not always employed in giving more drink than is good for people to those who are already drunk; on the contrary their usual trade is to suply a very legitimate and a very necessary want to the people, and therefore they are entitled to every justice which a reasonable and fair trade is entitled to at the hands of your Lordships' House.
The noble Viscount, however, would not have our Bill at any price, he said it deprived the magistrates in petty sessions of most of their power. He said that the possibility of a suppression of redundant houses under it was absurdly small, and that it was founded upon no intelligible principle. He further asserted that quarter sessions would not know how to 230 estimate the value of public-houses, and, in fact, he seemed to condemn the Bill thoroughly. But, my Lords, I deny every one of those propositions. When the noble Lord and others say that the powers of the magistrates in petty sessions are cribbed, cabined, and confined by this Bill, what do they mean? In the first place we do not attack, we do not assail, and we do not diminish in the least degree the ordinary jurisdiction of petty sessions by which they can endorse or suppress a licence, the holder of which is convicted before them for misconduct. That is their main duty, and that is left absolutely untouched by this Bill. But even in regard to redundant houses how does the case stand? The truth is by giving the magistrates through the combined actions of petty sessions and quarter sessions power to give compensation, the Bill does not diminish but increases their power for getting rid of redundant houses. Now, my Lords. I will give authority for that argument. I have read with some interest the Report of the Royal Commission—I allude to the Minority Report—and I find on page 118 of that Report that this observation is made; it is a description of the practice of licensing justices under the present law—They have the power of refusing the renewal of a licence however old, although they do not exercise the power at all largely. They are rather restricted from acting as they would otherwise do from the fear of inflicting an injury, either en the tenant or on the owner of the property.That is the justification for compensation under this Bill. It is because the magistrates in hundreds of cases are, like your Lordships, so much impressed with the injustice of destroying a man's means of livelihood without giving him compensation, that they have not acted, and when the noble Viscount and others point to extreme cases like the case of Portsmouth, in which very few licences have been suspended or suppressed, does it not occur to them that the probable reason of the inaction of the magistrates has not been because they had no power under the present law, but because they were unable to grant compensation, and this has caused them to shrink from the injustice of destroying the publican's livelihood. I am afraid that I am bound to say that 231 this strong opinion, and this strong appreciation of the value of magistrates in petty sessions is of rather recent growth in the mind of the noble Viscount and his friends, because I notice also in the Minority Report that they announce this conclusion—After a very careful and exhaustive review of the administration of the law by the justices, we are forced to the conclusion that the licensing business cannot be properly left solely in their hands.I am quite aware that in those days the noble Viscount thought the magistrates were too much inclined to be on the publican's side, but now he thinks that in certain localities they are inclined to work hard for the temperance reformers, and upon that ground he has changed his opinion. I must say that I think he is bound by the words of this Report, and this immense appreciation of the value of petty sessions seems to me to be of a suspiciously late growth in the noble Lord's mind. Then he went on to say that the number of redundant licences which could be put an end to under our Bill was absurdly small. I confess that I think a measure which puts £1,250,000 every year at the disposal of the various quarter sessions of this country in order to suppress, with due compensation, licences, is not a contemptible matter at all. My noble friend who spoke on behalf of the Government earlier this afternoon told your Lordships that he had calculated that, at any rate to begin with, when we were dealing with the small, cheap, and worst public-houses, very nearly 2,500 of them could be dealt with each year. How many redundant licences does the noble Viscount suppose are being dealt with now in one year? Why the highest number which has been dealt with in any year—the highest number of redundant licences suppressed in any one year has, up to now, only been 200. Under this Bill we propose to change that possible and occasional 200 into a constant number of 2,500, which I think your Lordships will admit is an enormous change in the direction of suppressing those licensed houses which ought to be suppressed.
