§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWE)
My 281 Lords, the task of commending to your Lordship's House a Bill, many of the provisions of which are known to be distasteful to the majority of the House, is at no time an easy or simple one, but on this occasion, in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to the Licensing Bill, my task is one of additional difficulty owing to the very special and singular circumstances under which we meet for the purpose. Your Lordships' House is often an assembly of foregone conclusions, but in my experience I never remember an occasion in which the conclusion has been so completely, so palpably, and, I may say, so cynically foregone as it is on this occasion.
I have learned, through what are known as the ordinary channels of information, that your Lordships held a sitting yesterday, not in this Chamber, but in a famous house in a famous square, and that at that sitting a novel stage of this Bill, interposed between the First and Second Readings, was considered. So far as I am able to gather from the published reports, the Bill was very rapidly considered. We hear of guillotine and closure by compartments, but yesterday, so far as I am able to understand, the measure was closured without compartments. I am bound to say that I do not think the manner in which that proceeding was conducted will redound in the country to the credit of your Lordships' House—I will not say as a revising Chamber, but as an assembly which assumes to be deliberative. We shall have, I suppose, to accept the result of that meeting, unless some general epidemic such as overtook the Egyptians in the days of Moses were to fall upon the noble Lords opposite, which for personal reasons we should deeply deplore. We must, I suppose, assume that the Amendment of the noble Marquess will be carried, and even if that unhappy epidemic were to take place, so great are the resources of the noble Marquess opposite that, if, like Pharaoh, he were to harden his heart, I have no doubt he could bring up a fresh host to overwhelm the stanch, but sparse, battalions on these benches.
282 In spite of what occurred yesterday, I feel it is due to the House, and due also to those who are sitting on these Benches, that we should state our case. I confess, however, that I am tempted to state it in a somewhat different manner from that which I should have employed if the Bill were going to be dealt with on its merits in the ordinary manner. It seems to me it would be reasonable to dwell less upon this, and that clause of the Bill in order, than to say something on the general principles on which the Bill is founded, and on the general effect which will result from setting aside this measure—if your Lordships do so—and leaving things in the condition in which they are at this moment.
My Lords, this measure is designed to attack the most serious and the most tremendous of all our social problems. I may make a quotation from the Majority Report of the Commission of 1899, which has been quoted a hundred times in this controversy, but will bear quotation again. That majority, as your Lordships will remember, contained in its ranks eight gentlemen of the highest character who were themselves interested in the trade. In the course of their Report it was said—A gigantic evil remains to be remedied, and hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in a marked diminution of this national degradation.I turn from that to the Amendment of the noble Marquess, and I see he does not speak of sacrifice. He speaks of inconvenience. "Grave" inconvenience would be caused to many of His Majesty's subjects by the passing of this Bill. My Lords, I do not believe it is possible to engage in any scheme of social reform on any subject without causing inconvenience to some person. Whether your object is better housing of the people, or social improvement in any direction, you cannot proceed without causing inconvenience, and I venture to say that, if this great problem is to be dealt with, there must be, beyond inconvenience, something of that spirit of sacrifice mentioned in the Majority Report. If there is to be a diminution of the drink trade, it must, no doubt, be accompanied by 283 some loss to those who are engaged in it, and it is also undoubtedly true that a serious diminution in the volume of the drink trade will involve a sacrifice of revenue on the part of the nation.
It is said, on the authority of those who have studied this matter closely, that not less than one-sixth of the income of the working classes of this country is spent upon alcoholic drink. That bare statement is in itself, I think, a justification for attempting to deal with the subject. But it is said by some—true, this is a deplorable state of things, but you can do little or nothing by legislation; you must trust to moral agencies, to general social progress and the spread of education, and so forth. Well, I have noticed that those statements are not made by those who conduct the moral agencies of the country. They are made, as a rule, I think, by people who do not themselves take any very active part in promoting social progress. You do not hear those statements from those who spend their lives in working among the poor. I should be very much surprised to hear them—at any rate to any extent—from the right rev. bench, who have practical experience in these matters beyond any which is given to us lay Members of your Lordships' House. It is said you cannot make the people sober by Act of Parliament. It is true, in a sense, that you cannot. You cannot make people moral by Act of Parliament, but that does not prevent your combating open attempts to encourage immorality. The fact is, and surely it is well-known to those who attempt to study social problems, that there is an inter-action between these moral agencies and legislation. They act and re-act on each other and help each other towards the object it is their desire to attain. In this very matter I remember being told by the last Norwegian Minister to this country that he had been greatly impressed by the manner in which temperance legislation and what apparently was a voluntary change in the habits of the people in regard to excessive drinking had gone hand in hand, though it was difficult to say more than that it had been simultaneous, and it was not easy to say precisely what could be put down to the score of one and what to the score of the other. We believe that 284 similar results will be looked for by wise legislation in this country. My Lords, you cannot make people kind by Act of Parliament. Take, for instance, the different Acts of Parliament which have been passed in relation to children. A large part of the benefit of that legislation has not been the punishment of those who are actively cruel to children, but the inculcation of a higher standard and a better habit, and a sense of responsibility which is brought home to people by the fact of the legislation that has been passed. We are told that the licensed trade ought not to be harassed because excessive drinking, or at any rate drunkenness, is as much condemned by the trade, and, indeed, is as hostile to the interests of the trade, as anything can be. I should never doubt for a moment the sincerity of any person engaged either in the wholesale or the retail sale of alcoholic drink who reprehended drunkenness. Far from it, but the mere fact in itself, it seems to me, doss not take one very far. If anyone were to ask those who are responsible for the administration of such places as the Casino at Monte Carlo, whether they objected to high play and to people ruining themselves at the tables, I have no doubt they would say with the utmost candour that they did. How much more sensible, they would say, would it be, if instead of ten people coming to lose £1,000 1,000 people came and were prepared to lose a small sum like £10. Similarly no doubt, with the trade in drink. How much more rational if fewer people drank so much and more people drank a smaller amount. But this does not take you very far. What we want to know is whether the licensed trade as a whole is prepared to admit that the volume of the trade ought to be very greatly reduced in the interests of the public. I have no doubt that among those engaged in the trade there are a number who would be willing to agree to a pecuniary sacrifice for this object, but whether it is true of the trade as, a whole I confess that I feel some little doubt.
We are at present under the Licensing Act of 1904. That measure must, I suppose, in view of the noble Marques's Amendment, be taken as representing the last word on temperance legislation in this country. We shall have to 285 conduct our affairs, if your Lordships reject the Bill, at any rate for a considerable time to come under the Act of 1904. We opposed the Act of 1904 because we thought that it made it more difficult to cope with this form of national degradation to which the Majority Report referred. But the Act of 1904 did recognise the principle of reduction in the number of public-houses. That principle of reduction we we carry further in the first clause of this Bill. By it we institute a system of statutory general reduction, according to a scale which will be found in the first schedule. The scale is uniform, but it is subject to certain exceptions. Where, for instance, it can be shown that a licence to sell alcoholic drink is merely auxiliary to other purposes; where it can be shown that, as, for instance, in the case of pleasure resorts, there is need for a larger supply owing to a great influx of visitors in the summer months—in such cases provision is made for exceptions to the general standard and the general rule.
On this matter of reduction, there are two arguments which are not exactly compatible with each other, although they are often used by people speaking in the same interest. The first is that reduction in the number of public-houses has no proved relation to the diminution in the amount of drunkenness. What exactly is meant by drunkenness? Some people rely simply and solely on convictions for drunkenness, but I cannot conceive a more fallacious test than that. The real point is: Is there a relation between the reduction in the number of licences and excessive drinking? I believe that the testimony of the police on this point is almost unanimous. You cannot say of a particular place that because one public-house is closed, therefore a wave of sobriety passes over the neighbourhood. But speaking generally, and especially in regard to crowded centres of population, there can be no question that the reduction in the number of licences bears a very real relation to the amount of excessive drinking. After all, it almost stands to reason that it must be so. It is a commonplace of a hundred pulpits—we have heard it over and over again—that particular kinds of 286 temptations, such as those which induce people to drink—temptations, that is to say, which appeal to the senses—are made infinitely more difficult to resist by the multiplication of opportunity. That is a positive platitude; but, at the same time, it goes a long way towards proving this particular case. I would remind the House also that both the Majority and the Minority Report of the Commission of 1899 stated that in their view a large reduction in the number of licences was necessary for the improvement of the condition of the country.
The other argument used against this Bill is that the reduction which is now proceeding under the Act of 1904 makes it needless to do anything to accelerate it. It is said that something like 1,200 licences a year have been reduced in the first three years operation of the Act. Even supposing that to be a sufficient number, which may well be disputed, there are one or two considerations that have to be borne in mind. That reduction is very unequal in its incidence and its inequality is not in proportion to the number of licences held in various places. Further, is there any guarantee that anything like this rate of reduction is likely to continue? In 1907, one licensing authority in five was doing nothing, was taking absolutely no steps at all towards extinguishing licences under the Act of 1904. In Great Yarmouth there is one public-house, including beer-houses, for every 200 inhabitants; that is to say, about one for every fifty adult males; and nothing has been done. In Huntingdonshire there is one public-house, including beer-houses, for just over 100 of the inhabitants, or one for every twenty-five adult males. The licensing authority there have recently informed the Home Office, under the Act of 1904, that they do not intend to impose any compensation levy, or to proceed any further under the Act. I do not know what the local circumstances may be, but the figures are as I have stated. There is no guarantee, indeed, that any licensing authority which is now proceeding with some activity under the Act may not discontinue its efforts at any moment. When therefore people argue that the present reduction ought to be multiplied by fourteen in respect of the next fourteen 287 years, I submit that this is a calculation for which there is no basis whatever.
The reduction is now also an unequal one. It is subject to the peculiar views of the licensing authorities. We propose to institute a national system of reduction. I may mention, in relation to this question of reduction, two points contained in the Bill. One is the provision for what is known as optional reduction—allowing justices of the peace to reduce to a point even beyond the scale if they desire to do so, subject to a point which I will mention directly—that is to say, placing licensing, so far as they are concerned, in the position in which it was before the Act of 1904; and the other is the provision contained in Clause 9, allowing a special further reduction in Wales in consideration of the desire for temperance indicated by many of the inhabitants of that favoured country. But, my Lords, in relation to both of these this has to be borne in mind, that optional reduction and that further reduction can only take place when there is money from the compensation levy sufficient to meet the extra compensation. Now, a national system involves the creation of a central authority; and, therefore, the Bill proposes to create a Licensing Commission. Three gentlemen of standing and merit have been named as Licensing Commissioners. Their business is to approve schemes made by justices of the peace for carrying out statutory reduction, or, in the improbable event of a scheme not being made, of making one themselves. It is also their business to impose a scale of charges for the compensation levy, according to the second Schedule of the Bill. But what they do not do is almost as important as what they do. They do not select the particular licences which are to be extinguished. That duty is left to the justices in consideration of their superior local knowledge, and they do not determine the amount of compensation to be paid. That is determined by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.
I pass to what may be regarded in some respects as the central point of the Bill, I mean the institution of a time-limit—that is to say, at the end of fourteen years the compensation levy ceases and all licences become subject to the con- 288 ditions applicable to new licences. In addition to that, a further seven years of respite without payment of compensation levy, but qualified in a manner which I will explain later on, is given to the licence-holder. There is one point I desire to impress on the House, and it is this, that the addition of seven years is of much greater advantage to the trade than the difference between fourteen and twenty-one years. A sinking fund to provide £100 at the end of fourteen years at 4 per cent. would be £5 9s. 4d. To provide the same amount at the end of twenty-one years, at the same rate per cent., the sum necessary is only £3 2s. 7d., so that by the addition of seven years the charge is reduced by something between two-fifths and a half. That is a point which may have escaped the notice of some of your Lordships. The time limit is, of course, bound up with the question of monopoly value. The existence of monopoly value and the fact that it should properly be secured to the community was recognised in the Act of 1904, but only in regard to new licences. Our proposition is to apply it, under conditions, to all licences.
Much argument has taken place as to the nature of a licence. We have, after a great deal of discussion, extracted from the principal opponents of the Bill the statement that a licence is not a freehold, but that it is a property, and apparently a property for more than one year. We prefer to speak of it as a property for one year with an expectation, and it is on those lines that we have dealt with it. After all, it is a very limited kind of property. You cannot sell it, you cannot exchange it, you cannot bequeath it, you must not even give it away; yet at the same time there is no reversion of it in favour of any other person. By law it is an annual gift from the State—not held during good behaviour, because, if it were, there would be no need to come every year for a fresh licence. And, finally, nobody disputes the power which the State or the Government of the day has to make it absolutely valueless, so far as monopoly is concerned, by the indefinite multiplication of licences. In these circumstances can the prospect of renewal be regarded as anything beyond an expectation? One of our complaints 289 against the Act of 1904 was that it attempted to give, and, as far as an Act of Parliament can, until reversed, did give in respect of that mere expectation, something like a vested interest in a licence, and it is in respect of that vested interest we offer the liberal terms of fourteen years plus seven years to those who hold a licence.
It is said that death duties are paid on a licence on the expectation that it would be renewed. The answer to that is, of course, that estate duty is paid on what the value may be at the moment—and what the value may be in a year, or two years, or ten years time, the State does not take any cognisance of. In another place the Prime Minister mentioned the case of a racehorse with great expectations, but a very large sum might have to be paid by way of death duties, although the horse should never win another race. The same principle applies to works of art and articles of jewellery; they are valued according to what they will fetch at the moment, and the licence, therefore, at what the public at the moment believes expectation of renewal to be. But then it is said that in any case it is an unfair and a hard thing to impose a time-limit and to impose concurrently a system of insurance. The argument is that you insure against loss for a term of years, and at the end of the period you are not left with the property which you insured. That also is a very familiar operation. Insurances for limited periods are within the knowledge of all your Lordships, and the argument appears to have no basis, because a hundred parallel cases can easily be found by anybody who cares to look for them.
It is true that the resumption at the end of the period is one of the prime features of this Bill. It is in respect of that resumption that the charges of confiscation and robbery have been so freely levelled at us with such a Wealth of imagination and invective. But if it is the case that the licence is not a freehold it must be determinable at some period in some such way as we have proposed. It is open to anybody to criticise the particular method, term, and plan that we have adopted; but after the admission which Mr. Balfour made in another 290 place on the Third Reading—namely, that a time-limit in itself could not be regarded as an unfair proposition—I really think that these charges of robbery and confiscation might be dropped or withdrawn. The charge of robbery is founded, I think, not so much on what would happen to the ordinary trader, be he brewer or licence-holder, but rather on what is supposed to be going to happen to the people who have invested their money in limited companies dealing with these matters.
