§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(Lord Belper.)1497
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I do not propose to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill, but I wish to state as strongly as I can the views which we on this side of the House hold on the subject, and to make what must be a final protest. It may be as well to refer to what has been done in the past on this subject. There has been a great deal of legislation on the liquor question. There was legislation in the eighteenth century, which has been strongly alluded to by the great historian, the late Mr. Lecky, who wrote that the liquor legislation of the eighteenth century was—Incomparably more momentous than any event in the purely political or military annals of the country.Then, as we all know, in the earlier part of the nineteenth century there was an attempt to introduce free trade in liquor, with the intent to benefit the country; yet that was a signal failure. I am sadly afraid that the present Bill will have no better success than the legislation to which I have referred. All I wish to say upon that is that the responsibility for this Bill, if it be a blunder, rests with the present Government; we, the Opposition, entirely wash our hands of it.
The Prime Minister some time ago, in the course of a speech on this subject, indicated that he did not expect legislation to effect a great deal of improvement with regard to drunkenness. I know that that view is held by various people, who think that, just as in Victorian years there was an enormous change for the better in regard to sobriety among the upper and upper-middle classes, probably a higher standard of morality and custom will gradually permeate the working classes. I cannot help thinking that those who urge that view forget the entirely different circumstances in which the working classes are placed. They live in squalid homes, with overcrowded and insanitary rooms, homes situated in slums in which there is a congestion of licensed houses. Can we be surprised if in these circumstances the working classes are open to the temptations of drink? I feel certain that the excessive number of public-houses in many places is of serious detriment to the morality of the poor. I think the way in which this Bill has been carried in the House of Commons must have a great effect in the country. It is 1498 a piece of legislation of a most complicated character, and therefore required lengthened and instructed criticism. No doubt there was an immense number of Amendments; but the Prime Minister himself declared on one occasion that he could not say there had been real obstruction. The Government themselves and their supporters proposed over 200 Amendments to the Bill, which showed, I think, the great necessity for the consideration of the Bill and of those Amendments, of which only one-tenth, I believe, were discussed. Therefore I would venture to say that this legislation represents more an edict of the Cabinet than a matured measure coming from Parliament I deeply regret this. I do not find that His Majesty's Government have been at all inclined to consider many of the Amendments which have been urged against the Bill, or many of the Amendments which have been proposed.
The first of what I believe to be the two great objections to the Bill is the alteration in the jurisdiction of the licensing magistrates for the future. My own opinion is that the alteration is exceedingly harmful. Under it the power of brewster sessions will be extremely limited. It destroys the close touch which brewster sessions had with the immediate locality, and I cannot for a moment believe that, so far as the question of redundant licences is concerned, they will be half as effectual as they were under the existing arrangement, while I am quite certain that a division of authority among brewster sessions, petty sessions, and quarter sessions will weaken and impair the value of the measure. I was somewhat surprised at the horror expressed when my noble and learned friend Lord Coleridge proposed an Amendment to place on the committee of quarter sessions county council representatives. I would like to remind His Majesty's Government that they pronounced a very distinct opinion in favour of representatives of the people managing licensing matters in the Bill which they themselves introduced in 1888. In moving that Bill Mr. Ritchie, who was I think Home Secretary at the time, Proposed that quarter sessions should divide their jurisdiction into districts 1499 and should control the whole of the licensing in those districts. The Cabinet of the day assented to that principle, and therefore I could not understand why there should have been such protestation against the very mild suggestion of my noble and learned friend.