With regard to the principle I should have thought our principle was most intelligible, because the principle of our compensation is to award the difference between the value of the licensed house with the 232 licence and the licensed house without the, licence. That appears to me not only a common-sense principle, but a principle dictated by the most elementary principles of honesty. I may just mention the last point made by the noble Viscount in which he said that quarter sessions were quite unfit to decide questions of value. Why, my Lords, they have to do it every day. I am speaking to your Lordships, who are all, no doubt, in your own persons justices, and many of you are chairmen of quarter sessions, and you are all aware that some of the most intricate matters which any tribunal has to decide is the question of the value of property for rating purposes, and these questions come every day before quarter sessions. There is nothing in this Bill which I think will affect that question, and no one has called into question the competence of quarter sessions to deal with matters of this description. The noble Viscount was very critical of our compensation scheme, in regard to which I shall have something to say directly. In the first place, he was very critical of it because he said that it would confer a freehold upon the licensee.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It is perfectly true that he used the word "permanent interest," but I think I am not misquoting him when I say that he used the word "freehold" in this connection.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am informed that it was Lord Shuttleworth who used the term "freehold." I do not quite know what noble Lords mean when they say that we are conferring or recognising by this Bill that the licence is a freehold. It is part of the Government case that the licensee has certain equitable rights which have a money value, and if you take away those rights though there is no fault on the part of the licensee you are bound to compensate him. But that does not mean turning the licence into a freehold. What I conceive such a phrase as that would imply would be 233 that we should secure to the licensee an income equivalent to the income he had been earning as a publican for all time. I can assure noble Lords that the basis of compensation upon which our Bill is drawn does not mean anything of the kind. In the first place it ought not to involve anything of the kind, because there is the uncertainty of the trade. There are, moreover, all sorts of possibilities which may happen to a publican, he may be guilty of misconduct, or he may be unfit to hold a licence. Those are reasons which would involve the loss of his licence, as noble Lords are aware, both under the present law and under the Bill which is now submitted to your Lordships. All these things must affect, and other causes must affect, the value of the interest which we compensate. But how are you to determine this? There is no way of determining it except the way the Government have adopted, and that is to estimate the difference in the value of the licensed house with the licence, and the licensed house without the licence. That will take into account all those limitations to which I have called your Lordships' attention, and the result of it will be precisely that, and no more, which the licensee and persons interested in the licence are entitled to if the licence is suppressed.
Now, my Lords, one of the most striking parts of the noble Viscount's speech was the passage in which he repeated what his own hopes and expectations had been. I am not quoting his own words, for I have not the eloquence to do so, but he said that he had looked forward to the suppression of something like 50 per cent. of the licences of this country. I frankly admit that that is not what the Government desire, and they do not intend anything of the kind. Let us consider for a moment this question. I think that for this purpose you may divide licences which ought to be suppressed, or are capable of being suppressed, into three categories. There are those in which the licensees are guilty of a distinct breach of the conditions upon which they hold the licences. That case is one which this Bill does not alter in the least. Under the present law they can be suppressed without compensation, and under this Bill, if it becomes law, such licences will be liable 234 to suppression at the discretion of the magistrates without compensation in case of a distinct breach of the conditions upon which the licence is granted. Then there are licences which ought to be suppressed in the public interest, but in respect of which the licensee has been guilty of no fault at all. Those are the licences with which this Bill deals, and those may be suppressed upon proper conditions. Lastly there are the licences which ought really not to be suppressed in the public interest at all, but which certain eccentric benches of magistrates think ought to be suppressed, these certainly ought not to be suppressed without compensation, and in our opinion ought not to be suppressed at all. Of course there is nothing in the Government Bill which would render their suppression any easier; on the contrary, both by the limitations and the sum of money which is available, and by referring the matter from the local bench to quarter sessions, we take precautions to prevent the suppression of licences which really ought not to be suppressed at all, and which are not required to be suppressed in the public interest, but which are exposed to the danger of being suppressed owing to the particular views, and what I venture to call the eccentric views, of particular beaches of magistrates in particular parts of the country. It is true that they are not very many, and it is not a very common case to find a bench of magistrates deviating from the ordinary rule; but such has been the case to so important an extent that this measure has been called for.