Joint stock enterprise has done a great deal for this country, though some disadvantages may have attached to it in some of its developments—even such developments as ordinary retail trading, and even banking. But so far as the application of the joint stock principle to the retail sale of drink is concerned, I believe it has been an absolutely unmitigated disadvantage to everybody concerned. To travesty a famous quotation, it is twice cursed. It curses him that takes and him that gives. It has not improved the quality of the article supplied to the public, and it has not added anything, so far as I am aware, to the convenience of the public; but it has caused a great loss to a very large number of people and it has placed a great number of highly respectable people—respectable themselves and worshipping respectability in others—in the position of being obliged, for their own profit, to exploit the vices and the weaknesses of their fellow-countrymen.
One is almost tempted to wonder when one hears of the sanctity attaching to all these shareholders who have invested money in these unhappy enterprises, whether, if other enterprises had been carried on on the joint stock principle, they would have been equally fortunate. We have had at different times Bills dealing with another class of persons—a very hard-working class of people—the street bookmakers, who have received very little sympathy in this House. I cannot help wondering if it had occurred to any of them to float their enterprises on the market, with all the apparatus of preference and ordinary shares—and from what I have heard of the magnitude of their operations some of them might almost have done so—whether, instead 291 of receiving the very short shrift they have received in your Lordships' House, they would have received that overflowing measure of sympathy which you extend to the shareholders who own, tied houses. There is another class who were very severely dealt with in this House, a class who, I imagine, may do some service to the public, but whose trade is open to abuses—I mean the money-lenders. I am told they are very apt, while remaining individuals, to describe themselves as companies. I wonder whether, if some of them did become companies, while retaining their profits as individuals, when the Moneylenders' Bill was before the House they would have received the affectionate sympathy of the majority of your Lordships. We all regret that anybody should lose money in unfortunate enterprises. There has been, I am afraid, a very serious loss to many people who could ill afford to lose in connection with these great joint stock enterprises; but it has never been the custom, so far as I know, in your Lordships' House to regard the interests of the weak or foolish shareholder as overriding public advantage and public necessity. No one ever spoke more strongly on that point than the late Lord Salisbury. He often used to warn us that the pity which people must feel for the unfortunate shareholder, if indulged in too freely, may lead us into very deep water indeed.
I pass for a moment to the consideration of another principle contained in this Bill—I mean the modified extent to which the principle of local option is introduced. That, I suppose, is one of the provisions of the Bill which, in the opinion of the noble Marquess, may cause inconvenience to some of His Majesty's subjects. By Part II. of the Bill, new licences of all kinds, on and off, are subjected to local option by a bare majority. That, of course, is a provision which is not of a very far-reaching character, but is of an experimental nature. Then we propose at the end of the fourteen years that there should be a general introduction of the principle of local option by a two-thirds majority, applicable to on but not to off-licences. I am one of those who always believed that local option was a principle that ought to be tried in a matter as difficult as this is, among other experiments 292 which I believe to be of value; and that, I think, is the manner in which local option is probably regarded by the majority of those in favour of temperance reform. There are others, we know, who regard it as the one panacea for the great national evil, but there are probably more who desire to sec it applied by way of experiment.
On this question of local option, perhaps I may remind the House of this, that there is a very distinct possibility as matters now stand of the exercise in this, country, not of a local option, but of a local veto, because if a landlord objects to alcoholic drinks being sold upon his estate, he has an absolute power of veto. There are cases in which it has been exercised out of regard to the teetotal movement, but it is also exercised in another way by people who are not teetotallers, and do not care for teetotal principles. It is freely exercised by landowners and building speculators in respect of particular neighbourhoods. There are neighbourhoods which our forefathers would have called so genteel that they would not stand a public-house in the immediate neighbourhood. In that case the local veto comes into force without any reference to the wishes or needs of those inhabiting the district, who may not be genteel and who may desire a public-house. I confess that it does seem to me that the existence of these powers, whether they are right or wrong, to a great extent destroys the case against local option as understood and as laid down in this Bill. Whatever may be the objections to a large majority having power to deprive other people, not of drink, but of drinking in a particular way and in a particular place, they seem to me to sink into nothingness by the fact that that power should be exercised potentially, and, indeed, actually, by a single individual or by a small group of individuals.
Now I turn to another matter in which the charge of robbery is freely used, I mean the question of the basis on which compensation under this Bill is to be assessed. It is a highly technical matter, and I do not wish to detain your Lordships long upon it. There has been some dispute as to what was intended on this subject by the Act of 1904, but I do not 293 know that we need trouble ourselves a great deal about that, because we know that the intentions of Parliament do not matter. What matters is what the Act actually says as interpreted by His Majesty's Judges; and in this case the Act has been interpreted by what is familiarly spoken of as the Kennedy judgment, by which compensation became payable, not as was supposed by most to be the case, on the value of the licence as such, but, in addition to that, on the value of the profits earned in the wholesale trade by the brewer who owns the tied houses.
Whatever may be said of tied houses, there can be no doubt of the effect of the Kennedy judgment, that it does give a glorification to the tied house as compared with the free house. If you have two public-houses side by side—say the King's Head and the Red Lion, and the King's Head is a tied house in the occupation of a great firm of brewers such as Messrs. Watney, Combe & Company—I mention them as one of the greatest London firms—that is a tied house for the supply of beer and porter. If that house is compulsorily closed, under the Kennedy judgment the compensation payable is not only in respect to the trade done in the house, but also in respect to the loss sustained by Messrs. Watney in the profit upon the porter supplied by them. The other house next door—the "Red Lion"—is a free house, and the owner of it is free to buy where he likes, and supplies, say, the porter produced by Messrs. Guinness & Company. This house is also closed, and all that is received by way of compensation is the compensation for loss of trade done in the house; Messrs. Guinness get nothing. Is that logical? Why should one firm of brewers get compensation in respect of its wholesale profits and not another? What Messrs. Guinness lose is precisely the same advantage as the other firm loses, an outlet for a certain quantity of their wholesale product. Therefore, it is undoubtedly the case that the tied house receives, but only in respect of beer—not in respect of mineral waters and other things—this special recompense. We shall, perhaps, hear from noble Lords who share responsibility for the Act of 1904 what the intentions of Parliament when that Act 294 was passed were, but, so far as my opinion goes, it is very hard to believe that such were their intentions, though it is quite another thing to say and I do not say so for a moment—that as the Act was passed, the judgment of Lord Justice Kennedy, as he now is, is open to cavil on that account.
What we propose is that for purposes of compensation Schedule A of the income-tax—that is to say, what is payable in respect of lands and tenements—should be the scale on which the compensation should be assessed, and I shall await with considerable interest any criticisms upon this particular provision which may attempt to show that Schedule A is an unfair basis to take. It is perfectly true, as the matter now stands, that taking that basis would in individual cases diminish the amount of compensation that would be given, but that is not the point; the point is whether it is in itself unfair to take this as a basis. I will only say this further on this part of the subject, that by Clause 10 we do give a very distinct relief to a class who have, I think, not received quite a fair share of what has been going by way of compensation. I mean the tenants and managers of tied houses; they have not in the past received their due share of the very large compensation given, and by this clause we design a remedy for that.
One charge brought against us is that, although we are persecuting the trade, we do not effect anything by our persecution, that our persecution in any case would be immoral, but conceivably it might be effective. Noble Lords will say it is not even effective, and for this reason, that while we are engaged in harassing vendors of alcoholic drinks in public-houses there will be a great and proportionate increase in the amount of liquor consumed either off the premises or in clubs, and that therefore all our efforts in. promoting temperance will be in vain and nugatory. The form in which this charge is generally worded is that this Bill will lead to secret drinking; but I sometimes wonder what exactly is meant by secret drinking as the words are used in this connection. Is it secret drinking if a man drinks in his own house? If that is 295 so, most of us in this House, I am afraid, would be accused of secret drinking; yet the manner in which the charge is brought would lead us to suppose that, if a poor man takes home a bottle of whiskey or a gallon of beer, he is thereby considered to be addicted to secret drinking.
Whatever you may do there will always be a certain amount, even a considerable amount, of really secret drinking by dipsomaniacs, and as a matter of fact there is a good deal of drinking in public-houses in what are called snugs, and places of that kind, which is of a more or less secret character. So much is that objected to in some countries that I believe there are some towns in America where public-houses are obliged to have glass fronts from top to bottom, so that the whole of the premises in which anybody drinks may be in full view from the street, and all who drink there may be seen—like fish in an aquarium. We do not make any proposition of that kind in this Bill. With regard to off-licences I should like to say this. It is sometimes assumed that off-licences have led to encouragement of drinking habits among the people, but I ask noble Lords not to accept that assumption; facts do not lead to that conclusion, and there is very little evidence to prove that grocers' licences have led in any degree to further demoralisation of the habits of the people.
Then I come to a much more difficult question, that of clubs, and I would remind the House—because it is sometimes said that we are leaving clubs altogether alone—that clubs are, I will not say severely, but are very seriously dealt with in various clauses. Clubs are to be subjected, as they have never been subjected before, to annual registration, and one clause is of a very important character, it enables anybody who believes that a club exists mainly for drinking purposes to make representation of his belief to the authority. We have also been told that it is difficult to define what is meant by mainly for drinking purposes, but it is no more difficult to define than hundreds of expressions of a similar kind in various Acts of Parliament, and those who administer 296 the law are quite competent to take all the considerations into account. Then clubs are to be open to inspection, and a fresh responsibility is placed upon the committees who have the conduct of management. I do not know whether your Lordships will say these provisions do not go far enough, but they will have a very direct effect, and, though I hope they will not be regarded as being real hardships to respectable clubs, I know that those who are concerned with the management of working men's clubs regard them as going as far as it is possible to go without undue interference with the liberty of the subject, and further, no doubt, than they would have done themselves if they had had the drafting of the Bill.
Part III. of the Bill deals with miscellaneous matters, and the first has regard to Sunday closing. I was going to say that by common consent—but, I am afraid, nothing in relation to this subject is by common consent—the effects of Sunday closing, where it has been tried, have been uniformly beneficial. At present, in country districts, there are six hours, and in the metropolis seven hours, during which intoxicating liquor can be sold. We propose that the hours should be three and four respectively. But we have endeavoured—and this note, so to speak, is struck all through the Bill—to make it clear that, where alcoholic drink is taken as an adjunct to a meal, and not separately, a more liberal scale of opening ought to be permitted. And that your Lordships will find applies also in this case. The bona-fide traveller is subjected to conditions which were suggested, I will not say on his behalf, though that is, perhaps, not a wrong phrase to use, in the reports of the Commission of 1899. The minority, if I remember aright, suggested seven miles and the majority six, and it is the figure of the majority that appears in the Bill.
Then we have a provision for the closing of public-houses during Parliamentary elections. We were in hopes that this, almost alone among the provisions of the Bill, had secured the adhesion of Mr. Balfour. He did, I believe, express himself at one moment in its favour, but other counsels prevailed, 297 and I believe he voted against it when a division was taken on the subject later. Then there are several provisions of value relating to the presence of children in public-houses, and Clause 22, which, in our opinion, is a clause of the very highest use, in that it empowers the magistrates to impose conditions of various kinds on those who apply for a licence. The flexibility of that provision is, in our mind, of the greatest possible value.
I suppose it will be said, in the course of this debate, that this measure has never been properly considered, and that it received only hurried Parliamentary attention. So far as these attacks are concerned, I can assure your Lordships, from personal knowledge, that it has been most amply considered. The measure was, for many months, the subject of the closest inquiry, and the most careful piecing together. As regards the question whether it was hurried through Parliament, I suppose we are not likely to agree. I should have thought that six weeks of Parliamentary time was not an inadequate term for the consideration of even such an important measure as this. I cannot help thinking that, if it had been found possible—I suppose it never is found possible in the case of a very contentious Bill—to condense and concentrate discussion on the points really at issue, that time would have amply sufficed; but, as we know, concentration is difficult. Sometimes long speeches are made on very small points; and under the system of closure by compartment, which is utilised by both parties, though both parties alike admit it to be an imperfect machine, it does seem to be almost inevitable that some points escape full notice. But, so far as I am able to judge, having followed the debates in another place, all the main points of real importance did receive a very full and fair measure of discussion, and I shall be surprised if any new light is thrown on any of them even by the most experienced intellects in your Lordships' House.
It appears, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, from the Motion on the Paper, and we must assume it will be carried, that this Bill will be lost. Your Lordships might have decided to amend 298 certain of its provisions, and I do not think you will find it altogether easy to prove to the country why you did not adopt that course. This is not exclusively, or entirely, a party question, and, although the party line divides us pretty clearly, yet I think that line is somewhat irregular here and there. Although we are regularly arrayed against each other in this matter in this House, yet I cannot help thinking that there are in the country not a small number of those who regularly support noble Lords opposite who will not entirely welcome the rejection of this Bill if your Lorsdhips decide to reject it.
There are certain elements on our side quite distinct from those who ordinarily support us. Those who support us as a rule in the country have shown that they feel deeply on this matter. I myself have received upwards of 2,000 Resolutions in relation to this Bill and some 1,400 petitions. But there are others. The clergy both of the Church of England and of the Church of Rome—and I believe we shall hear from the right rev. bench, who speak with a voice of authority—will, as I believe, speaking generally, deeply regret the loss of a measure of this kind. Quite apart from this, I believe there are a number of serious citizens, people not very closely wedded to either political party, but as a rule, supporters of the party opposite rather than of ours, who will deplore the fact that this effort on behalf of temperance has broken down. They may, perhaps, not like this or that provision in the Bill. They may think this clause harsh; they may think that other clause inadequate. But, when it comes to concluding that nothing is to be done, and when no suggestion for improvement or Amendment to the Bill is offered. I cannot help thinking that they will be rather on our side than on that of noble Lords opposite. There are some words of my noble friend on the cross, bencher, Lord Rosebery, which have often been quoted—If the State does not soon control the liquor traffic, the liquor traffic will soon control the State.I cannot help thinking that the rejection of this Bill, if your Lordships mean to reject it, will bring us a stage nearer to that unhappy consumation, so 299 disastrous to the commonwealth and so ignominious to the leaders of public opinion in this country. Speaking for ourselves, I can only say that we shall never regret the efforts which we have made to avert that consummation by bringing in this Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Crewe.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE,
who had given notice on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move the following Resolution, viz.—That this House, while ready to consider favourably any amendments which experience has shown to be necessary in the law regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, declines to proceed further with a measure which, without materially advancing the cause of temperance, would occasion grave inconvenience to many of His Majesty's subjects, and violate every principle of equity in its dealings with the numerous classes whose interests will be affected by the Bill,said: My Lords, in the observations which I shall have to address to your Lordships, I shall endeavour to imitate the noble Earl who has just sat down in the calmness and self-restraint with which he has dealt with this important subject. He has spoken to-night more in sorrow than in anger. Indeed, there was only one passage in his speech in which I thought I detected a little outburst of mild indignation. It was the opening passage in which he took us to task for having confronted your Lordships' House this evening with what he called a cynically foregone conclusion.