The second great objection I have to the Bill is that it is no adequate reform. We have heard a great deal about the £1,250,000 that will be obtained by this fund for the abolition of redundant licences. I do not wish to dwell at any length upon this, but I would remind your Lordships that quarter sessions will not be bound to levy it and the whole money may not be collected. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London put that very strongly, and I cannot refrain from referring to what he said. It is so important that it ought to be thoroughly understood. The right rev. Prelate said—Between March, 1890, and Mardi, 1903, 552 on-licences were suppressed in London, and if progress were made at the same rate there would be a reduction in forty-eight years of 2,038 licences, whereas under the operation of this Bill the utmost would be 1,855 reductions.Then the right rev. Prelate turned to the country and asked whether there would be any greater reduction than was now going on. He had figures which showed that there had been twenty-four licences refused in 1903 at brewster sessions in Liverpool. The reduction under the Bill, said the right rev. Prelate, would be eighteen. In Manchester forty were refused, under the Bill it would be seventeen; Exeter thirteen, under the Bill two; Canterbury nine, under the Bill two; Swansea sixteen, under the Bill five. The right rev. Prelate, continuing, said it was the same in the counties, and that if this Bill was to be recommended to temperance reformers those who brought it in must show that under it the reduction would be greater than if no measure was passed. That, I think, is a very strong statement as showing that the Bill will not adequately reduce licences in the country. Then I come to a very important statement made by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, who, speaking at a meeting of the Manchester City Justices, said—The Bill in operation would not be of the slightest benefit to a city like Manchester, as 1500 it could not possibly effect within any reason able time either a material reduction in the number of licences or in the amount of drunkenness.He gave one striking example. In the district of Hulme, a part of Manchester, the brewers had agreed to surrender fifty licences before the last brewster sessions. But, said the Lord Mayor—The fifty licences have not been surrendered in consequence of the anticipated passing of the Bill. Manchester, under the Bill, might be able to reduce twenty licences a year.The discussion on this Bill in your Lordships' House has shown the meaning of the monopoly value of a licence. It is quite clear that the holder of one of these licences has a much better investment than any other trader. He has a much richer business than the grocer, the fruiterer, or any other tradesman. And why? Because he has received a monopoly from the State, and a monopoly which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of most of us on this side of the House, is not a permanent monopoly because it is legally only for a year. This Bill increases enormously the value of the business of this trade. We, on the other hand, claim that this monopoly value should be the property of the State. We meet the Government's compensation by a claim for what I will call restitution—the recovery by the State of the monopoly which the State has created, and which, for its own Imperial purposes, the State in future must be endowed with. I do not think the Bill will settle this question. I say that with great sorrow, because I should have liked the Bill to have achieved that object, and I should like to have seen your Lordships' House rise to the occasion and force on the Government some proposal which might have had this effect. I have often heard it said that temperance reformers are extremely violent and immoderate in their demands. That may have been so in the past, but I maintain that temperance reformers during the discussions here and elsewhere have been extremely moderate and have made great concessions. The noble Viscount who presided over the Royal Commission on Licensing, and who was the author of the Minority Report which advocated the strongest measures of reform, waived his individual views on this subject in order to support 1501 the most rev. Primate in the very far-reaching proposal which he moved providing a time limit. I, and many of my noble friends waived our other objections in order to concentrate ourselves on this moderate proposal, which we regret was not accepted.
I am not going to say what will happen after this Bill, which we consider neither just nor right, has passed. It may have a better effect than we think it will have, but I am afraid it will not. We have been continually told by noble Lords opposite that we will be able to alter it when we come into power. That is perfectly true; but I very much regret that it should have been thought necessary to make a suggestion of that kind with regard to a great measure—the only measure of the Government this session—which should have been framed with a view to a settlement of the question which is so greatly agitating the country. The noble Viscount used these very significant words—We have before us a struggle for mastery between the State and the trade.I have always abstained front twitting the Government with being in the hands of the trade, but I am afraid there is a great deal of evidence that the Government have been strongly attacked by the trade, and I cannot help thinking that they have introduced many of the clauses at the instance of the trade. I find this remarkable passage in an article in the Licensing World and Licensing Trade Review, a paper which, I have no doubt, speaks authoritatively on this subject—The Government Amendments proposed in the Upper Rouse do not materially affect its provisions.Everybody will agree with that—And there is little doubt that the Commons will accept them. With these we must deal next week, merely—and this is what I wish to lay stress on—congratulating in the meantime both the trade and the Government on the extremely satisfactory majorities by which the various stages of the Bill have hitherto been carried. The promises of our friends have been nobly kept, and when the opportunity arises our appreciation thereof shall be proved.Such an organisation as that of the trade may be, and often is, a menace to the Government of the day. If the 1502 example of what has been done in reference to the brewing interest were followed we should be in nearly as bad a position in regard to the high character and morality of Parliament as some other countries are. I trust that the object-lesson supplied by this Bill will have the effect of preventing the carrying of those measures of a protective character which Mr. Chamberlain is pressing upon the country. I deeply regret the passing of this measure and the methods by which the Government has passed it. I consider that in its present form the Bill will impair and shackle the efforts of real and earnest licensing reformers, and will in no wax bring about a diminution of drinking and drunkenness in this country, with all its consequences of crime and poverty.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, as the Episcopal Bench has been perhaps unusally prominent in these discussions, I should like to say a few words before the Bill passes from the purview of your Lordships' House. To say that we who sit on these Benches are not disappointed at the outcome of the week's discussion would be, of course, to stultify the action that we have taken throughout. We are disappointed. We did believe that we could. without unfairness to anybody, make the Bill a good deal better than it was when it left the House of Commons and came to this House, and we did hope for a more favourable hearing than we obtained from those who sit on the Government Bench. As the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, we modified the proposals we made at the risk of finding them regarded by our friends as having been emasculated to the point of uselessness. I do not think they would have been useless if they had been carried. I believe the Amendment we proposed with regard to the time limit would have made all the difference in the world as regards the future working of the Bill.