I therefore turn to the licences which ought to be suppressed in the public interest, but inasmuch as the licensee has committed no fault that suppression should only be carried out upon proper terms. I think it is almost common ground amongst all your Lordships, and indeed amongst all reasonable men, that the holders of such licences are entitled to compensation. I hardly like to trouble your Lordships at this late hour with very elaborate reasons, but any of you who are familiar with the provisions of the licensing law, will recognise that what has been called "the expectation of renewal" which these licensees possess has been thoroughly well founded. I will 235 just recite them, and I will allude to provisions in the law which show that the Legislature has always treated renewals as being upon a totally different footing to new licences. [Cries of "No, no! "] Well, I am going to prove my statement. I say that the Legislature has always treated renewals upon a totally separate footing, and has therefore given very good ground for the expectation of renewal which existed practically undisputed until the celebrated case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" arose. ["No."] The noble Lord does not agree with me, but I will give him one or two instances. There are, of course, the instances which have already been cited, and I do not intend to dwell upon them because they have already been dealt with. There is the case in which under the present law any licensed house which is compulsorily expropriated for a public improvement is compensated at its full value. There is the instance of the death duties which are charged on the full value of licensed premises; then again there are many statutory distinctions between the case of renewals and the case of new licences. Any objection, for example, to a renewal has to be an objection on oath, and this distinguishes it from the objection to a new licence. There is in the case of a renewal which is refused an appeal to quarter sessions which is not provided for in the case of a new licence. There is also the provision that where an existing licensee's licence is objected to his attendance is not requisite unless he be specially summoned. Here again there is a distinction between that and the case of a new licence. An objection has to be given in writing in the case of the renewal of an old licence, and the Legislature expressly lays it down that the onus of proof lies upon the objector. Lastly, the interests of owner himself as distinguished from the publican are specially protected by the law, showing that in that respect the old licence which comes up for renewal is upon a different footing to a new licence.
I have said, therefore, that practically all parties recognise that this expectation, this legitimate expectation of renewal, deserves compensation if the licensee is, through no fault of his own, turned out. And, my Lords, that is not only the view 236 of the Government, but, as the noble Viscount has admitted, it was the view of the minority of the Commission. The noble Viscount himself, speaking tonight, admitted that a licence under these circumstances would have an equitable right to compensation. Mark the word "equitable" because in an eloquent speech made the other night in another place it was found advisable to try and explain away the word equitable, and it was said that it was not a question of equity, but one of expediency. But the noble Viscount, perhaps, has been more candid than the speaker to whom I am referring, for he admitted that there was an equitable right, but he subjected it to a most wonderful condition. The noble Viscount did not admit that there was any equity which demanded compensation unless a very large number of licensed houses were suppressed—unless, I think he said, half the public-houses were suppressed. Up to that moment, although I could not agree with him, I had followed him very carefully and sympathised with him, but I confess that I was completely beaten by that proposition. Why it should be necessary in point of equity to compensate a large number of licensees, and not equitable and not necessary to compensate a small number, I cannot conceive. if only one or two publicans are deprived of their livelihood they are to receive nothing, whilst if a large number of publicans are treated in the same way they are to receive substantial compensation. That seems to me to be a proposition wholly incapable of justification. Not only did the noble Viscount admit the equity in his speech to-day, but he delivered a speech at one period of his career in which he stated in very remarkable and strong terms how inequitable it was to take away licences from those who were not in fault without compensation, and I will, if he will allow me, read a short passage from a speech which he made in the House of Commons in the year 1879. He was then answering the hon. Baronet Sir Wilfrid Lawson, and he said—If he had said it excluded compensation, I certainly should not have given him my support.237 The noble Viscount was then speaking to a Motion in favour of what was called at that time the Permissive Bill. In the same speech he went on to say—Compensation must be given in all cases where a house Is closed on public grounds, and where the licensee lies committed no breach of the law. To reduce the number of licences in such cases without compensation would be a violation of the rights of property and confiscation in the worst sense of the term.That was the view of the noble Viscount not so very long ago—in the year 1879—and I think it was a recollection of those observations which was perhaps floating in his mind which induced him to tell your Lordships to-day that the suppression of licences without compensation where the licensees were not in fault was inequitable.