The noble Earl proceeded to indulge in a few pleasantries—I should, if the word exists, be almost inclined to say, "unpleasantries"—at the expense of the meeting which took place under my roof yesterday. The noble Earl is greatly shocked at that meeting. I should like to ask where and amongst what paragons of political propriety the noble Earl has been living all these years? Has he never heard of a party meeting to discuss the manner in which an important measure should be treated? I am quite sure that I could, without very much difficulty, bring to his notice a considerable number of cases, if time were given for the necessary research, and owing to the kindness of a friend 300 who sits by me, I am able to give him this evening one case which seems to be not wholly irrelevant.
In 1886, when the Home Rule Bill was before Parliament, Mr. Gladstone called a meeting of Liberals, the circular convening the meeting being addressed only to those who were known to be prepared to vote in favour of the establishment of a legislative body in Dublin. Now, my doors were open to all. There was no foregone conclusion; there was a good deal of free and not entirely unanimous discussion. At the meeting to which I refer Mr. Gladstone, among other remarks, argued that Members who did not altogether agree with the Bill might still vote for the Second Reading, and see to its amendment in Committee. No such terms were suggested or imposed upon those who honoured me with their presence yesterday. This Bill moreover has been so thoroughly discussed both in and out of Parliament that my friends who joined me yesterday may surely be excused if, having the whole case before them, they took counsel together as to the manner in which the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill should be met to-night.
I conceive that there are two questions to which we have to address ourselves this evening. Is new legislation dealing with the liquor traffic necessary, and, if so, is the legislation proposed by His Majesty's Government of an appropriate and admissible kind? The noble Earl asked us whether in our opinion the Act of 1904 was the last word upon this subject. I am very far indeed from contending that the Act of 1904 closed the chapter of temperance legislation. I am quite ready to admit that, in regard to such points as the acceleration of the reduction of licences in places where it can be clearly shown that that acceleration has not been sufficiently rapid, further legislation may be necessary, and it has always seemed to me that there was a great deal to be said in regard to the incidence of the taxation which at present falls upon licensed property. But of this, at any rate, I am sure—that any well-considered measure for the promotion of temperance would be dealt with in a sympathetic spirit and 301 with an open mind on this side of the House, as well as upon the other. Not that I am ready to admit that intemperance is increasing in this country. I do not believe that it is. I believe that statistics prove the contrary. But I do admit that this great question of excessive drinking does underlie a number of the most serious social problems with which Parliament has to deal. It is connected with the question of crime, with the question of disease, and with the question of the degeneracy of the population in the most crowded centres of industry. It is connected, I think, even with the question of unemployment which so largely occupies our thoughts at the present time. And, therefore, I, at any rate, should welcome with open arms any measure which I really believed to represent a complete and well-considered effort to diminish the evils of excessive drinking.
I ask myself whether the Bill on the Table can really be described as such a measure. My Lords, I find in it nothing like what could be described as a frontal attack all along the line upon intemperance. I find in it rather a congeries of proposals, hastily put together, representing not So much a deliberate policy as the tenets—the somewhat motley tenets—of those who are the most insistent advocates of temperance legislation. This Bill is directed almost entirely to dealing with a single feature of the problem: I mean the connection between excess in drinking and excess In the number of licensed premises. Now, these two things certainly do not always stand to one another in the relation of cause and effect. You may have districts where drunkenness is very common and where licensed premises are few in number, and, conversely, you may have districts with a large number of licensed premises and a clean record so far as excessive drinking is concerned. It is only those who may be described as local experts, who know the circumstances of the neighbourhood and of the licensed premises in question, who are able to tell you whether the number of those premises has or has not anything to do with the prevalence of drunkenness. And observe that it is precisely the opinion of those local experts which this Bill is designed to set on one side.
302 My Lords, I have seen a great deal of evidence to show that one of the results of a great diminution in the number of licensed premises is the stimulation of what I will term gregarious drinking—a form of drinking which I believe to be very dangerous, under which an enormous number of people collect on the same premises, where they are encouraged by the example of those around them to drink, and where, unless I am misinformed, a man who does not order something to drink is made to leave the place to make room for some one who will order drink. At any rate, I suggest that the theory that the reduction in the number of licensed premises inevitably leads to the diminution of drunkenness is wholly inconsistent with the theory of this Bill, that those who hold licences which are to be allowed to survive under the new system are to recoup themselves and to gain great advantage by the suppression of competing premises.
This Bill deals, then, mainly with the question of the reduction of licences said to be redundant. On the other hand, it neglects altogether a great part of what may be called the field of temperance reform. There are surely two sets of persons to be considered if you want to put a stop to excessive drinking. There is the person who sells the drink and the person who consumes the drink. This Bill deals almost entirely with the sellers and very little with the consumers. Again, it leaves on one side what I might almost term the real public-house question, the question which was raised the other evening by my noble friend Lord Lamington—whether it is not possible to do something to humanise the public-houses, to encourage the use of lighter and less deleterious drinks, and to promote reasonable recreation of a kind which is not allowed at an English public-house.
There is another portion of the field of temperance which the Bill no doubt touches, but touches in a very inadequate manner. I mean the question of clubs. If there is one law which can be laid down, it is that in this as in other countries a marked diminution in the number of public-houses leads to an equally marked increase in the number of clubs. This Bill contains some provisions in regard 303 to clubs which are no doubt of some value. I do not wish to underrate their importance. They are useful provisions in their way, but they do not in any way countervail the enormous advantages which, under our present system, and still more under the Government Bill, the club enjoys as against the public-house.
May I remind your Lordships of one or two of them? The club, to begin with, escapes altogether that local option which figures conspicuously throughout this Bill. The club pays a registration fee of 5s.; the public-house pays for a Fence a sum which may range from £4 10s. to £60. The club profits by the reduction of public-houses, but pays nothing towards the compensation by which that reduction is brought about; while the owner of the licensed house has constantly to contribute to the compensation levy. The club may do what it likes with its own premises; the owner of the public-house is under very severe restrictions as to any alteration or improvements he may desire to make. The club is not specially rated on account of the privileges it enjoys; the public-house is specially rated; and finally, whilst the club may introduce games and music, the public-house is forbidden such accessories. Is it not clear that to deal as severely as we do in this Bill with the public-houses while allowing the clubs to escape, as lightly as they will escape, is really to neglect one very important feature in this great question?
I do not know whether your Lordships have seen a book recently published by Messrs. Rowntree and Sherwell. It is full of valuable information, and there is an extremely interesting passage on the subject of clubs. The authors give a table showing the expenditure of 540 clubs. Nearly half a million is spent by them, but nearly all the money is spent on alcoholic liquors. There is one club mentioned—I presume as a typical, if extreme, case—where the takings at the bar amount to £2,690, whereas the takings for newspapers were 10s., and the takings for bread 3s. 7d. I never expected to encounter in modern life so complete a counterpart of Prince Henry's immortal comment 304 on the tave n bill found in the pocket of the sleeping Falstaff—O monstrous! but one halfpennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack.The noble Earl told us, however, that the Government intended that clubs used mainly as drinking clubs should be adequately dealt with. I thought that I detected in his observations a little uneasiness as to that definition. It seems to me to be an extraordinarily woolly definition, and one I am afraid which is rather characteristic of the vague language which we are so fond of inserting in Acts of Parliament. What is a club "mainly used" for drinking purposes? As in the case of the club I have mentioned, there may be a very large consumption of liquor; but it is conceivable that members may frequent the premises for the pleasure of each other's society, perhaps for the pleasure of discussion, or other innocuous purposes. I am at any rate unconvinced that this definition will serve the purpose which the noble Earl expects of it.
Another part of the field which is largely neglected by this Bill is the provision in respect of off-licences. Unless I misunderstand the Bill, these do not come under any rigid scale, such as that which applies to on-licences, and they enjoy various other immunities, The noble Earl dealt with the question of off-licences and made light of the drinking which results from them. He said that the charge against them was. "not proven." I am bound to say that the information I have received is of an opposite description. I am told that there is nothing which more stimulates the most insidious forms of secret drinking than the facility with which spirits can be obtained, a bottle at a time, from the grocers' shops.
This Bill is then mainly a reduction Bill. Now as to the policy of reduction, I venture to suggest that it is a policy which is wise or foolish according as it is applied with or without discrimination. By discrimination I mean this, that it is good to reduce licences if you can make sure that the licensed premises you are getting rid of are really redundant; that they are places, in which for local reasons, it is not desirable that drinking 305 should be allowed to be carried on. But I distinguish altogether between reduction of that kind and a merely arbitrary reduction simply because the number of licences in a particular neighbourhood exceeds the fixed canon which you have laid down by your Schedule. On the initiative of the late Government in 1904, Parliament dealt with this question of the reduction of licences. We passed by a majority of three to one an Act under which it was rendered possible to reduce the superfluous licences, and under which the task of reduction was entrusted to the authority most competent to perform it. I mean the local magistrates aided by the Quarter Sessions. We did this on a system of mutual insurance, which, I believe, has operated very fairly, and we left the holders of the licences which were not suppressed in a position of reasonable security for the future.
Is it true that the Act of 1904 has failed so completely that it is necessary for us to substitute for it another and wholly different Bill? I do not think so. I believe that the Act of 1904 conferred an inestimable service. on the public in this, that it enabled the magistrates without scruple to get rid of licences whenever they were satisfied that such licences were redundant. I cannot describe the operation of the Act better than by quoting the words used by the Prime Minister in reference to another Bill that came before Parliament in the previous year. Mr. Asquith said—The justices find an excessive number of public-houses in a district and that the licensees are conducting their business in a perfectly legitimate manner. The justices are in a dilemma; either they must hold their hands and not do what the public interest clearly requires by reducing the number of licences, or they must select a victim or a series of victims among this innocent class of persons. That is a most invidious duty. I do not wonder that the consequence is that the justices do very often hold their hands when the public interest requires that they should act.The Act of 1904 had this great merit, that it extricated the magistrates from the dilemma which Mr. Asquith so well described. Acting on the discretion thus given them the magistrates have made very large reductions in the number of licences. I believe they have reduced them at 306 the rate of something like 1,500 a year and of the amount allowed for compensation no less than 95 per cent. has already been spent.
It is true that there are reasons why the progress should not in the future be so rapid as in the past. But one obstacle has been interposed, not owing to any shortcoming in the Act, but owing to the administrative action of the Government, who have, unless I am misinformed, withheld their consent to borrowing by those local authorities who wished by this means further to expedite the process, of reduction. At any rate, We know that there are some districts in which the reductions have already brought the number of licences down to the level of the present Bill; I hope therefore, it will be admitted that the Act of 1904 was a valuable measure, and if there is any reason to believe that its operation has been obstructed and that there are recalcitrant benches, it should not be beyond our powers to stimulate their action; but for that purpose I do not think that the Bill on the Table is by any means the machinery we should use.
The Bill of 1908, indeed, is something wholly different from the Act of 1904. In. the first place, I find in this Bill that for the discretion of the licensing magistrates; we are asked to substitute a cast-iron scale imposed uniformly on the whole country. No sufficient regard, as I read the Bill, is paid to local peculiarities or local convenience. It is a measure which, breathes intolerance from one end to the other. There is no power of setting a superfluity of licensed permissions one district against a deficiency in another district. The uniform rigid scale of the Government has apparently been arrived at without previous inquiry as to the manner in which it will fit the requirements of different parts of the country. The result is that we hear on every side of hard cases which will arise if the Bill becomes law. There are hard cases in the great cities where one ward may find itself with an ample number of licensed premises and another without any licensed premises at all There are harder cases still in the rural districts, and I think the rural districts are entitled to our sympathy. The case of townsmen is very 307 different from the case of the agricultural labourers. The townsman has many places to which he can resort for distraction and amusement; the agricultural labourer probably has his public-house and nothing else. When, therefore, in a country district you put an end to the existence of three public-houses out of four you do occasion what I venture to call a grave inconvenience to a number of perfectly innocent people who have been in the habit of frequenting these houses. I am told of a district where under this Bill five public-houses would be left to an area of seventy-eight square miles. [Laughter.] Your Lordships laugh; but to the wretched labourer who, at the end of a hard day's work, wants to get his mug of beer, it is by no means a laughing matter that he should have to trudge seven or eight miles across country on a winter's evening.
I pass to the provision which deals with the tribunal, and here I must say that I view with ever-increasing apprehension the growing practice of creating new tribunals of this kind. They are tribunals improvised ad hoc, manned by gentlemen of undoubted respectability, usually gentlemen of a certain political complexion, who are remunerated by salaries which are probably not sufficient to attract men of first-rate position, although the work they have to do is of first-rate importance. Why is it that we are to distrust the magistrates? I want to give the magistrates a little testimonial from the same source as the quotation which I read to the House a moment ago. In the same debate Mr. Asquith, dealing with the Licensing Bill presented by Mr. Butcher in 1903, complained that the effect of the Bill was for all practical purposes to annihilate the discretion which the law at present gives to the justices. That is just what we complain of in this Bill, that it weakens and diminishes the responsibility which the present law gives to the justices. And I hope your Lordships will remember that from this newly invented triumvirate there is no appeal.
Now, my Lords, let me ask how under this new dispensation the victims are likely to fare. The noble Earl gave an interesting disquisition on the nature of a licence-holder's interest. I use the word "interest" advisedly, because I 308 shall be corrected if I use the word "property." But is there no such thing as an interest stopping short of a freehold and yet going far beyond a tenancy at will—which can be measured in terms of money and which deserves to be treated as a substantial and durable interest? Colleagues of the noble Earl have spoken of the licence-holder's interest as a precarious interest. That has not been the view of learned Judges, of Lord Halsbury, of Lord Bramwell, of Lord Hannen, and others. The noble Earl admitted that these licences were highly valued for death duties, but he said that this proved nothing, because the Somerset House authorities valued property at whatever value it happened to possess at the moment of valuation, and that what was valuable at one moment might cease to be valuable at another. But does the noble Earl suggest to us that it is right for the State to act at one moment on the assumption that a licence of this kind is a valuable interest in respect of which high duties should be paid to itself, and a few months afterwards to say—Oh, no; this is a precarious licence of which you have no tenure and in respect of which you are not entitled to ask any compensation to speak of?