Those who try to take a moderate position in matters of this kind are, I suppose, always exposed to two fires. We have been exposed to the fire of those who sit upon the Government Bench in this House. The noble Marquess the Lord Privy Seal, while speaking 1503 with perfect courtesy, let it be not obscurely understood that he did regard a good many of us who were opposed to him in some of these matters as faddists, or as men who were really at heart adverse to the existence of the trade and its licences altogether. Nothing could be further from the fact, but we have been undoubtedly so represented. On the other hand, we have found throughout these months of controversy that the advance wing of temperance reformers thought that they were not being helped as they ought by us, and that we (as it was put by a leading organ of a political kind the other day) would obviously prefer to see England remain drunk rather than to see it not under the dominance of the Episcopal Bench. That kind of acerbity may be disregarded altogether.
But at the same time it ought to be remembered that when we have come forward and tried to make a move of this kind, it has not been without the compulsion of separating ourselves to some extent from those who would go further in the direction of reform, and who are actuated by deep-seated principles and by motives of a high and lofty sort. We did take that position. We have done our best. We have tried to fight for what seemed to us to be principles rather than worry over small details in the machinery. But we have been fairly beaten in those endeavours. The Government has been stiff, and, as we think, unduly unyielding. We may be mistaken, but we still believe that a great man of the details of this measure will prove extraordinarily difficult to work out in practice. All that I should like to say now is that if the time comes when it is found that there is a reaction against the provisions of this measure, because of their cumbrousness and unworkableness or their ineffectiveness in doing what they profess to do, I hope it will be remembered that we did make a genuine endeavour, without success, to obtain Amendments.
We have now got the Bill, and, as my right rev. brother said the other night, we have got to live with it, at any rate for a time. Personally, I do not believe it will be a very long time that we shall have to live with it exactly as it is, and this, not so much because of the probe- 1504 bility of our opponents desiring to reopen the question at an early date—I think experience shows that to reopen this question is not a task that is much loved by any Government, or Party—but because, as I believe, the machinery will require re-setting; and incidentally, therefore, the question will have to be more or less reopened. But while we have got the Bill as it is, I desire to say most emphatically, speaking at all events for myself, and I think I may say for a great many others, that we do mean to do our very best to make it work well. We desire by public guidance, by private counsel and advice, and by loyalty to its principles, so far as they go, to make it work as well as ever we can for a cause we all have at heart. We can say, and we do say, that it will not be our fault if the Act does not work well. We desire to help forward the cause which we are told this Bill is designed to promote, and if our fears are falsified and the Bill turns out in working to be so much better than we have anticipated, no one will be more thankful than those whom I have the privilege of representing.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I have no intention of addressing your Lordships at any length on this occasion, but I do not think it would be respectful to the noble Earl opposite that on this, the last occasion that we have of discussing the details of the measure, his remarks should. go entirely unanswered. Let me say, in the first place, that I fully recognise the fair and reasonable spirit in which the most rev. Primate, and also the noble Earl opposite, have made the protest which they think necessary at this the last stage of the Bill. I know than their views with regard to this measure differ widely from ours, and I acknowledge that they have a perfect right, not having succeeded in carrying many of the Amendments which they proposed, in making their protest against the Bill, and at the same time I recognise that they have done it in a spirit to which no one could take exception. The first point to which the noble Earl addressed himself was, I think, the jurisdiction of magistrates. I ventured, in moving the Second Reading, to go at some length into the actual proposals of the Bill, because I felt. 1505 that some injustice had been done and that the proposals had not been fairly represented. Notwithstanding all the criticism that has been passed upon the proposed changes, I still maintain that the views and interests of the local bench are well protected.
It is not fair to make the distinction sought to be set up between the local magistrates and quarter sessions. The latter are composed of local justices, and local opinion will not and cannot be ignored, while it is absolutely essential that the fund should be under the administration of the county authority. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London made sonic remarks on the Second Reading of a very trenchant character with regard to the number of licences that had already been done away with and the number that would be abolished in the future under this Bill. I think it has already been shown that the basis of his calculation was one which he would himself admit ought to be modified, in view of the facts that have been laid before him. He took a basis which was much higher than that which would probably apply to the average licence done away with, and in that way he made it appear that fewer licences would be abolished under this Bill than would otherwise be the case. By reference to what has been done in Liverpool, Manchester, and elsewhere in the reduction of licences, an endeavour has been made to show that the effect of the Bill will be small; but the broad fact is that while the highest number of licences clone away with in a year on the ground of non-requirement was 200, under the Bill the lowest estimate for the first year's operations is 1,500.