I noticed that when I mentioned the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield" just now, the noble and learned Lord opposite evidently signified disapproval of my statement that that case demolished the case for legitimate expectation of renewal. I am not qualified to discuss with anybody, and much less qualified to discuss with the noble and learned Lord opposite, a matter of law, but I will remind him and your Lordships' House that up to the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" practically speaking, there was only one opinion throughout the country upon this point, and that opinion was, that it was not the duty of magistrates to suppress any licence unless the licensee had been guilty of misconduct, or unless he had committed some breach of the conditions of his licence. That state of things is very well known to your Lordships. That being the case up to "Sharp v. Wakefield," it practically settles the matter, because the number of licences which have been granted since "Sharp v. Wakefield" are exceedingly small. I do not think there are more than 5 per cent. of all the existing licences at the present day which have been granted since the decision of "Sharp v. Wakefield," so that of all the licences with which we have to deal 95 per cent. were granted in the days when this legitimate expectation of renewal was in existence, and when neither the magistrates who granted them nor the licensees who held them could have had the least idea that the tenure upon which the licences were 238 granted was such as to render them liable to suppression otherwise than by some breach of the conditions upon which they were granted.
I think noble Lords will agree that I have established my point that compensation of sonic kind is due to a licensee whose licence is suppressed if he himself has been in no wise in fault. I am quite aware that noble Lords opposite and the noble Viscount himself, while they admit that some kind of compensation is necessary, consider that our kind of compensation is the wrong kind, and that they think what we ought to provide is a time limit. I notice that it is not suggested now, although I think it was suggested when these discussions first began, that a time limit should be substituted for the provision dealing with compensation which is contained in this Bill. I think the reason is that it has become apparent to those who made that suggestion that a time limit would suspend the process of getting rid of redundant licences I during the operation of that time limit, and as they were not prepared to face that conclusion they abandoned that proposal. The proposal which is now made is that our plan for imposing charges upon the trade and for paying compensation for these houses should be allowed to continue for a certain number of years, at the end of which period these houses should be liable to suppression without 11 any compensation at all. What I want to impress upon your Lordships is that the security dependent upon the compensation which is afforded to these houses; during the period of the time limit is not a gift at all to the trade. It has been said any number of times that the plan proposed by the Government is a plan of compulsory insurance. The trade have to pay the full value of the insurance, and every halfpenny which goes into the publicans' pockets or the pockets of the brewer or the landowner under this Bill comes out of the trade. Therefore it is in no sense a gift to the trade, and at the end of that period 11 you are precisely in the same position you are now. During that period a system of insurance has continued, which insurance has been fully paid for, and nothing has been given to the liquor trade 239 at all. They have paid every halfpenny of it, and at the end of that time if you take away that which, as we contend, belongs to them, and which is not the freehold but a certain right dependent upon the legitimate expectation of renewal, if you take that away it will be absolute and sheer confiscation to do so without compensation. Nothing that you have done in the meantime can avail you, because you have given nothing and you have done nothing except to sell a certain insurance to the trade which you have been fully paid for, and therefore at the end of the period if you take away the licence you will have given nothing for it. When I say that you will have given nothing for it, I admit that you will have given a certain notice that at the end of the period you will proceed in the fashion which I have described. That notice, as I venture to contend, is by no means a sufficient quid pro quo for destroying the livelihood of the publican, and for destroying the value of the interest which other parties have in the licence. The noble Viscount says that at the end of that period surely the publican can insure himself. I am not at all sure that he would be able to insure himself upon any reasonable terms, for he would be in a condition of complete uncertainty. He will know that under the conditions in which he is placed he may be the victim of every passing phase of public opinion, and he may also be unfortunate enough to live within the jurisdiction of some authority whose views are very extreme upon temperance questions. Supposing, my Lords, if I may say so, the chairman of the quarter sessions or of the borough magistrates, as it would be in the case of a county borough, was the noble Viscount himself. What would the publican have to expect? He would know that in the noble Viscount's opinion 50 per cent. of the licences ought to be suppressed. Upon what reasonable conditions could a man insure himself in the face of that possibility? Does the noble Viscount not see that by the extremity of his own views he absolutely destroys the possibility of insurance and, as a matter of fact, the publican would find that it was ruinous to insure himself and he would probably do what any of your Lordships would do under the same 240 circumstances, that is, he would take his chance, and if he fell under the condemnation of the noble Viscount, then he would be ruined, and his ruin, if your Lordships were unwise enough to agree to the Amendment which the noble Lord favours, would be laid at the door of your Lordships' own consciences. No, my Lords, depend upon it the time limit is not a feasible plan. It is neither just when you come to examine it in detail in its operation, nor is it likely to work easily or well.