Again I fall back upon the authority of the present Prime Minister. In the same debate Mr. Asquith, speaking of the licence-holder's interest said—When it is said, as it is said, and properly said, that it is a judicial discretion, what is meant is not a discretion to be exercised as in litigation according to settled rules of law and methods of procedure, but a discretion exercised in a judicial temper, not capriciously or whimsically, not in deference to any preconceived theory or formula but upon a full consideration of all the relevant facts which affect particular cases.Now we have got the preconceived formula, and we know the result. In spite however of the noble Earl's refinements upon this point I do not gather that he would himself repudiate the claim of the licence-holder to what I should call equitable compensation. The difference between us is this—What is and what is not equitable compensation? It is admitted by the noble Earl that the licence-holder enjoyed a certain expectation as to the renewal of his licence. What is the "expectation" worth?
309 I have seen rather interesting figures which bear upon this point. In 1900 there were in round figures 102,000 on-licences, of these 131 were refused—hardly any on grounds of redundancy. That works out at odds of 700 to one on renewal. That surely does show that the interest of the licence-holder is a substantial interest. I would add that in this country Parliament has always been careful to deal scrupulously with interests of this kind. I could give your Lordships examples. Do you remember how we dealt with the officers who had paid over regulation prices for their commissions? That was a clear case where something had grown up outside the law, where the parties had an expectation, and where the legislation dealt with that expectation in a most equitable and generous spirit. Another case in point is the manner in which we dealt with the question of the Ulster tenants where an "expectation" prevailed, and was stereo typed and recognised by the law.
How are the persons having this reasonable expectation likely to fare under the provisions of this Bill? I will take that portion of them who will lose their licence whilst the fourteen years are running, and who will receive compensation for their loss. Until now that compensation has been based upon market value, but under this Bill market value disappear and you have substituted for it the difference in value of the premises with or without a licence as assessed under Schedule A of the income-tax. That proposal to bring in the question of rateable value was condemned in terms by the Peel Commission. They reported against rateable value on the ground that if it be admitted the licence holder's goodwill cannot be considered, although they say—The licence and the goodwill are the things for which compensation would be given, not the building, which the owner would retain.Now, we have had a considerable amount of explanation as to the manner in which this goodwill is to be calculated. We have heard from the Prime Minister that under this Bill what is called personal goodwill will escape, whereas local goodwill be taken into account. How are you going to distinguish between personal and local goodwill? What are the 310 things which enter into goodwill? Surely among the constituents of goodwill may be mentioned the attractiveness of the premises, the quality of the liquor known to be sold in them, and the clientèle which, frequents the particular house. All these things are the creation of the licensee's own efforts, and why is he to be deprived of them? I am very much afraid that when you get down to the bed-rock of these provisions, you will find that the only personal goodwill which the licence owner will be allowed to retain will be that kind of personal popularity which belongs to the popular football player or cricketer: a goodwill of which even His Majesty's Government would not be able to strip him.
So much for the fate of those licence-holders who will be deprived of their licences during the fourteen years. But now let us consider what will be the fate of those who survive the fourteen years and enter upon that further period of seven years which the noble Earl described as a respite. During the fourteen years the licence-holder has been continually patting his hand in his pocket to provide compensation for those licence-holders who find themselves suppressed, and the money he pays, remember, may go to compensate licence-holders in some area far removed from his own, so that he will not receive a single penny of advantage from what is spoken of as the betterment due to the diminution in the number of licences. Then after fourteen years comes the period of respite, a respite that seems to me of very questionable advantage. It is a respite in this sense, that the licence-holder will cease to contribute to the compensation levy—but during the respite he is liable to be deprived of his licence altogether under the system of local option introduced in the Bill and his security is gone. He may be deprived of it either by the action of the local bench or by a two-thirds majority of the ratepayers. Finally, he may have imposed upon him conditions which would virtually confiscate a great part of his property.
Then we come to the third stage, after the twenty-one years. What happens then? The whole of the monopoly 311 value of his licence is taken away from him and annexed by the State, although the State has not contributed a farthing towards the cost of the operation. His goodwill, the result of his own hard work and energy, disappears and he is neither better nor worse off than any casual competitor who may appear upon the scene. I spoke just now of the extraordinary vagueness of the language of the Bill. I wish some noble Lord, before this debate closes, would give us some explanation of what is really meant by monopoly value. I should like to read the new definition. It has been altered several times, and I will read it—The monopoly value shall be taken to be the sum by which, in the opinion of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, the value of the premises, as adopted or estimated for the purpose of income-tax under Schedule A, when licensed, and without taking into consideration any provisions for the purpose of securing to the public the monopoly value, exceeds the value of the premises for that purpose when not licensed.
What a strange farrago to hurl at the heads of the trade and the public! I hope we shall have an exegesis from some noble Lord of the clause defining monopoly value. But although the words are obscure I am very much afraid that the meaning and intentions of the Government are quite plain. I understand that what the Government have in view is that the public should take the whole of the difference between the income-tax assessment of premises when licensed and unlicensed, and that not one penny is to be given in consideration of goodwill. These are what the noble Earl in the course of his speech described as the "liberal terms" offered to licence-holders under the Bill. There is no real compensation under this Bill. The holders of the suppressed licences will not get adequate compensation, and the holders of the surviving licences will not get adequate compensation. Indeed, it has been publicly stated that under these clauses something like 80 per cent. of the property of these people will be taken from them under this Bill. That calculation holds the field, and I should be glad to have it corrected if it is wrong. There is one point that I omitted in regard to the so-called "compensation" offered 312 by His Majesty's Government. I believe it is expected that during the seven years respite the holders of these licences are to recoup themselves by the amount of the business which they will do; in other words, I suppose they are to push their trade as hard as they can, to put as much water in their liquor as the public will stand, and spend nothing on the improvement of the premises. Do not let us forget that these terms, which I venture to stigmatise, putting it gently, as most niggardly terms, may not be received at all by the victims should it happen to be the case that local option is put into operation against them. I am constrained to say that in my opinion these terms spell absolute ruin for the holders of licensed premises. If it is true, as I am informed, that the Bill leaves the sufferers with only something like 20 per cent. of the value of the interest which they now enjoy, I do not think we use too strong language when we say that these proposals are of a confiscatory description.
But, my Lords, we have to consider not only the members of the trade who will suffer. The noble Earl talked seriously about the evils of the joint stock system. I daresay he is quite right. Perhaps the evils are far-reaching; but that does not alter the fact that if this Bill becomes law, not only the trade, but an immense number of innocent investors in a perfectly legitimate business will be deprived of a great portion of their property. I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the cruelty of such legislation or to dwell too much on the serious effect which it cannot fail to have upon public confidence in this country.
And now, my Lords, how are we to deal with this Bill? I do not think any of those who sit on this side of the House would entertain for a moment the idea of allowing it to pass as it stands. Are we then to amend it or are we to reject it? I freely admit that there are many considerations which at first sight attract me to the first of these courses. The House of Commons has devoted something like six weeks to the consideration of the Bill, and it will be a matter of regret to many of us 313 to think that their labours should be in vain. There is another reason, and it is this: that much advantage might be got from the discussion of the Bill in Committee, for it contains many provisions which we should be much better able to criticise and dissect if we could get to close quarters with them in Committee. But the consideration which weighs most with me is that we should, by reading this Bill a second time, meet the earnest wishes of a very large section of our countrymen who, being passionately devoted to the cause of temperance, will undoubtedly view with great regret the rejection of a measure with the details of which they are probably quite unfamiliar, but which has been represented to them to be, and which they believe to be, a temperance measure. Therefore, it is not without much hesitation that I have arrived at the conclusion which it is my duty to lay before the House.
But I am deeply convinced that it is altogether beyond our power on this side of the House to convert this Bill by amendment in Committee into a Bill which we could possibly accept. Our objections are directed, not to points of detail, but to the fundamental principles of the Bill, and I venture to say it is not our business to tear up the Bill of the Government and to send down to the House of Commons an entirely different Bill of our own composition. The attitude of His Majesty's Government has shown clearly that in their view the proposals which I have tried to criticise to-night are essential to the fabric of the Bill, and it is to my mind quite inconceivable that they should accept the kind of alterations on which those sitting behind me would, I believe, be likely to insist.
And there is one other matter which weighs very much with me and which has strengthened me in the conclusion at which I have arrived. I believe it would be impossible for your Lordships to modify the essential provisions of this Bill without coming into conflict with the privilege of the House of Commons. Most of the more important clauses, I am advised, touch the question of privilege. Now your Lordships have had an object- 314 lesson during the present year as to the manner in which the privilege of the House of Commons can be pleaded by His Majesty's Ministers. We have not forgotten the fate of our Amendments to the Old-Age Pensions Bill. Many of them were proposals genuinely designed for the purpose of improving the Bill, but they were thrown back in our faces because His Majesty's Ministers chose to apply to the case an interpretation of the doctrine of privilege going far beyond anything of which we had up to that time heard.
You cannot plead privilege in July and switch it off in December. Therefore in fairness to ourselves I recommend you Lordships to take a stand upon our rooted objection to the principles of this Bill rather than entangle ourselves in a mass of subsidiary points amid which the real issues would be obscured. I believe the country looks to us to protect it from legislation which we believe to be iniquitous and ill-considered, and I believe we shall better deserve both the respect of our fellow-countrymen and our own self-respect if straightforwardly and with the courage of our opinions, we reject the Bill on its Second Reading.
To leave out all the words after the word 'that' for the purpose of inserting the words 'this House, while ready to consider favourably any Amendments which experience has shown to be necessary in the law regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors, declines to proceed further with a measure which, without materially advancing the cause of temperance, would occasion grave inconvenience to many of His Majesty's subjects, and violate every principle of equity in its dealings with the numerous classes whose interests will be affected by the Bill.'"—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I do not propose to stand long between noble Lords on the other side who wish to reinforce, if reinforcement were possible, the arguments which have fallen from the noble Marquess, and noble Lords on this side who wish to combat them. But I should like to take this opportunity of stating how this Bill strikes an average individual who does not hold the views taken by noble Lords opposite, and who also has not imbibed, 315 to the dregs all the details in the provisions of the measure.
It was with surprise and regret that I learnt that the noble Marquess and his friends had declined to undertake the task of amending the Bill on the ground that that would be tantamount to an acceptance of its principles. I will not follow the noble Marquess into what he said regarding the question of privilege, but I will deal for a moment with the question of principle. As between the principle of the Act of 1904 and the principle of this Bill; the Act of 1904 provides for a reduction of licences upon certain terms, and for recovery of State control—with provisions for payment of full monopoly value for grants of new annual licences. This Bill proceeds on the same lines 'plus' the time limit and easier terms as to the monopoly value. Thus I find no cardinal differences in principle; the differences between us turn upon the terms and the equity and effectiveness of the methods—matters of details for Committee; and I regret that the noble Marquess opposite should have asked the House to depart from its traditional duty at a time when its suggestions and guidance would have been most valuable. This Bill seems to me to offer a reasonable compromise between what I will call the out-and-outers on the temperance side and the out-and-outers on the trade side. Because what we always sententiously call this problem lends itself easily to digressions. I will stick to what I conceive to be the three main features which emerge from the Bill before us. These I take to be in the first place the speedy extinction of a large proportion of the public-houses throughout the country, the second I take to be the ultimate resumption by the State of the control and to some extent of the profit arising from the possession of a valuable monopoly, end the third I take to be the creation of an intermediate period during which it is hoped that the industry affected will accommodate itself financially to the new conditions under which it will have to carry on its business.
Now I take the first main point. I think the noble Marquess just now admitted, and I think everybody agreed, 316 that there is a considerable superfluity of public-houses, and that probably, though public-houses are generally well kept and tidy, and in fact rather agreeable looking objects in the landscape, the objection to them, if any, is that if there are too many, it must lead to more drinking; by parity of reasoning, if you have rather fewer there would be a reasonable chance of having a little less drinking. The noble Marquess touched on that, and he touched on it in a way that I rather expected. He attached very little importance to resolutions passed by temperance and friendly societies, and he said that those were the sort of things that it was always possible to fake up, and that even if they were sincere they were based, as the noble Marquess said the Bill was, on wrong principles.
I think the best thing I remember being said about this was said by the late Lord Salisbury, and like everything else that he said it was the best thing of its kind: it was this, that although he had a great many bedrooms at Hatfield, he did not find that that led to his sleeping more. I believe someone pointed out that the analogy was not quite good, but I am not quite sure that the audience quite appreciated the irony of the noble Marquess's observations. Anyhow I will not dwell on the failure of that analogy, but I will give you another which also belongs to vegetation of the chestnut order, to wit, that of the poor woman who said that she could get her husband past four public-houses, but she could not get him past the fifth. That is no doubt a little rougher in fiber than Lord Salisbury's, but it is at least as effective, and probably as true. Without labouring these points any further, I should like to say, speaking for myself, which is all I am speaking for, that I welcome the provisions which are contained in this Bill, which make for a further reduction in public-houses. I am perfectly willing to defer, as we all must defer, to experts, but I confess I like my own opinion quite as much on this particular point. I live up in the north of England where we have very bad weather and like lots of drink to keep it in order, and I trust to my own observations on this quite as much as I do those 317 of the local expert of whom the noble Marquess made so much as being a sort of pope, who could instruct us as to whether public-houses made for sobriety or not.
Then as to the scheme for compensation. I will not talk about that, because that seems to me again a matter that has been conceded by both parties, that the trade have got to compensate themselves. I do not know whether the provisions in the Bill are quite what I would like to see in it with regard to that, but there, again, that is a point for Committee, and by the unfortunate action which you have taken, you have contracted yourselves out of doing anything in that direction or about anything else.
The same remark applies to clubs. Lord Lansdowne talked about the registration and the regulation and the inspection of clubs as desirable, and that all this was not sufficiently provided for in the Bill. But that is all a question of method and degree, and there, again, those also are matters for Committee. We have heard also something about local option, and upon that point I would say, quot homines, tot sententiœ. But as regards local option in this Bill, local option is only an episode in it, and the provisions in that regard are in no way vital to the Second Reading of the Bill. You can take the whole of those clauses out, and still leave a complete measure for readjusting the relations between the brewing industry and the State. Local option is not vital, or in any sense vital, to the Second Reading of the Bill which you have just moved is not to be given. The same remark applies, of course, to such points as children being admitted to bars, and various other clauses. Those are all Committee points.