It is perfectly true that this Bill does recognise monopoly value in licences at present in existence; that has been allowed to grow up, and the Government do not feel that they would be acting justly in ignoring it, especially when the compensation is to come out of the pockets of the members of the trade themselves. What I ask the House to remember, and I do not think it has been recognised as fully as it ought to have been in this House, is that for the first time in any legislation the trade is going to pay the whole of the compensation out of their own pockets. 1506 I venture to say that if that proposal had been made a few years ago there would have been little opportunity of its reaching this House. This fund which the trade will pay is not a small sum. A remark was made at the last stage of the Bill deprecating giving increased value to brewers who had more than one house done away with. It was said that the higher scale which they would be charged would be quite out of proportion to the increase in the value of their premises; but let the House remember that there nothing else out of which they can be compensated but this fund which they contribute themselves. Something like 80 per cent. of the total number of public-houses are tied houses, and I think it will be admitted that tied houses are of at least as great value as ordinary houses. If that is the case, it is making a very low estimate, supposing the provisions in this Bill are fully enforced, to say that the actual contributions of the trade themselves during each year will be about £1,000,000. That is not a small sum, and although they will get compensation for disturbance they will for many years before their houses are touched pay this very large levy.
The proposal for a time limit the-Government could not see their way in. fairness to accept, and if it should be the desire of the country that licences should be reduced more quickly than the rate the Bill provides, then the only reasonable and logical way of doing it would be by the public providing the fund for the purpose. I had a conversation during the week with a gentleman who has had as large an experience in the management of hotels and houses in which spirituous liquors are sold as anybody in the country, and he stated that he looked for the promotion of temperance, net so much to, the doing away of a very large number of public-houses as to a change in the conditions, which will lead to the setting up of refreshment houses, in which direction Lord Grey and others have done such useful work, houses in which there will be discouragement of excessive drinking. I cannot see myself, why, when a reasonable number of houses have been red aced, the magistrates should not largely make use of the power they have of doing away with the present public-houses in order to set up houses under conditions which 1507 would be satisfactory to the public and tend against excessive drinking. Although we should have liked to have met the Amendments of the Opposition to a much larger extent than we were able to, I nevertheless sincerely believe that the Bill will prove a measure which will lead to a very appreciable reduction in the number of public-houses, and with a considerable reduction of the existing number of licences the Bill will, I believe, pave the way to a much better condition of things in the management of licensed houses.
*TILE ACTING CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH)
I hope your Lordships will not think I am taking too much upon myself if I intrude in this debate and say a few words upon this subject before we part altogether with the Bill. I took no part in the Second Reading of the Bill, and, for reasons which are known to your Lordships, it would probably not have been convenient if I had intervened at the Committee stage, and I will frankly admit that most of the experience which I can bring to bear upon this subject is derived from that country which is north of the Tweed, and does not enable me to speak with much confidence upon many of the intricate questions involved in the English licensing law. At the same time there are some, and not a few, general principles to be found in the legislation which Parliament hag passed at various times upon this subject which are common to the countries both north and south of the Tweed.
The experience which I have had in this matter is this. I served for more than twenty years before the time I went into office as chairman of a licensing, bench, and I had last year to consider the whole licensing law of Scotland on behalf of the Government. We succeeded in codifying it and making some important reforms. It seems to me that some sound general principles of wide application are infringed by this Bill, and as there is always a danger that things which are thought good for the country south of the Tweed may have a tendency to apply themselves, or to be applied, to the country north of the Tweed I wish to put in a caveat and to say that from my experience of Scottish law, Scottish interests, and 1508 Scottish circumstances, there is hardly anything in this Bill which would be welcomed in Scotland.
It is claimed as a great measure of temperance reform, and I have no doubt whatever that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government it is a measure of temperance reform. But I hope before this debate concludes some one on behalf of the Government will give us a definite list of the points in the Bill which they consider as tending in the direction of temperance reform. Having paid some attention to the discussions which went on in Committee the other night, I can only think of two. One is the changed position which will be given to the ante-1869 beer houses. That is a class of institution which, fortunately as I think, we do not know in Scotland, and I grant at once that it is a considerable measure of temperance reform that they will be to a large extent deprived, under proper safeguards and compensation, of the peculiar position of privilege which they have occupied up to this time. The second point tending in the direction of temperance reform in this Bill is the increased probability of a reduction of licences. That point has been challenged by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, by the noble Earl opposite, and by others; but I venture to say that, in my opinion, on that point the Government have made out a certain case under this Bill, and that for causes other than misconduct, there is a considerable prospect of, at any rate, some reduction of licences.