I may remind your Lordships of one or two other points in this connection, and they have already been mentioned in this debate. Undoubtedly at the end of the time limit, whenever that was approaching, there would be uncertainty, and such uncertainty in the minds of the publicans, that the magistrates would lose the control they now possess over their conduct. They would know that the time during which their security lasted was so short that it would not be worth while to behave with the same propriety as they had done hitherto. And, my Lord, the justices themselves if they were fair-minded justices, as most of them are, would also realise when the time limit came to an end that they were deprived of the power of giving compensation, and therefore all the arguments which I have already addressed to your Lordships would apply, and they would shrink from ruining a poor man whose licence was objected to although he himself was not in fault. The consequence would be that the whole process of your temperance effort for the suppression of redundant licences which, in the case I am contemplating, magistrates properly incline to, would be entirely suspended.
Lastly, your Lordships should recollect what would happen in the case of the ante–1869 beerhouses. No temperance reformers in their wildest moments—and they have some wild moments—have ever called into question the goodness of the title of the ante–1869 beerhouses, and this is the first legislation which has been proposed with any chance of being carried which will deal with these ante–1864 beerhouses, and which will deal with them fairly. They have a better title than the other public-houses, and that better title 241 will be represented in the amount of compensation they will receive. These licences will be more valuable and a larger measure of compensation will be due to them. Therefore, dealing with the ante–1869 beerhouses is perfectly possible and consistent with the ordinary principles which will govern our legislation if this Bill becomes law. Let us suppose that there was a time limit. At the end of the time limit the ante–1869 beerhouses would, of course, resume the full value of their complete and indefeasible Parliamentary title which we desire should henceforth be given to them, and, therefore, you could not destroy them at all, and they would have to remain. In regard to these ante–1869 beer-houses, which are, recollect, my Lords, a third of all the licences in England, and include in their number almost all the worst houses in England—if they are not dealt with in the period before the time limit expires they will resume their complete security which this Government is doing its best to take from them in order to deal with that most difficult and yet most urgent part of temperance reform. All that would be completely destroyed by the proposal to create a time limit which finds favour with the most rev. Primate and with the noble Lord opposite.
I think I have said enough to your Lordships to show why it is that the Government recommend this Bill to Parliament. I think the noble Viscount and the most rev. Primate did suggest to us a time limit, but I think there was an uneasy consciousness about both their suggestions that the proposal was not altogether a sound one, and I think they both said that, at any rate, if any difficulty did arise at the end of their time limit, whether it was fourteen years or twenty-one years, then Parliament could take the necessary measures to prevent injustice. The noble Viscount said that he thought even then the unfortunate licensee might in certain cases be the victim of great hardships if he were turned out, and he said Parliament would take that into consideration when the time came. That is a very fair conclusion, and I, to some extent, reecho it. If any difficulty takes place at the end of fourteen or twenty-one years, then let Parliament take the necessary 242 steps. That is precisely what the Government say. We do not deprive Parliament, and we have no power to deprive a future Parliament, of the right of dealing with this question as they may think fit, but what we say is that as far as we can see with the facts before us, our Bill contains within itself provisions which will put an end to redundant houses without injustice, and we will not anticipate what may be provided fourteen or twenty years hence in order to complete the work that we are beginning. We recommend this Bill to your Lordships because we believe it is founded on the principles of justice, we support it because we think it is the most hopeful temperance measure ever presented to Parliament, and for these reasons we call upon your Lordships, without mutilating the measure, to pass it into law.