I should like to say one word with regard to Sunday closing. I like the regulations about Sunday closing, and if I may be allowed I should like to tell you the modus operandi which goes on in my village, which would be defeated, I think to the advantage of the neighbourhood generally, and certainly to my own, if the Sunday closing clauses became law. I live in a village which is looked upon as agreeably rural, but 318 we are near a small manufacturing town, a very self-contained thriving place, I believe it has got one of the best technical schools in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which is saying a good deal, but at all events there it is, a small urban town as you sometimes find in the middle of a sea of grass. They have a very efficient and simple and ingenious way of managing the Sunday closing. This place is just within the three-mile limit of my village, and what happens is that at half-past two on every Sunday afternoon, which is closing-time at the urban place, a 'bus is in readiness, and very often two or three 'buses, or as many 'buses as are likely to be required, to bring over at once to my village these people who have vacated the public-house at half-past two. They bring them over, and they spend the whole afternoon in my village, and just get back in time to the place they came from by six o'clock, when they can begin drinking over again. If this became law we, no doubt, up in our part of the world, would get rid of a good many people, very good people in their way, but who certainly add a good deal to the business at the Court House at Bolton-by-Bowland every fortnight, and who get into trouble through the services of these 'buses, which bring them on Sunday to Gisburne.
Now I will come to the second main feature—I said I would try to stick to the main features—which is the resumption by the State of the control of the monopoly value. Here, as I said at the beginning, I do not imbibe quite to the dregs all the methods and all the provisions of the Bill as laid down by His Majesty's Government, and if this Bill had been given a Second Reading I should have liked to have said a word in favour of some preference being given to the licensees and owners who at the expiration of the time-limit should survive the tests and the trials and the levies and the undreamt of inconveniences to which they would have been subjected, no doubt sincerely in the interests of the community. I really think that this Old Guard, as it were, should be given some sort of pull over the new and untried speculator who decided to come in against them 319 into the licensing business, possibly one incentive of his action being the chance of buying at a wreckage price the premises which he stepped into, having got rid of this stanch gentleman who, as I said just now, belonged to the Old Guard. It would have been perfectly possible to have drawn clauses to protect those individuals, and, although I do not pretend to be a Parliamentary draughtsman, if we had got into Committee I should have had the hardihood to try and draw it.
I said just now that I would say something about the monopoly value as affected by this Bill, and as affected by the Act of 1904, and I should like to point out that under Clause 26 of this Bill the licensee is placed in a very much better position than he was under the clause in the Act of 1904. He becomes the recipient of better conditions, I think perfectly fair ones. I should like to remind your Lordships that the noble Marquess was very enamoured with the individuals who under the 1904 Act were to decide all these questions, but curiously enough though you had such confidence in the people who were to decide all these questions you gave them no sort of discretion as to this monopoly value, and however good a case was shown the justices were obliged to claim to the very last farthing that monopoly value. Under the Bill of the present Government the Commissioners of Inland Revenue can remit part, on good cause shown, of an annual licence. I have no doubt, as the noble Lord said, that Clause 6 is difficult to understand. I do not know that I am right about the words, but that is the meaning which I understand is contained in the words "when in such cases" the payments shall not exceed the monopoly value, "whereas on re-grant for a term of years they are to be based on monopoly value." But as I have said just now, in both cases the words do not seem to me to be very clear, and again if we had ever got into Committee I should have asked the Government myself to try and clear that up a little.
Then we come to my third main point or feature. I should like to say a word here about those of whom we have heard a good deal, those who have 320 invested their savings in the brewing industry, seduced, I suppose from their allegiance to what I think Lord Stowell called the elegant simplicity of the 3 per cents. I suppose the capital invested in the brewery industry enterprises of this country amounts to something like £200,000,000,000, and a large proportion of those millions is held by the general investing public. I rather dissent from the views which have been taken by the Liberal newspapers, in representing the people who have invested their savings in this sort of stock as a rather sinister and peculiar people. Really to read some of these papers you would think that people who hold brewery shares were quite different from the holders of the same sort of stock, we will say in a railway or a dock company, and I rather take exception to the line which is also taken in some of our papers on this side, which is embodied in such a phrase as you often see quoted in Press headings: "The Trade versus the Public." To hear some folks talk you would think that a retired colonel or a clergyman or a widow who happened to have invested anything between £500 and £10,000 in a brewery company had themselves become all but not merely publicans and brewers but also sinners. I do not know that there is any good ground for that. A person who invests in a joint stock undertaking is an investor and no more a trader than an investor in consuls is a money-lender. Now I think the noble Marquess laid stress on this; that where any particular industry is made the object of legislation Parliament cannot be too tender or too considerate in the way it deals with that industry, so as to enable it to adapt itself with as little pain and dislocation as possible to the new conditions which Parliament directs. I agree. But granting all that from the other side of the question, I also rather dissent from the line taken by your friends that the brewers are a sort of "Babes in the Wood," a sort of children of light who have been walking about the world all these years with their eyes closed and their ears sealed to the various vicissitudes which beset us in a troublesome world. Here, again, I have the greatest liking for brewers. They represent, I think we will all agree, 321 a most attractive form of competence, vouched for by their possession of fine houses and beautiful horses, and rare Sir Joshua Reynoldses and so on. I remember a horse-dealer that I knew saying the people he liked best were the brewers, that he had a most charming and friendly recollection of a bishop, but he said: "Give me the brewers." He preferred them even to Members of your Lordships' House." But here, again, I say that this idea that the brewers are such guileless people, and that they have got into these difficulties with tied-houses through no sort of fault of their own, does seem to be rather ridiculous.
I will tell you again what happened to me, if it does not bore you. Some years ago, about the middle of the great speculation in public-houses, I owned in this very village which I have told you about three or four public-houses. I felt that it was too many for one individual to hold. I am in the enjoyment, as no doubt all your Lordships are, of the services of a most admirable family lawyer, who lives at a place called Clitheroe Castle. He is the last man in the world who would claim any of the prerogatives of a prophet or care for them, but I remember very well that he said to me at that time: "This thing cannot go on; sooner or later you will have one party or other in the State who will knock all this public-house business and all the value of this public-house property to pieces, and, if you take my advice, I advise you to sell them." I took his advice. I had rather forgotten what happened, but I think these figures which I have just received by telegram from my agent are rather remarkable. One of my houses which is called the "White Bull" was assessed at £26, and another one called the "New Inn" was assessed at £38 at the date of the sale, September, 1907. Those two houses made £10,000; there were some farm buildings with both of them, and they were worth something under £1,000. I had another inn let, with 23 acres of land, assessed at £42 10s.; that is let now, on a long lease, again, to the same brewer, for £226 a year. What I say there is that if my lawyer was able to foresee the complications which might arise—he had noticed, I suppose, the Darwin case and the Sharpe v. 322 Wakefield case, and the letter of the Secretary of the Licensed Victuallers' Association, I think, after the Sharpe v. Wakefield case, although that is disputed, and it is said that the Secretary only cited his own view—but anyhow my solicitor had noticed these things, and had come to the conclusion that this could not go on; and I should have thought that well-managed breweries would also have been able to foresee it and to protect their own shareholders by making due provision when they bought houses at the kind of price at which I told you they bought these houses of mine.
I think that I have said all I have got to say except this. Perhaps you may think from what I have said just now about the investing public, and my tenderness for the investing public, and my desire, if this Bill had gone to Second Reading, to see the position of the investing public, and in some way the position of licensees, made considerably better—you may think from this that I. am entirely with you, but I am not. It is because I believe that a little more tenderness ought to have been exhibited towards the investing public and the licensees, that I say that a good deal of that might have been altered and improved if you had not contracted yourselves out of making suggestions which public opinion would have backed you in. If you had not done that, I think the Government would have done what they could to meet you by improving the time-limit and so on. A good many people think that the time-limit is not enough; I belong to that persuasion. I should have liked to see it twenty-one years or even twenty-eight years. If it could have been made twenty-eight years I believe it would have been better. I do not know whether it would have eased the wheels of this coach; I suppose not, because it is a curious thing that the time-limit seems to raise more angry passions, almost, than anything else, even in the breasts of those for whom it is supposed to have been specially devised. But, anyhow, I believe myself that the Government Bill is a Bill which makes in the right direction for dealing with the various difficulties which surround the 323 drinking problem in this country, and I believe that with a time limit of twenty-five or twenty-eight years it would have given ample time and ample facilities to everybody to make their arrangements and adjust themselves to the new conditions. Therefore, as I have said just now, although I should have liked to have seen many changes in the Bill, I am an out-and-out supporter of the Second Reading of this Bill, and I regret very much the line which I feel certain in all sincerity and seriousness the noble Marquess and those who sit with him have seen fit to take. I dislike altogether any appeal by either side in this House as to what would be popular in the country, or as to whether you are consulting your own interests or otherwise. I give you full credit for your intentions, and I give you full credit for the supposed wisdom of the arguments and the sincerity of the convictions which have led you to take the line you have taken. No doubt it will be a popular line, for nobody seems to like Licensing Bills. I do not think the noble Marquess or his friends would have gone to the country on their 1904 Bill. Therefore, a Bill that is thrown out neck and crop, like this is going to be thrown out to-night, will no doubt receive a great deal of popular acclamation of a certain sort. I am reminded of one thing, perhaps not touching such a big issue, which has come back to my memory. I have not looked it up, but I think I am accurate in saying that when Sir Robert Peel made his final farewell address to his party, when he admitted that he was beaten in the House of Commons on the Corn Laws, he said it was true that he was beaten, but he added that it was possible that his name would be remembered for good in many a poor household. I should like your Lordships to consider, giving you again credit for your sincerity, whether the converse may not be true in this case, and whether, by throwing out this Bill without any attempt to touch it up or to improve it, it may not be the other way on, and that your Lordships may not be remembered for good in many a poor household where the vicissitudes of non-employment and of illness, and of many children to keep, are not made easier by the neighbourhood of a public-house.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, after the charming and amusing and at the same time most effective speech to which we have just listened I am afraid that what I have to say may perhaps seem sad and dull, but I do want to-night, not so much as Bishop of London but as an old temperance worker for thirty years, to recall to your Lordships' minds a few facts which really no one denies. The first is the awful drink bill of this country. I believe that no one for a moment denies these figures—they have been published and I have seen no denial of them—that what is spent on alcoholic liquor in this country per annum is £166,425,000, and that when you work out those figures having regard to the population and to the families in this country, it amounts to no less than 7s. 3d. per week on an average for every family in the country, and that is leaving us benighted teetotallers out of account altogether. Therefore, if the compiler of these figures is right when he says that the expenditure on drink is 7s. 3d. per family per week, can you wonder that that expenditure is accompanied by urgent complaints that the children go without food, and that there is no provision for unemployment or for old age? That fact about the drink bill of our country is not denied. When I was over in Canada last year, and had the chance of speaking to numbers of Canadian men, I remember that Sir Wilfrid Laurier did me the honour to sit by my side, as I thought, to back me up, and not only he himself but all the Canadians were horrified at these figures. Canada in proportion to its population drinks only one-fourth of what the Mother Country does.
Then again, at the Pan-Anglican Congress this year, the American bishops and the Canadian bishops said that on the other side of the Atlantic they never see a woman enter a public-house at all. Therefore, I feel this, that we are really in great danger of shocking those noble sons whom we have sent out into the world, and that our drink bill, which we are ourselves so accustomed to, is considered a disgrace to us by the very sons whom we have sent forth into the world. What is the result of this? 325 Your Lordships may have seen a little quiet fun poked at me in the papers for what has been called my "midnight march." That midnight march was not undertaken in any connection with the Licensing Bill at all. It was part of an effort which I made as Bishop of London to carry out a mission in central London. But I do not deny that there were humorous sides to that midnight march. When those 200 or 300 men were invited by the Church Army to sing "Lead, Kindly Light" they all insisted on singing "For he's a jolly good fellow," and still more merriment was excited by the efforts to argue away that midnight march; the public-house people—excellent men as I am certain they are, and when we speak of them we must always do justice to them as men who, no doubt, are trying in a difficult position to do their best, certainly as far as we know in London—but it caused certain merriment that they should be asked to state how many drunken men they had on their premises that night, and when the police were asked how many men they had not taken up on their beat that night. The midnight march resulted, without any humour connected with it, in one of the saddest sights I ever saw in my life. Two hundred men—one who was a witness with me said 300; he says that I have under-rated it by 100—but at least 200 men under forty, between half-past eleven and half-past twelve on Saturday night, all under the influence of drink and with their young faces seamed with drink. I am certain that if your Lordships had seen that sight it would have gone to your hearts as much as it went to mine, especially when I had the knowledge that if I had had the same organisation, the same band, the same companions with whom I went through that part of Westminster, I could have seen the same sight in every slum of London at half-past eleven or twelve on a Saturday night. In that you have the first result, and in our discussion to-night you must not leave out of sight that awful result of what the drink bill of England means.
Now let me mention another point. Information was brought to me to-day from one of the prison chaplains in one 326 of our prisons in England, and he says that in the prison he has to do with 90 to 93 per cent. of those who are there are there directly or indirectly through drink. I take another point. I had the chief representative of the Church Army down to see me to-day. He says that in their opinion they might close all their labour homes but for drink.
The noble Marquess has spoken of the improvement that has taken place in temperance. Thank God there has been an improvement; thank God our efforts for twenty-five years have not wholly been in vain, but at the same time it is acknowledged on all hands that the increase of drinking among women is appalling, and if we think what the increase of drinking among women means, and its effect upon the coming generation, is it not possible to minimise in some way that awful danger? In certain public-houses I have been told that there are private entrances for women, where they can go in at one door and go out another way, so that women can now go into public-houses more easily than they could before. When I contrast that with what my brethren on the other side of the Atlantic have said, the Mother Country compares very badly with them.
Then with regard to the effect upon children. Some of you may have read a very interesting book, although perhaps somewhat sensationally written, called "The Black Stain," by Mr. George R. Sims. I should have considered that book sensational if I had not lived in the slums and seen myself the sights that he has described, the number of children whose livers have become hardened by gin given them by their parents in public-houses. I would ask why is it that three times the number of children are killed on Saturday nights by their mothers overlaying them? There can be only one answer to that and the answer is because their mothers have been drunk.
Therefore, I put before your Lordships the grossness of the evil, and I ask those of your Lordships who care for the future generation to think what the effect of this is upon the children. It has already been quoted to-day, but it will bear quoting again; the noble 327 Earl when he introduced the Motion to-night quoted that it was acknowledged by the whole of the Majority Commission that a gigantic evil remained to be remedied, and that hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in a diminution of this great national degradation. Therefore, we have a point in our argument as to which everyone agrees that this is a national degradation.