I do not desire to understate that matter, but to put it perfectly fairly. I think there is sometimes a tendency to lay too much stress on the probable effect of a reduction in the number of licences. We have all heard of the gentleman who can pass three public-houses but cannot pass the fourth. I venture to think that he is a somewhat mythical person. I believe that if a man passes three public-houses and goes into the fourth it is because he has some object in doing so. He either prefers the company he gets there or the beverages in the fourth establishment; and my belief is that so far as that class of person is concerned if you were to shut up the fourth public-house he would find his way into the third, and that if you shut up the third it is not improbable that he would 1509 find his way into the second. But there of a point in regard to the reduction of licences whch I think important. The had point about the excessive number of licences is the unhealthy competition which is created amongst the licence-holders for the custom of those who use the houses. Excessive competition is bad because it induces the provision of attractions, one house against the other, which, undoubtedly, do tend to the consumption of a greater amount of alcoholic liquor than would otherwise be consumed.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House claimed great credit the other day for the Bill in that it would put an end to licences where they were redundant. The noble Lord who spoke last confirmed that, and added that this compensation will all come out of the pockets of the trade. To a certain extent it will; but one of the objections which I have to he Bill is that the method by which that compensation is taken and the privileges whch are given in return for it are such as to put the public in a worse position after the Bill became law than they were before. The quotation which the noble Earl read to the House shows that the trade feel that even if this Bill passes in the form in which it is now before your Lordships, as it probably will, they as a trade can congratulate themselves upon having made a very good bargain in regard to this matter. Those are the two points, for what they are worth, on which I think the Government are justified in claiming this as a measure of temperance reform. I agree about the beer-houses altogether, and regard the other as too dearly bought.
I think the Government have made a mistake in not attempting in this Bill to attack the tied-house system. I believe that that system as it has grown up in this country is the bane of the whole trade and of the public. I believe that to no single cause is the present state of things due more than to the fact that these houses are the property of great brewery companies, and that the people who are actually concerned with their management are obliged by the position they occupy in regard to those brewery companies to push the sale of alcoholic liquors by all means in their power, fair and unfair, and feel that their prospects 1510 and chances in life depend on the amount of return which they transmit to those who are really their masters. I believe that the noble Lord who spoke last was perfectly right when he said that one of the great points to be looked at in this question of licences was not so much the number of houses which remained as the kind of management under which they are carried on. I believe that there is more to be done by a wise, healthy, scrupulous, and conscientious management of the houses and strict conformity not only with the letter but with the spirit of the law, than by the mere reduction of their number, and it is because I do not see in this Bill any sufficient premium for good management that I think a great opportunity has been lost by the Government. I know there is a clause in the Bill that there is to be refreshment at reasonable prices, but I venture to think it is not so much a question of whether there is to be a mutton chop for 6d. or a sausage roll for 2½d. as whether the general management of the establishment is to be satisfactory or whether there is an indirect compulsion put upon the taking of the strongest class of intoxicating liquors as contrasted with other beverages.
I deprecate greatly the interference with the discretion of the magistrates. I listened with great interest to what the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack said the other night, that this work was not in the strict sense of the term judicial work; but that it is administrative work which has to be done in a judicial spirit. In my opinion the maintenance of the absolute discretion of the Bench is the very keynote of all temperance reform. I do not believe you can get efficient work by hedging the Bench round with rules. You must put men on the Bench whom you can trust, and when they are there von must trust them. You must make them feel that they are responsible to the country for the action they take, and, if I may venture to say so, they must not be on a particular Bench in very large numbers. For this reason, the larger the number the less is the sense of direct personal responsibility. That was the principle upon which we went last year in Scotland, and although, as the noble Lord said, we allowed a considerable infusion of the elective element, we limited the 1511 numbers of our Bench very carefully, and I know that that reform has been accepted with gratitude by the trade and with absolute concurrence by those who are engaged in the work of temperance reform.
I do not venture to say that the reform of the Bench comes within the scope of this Bill. It does not. But who fixed the scope of the Bill? Who are responsible for that? I express my own personal opinion that if the Government had undertaken the reform of the Bench rather than a tinkering with their powers, their Bill would have had a more cordial reception and would have been likely to effect a great deal better work in the future. There can be no doubt of this, that the whole tenure of licences in England has been changed by this Bill. It will be a wholly different tenure after this Bill has passed from what it was before, and my objection to the change is that, in my humble opinion, it does not pave the way for that complete freedom to the public which will be the only final and permanent solution of this question. I go further and say I believe it will he an absolute obstacle in the way of that complete reform.
We all agree that some interest has grown up in the licence. No noble Lord has taken the extravagant and, as I think. the absurd position of saying that no interest exists, and that you can suddenly deprive the holders of licences of their interest, such as it is, without compensation. There is no doubt whatever that partly by custom, partly by the apathy of the public, partly by the practice of the Bench itself, a very material interest has been acquired, and it has been acknowledged and accepted and acted upon by the Inland Revenue authorities, who have taken duty upon it when it has been transferred from one holder to another by death. Both sides of the House have agreed to accept that reasonable position. I do not know whether your Lordships recollect the retort which was made by Mr. Bradlaugh to some of Mr. Henry George's theories. He is reported to have said that there are only two ways by which one man can acquire the property of another—one was by purchase and the ether by stealing. There are only those ways, and you must either confiscate the 1512 property or give some fair form of recompense.