§ *LORD DAVEY
Some of the statements made by the noble Lord who has just sat down appear to me so widely different from the actual facts of the case that I think I ought to say a few words upon this question. The noble Marquess said, if I understood him rightly, that before the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" everybody was of opinion that the renewal of a licence could not be refused except for cause shown. That seems to me to be a very bold statement indeed. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill has improved upon that because he said that previous to that decision magistrates believed that they had no option except to renew licences, and that the magistrates had been misrepresenting to the brewers or the publicans what their powers were. Now, my Lords, that seems to me a very serious statement. I am not prepared to endorse the language which both the noble Marquess and the noble Lord opposite have used in regard to the magistrates and those who advise them. I cannot believe that all of them held that opinion, and I know some who ware not of that opinion. I have no doubt that any person who took the trouble to look at the sections of the Act under which licences are granted renewed could not for one moment have entertained that opinion. What a person who did not take the trouble to look at this section of the Act under which he was acting would do, I cannot say, but it 243 is absolutely impossible that anybody could have read the Act under which the power of renewal is exercised and believe that he had no option except to renew the licence. I will venture to remind your Lordships of the words of that Act. It is the Alehouse Act of 1828, Section 13, and it provides as follows—Every licence which shall be granted shall be in force for one whole year and no longer.There can be no doubt about the meaning of those words. My noble friend seems to think that the decision in "Sharp v. Wakefield" fell like a bolt from the blue. I do not know what the Lord Chancellor would say upon that point. I think noble Lords will find it very difficult to quote any judicial or non-judicial authorities to the effect that magistrates had no option except to renew a licence. I think that it is a bold assertion. in defiance of the express terms of the Act itself. to make such a statement. Of course persons' rights are not determined by what persons who do not choose to look at the Act of Parliament which gives the right may have thought or not thought, but they are determined by the words of the Act of Parliament itself, and I presume that every person who took a licence knew, or must be taken to have known, that he took it for one year and no longer, and that the magistrates had the absolute discretion whether they would renew it or not. I have not had the opportunity during the noble Marquess's speech to look into the details of the procedure. which I have not present in my mind, but it may be that there is some difference in the details of the procedure. There is no doubt that there is an appeal from a refusal to renew to quarter sessions, and I believe there is no appeal—I am speaking from memory only, but the noble Marquess has no doubt looked into it—from a refusal to grant a new licence.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
There is no appeal to quarter sessions in the case of a new licence. A new licence has to be confirmed, but not by quarter sessions.
§ *LORD DAVEY
I a m then right in thinking that there is no appeal to quarter sessions from a refusal to grant a new licence, whereas there is an ap- 244 peal from a refusal to renew a licence. Of course there is this difference in the procedure, but the fact remains, and that is the important fact that the magistrates in brewster sessions have precisely the same discretion and, to use the language of Lord Justice Fry in Sharp v. Wakefield," ought to have regard to precisely the same considerations in renewing a licence as they have in granting a fresh licence. The learned Judge quotes there a ease in which the considerations on which the discretion of the magistrates in the case of granting a new licence should be exercised had been laid down by Lord Justice Lush, and says that the same considerations should govern their discretion on an application for renewal of a licence. To say that people's rights are to be regulated by what ignorant people may have thought in the face of the exact terms of the Act of Parliament to which I have referred, seems to me to be rather trifling with the law. Speaking for myself, I cannot make a statement which seems to be so libellous on the magistrates, who, in my experience, I have found administer the law with great care, or upon their clerks or others who advise them, and so far as my experience of that work goes are usually very careful in the advice they give to magistrates. I do not believe that any magistrate or the clerk of any magistrate ever believed that the magistrates had no option in regard to renewing a licence.
§ * LORD DAVEY
Then I will say thas I do not believe that any magistrate wht ever took the trouble to look at the Act of Parliament which he was administering ever believed it. I am perfectly certain that no judicial decision or expression of opinion can be quoted which in any way encourages the belief that magistrates had no option but to renew a licence. That being so, it has always been very difficult for me to see the force of the argument which has been put forward, because a person who accepts a. licence issued under a statutory authority must be taken to have known the 245 statutory authority under which it was issued. There cannot be any doubt in regard to it. I well remember expressing the same opinion in the debates of the House of Commons upon Mr. Goschen's proposal, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the year 1890 or 1891. It has always been difficult for me to see what claim in any intelligible sense a man who has taken a licence under these circumstances can have to compensation. Holding that opinion, however, I am not averse to giving compensation, and for this reason. that I am anxious to see the number of licences, which I believe to be in most cases quite excessive, reduced. I do not think that the magistrates would be induced to reduce the number of public-houses to any extent unless they had the power of granting some compensation to the persons interested in those houses. On that ground and not on any ground of equity, because I do not think the publican has got any claim upon that ground, I think there is a case for some compensation.