Then comes the question, will legislation do any good? Let me be perfectly frank to-night, my Lords. I do not look to legislation to do the chief good; but while I do not look to legislation to do the chief good, I do say to you, to use a scriptural metaphor, that while we must bring spiritual means and moral means to raise Lazarus, you can by legislation take away the stone which keeps him down. I have looked very carefully to see what I think would be the effect of diminishing the number of public-houses upon the decrease of drunkenness. I have had a great many deputations during the past few months from brewers, and I quite agree with the last speaker that they are most charming men personally. I could not think at first why it was they wanted so much to see me and to seek my acquaintance recently, but I found that it was very often in order to try and impress upon me that I was totally wrong on the Licensing Bill. I had some very interesting conversations with those brewers, and I remember I asked a member of one deputation this very question: "Will the decrease of public-houses add to the profit of the other public-houses?" "No," he said, "the custom, as far as we can ascertain, entirely evaporates." If that is so, then I say the reduction of 30,000 public-houses is a great temperance reform. If, on the other hard, other brewers are right who say that it will add to their profits, then I do not think that the Government can look at it as an unjust thing to ask those who are to have their trade increased to pay something towards the compensation of the others. Therefore, although I am perfectly willing to admit that there are two sides to the question as to how much the closing of public-houses will decrease drunkenness, I think we are not far wrong if we take the evidence of one who ought to know, namely, Mr. James, the President 328 of the Plymouth, Devonport and Stone-house Wine, Spirit and Beer Trade Protection Society, who, writing in 1885, said as follows—Any person of ordinary intelligence who has been in the trade for a period of twelve months must and does know that the large number of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor is the principal cause of a considerable portion of the convictions for drunkenness.And in the same paper, "Temperance Legislation and Licensing Reform," Mr. James declared that—To remedy the evils connected with the consumption of alcoholic liquor a large reduction in the number of licences is absolutely necessary.And I might ask why if that is not so should the Majority Report have advocated the immediate closing of large numbers of public-houses? When the noble Marquess then states in his Motion that there is very little material advantage to temperance in the Bill I must remind him under that first heading alone what the closing of 30,000 public-houses would mean to us as temperance reformers. But there are many other provisions on the side of temperance in this Bill. Some have been mentioned; some have not. If you had lived for nine years in Bethnal Green, as I have done, you would know the sights you see in and about public houses on a Sunday. It is a thing that is very disheartening when you see, in spite of all your efforts by lectures, sermons, and mission services every public-house crammed with struggling masses of humanity hour after hour on Sundays. I was very much disappointed at first when I found in the Bill that my diocese was left out with regard to Sunday closing, but I was glad to find afterwards that London, if your Lordships do not throw the Bill out, is to enjoy the reduction to three hours of Sunday opening. Then again, I think the closing of publichouses on polling days is an excellent thing, and also that the closing of them before eight o'clock in the morning is an excellent thing. What are we told by those who have seen it—I do not pretend to have seen it myself—but I am told that at six o'clock every morning in public-houses you will see rows and rows of mugs of spirits waiting for men 329 to go in and drink to start their day's work on. As I say, I have not seen it myself at six o'clock in the morning in London, but I know it is so in the north, and that is one of the great temptations that would be swept away by this Bill. Then again the bona fide traveller has to walk six miles before he can obtain drink. We are glad of that. We are glad that the discretion of the magistrates is brought in again, and although, as I shall say in a moment, I do not think the Bill has been strong enough on clubs, I do hold that it has been unjustly criticised in that regard, because the annual registration of clubs is a great thing, and the other restrictions on clubs seem to me not to be desplsed at all. Then we are glad above all to see the power that is given to the magisstrates to exclude children from public-houses. That is a thing that every child lover ought to be glad to see in a Bill.
No doubt there are certain defects In the Bill; I have always said so, but those were just the defects that we were looking to your Lordships' House to help us to get rid of. Personally, I should have advocated, I confess, a stronger treatment of clubs. There is one simple thing that might have been Introduced, and that is the publication of club-accounts in order that we might see whether they were in fact mere drinking-clubs, clubs of the character, to use the noble Marquess's language, where a halfpenny worth of bread and a great amount of sack was consumed. I should have liked to have seen, by a disclosure of the accounts, which were the real clubs, and which were mere drinking-clubs. Then, again, personally I should have been glad to have dealt with the off-licences in a stronger way. I cannot agree, I am sorry to say, with the noble Earl when he said that they did little to encourage secret drinking. The evidence that I have goes to show that these off-licences are a mischievous tiling which must be dealt with in some way by Parliament. So again I should have very much liked to have seen in the Bill some restriction as to the hours of closing on Saturday nights. Why should public-houses be open till twelve o'clock? I was hoping that your Lord- 330 ships would try and amend this Bill, and there is no reason why we should not have sent it down to the House of Commons again a stronger and a better Bill.
But it is said the Bill is wholly unjust. Now I am perfectly ready to admit that I have always been myself very softhearted about the length of the time-limit. I had a conversation with a brewer who was a member of one of the deputations that came to see me as to the length of the time-limit, and I asked him, "What would you like. How will twenty-eight years suit you?" He said, "Twenty-eight years I would not mind." He was the head of a large brewery, and I thought that as he seemed to take twenty-eight so quietly it would not be far wrong to say that twenty-one would be about just. But personally if your Lordships had fixed any longer time-limit as fair I should never for a moment as a temperance reformer have objected. It seems to me not beyond the wit of man to fix the value of what is admittedly not a freehold and yet which by everybody's admission is a reasonable expectation, and that it is a thing that we might have done and done most usefully for the country. But, of course, what it conies to is this, that if this Bill is rejected on the Second Reading licensed property becomes practically a freehold.
Then again I would deal for a moment with what the previous speaker, the noble Lord who preceded me, said with regard to the knowledge of the trade. Mr. Thomas Nash's statement years ago has been often quoted—There cannot be the smallest doubt that in the strict sense no such thing as a vested interest exists, and that subject to appeal the magistrates can refuse to renew the largest, most useful, and best-conducted hotel in England. I daresay that this will stagger many owners, but it is high time that the trade fully realised their position, and did not remain an instant in a state of false security.Much more recently, and much more forcibly—I am quoting from the Blue book of the Trade of 1903—mutual insurance is advocated as follows—The idea was a great one and, like most great ideas, was simple. Capital was invested in a defective security; the property which depends for its value on a licence. The defect, judged by past experience, was not a very serious one; but there it was; licences, by legal and judicial 331 methods might be destroyed. The exigencies of a brewer's business compelled the investment in licensed property, and the force of competition practically drove the whole of the capital into such business. With all their eggs in one basket, and that radically defective, what more necessary than a sound scheme for remedying the defects.It seems to me while we are most anxious—I am certain I am—to do full justice to the trade, and full justice to every man, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the trade were so simple as not to know the facts of the case all the way round.
I have just two more points and I have done. It is said that the Licensing Bill has really been the cause of the ruin of many honourable firms, but do let me recall to your Lordships' attention the perfectly cold and critical article that appeared in The Times Financial Supplement of 6th March, 1908. It is contained in this statement called "The Truth about the Brewery Market." It says—The Licensing Bill whatever it may threaten has not killed the brewery market; the market was dead before, and dead as the result of the speculation by brewers in tied houses, which culminated ten years ago, and has been collapsing year by year ever since.It seems to me that we have no right to lay on the Government the unjust accusation that they have killed Borne of the firms which were themselves killed before the Licensing Bill came in at all, and, therefore, I feel that a most unjust opprobrium has been cast on the Government for effects attributed to the Bill which effects are due to other causes.
The other point relates to the argument that the 1904 Act was working very well. Let me acknowledge, if I may in all honesty, that it has worked better than I expected when I spoke about it in this place in 1904. But the fact remains that it is working more slowly every day, and that as the cost gets greater for the public-houses it will work slower and slower, and if it was good to shut up any public-house at all, surely to expedite the closing of them is good also, but at the rate your 1904 Act is working I honestly believe that we shall not shut up 30,000 houses in 100 years.
332 Therefore it is that I come round to what I am going to ask your Lordships' to do, with all fairness to all concerned, and that is—although I am afraid it is perfectly hopeless—to reconsider the decision to which you seem to have come. I do not ask you to pass this Bill as it stands, I would myself try and help to amend it in many ways, but I ask you not to reject the Bill altogether, because I say if you do never will you find a Government that will take up this question again in our lifetime. Reject this Bill and a licence becomes a freehold; reject this Bill and the trade becomes impregnable; reject this Bill and the national degradation, which this measure was designed to cure, will go on unmitigated so far as legislative enactment is concerned for many years to come; but pass it, amend it, and put it on the Statute-book, and you will take a step towards the well being and the happiness of the nation.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I must say that I felt some regret when I understood that this Bill was not to be read a second time, but after having listened to the speeches that have been made this evening in favour of that Second Reading my regret is very considerably diminished. First of all, the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading did not indicate that he would be prepared to accept Amedments of any vital character, and also the noble Lord, the Marquess who leads this side of the House, is so emphatic and clear in his statement as to the importance he placed upon doing everything that was possible to increase temperance in this country, that I think my hostility to not having a Second Reading of this Bill is very considerably reduced. At the same time I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ribblesdale, who has said that the decision will be a popular one. From all I have been able to gather in these recent days of the opinions of men of moderate views there seems to be a great concensus of opinion gradually gaining ground in the country that something further needs to be done to check, if possible, the drink evil, and I think, as Lord Lansdowne very properly remarked, there are a number of people who do not understand the details 333 of the Bill, and do not see the in justice which under the circumstances may be done in certain quarters, and they will only blame this House for having summarily disposed of the Second Reading if, as prefigured, this Bill is then rejected. At the same time it must be recognised in the past that by the Act of 1904 we showed very clearly that we were as anxious as any other part of the community to secure legislation that would have possibly reduced the drink evil, and if we do not see our way to accept this measure it is because we do believe that you may not do evil in order that good may come, and it is unfair to accept any proposals which will undoubtedly cause ruin, or at all events, great loss of property to a number of people. The right rev. Bishop of London read out a quotation I think from the Licensing Report in which it said that no sacrifice would be too great to remove this national degradation. But I ask, where is the sacrifice that is made in this case? The sacrifice is not made on the part of the Government; it is certainly not made on the part of the nation. The sacrifice is to come entirely out of the pockets of those who have been engaged in a trade that has been recognised as a perfectly legitimate one up to the present time. The noble Earl, Lord Crewe, tried to draw an analogy between this Bill and legislation such as has been undertaken for the protection of children, but in all such legislation parents are not arbitrarily deprived of their children; all that legislation does is to take children away from bad or improper treatment, but this is a proposal to take away from a man that which he has not been shown to abuse Again he drew the illustration of the Act dealing with betting in the streets, as showing that we did not sympathise with the bookmakers. But that was not a case where the bookmakers had invested their capital on the faith of holding what is a Government or a State licence, and in the expectation of having that licence renewed from year to year. Therefore, I maintain that there is rot any true or real analogy to be drawn from those instances that were put before us by the noble Lord.
There was one portion of the Bill that I certainly had a dislike to, and that 334 is to any tribunal being appointed ad hoc. It is the fashion of the party opposite to introduce such instances of bureaucratic government, and in this particular case, as the noble Marquess pointed oat, the new body would supersede those who had local knowledge and experience.
It has been denied that there has been any increase in the number of clubs where the number of public-houses has been reduced. Perhaps the increase has not been so large as might have been expected, but I certainly do not think it can be safely assumed that when you have a Bill of this character which is arbitrarily going to reduce the number of houses and perhaps without proper cognizance of the requirements of the district, that then there will not be a demand or there will not be an occasion for drinking clubs to be created. No doubt the licensing authorities under the provisions of the Act of 1904 would determine the houses or draw up a scheme of the houses that should be suppressed, and, therefore, it might be supposed that they would take into calculation where those houses were least wanted, so that in that case there would be less occasion for clubs to be established. But when you come to an arbitrary reduction, as contemplated under this Bill, I think it can hardly be expected that there would not be any cases where houses would be removed where a demand existed in the neighbourhood for some facilities of drinking and had to be provided for, and consequently clubs would be established. The noble Lord, Lord Ribblesdale, said that he had no sympathy with tied houses. I think I rather agree with him, although I am not in the fortunate position that he was, he having had a clever agent who foresaw the possible legislation that was forthcoming, and thereby got rid at a very good price of those houses that were belonging to the noble Lord. But I do quite hold that those brewers who have spent large sums of money in tying up houses for the sake of disposing of their wares, have embarked in a speculation with which we can hardly feel sympathy if they suffer loss in consequence of any legislative action. But it is not only the brewers but also those who have invested money 335 who are quite ignorant of this condition of affairs, and who believed that the licensing system was going to continue much on the same footing as heretofore. The right rev. Bishop of London quoted one brewer as saying that if you removed one house it would not thereby follow that the remaining house would increase its profits, but that the profits seemed entirely to evaporate. I think possibly some explanation may be found in the fact that when you remove facilities for convenient and companionable drinking then, instead of drinking beer, the person would go to the nearest off-licence, and buy a bottle of spirits and indulge himself in that way instead of going some distance in order to frequent the remaining public-house. I think it is quite possible, therefore, that the brewer's profits may be reduced, if they do not disappear altogether, but if it could be traced, I think you would find that the sale of spirits had increased instead.
I am not so much concerned with the general provisions of the Bill, but more particularly in respect of how far it might affect a Bill of my own, which I introduced very recently and which was referred to this evening by the noble Marquess. The effect of the passing of this Bill, as it now stands, upon any prospect of improving public-houses and procuring a greater amenity in their surroundings, I think would be to absolutely destroy it. That Bill, when I introduced it, I think met generally with a favourable reception as regards its intention, but the noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor, deprecated the passing of the Bill on the ground that it would give full freedom to publicans to alter their houses without any check whatever by the licensing authority. But there was no fault found, I think, either by him or by the noble Lord, Lord Fitzmaurice, as to the intention or scope of the Bill, and Lord Fitzmaurice even went so far as to say that it might be possible to insert an Amendment into this present Bill under discussion to secure the effect claimed for the Bill that I introduced. But, as I say, this Bill would absolutely discourage any idea of publicans improving the premises or the surroundings of a public-house. 336 Naturally any licensee during this period of suspense of fourteen years or more would not venture to incur a heavy outlay in improving his premises; on the contrary, he would devote all that time to a far more sordid scheme, namely, one of getting all the money he possibly could out of his house, and, as the noble Marquess pointed out this evening, at as cheap a rate as possible to himself. Therefore, any prospect that I might have had of inserting the Amendment as suggested by Lord Fitzmaurice is really entirely discounted, and the whole tenor of the Bill would be entirely opposed to my proposals being able to take any effect. One of the noble Lords this evening, Lord Crewe I think it was, doubted whether publicans really objected to hard drinking, whether they were not on the whole rather pleased to see that their customers consumed as much as possible. I daresay they might do so under present circumstances, I am not in a position to speak as to that, but had my proposal been carried out, they would then have been able to look to another source of profit by increasing their clientèle, and by encouraging others to come into their premises for innocent recreation, and for very simple and harmless refreshment.