No one, I think, can really contend that the interest which has grown up is anything like a freehold interest; and I venture to say that the blot upon this. Bill is that the interest has been put far too high, and that, in the future it will place in a far too greatly privileged position those who hold licences at the present time for the sale of intoxicating liquors. The noble Marquess the Lord Privy Seal said—But you must remember that many people have invested their money in these licences, and to deprive them of what they have paid for would be pillage.That is a strong term, and if it was proposed to absolutely deprive the holders of licences of the interest they had acquired I should agree, but I think it is put far too high. You cannot at this time of day protect adult men and women against wrong and improvident investments, and to apply such a term as "pillage" to any proposal that has been made in this House is to place the argument far too high.
I dislike the source of compensation which is provided by this Bill, and I dislike it because I see in it, I was going to say, no finality, but, if it has any finality, it is in the direction of making exceedingly difficult the absolute recovery of that freedom of dealing with licences which ought to be the whole end of temperance reform. I think that a time limit of sufficient duration, accompanied by a scheme of compulsory mutual insurance, would have been a sufficient solution of this difficulty. But if that was not sufficient—I am speaking only for myself, and I know that very few temperance reformers will agree with me—I would sooner have seen a fund established avowedly from national resources for the purpose of compensation, in order to secure to the public the complete freedom of dealing with licences without which no temperance reform can ever be complete. Having regard to the position of matters in Scotland, I do not think that the principles of this Bill could fairly be applied to that country, and I think it right to say so now, lest by my silence I might hereafter in this House or in Scotland be held to have tacitly passed 1513 for England, without having put in any caveat, a scheme which might be regarded as satisfactory for Scotland.
There are three or four very considerable differences in our position from I that soath of the Tweed. In the first place, our licence is granted to the person who actually carries on the business, and the owner of the premises is very little, if at all, recognised. The brewers and distillers are not recognised as owners of licences. I have not been actively connected with licensing matters in Scotland for the past decade, but up to ten years ago the Bench over which I presided made it their practice to warn licence-holders that if they tied themselves to ally brewery or distillery the Bench would regard that as justifying the taking away of the licence. If that practice had been maintained in England it would have been better. As to the actual licence, when the interest which the holder has acquired in the goodwill, or whatever it may be, of the premises comes to be valued, it is carefully considered whether he is the tenant or the owner, and, if he is the tenant, what length of lease he possesses.
Every licence-holder must be in one of four classes. He may be either a tenant with a lease or a tenant without a lease, or he may be the owner and occupier or the owner and not the occupier. The Inland Revenue authorities in Scotland have not given away the case so completely as I am afraid has been the case in England. When a man is a tenant with no lease, it is very rarely that any duty is got by the Inland Revenue. If there has been a sale to tic incoming tenant, or if the late tenant has recently bought, there is an effort to get at what he paid and something is taken, but generally the sale is conditional on the transfer of the licence being obtained. In the case where the man is a tenant under a lease his interest stands somewhat higher, and in the strongest case of all, when a man is both owner and occupier, a duty is got, but it is only obtained upon a very small calculation of the enhanced value.
I was looking through the state of the law last year and came across a recorded case in the Court of Session where there had been a contest be- 1514 tween the Inland Revenue authorities and the owner of a licence as to the value of the goodwill. The case is that of the Lord Advocate on behalf of the Inland Revenue against the widow of a spirit merchant residing in Edinburgh. In that case the Inland Revenue claimed £3,000 or five times the annual value of the goodwill, which they put at £600. The owner of the licence contested both the number of years purchase and the value put upon the goodwill, and after consultation and the showing of figures an agreement was come to—it was not a decision by the Court but an agreement between parties ratified by the Court—fixing an annual value of £200 for the goodwill; but what was the gross sun paid? It was only £500, or two-and-half years purchase. That shows at once that if anything in the nature of this Bill was to he applied to Scotland we should be in an infinitely worse position than we are at the present time.
I feel that I owe your Lordships an apology for having entered upon this discussion. It is a matter on which, so far as England is concerned, I have no practical or personal experience, but I am apprehensive that an attempt may be made to extend the general principles of this Bill to Scotland, and I wish to take this opportunity of showing, not only that there is a difference in the circumstances of the two countries, but that it would be act of gross injustice to apply the principles of this Bill to the country north of the Tweed.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, considering that my noble friend who had just sat down did not vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, and proposed no Amendments on the Report stage, when the disabilitity to which he had called attention would not have attached to him, I think we might have been rather surprised at the tenor of his speech but for one consideration. I have always observed that when an Assembly such as your Lordships' House is addressed by a Member hailing from north of the Tweed, it is always necessary for them to listen to the observation, couched in very elaborate terms, but always to the same effect—"We are not as other men." And, 1515 my Lords, I think my noble friend's speech was an elaborate extension of that ancient phrase. He asked us, however, to state to him and to the House what were the improvements in temperance legislation which we claim to have effected by this Bill. Even as he himself related them, I think your Lordships will agree that the improvements were by no means inconsiderable. But his enumeration was not complete.