If I turn to this Bill, what do I find? I find one thing which is certain, and something else which is uncertain. What is certain is that you are endowing the owners of public-houses, the owners of licensed houses, and the persons interested in licensed houses, with an absolute permanent interest in their licences. I say that after contrasting their legal position before this Act with what will be their legal position after this Act has passed. Their legal position before this Bill becomes law is that. the magistrates have had in their power and in the exercise of their judicial discretion the right to refuse to renew a licence. But after this Bill is passed the magistrates will no longer have that power, except upon the terms of paying them the full value of their house, that is to say, the difference between the value of the house as an ordinary house and the value of the house as a licensed house. My noble friend below me was quite justified this afternoon in saying that this is a permanent interest with which you endow the owner of the licensed house. At the present time they have by law only a precarious interest which may or may not be renewed upon a subsequent occasion, but you are going to give the licence-holder a permanent interest which must be renewed except upon the 246 terms of paying him the full value of his licensed house. I confess that this appears to me to be an enormous present, and an enormous endowment to the owners of licensed houses. There cannot be any doubt about it, that this Bill enormously increases the value of the licensed houses of which these people are the owners. That is what is proposed to be done by this Bill. The State confers this great benefit upon the owners of licensed houses, and you would naturally suppose that the State would get some consideration or some value in return for what they give with so lavish a hand. But, my Lords, the State gets nothing at all. The only thing the State gets which can be described as any return at all is the power of reducing the number of licences, and that is perfectly uncertain. In fact the Bill restricts the power of refusing to renew licences because quarter sessions cannot now refuse to renew a licence unless the fund provided for the purposes of compensation is sufficient for that purpose; and so the power of reducing licenees is limited by the amount of the compensation fund. The noble Marquess has said that that compensation fund will reach £1,500,000 or some amount of that kind. But will it? If you look at the Bill you will find that the magistrates are not bound to raise the whole amount, and if in any particular locality they do not propose to reduce. licences that money would not enure for the benefit of another locality where they wish to reduce more licences than they have money for. Each locality is limited to the amount of its own fund, and it by no means follows that they will have the whole aggregate amount of £1,500,000 at their disposal for this purpose.
Then the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and I think the noble Marquess rather developed the same line of argument, said that it would be inconsistent with this Bill to grant a time limit. I cannot, for the life of me, follow that argument, and I cannot see any inconsistency in it whatever. The situation is this. The publican or the owner of a licensed house is not by law entitled to any compensation whatever, but you propose for certain reasons which I think 247 are sufficient—and I make the noble Marquess that concession, although I decline to do it on the ground of equity, because there is none in this case—but you are going to provide a fund for compensating him in certain conditions. You may say to the man who has at present no right to compensation, and is liable to have the renewal of his licence refused at the discretion of the magistrate, "You may perhaps have been misled in regard to the administration of the law, and you may have been led to believe that you were not likely to be interfered with except on certain grounds of conduct, and we will therefore give you ten years notice." I know that the most rev. Primate says twenty-one years, but I think that is rather too long. A good deal has been said by some noble Lords about the freehold which the publican has at present in the licence, but what he has at the most is only a tenancy from year to year—it is not even from year to year because no notice is required to end it at the end of the first year. You are going to alter it now to what is equivalent to a freehold, because you are proposing to give him a perpetual right of renewal unless he receives the value of his licensed house in exchange. That is what you are going to do. But why give him the preferential right of this kind, why not give him the right of renewal for ten years, and during that ten years he will know exactly where he is.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But you do not give him that right of renewal, because you sell it to him.
§ *LORD DAVEY
But you tell him that atthe end of ten years he will be in the position in which he is now, that is to say, that the magistrates will have a right to refuse the renewal of his licence. If a man takes a lease for ten years with the knowledge that he will have no right to renew it, he cannot be said by the most strained use of the word equity—certainly not by any use of the word with which I am familiar—to have acquired any right to the renewal of his licence. It is said that it is very hard upon the man that he should be called upon to pay his contributions, which are in the nature of premiums on insurances during those 248 ten years, if his licence is not to be renewed, and if he is not to have the benefit of it. That seems to me to be a most fallacious argument. Have noble Lords never heard of a man insuring his life for ten years. A man frequently does that.