I do not propose to detain your Lordships further. As I say, my original idea was that it would have been better to have passed the Second Reading of this Bill, but I can see that there is not any chance from anything that has fallen from the noble Lord (Lord Crewe) opposite this evening, that any vital Amendment would be allowed to be introduced, and, therefore, I have come round to the view so very ably and clearly expressed by the noble Marquess on the front bench below me.
LORD ST. DAVID'S
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down began his speech by saying that he was one of those who had been rather inclined to wish that this Bill was going to be given a Second Reading, and he wound up his speech by saying that that desire of his had been either lessened or taken away, because the noble Earl who introduced the Bill had not given any indication to the House of 337 what Amendments he might have been prepared to accept provided that Second Reading was granted. But surely, my Lords, it could hardly be expected that the Lord Privy Seal would make a statement of that kind when we all know he began his speech this evening by commenting on that meeting which was held in another place, a meeting at which the fate of this Bill was sealed in advance, without one word in favour of the Bill having been listened to, or without the noble Earl in charge of the Bill being able to give one single reason or to make a single concession by which the Bill might have been accepted by the other side.
We are asked to reject this Bill to-night first of all because it does not materially advance the cause of temperance. I do not want to dwell on that part of the question this evening, but I should like just to call the attention of your Lordships' House to some of the points in which this Bill certainly does advance the cause of temperance. I venture to say that many of those points are points on which, if we had come to Committee stage, this House as a whole would have supported the Bill, and on many of the points I think they would have supported it almost unanimously. For instance, the extension of the bona fide traveller limit from three miles to six. That was gone into by the Royal Commission, and every single member, I believe, of the Royal Commission agreed on the point, except that some thought that instead of its being six miles it ought to be seven. Surely that is a provision which, if passed, would promote the cause of temperance.
Then the clause with regard to young persons under the age of fourteen not being allowed in a public-house bar—is that not a thing that would have been accepted in Committee? Then again, that public-houses are all to be closed in a constituency during an election. Anyone who has had to do with contested elections in this country knows, at any rate, that that would promote the cause of temperance. Then there was a proposal in the Bill by which the Welsh Sunday Closing Act should be extended to Monmouthshire. I have had nothing to do with Sunday closing in England, but I have had considerable 338 experience in Wales. When the Sunday Closing Act for Wales was first passed, it was a debatable matter, but now in Wales you never hear one single word from any single man against Sunday closing, and if you took a poll on the question in Wales to-day I do not believe you would get five per cent. of the population to vote for Sunday opening. In Monmouthshire you have an English-speaking population and a Welsh-speaking population, and although Monmouthshire is not England according to conditions laid down by Parliament, yet you have the conditions in Monmouthshire which are exactly the same as across the border. The Sunday closing provision is one which I say, at any rate, would tend to promote the cause of temperance. Then you would have matters like justices of the peace being allowed their costs in defending their own licensing decisions. I am sure if that were put to noble Lords in this House, not as legislators but as magistrates, as I suppose we all are, we should all agree that that was a most admirable provision. There are other clauses also that this House might have been asked to consider in Committee. Then as regards clubs, by this Bill the registration of every club is to come up as a new matter once every twelve months. Tied house clubs too were to be forbidden. Noble Lords may have their own views as to the advantages of tied public-houses, but perhaps not one noble Lord would say that a brewer or a publican should be allowed to have a club and run that club for the sale of his own liquor. Then you have the clauses for police inspection of clubs and with regard to the sale of drink off club premises, which is forbidden.
I have just run through a few of the headings of this Bill which are undoubtedly temperance provisions and nothing else, and they are provisions to which I think the noble Lords might have given consideration. But the Second Reading is not to be given. Well, my Lords, we have had only one speech which I think was very strongly against the Bill as a whole. That was the speech of the noble Marquess who moved its rejection. He said among other things that the 339 Bill was a very inconsistent Bill, and he gave instances of it. He said: "What do the supporters of this Bill do? They say, first of all that getting rid of licences is going to promote temperance." I take it that that is common ground to a certain extent, at any rate, to both parties. He says: "The promoters of this Bill say that if you lessen the number of licences, you are going to lessen the amount of excessive drinking" and he went on to say: "The same people who use that argument say to the brewers that by doing away with a certain number of licences they are going to get, on the other hand, some compensation because they will get additional profit from the surviving houses." You must admit that there is nothing inconsistent in that. Both propositions may be absolutely and entirely true. Let us take the case of three public-houses near together in a town. Supposing this Bill were passed and one of those houses were done away with. Supposing, owing to the doing away of that public-house, 20, 30, or 50 per cent. of its customers stopped going to public-houses at all, that would be promoting temperance; but supposing the rest of the customers went into the two surviving houses, in those houses there would be additional business, but that additional business would be done without any additional expenditure. There would not be the upkeep and the salaries of the house that had been done away with, and it would be quite possible for the owners of those houses to make more profit with the customers they had before and half the customers of the third house that had been done away with. It might be quite possible indeed to have less drinking and more profit, so that the position, therefore, is not an inconsistent one for a temperance reformer to take up. The noble Marquess then went on to say that clubs were too lightly treated by the Bill as compared with the way licenced premises proper were handled. I should like to remind you that in the House of Commons the Government were in this position—that the supporters of the noble Marquess in that House raised a great outcry at the way clubs were being interfered with. They 340 said they were being most drastically treated, and it was an interference which no working man ought to put up with. That argument was used ad nauseam. The position of the Government, therefore, was rather difficult. I do not remember the exact figure the noble Marquess quoted, but I think he mentioned a club at which the drink bill came to £2,600, the bill for newspapers to 10s. 6d., and I think the bread bill was 3s. 9d.—those were roughly the figures—and he said that under this Bill it was contended we wore going to do away with clubs which are drinking clubs or mainly drinking clubs; he asked who was going to determine which is a drinking club and which is not a drinking club, and he contended that, therefore, it would not be doing away with the drinking clubs. But I would point out that that will depend on the magistrates, and will it not depend also on the number of members that the club has? Supposing a club has 2,600 members and the drink bill is £1 a head a year, it would be perfectly obvious that that club was not a drinking club. But supposing a club had twenty-six members and the drink bill was £2,600 a year—that would be £100 a year a head—it would be pretty certain that that club was a drinking club; and I venture to suggest that that is a thing that any bench of magistrates could decide for themselves as the case might arise.
Then the noble Marquess went on to deal with various other objections to the Bill. He said that off-licences ought to have been interfered with; that the scale of reduction under the Bill was of too cast-iron a nature, that it ought to have had more elasticity, and he wanted a better definition of "monopoly value" than the Bill gives. But surely that is not a reason for rejecting the Bill altogether? Those are all matters that could have been rejected, amended, or adopted in Committee, and they cannot reasonably be given a; grounds for throwing out a Bill of this magnitude on the Second Reading.
The next reason the noble Marquess gave for objecting to the Bill was a still more serious one. He did not like the licensing tribunal and its constitution, and said that under this Bill what we 341 were likely to get was a political tribunal. That raised a cheer; I do not know why. I do not know all the members of that tribunal—we have the names before us—but I do know the chairman, and his views are the same as the views of the noble Marquess opposite. The second member I am told is a Conservative; the third member I do not know; but, considering that two out of the three, at any rate, nominated by the Liberal Government, hold the same political views as the noble Marquess opposite, I consider that that sneer against the Government might have been spared us.
Then the noble Marquess went on to the objection that this Bill was a Bill of confiscation. He said that for many years past the Exchequer have been valuing licences for the purpose of death duties, that a very high value has been put upon them, and that it is a monstrous thing that property should be valued for one purpose one day and for another purpose on a different scale another day. He said the idea of fluctuating values—that was his expression—was a wrong one. But all values fluctuate, and I venture to think there is some confusion of mind on this subject. After all, property for death duties is taxed on value; but on what value? On its market value, which is an absolutely and entirely distinct thing from its intrinsic value. If the property to be valued is in the shape of shares, you can get the value of that property by applying to the Stock Exchange, or, if it is a picture or a licence, what the Government has to find out is what similar property is selling for at the time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has nothing to do with its intrinsic value, of which he cannot form an opinion. What he has to do with is its market value. Take a case, which I venture to say is absolutely on all fours with the valuation of licences for the purposes of death-duties. A man dies and leaves property in a holding in a particular gold mine. The shares are £1 shares quoted at £10 apiece in the market, although perhaps intrinsically they are not worth £1. Three months later they may be down to 10s. a share, but if on the day these death duties are paid 342 the shares stand at £10, the property must be taxed at the price of those shares—£10 a share. It is market value and not intrinsic value that you must take for that purpose—there is nothing else that you can get at; and it is the same thing with the Licensing Bill. The noble Marquess went on to say that one of the great reasons why he had been induced to recommend the rejection of this Bill on Second Reading instead of the considering of it in Committee was this. He said that it was a question of the privilege of the Commons, and that we had had an experience in this House only last summer of the difficulty of amending big Bills while the Government—"the Government" was the expression he used—were pressing Parliamentary privilege to such extremes. I do not think that the noble Marquess, if I remember aright, was ever in the House of Commons; if he had been, it would have occurred to his mind that it is not the Government who decide what is or what is not privileged in Parliament, it is the Speaker. The Speaker determines what is and what is not privileged; the Speaker lays it down in the House of Commons, and it is really the Speaker whom you have to deal with here and not the Government at all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but surely, when the Speaker decides what is privileged and what is not privileged, it is for the Government to decide whether it will press privilege or whether it will waive privilege.
LORD ST. DAVID'S
My Lords, no doubt it is true that the Government may waive the privilege of the House of Commons, but it is the Speaker, and not the Government, who determines what the privilege is.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I did not complain of the Speaker; I complained of His Majesty's Government.
LORD ST. DAVID'S
Then, my Lords, the noble Marquess went on to talk of confiscation. In another place "robbery" was the word that was used, but the noble Marquess' idea is that the real objection to this Bill is that it is 343 confiscation. I was sorry that the noble Marquess did not go just a little further and tell us just why, in his mind, a licence stood in the form of property. I gather from his public work that he does not put it as high as freehold property, because he was a party to the Act of 1904, under which a licence-holder when he gets compensation is to be compensated out of his own pocket. It is perfectly obvious, if a man has freehold land, that you could not take away his land and compensate him out of a special tax put upon land. But when the Government admitted, as they did in 1904, that a licence can be taken away from the owner and compensated for by a special levy put upon licensed property, that, at any rate shows that the party opposite do not regard licences as on all fours with freehold property. But I think that in opposing this Bill they might at least have told us where they class this property, and how many years time-limit they would have thought was enough. It seems to me that it Is the one thing that might have been done to settle this question if the noble Marquess opposite, instead of taking the line he did, had stated how many years time he thought would have given sufficient compensation for licensed property. I repeat it seems to me that that is the line on which this question might have been finally dealt with.
After all, what is the position that the opponents of this Bill are taking up? Are they taking up the position that because a man has built up a business under Act of Parliament, and because the Parliament of the time takes a different view of the legislation under which that business has been built up, then that man must be compensated in equity? That is what we should like to know, because, if so, this would be applicable in many other cases. Let me take this illustration: Suppose the views of the noble Lords opposite prevail, and that some years hence we have a protective tariff in this country; a man in a few years time with the help of that tariff builds up a great business where, by his actual capital and skill, he is making £10,000 a year, but where, from the benefit he gets from the protective 344 tariff, he is, as a matter of fact, making £40,000 a year; then suppose that the protective legislation under which he works is rescinded, is that man to be compensated then because his profits have gone down from £40,000 a year to £10,000 a year? You may say, "Certainly not; that is not on all fours with this case." No; but suppose that man had been a clever man, as the brewers were, and that instead of sticking to his property himself he had sold it to a limited company; suppose he had sold his property in shares to widows and orphans all over the country—they are the favourite people—and then somebody proposed that that protective law should be abolished, what should we be told then? Here is a man making £40,000 a year in a business under the sacred protection of an Act of Parliament—are you going to tell us then, that, because the Act of Parliament is altered, the public are going to compensate that man for the business he has built up? I submit that that case is on all fours with the proposal to compensate publicans.