When he was making this elaborate attack upon the provisions of the Bill, my noble friend absolutely omitted to notice all the provisions which have reference to new licences. That was a very astonishing omission. I admit that in regard to existing licences the Government have felt themselves restricted by their feeling of obligation to acknowledge that pecuniary interest in their licences which existing licensees, by the admission of my noble friend, possess. But with regard to new licences we were not hampered, and in respect of new licences by far the greatest change in the law in respect of temperance legislation is to be found. We have done our best to make it impossible henceforward for the monopoly value of the liquor trade to belong to anybody else but the State. As to the precise application of the money which will arise from the monopoly value of the new licences, we have had a good deal of discussion upon that in Committee and on the Report stage. We were able to make a very important concession to independent Members of your Lordships' House, and I think it will be agreed that, whatever may be the ultimate shape which that Amendment assumes, we have at any rate done this, we have removed from the legislation of this country that very gross provision by which Parliament gives to private individuals, with the licences, the monopoly value of the drink, to which they have no claim, to the detriment of the community. That is, I think, a very important element in the list which my noble friend entirely forgot.
Then there are the ante-1869 beer-houses. My noble friend mentioned them, but only in order to convey the information to your Lordships that in that blessed country north of the Tweed there are no ante-1869 beerhouses. I 1516 congratulate my noble friend. It makes the task of dealing with Scotland, of course, easier; but I do not think that detracts from our merit in having dealt with the problem south of the Tweed. When your Lordships remember that one-third of the whole of the licensed houses south of the Tweed are ante-1869 beerhouses, and that for the first time they become by this Bill subject to the ultimate control of the magistrates of this country, so that they can, if necessary, be suppressed, I think your Lordships will admit that that constitutes a very large item to be placed to the credit side of the account when estimating what good for temperance this Bill will effect.
Then there is the reduction of licences. My noble friend mentioned that, but with a good deal of criticism. Other noble Lords have minimised the merit of that provision, because they have said that the number of public-houses which we propose to reduce will be very few. I do not propose to go over the ground which was discussed on the other stages of the Bill, nor do I propose to repeat what my noble friend Lord Belper has just said, but I would like to remind your Lordships of this, that when we have mentioned the number of licensed houses which can be suppressed under this Bill, we have nearly always spoken of the money available as an annual sum. But if quarter sessions or the great municipalities are anxious to move more quickly they can capitalise the annual sum to the extent permitted by the Amendment inserted at the last stage, namely, for fifteen years. The money can be so capitalised with the consent of the Home Secretary and that will produce in London alone an enormous sum, and enable an immediate enormous reduction in the number of licensed houses. That is a method of dealing with this subject which I think your Lordships will agree to a large extent meets the criticism of the right rev. Prelate that very little is done under the Bill. You will have a sum which I calculate will be at least £2,500,000 if the full fifteen years term of borrowing is permitted, with which the licensed houses can be immediately reduced within a few months after the passing of 1517 this Bill. I hope it may be some comfort to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London that, after all, he will not find the Bill so useless as he imagines. But my noble friend who has just sat down is still dissatisfied with what the Bill can effect. He forgot the great facilities which will be given by this Bill to my noble friend Earl Grey to carry out his system of licensing reform. I suppose that does not interest our friends north of the Tweed.
§ *LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I beg the noble Marquess's pardon. I happen to be President of the trust in Scotland which is working the same scheme.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am very glad to find that there is one particular in which Scotland is content to be taught by England. It is rather wonderful to hear the example of Scotland trotted out in temperance discussions. Though perhaps in most respects Scotland is far better than England—I have no doubt my noble friend would assure us it was so—yet in temperance matters Scotsmen have fallen a little behind their friends south of the Tweed, and perhaps the difference of our licensing law may have had something to do with it. It does not follow necessarily that because the licensing law in Scotland differs from the licensing law in England we stand in a worse position than the sister kingdom. My noble friend, however, said he would have preferred that we had established a rational fund, contributed by the ordinary taxpayers, with which we might have bought out all the interests in licensed premises. That is not a proposal which, I think, at the present moment would have successfully been made to my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but, as a matter of fact, there is nothing whatever in our Bill, when it becomes law, to prevent my noble friend or noble Lords opposite, if they have the control of the Government of this country, from establishing such a national fund. Let them, by all means—it will not be inconsistent with our Bill—come to Parliament and ask for powers to collect the taxes with the view of buying out the interest of publicans. That would undoubtedly 1518 produce much more rapid results than we shall be able to obtain under this Bill, but I doubt very much whether noble Lords opposite will take that course, and I very much doubt whether my noble friend will be in a position to propose it.