§ LORD BELPER
But when a man insures his life for ten years at the end of that time he gets a large proportion of benefit from the insurance if he lives.
§ LORD DAVEY *
No, that is not so. If he dies within the ten years his relatives or survivors get the money, and he pays the money as premiums for the insurance. A man who has insured his life for ten years and survives the period and lives, say, a further twenty-five years, can hardly complain that he did not get anything out of the insurance company when the contract was in case he died within a period of ten years. It appears to me that this is merely a matter of contract. If a man knows that in consideration of his getting a lease for ten years instead of being a lessee from year to year he will have to pay a certain sum per year during those ten years where is the hardship? I fail to see any hardship at all in this case. If a man makes a very good bargain like this, at the end of the ten years he will have no claim whatever for saying that he has any right to renew it. It will be within the discretion of the magistrates who will probably exercise their discretion very much in the same way as they do at the present time. But what do the Government now propose? They propose to provide a scheme of that very character. They suggest that new licences should be granted for a period not exceeding seven years and that after that time there should be no right to renewal. That is an exact parallel to the case I have mentioned. You have put this into the Bill.
§ *LORD DAVEY
I affirm that it is an exact parallel case to what would be the operation of a time limit for ten, fourteen, or twenty-one years, and the amount of the term does not affect the principle. 249 At any rate the operation would be exactly the same. You would grant the existing licensee a licence for ten years on the terms that if his licence was refused at any time during those ten years, he would be compensated.
§ *LORD DAVEY
I will deal with that presently. That seems to me to be a fallacy. You grant him a licence for ten years upon the terms that if his licence is refused, except for misconduct, he will be compensated. How does that differ from the scheme proposed in the Bill for granting new licences for a term not exceeding seven years on such terms as to payment and so forth as the justices may determine. Clause 4 provides—The justices of a licensing district, on the grant of a new licence, may attach to the grant of the licence such conditions, both as to the payments to be made and the tenure of the licence, and as to any other matters…As regards that, it appears to me—noble Lords opposite will be able to show in this debate that I am wrong if it be so—but that appears to me to be an exact parallel and an exact precedent for the way in which a time limit, if inserted in this Bill. would work. Instead of converting a tenancy from year to year into what I will call, metaphorically, a freehold, you would convert it into a lease for ten, fourteen, or twenty-one years, or whatever other period was fixed, and at the end of that term the licence-holder would have notice of the conditions which the law intended him to observe as the holder of the licence for one year and no longer. Just in the same way the new licensee would get his licence for seven years, and would know at the end of that period that he would have no right to renewal. It would lie in the discretion of the magistrates whether they would renew those licences or not. The cases appear to me to be exactly parallel, and I think that the provisions inserted by the Government in their Bill with respect to new licences are an exact precedent for the proposal which has been made with regard to the insertion of the time limit in this Bill.
250 There is one other point. The noble Marquess said that it was the publican who paid. Of course it is, because he gets a precarious tenure converted either into a freehold or into a lease for a certain number of years. That corresponds to one of the conditions which it will be in the power of the magistrates to insert in seven-year term licences. Who ought to pay? I think the State might call upon the holder of a licence to pay some consideration for having his position so much improved. The State has a perfect right to improve his position and his status in the manner in which it is provided to do it under this Bill, and the State has a right to call upon him to give something for that improvement. Instead of that all we call upon him to do is to contribute towards an insurance fund for the purpose of compensating persons whose licences are refused. It is not the publican who really pays, because he pays by the direction of the State. I think the State has a right to call upon him to pay something for the privilege it is giving him, but, instead of doing that, all we do is to call upon him to contribute towards the endowment fund. I am afraid that I have been tempted to intervene in this debate at too great length. I only intended to correct what appeared to me exaggerated statements as to the state of the law, but I am not sorry for the opportunity of what appears to me to be the true view of the operation of this Bill.