Therefore, my Lords, we must come back to the Government Bill, and the principles on which it is worked. We think that it is calculated to carry out a great many temperance reforms. We do Lot agree with my noble friend's condemnation of the tied-house system. We see no reason to pronounce this condemnation ex cathedra of that system. The Majority Report of the Royal Commission states that there is a great deal to be said for the tied-house system. I do not say that if we had to start completely afresh we might not invent something better, but where the tied-house system is in the hands of good brewers, the Majority Report found that it was not a bad system but a good system, and that the large brewers used their influence, not for mischief, but in order to do good to the community. I respectfully protest against this unmeasured, this unlimited condemnation of a perfectly respectable body of men.
My noble friend said there was nothing in our Bill for good management. I imagine he has not noticed that the amount of compensation which will be awarded to the publican if his licence is suppressed depends on good management. In the ordinary case of a publican whose tenure is a year or less than a year, the amount the publican will get out of the compensation money will depend on his good conduct. Is that not a provision in the interests of good management? Then my noble friend, having attacked His Majesty's Government, made a general attack on all the magistrates south of the Tweed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I understood the noble Lord to say that what we had to do was not to think so much about public-houses but to reform the Bench. I happen to have the great honour of being a magistrate myself, as 1519 has nearly every one of your Lordships, and I utterly repudiate the idea that we are unfit for our work in this respect. Why should the noble Lord say so? Why should he think so? What interest have we, the magistrates, to do anything but our duty in regard to the licensing law? For myself, I believe that the changes in the law in our Bill with respect to the magistrates are for good. They do not limit their powers—in some respects they extend their powers; and as quarter sessions will necessarily include the best magistrates of a county, we may expect from them a still further improvement in the administration of the licensing law.
I will say one word with regard to the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. He regretted the Bill, and he regretted more than the Bill the method by which it had been carried. I share with him that regret. I think it is a profound pity that the Parliamentary machine does not seem to work as well as it used to. I have been seventeen years in the House of Commons, and I have some experience of the reason and causes of these things. It does not, perhaps, become a Member of your Lordships' House to make criticisms on the methods of business in another place; but I may say this, that if the object of those who discuss a Bill is not merely to improve it, but also to break the Government programme for the session, then you will never get a Bill properly discussed whatever your rules or constitution may be. That being so, it is not surprising that the Bill should have come up to your Lordships with so many of its provisions not properly submitted to the other House of Parliament.
§ EARL SPENCER
The noble Marquess is alleging what I should describe as pure obstruction, but the Prime Minister absolutely stated on one occasion that he did not consider there had been any obstruction in the Amendments which had been put down and in the discussion which had taken place on the Bill in the other House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think we had better avoid epithets. I will not call it anything. All I say is, that if there is not a desire to amend the 1520 Bill, but an unavowed desire to make the progress of Government business difficult, and to break the session, you will never get a Bill properly discussed. I was very careful, knowing that these debates in your Lordships' House were impending, to carefully read everything that was said in the other House. I find that nearly all, if not all, the important points in this Bill were in fact discussed, not necessarily upon the specific clauses or lines where they arise in the Bill, but in the course of the various discussions upon the Bill. I have only one word more to say, and it is to thank the most rev. Primate for the great moderation of his speech this evening. I do not think he ever could have entertained the hope that the Government would accept the time limit which he proposed. But I recognise that the time limit having been rejected, it is, if I may say so with great respect, exceedingly creditable to him that he should be able to speak so well of the Bill. He has told your Lordships that though he does not agree with the Bill, though his opposition to it remains, vet he intends to do his utmost to make it work well, and that, I think, is a sentiment which every one of your Lordships will approve. I hope that the light which we have been able to throw on the provisions of the Bill in another place, and in your Lordships' House, may have led some noble Lords who were originally opposed to the Bill, to take a more charitable view of it, and to share with the Government the hope, nay, the expectation, that some good to temperance may at last be effected.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I only rise to say one word before the Bill is read a third time and passed. The critics of the Bill have been reinforced by the speech of Lord Balfour, who is one of the most level-headed and fairest-minded Members of your Lordships' House. There is an old saying about erring with Plato; there are many subjects on which I would rather be beaten with Lord Balfour than win with many another. In reference to what has been said about my figures, I presume that I may scrutinise carefully the string by which any attraction hangs which is held out to me. It was the Colonial Secretary who held out the attraction 1521 that the public-houses of London would be reduced 25 per cent., the string by which it hung was the estimate of £3,000 per licence. I was perfectly justified then in taking this as the estimate. Put this £3,000 into the £5,565,000 and it gives the exact number I mentioned, 1855. My figures, therefore, have by no means been shaken by any criticism. Let me add, however, in the spirit of the most rev. Primate, that if more public-houses are closed titan I expect under the Bill, no one will be more glad than I. Though I have opposed the Bill, as I think your Lordships will agree it was my duty to do, I, too, will do my best to work the Bill in London. If it does more good than I expect, I shall be very glad indeed.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.