There is another illustration that I should like to give as to the different ideas that are held about compensation. Take this case: A man twenty years ago bought two little houses in a London suburb where there was no public-house; he bought No. 1 and he bought No. 3. Somebody else bought No. 2. The owner of No. 2. went to the licensing magistrates and asked for a licence and he got a licence. You know perfectly well what happened the day that man got a licence. His property went up enormously in value, automatically, from the granting of that licence. But what happened to the unfortunate man who bought No. 1 and No. 3? You know what happened there. Even in the poorest districts they do not by choice like to live next door to a public-house. The granting of a licence to No. 2 therefore immediately automatically lessened the value of No. 1 and No. 3. It immediately lessened their selling value and it immediately lessened their letting value. What happens? For twenty years the owner of No. 2 has had the great pecuniary benefit of that licence, 345 whereas the owner of No. 1 and No. 3 has suffered; and now it is proposed to compensate No. 2 because you take away from him an excessive advantage which he has enjoyed for twenty years, an advantage which has injured the owner of No. 1 and No. 3. You are to give him compensation. And we are proposing in this Bill to give him compensation. Now I want to put this to the noble Lords opposite. They are going to throw out this Bill because, as they say, it is a confiscation Bill. But I want them just to consider this and to put this case to themselves. Take a landlord in Great Britain—there is not such a one, but take for example a landlord who has had a landed property or a building property or a mining property, I do not care which it is, for twenty years, and he has let it not on lease, but year by year, to a tenant at a rental which is only one-fifth of its value; he has let it change from one tenant to another year by year and each tenant in succession has held it and paid one-fifth of the rental value for it; at the end of twenty years the landlord thinks he has done enough for his tenants and that he would like to charge the full rent, the five-fifths which he might have charged any year; if he charged it at once would he be a robber? Would it be confiscation? Can you say that it would? But suppose he went to his then tenant and said: "You and the tenants for twenty years before you have enjoyed this property for £100 a year when it was worth £500 a year; I am going to alter my arrangements; I am going to take the property into my own hands; I do not want to sell it, but I will tell you what I will do—I will let you have the property for fourteen years longer at the same rent that you have been paying for the last twenty years; I will let you have the property for fourteen years longer at one-fifth of its rental value"—I ask you whether there is any one of your Lordships in private life who would say that man had not been generous beyond any man living? That is the position that is taken by the Government, on behalf of the taxpayers of the country. I would ask you to remember this; the Government of the day in these times is not very rich, yet in the short time that I have been in this House we 346 certainly have not been advocating economy to any marked degree on either side. Last summer we had the Old-Age Pensions Bill, the expenditure under which noble Lords opposite, I am bound to admit, tried to cut down in many respects, but that Old-Age Pension Scheme is going to lead to much more expenditure next year and the year after. That, at any rate, is common ground, and for that, no doubt, this side of the House is responsible. But what did we have the night before last? We had the noble Field-Marshal on the cross benches proposing an expenditure on the Army. The noble Lords cheered that and they voted for it by a great majority. Nobody, I think, disputed the figures, I do not think any body discussed the figures; but, as far as I could hear them, the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal estimated that if that proposal was carried into law it would cost the country something like £20,000,000 a, year additional in public expenditure. And then we had another proposal yesterday for spending a large sum additional on the Navy, a proposal, which, I presume, is necessary and will, no doubt, be carried out in due time. You have all these things, you have admittedly a great expenditure going on for old-age pensions, you have expenditure going on for the Navy, and you have that enormous expenditure estimated at £20,000,000 a year on the Army advocated by noble Lords opposite. I put this to you, that this: monopoly value of licenses as distinguished from other values is a thing which the nation has a right to resume at the end of any twelve months; and I put it to you, my Lords, that we are treating the existing license-holders fairly when we suggest a time limit of fourteen years. I think this proposal of fourteen years is fair and generous, and I say, if we treat the licence-holders fairly, is it not wise for us to consider whether we should not support the Government rather than condemn it in its proposal to take back for the good of the State this enormous value of licenses, this value which ought not to belong to one class as it does to-day, but ought to belong to the community. I say that in trying to regain it the Government are doing good service to the State.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I propose to take only a small part in the debate in your Lordships' House to-night. The Bill which is now under your Lordships' consideration and which has recently been presented to your Lordships' House by the Government is one which it is claimed has for its object a great humanising influence and a great philanthropic aim, but I venture to think that those who advocate these claims will find that they have not been fully appreciated in the country before whose good judgment they have presented them. My Lords, we who sit on this side of the House must at the outset of these arguments reject the claim of those extremists who set themselves up as the sole champions of virtue. We who oppose this Bill also claim that we are second to none in advocating the cause of temperance. We deprecate most highly the abnormal and the excessive use of alcohol. With every respect to the noble Lords who sit on the opposite side of the House, I would ask them, is there not a political intemperance as well as the intemperance of beer and alcohol? I venture to think that this Bill furnishes a very good example of that political intemperance to which I have alluded. This Bill attempts to remove a state of things which it has been alleged exists, and it claims by removing it to lift the working classes in this country out of a state of insobriety and moral abandonment. From our point of view, the Bill would, I think, commit a very great and grievous injustice upon the vast majority of His Majesty's subjects in this country. We have to look at two things. We have to agree as to whether the promoters of this measure have made out their case as to the vast amount of drunkenness which they allege exists in the country. I venture to say, and without much fear of contradiction, that the drunkenness which exists to-day is very much smaller than existed twenty years ago. I believe that other causes, even excluding the Licensing Act of 1904, have been at work to check the spread of drunkenness. What are these causes? They are the ameliorated conditions under which the working classes of this country live, 348 the growth of education, and the better understood hygiene of daily life. I believe that we who sit on this side of the House are all of us fully convinced that it is only by such measures as increase the education of this country, as increase the comfort of the working classes, and make their lives more tolerable—it is only by such schemes and not by a wholesale scheme of injustice such as this measure works that We are going to make the nation more sober than it is at present. In medical science I believe it is generally customary to seek the cause of the disease before you prescribe the remedy. I believe also that there is a growing belief in medical science that the surgeon's knife will not play as important a part in curing as it did some years ago; new systems have been discovered, serum, inoculation, and so on; but from the measure which is before your Lordship's House to-night I am rather inclined to believe that His Majesty's Government, and those in the country who support them, are still firm believers in the antiquated process of bleeding for every possible ailment.
I do not know whether I should be right in saying so, but I am inclined to believe that there are many in this country who have been minded to give their support to the Licensing Bill, and who have given their support to it, in the firm hope that it will never pass. This measure inflicts a great injustice upon the law-abiding citizens of this country. I do not want to touch so much on the question of property, although I shall allude in one moment to that question, because the more the question of property is kept out of the discussion, I think the sooner we shall be able to arrive at the justice or the injustice of this measure. The greatest blot in the Bill to my mind is that it interferes with the individual liberty and comfort of those who dwell, and more especially of those who dwell, in rural districts. It also infers that the public-house is a cause of drunkenness, instead of which, as I intended to make clear at the beginning of my few remarks, the public-house is not a cause of drunkenness, but may be the means of alleviating sorrow and misery which could be 349 alleviated in a more wholesome and satisfactory manner. But there is more than that. It is a working-class pleasure. Supposing we take what is proposed to happen under the Bill: you might only find, as I believe was stated to-night, public-houses within a radius of some seven odd miles. I think it is hardly fair that you should, if I may say so, depopulate the country districts in that way; and make life in the country perhaps more lonely than it is apt to be even at the present moment. The public-house means a great deal to the working man; it means a place where he can go and see his friends; perhaps it is the only club for many miles round, the only place where he can go and discuss the local gossip and the prices of the adjoining markets; Where he can discuss politics, and even where perhaps he can draw conclusions from the results of bye-elections.
There is another great blot on this Bill—this Bill of reaction. Legislation must be always contemporary and in sympathy with the prevailing public opinion; it must not be ahead of it, and it must not be behind it, and had His Majesty's Government asked your Lordships to consider this measure twenty years ago it would have been very much harder to have opposed it on the ground that drunkenness did not exist to the same degree as it was stated, than it is to oppose it to-day.
Now I will take one other point, a point on which I think all must agree. Supposing we admit that licences have been issued without sufficient discrimination in the past, supposing we admit that there are too many public-houses at present, two wrong acts never make one right, and consequently, as has been said by a Member in another place, if the State has granted licences, perhaps too easily, it must be very careful in taking them back to see that the minimum amount of unfairness is inflicted on those who have invested their money and perhaps their all in a licensed house.
I have nearly finished, but there are just two points on the legal side to which I should like to allude. We have heard a good deal about the freehold of a licence, but as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will himself tell us, there is 350 property which is property in every sense of the word, although it is not real property, and although it is not freehold property. For instance, leasehold property is property. I believe that you cannot even call capital freehold property in any sense of the word, or your gold watches, but they are none the less your property. So let us leave this bugbear of freehold property for the moment and realise that it is property that is being attacked, and see that that security which all of us have reason to expect, living under a civilised and highly organised Government, be not removed from us and then the more happy this nation shall be.
I believe noble Lords on this side of the House will agree with me when I say that we would have welcomed most cordially a measure inflicting heavy penalties upon those who sell anything other than the purest beer and the purest spirits. Had His Majesty's Government introduced a measure to this House with the avowed intention of securing temperance by prohibiting the sale of anything but the best beer and the best spirits—for I believe it is the sale of bad beer and bad spirits that has given public-houses such a bad name, and with some justice throughout the length and breadth of this country—the existing Acts not being sufficient or at all events not having had the desired effect—I believe the noble Marquess on this side of the House and those with him would to a man have gone into the same lobby with the Members of His Majesty's Government. But the Government have not done that; they have thought fit to introduce a measure which is unfair and at the same time inefficient, and we oppose it not upon temperance grounds but because it fails to bring about the temperance reform which its promoters allege it will bring about. Therefore I feel quite sure, as your Lordships seem to have already foreseen, that this Bill will be sent back from whence it came, and I believe that we shall earn the gratitude of the whole country, and that although possibly we may earn also the indignation of those extremists of whom I have spoken, yet the credit of your Lordships' House will be immeasurably raised in the opinion of the electors of this country.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, all of us, I am sure, desire to consider favourably any measure which has for its object the promotion of temperance. It is alleged in many quarters by persons whose opinion I speak of with respect that this measure is likely to bring about a kind of temperance millennium. I am afraid that this is an uninstructed view which has been expressed without sufficient consideration of the provisions of the Bill. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London drew a painful, and, I fear, too true picture of the evils arising from excessive indulgence in drink among all classes in the great diocese over which he presides. The right rev. Prelate told us of ruined homes, of men, women, and children destroyed body and soul by excessive indulgence in drink, and of vice and crime having their roots in that great evil. I do not think the right rev. Prelate, in comparing Canada with England, made due allowance for the difference in climate, and in the condition and habits of the population. I fear, however, the picture which the right rev. Prelate drew is to a certain extent true; but then he also admitted that he did not look himself to legislation as the main remedy for those evils.
What we have to consider now is the Amendment proposed by my noble friend which is tantamount to the rejection of this Bill. I do not entirely agree with some of the views expressed by my noble friend (Lord Lansdowne), and, therefore, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships, merely saying that I shall endeavour to state my opinions with every respect for the opinions of those from whom I differ. The real question is not whether this Bill should pass into law in its present shape, but whether we can give it a Second Reading with a view to its consideration in Committee, or whether it is so radically bad and so incapable of Amendment here, having regard to the views of the Government and the limited powers of your Lordships' House, that it would be practically useless to consider it in Committee at all.
Well, my Lords, I do not think that many of your Lordships would say that of a good many of the provisions of this 352 Bill. We have heard from the right rev. Prelate and from Lord St. Davids, whom, I think, we may all welcome as a valuable addition to your Lordships House, a good deal as to the clauses in the Bill, which have nothing whatever to do with the reduction of licences. Those clauses form no inconsiderable proportion of this measure. I think they are something like thirty in number. They deal with the subjects of Sunday closing, the exclusion of children from the bars of licensed premises, the power of attaching conditions to renewals of on-licences, and many other reforms of the licensing law which appear to me to be in themselves valuable and useful and to which I do not think there would be any serious opposition in this House. They contain also important provisions, of which I cordially approve, with regard to clubs.
Whatever may be the fate of this measure, if the reduction of licences merely proceeds under the Act of 1904, the time will come before long when the further regulation of clubs selling alcohol will be absolutely necessary in the public interest. It is utterly useless, and worse than useless, in the interests of temperance, dealing with on-licences if the next day almost those very premises, or premises immediately adjoining, can be turned into a club, practically a drinking club, where drink can be sold free from the control and supervision to which the public-house is subject. I do not say that these provisions of the Bill are absolutely perfect; some of them are capable of very definite amendment. For example, the clause of which I cordially approve, proposing the closing of licensed houses on the day of election, has been unintentionally extended to public-houses all over the country, though the election may only occur in a single constituency. Then there is a most remarkable clause relating to the providing of meals on Sunday during the hours when premises are closed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, which would lead to the utmost difficulty in the due observance of the law. These are little mistakes which have occurred, and which the Government admit to be due to the closure of free debate in another place. Generally speaking, I must 353 say that I regard these portions of the measure as valuable improvements in the existing law, and I cannot conceive that any number of Members of your Lordships' House would consider that any of them was a sufficient ground for rejecting the Bill on Second Reading. On the contrary, I personally regard them as an important argument in favour of a Second Reading being given to the Bill.
The right rev. Prelate said that if this Bill were rejected on Second Reading a generation, perhaps, might elapse before any Government took up the question of licensing reform again. I would suggest to the right rev. Prelate and to the Government that, supposing this Bill is rejected on Second Reading—and they know perfectly well why it will be rejected—what is to hinder the Government, what is to hinder the right rev. Prelate himself, from bringing in these clauses as a new Bill next week and passing it through your Lordships' House? I have no right to speak for any but myself, though I may probably speak for others when I say that I believe any such, action would be welcomed by many on this side of the House. The right rev. Prelate laid great stress on the clause providing for the exclusion of children from public-houses. I think that clause would have been more properly placed in the Children Bill, and I understand that notice has been given to introduce it into that Bill on Third Reading.
I now turn to the real question at issue in this Bill, and that is, of course, the question of the method by which licences are to be reduced. The principle of the reduction of licences is, I think, admitted by both great parties. I know there are some who doubt whether the reduction of licences leads to the promotion of temperance, and there may be certain cases in which it would have no such effect; but I believe, generally speaking, it is admitted by both parties that if by reducing the number of licences where it is excessive in proportion to the needs of the population you diminish the facilities for obtaining drink, you will make a great move in promoting temperance. That, of course, was the object and principle of the Act 354 of 1904, and that I take to be the object and principle of this Bill. My noble friend who moved the Amendment was one of the authors of the Act of 1904. I approved of it and supported it in another place, and I think it would be quite wrong to describe that Act as a failure; but, although, in my belief, it has done great good, consistently with justice, in reducing the number of licences, I do not think its operation in that respect has been as extensive as its authors anticipated. I heard my noble friend to-night state that some 1,500 licences a year had been reduced since its passing. That may be so. I have not the figures, but, if I remember rightly, some 2,000 or 2,500 was stated by responsible Ministers in this House and in another place at the time the Bill of 1904 was under consideration as the probable number which would be reduced under its operation in the course of a year.
§ LORD BELPER
If the noble Viscount is referring to the statement that I made in moving the Second Reading of the Bill in your Lordships' House, I may say that I made no estimate of the number that would probably be reduced by the operation of the Bill. I stated distinctly what the total amount was that would be available for compensation, but I specially stated that I made no estimate with regard to the number to be reduced.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I do not think that is quite a contradiction of what I said, because I gathered from the speech of my noble friend near me this evening that 95 per cent. of the sum provided for compensation had been utilised in this way. Therefore nearly the whole of the sum which my noble friend below the gangway anticipated has been used for this purpose. However, the point is not material. All I would say is this, that I think the reduction of licences has not been as great as was anticipated, and that in that respect the Act has not been so successful as I should like to see it.
I should like to consider for a moment why no larger reduction in the number was made. In the first place, the Act gives very considerable power to the 355 licensing committee of Quarter Sessions over the action of licensing justices in any petty sessional division if, in their zeal, they propose the reduction of too many licences; but the Act does not, on the other hand, give Quarter Sessions or the licensing committee any power to move licensing justices to necessary action if the justices for any reason do not act at all. There are too many petty sessional divisions in which licensing justices have not shown that readiness which any unprejudiced person would consider they might have shown to carry out the provisions of the Act of 1904, and so the progress of reduction under that Act has not been such as was hoped for.
The Government propose to remedy this in two ways. In the first place, they propose a maximum scale of licences according to area and population in country parishes and wards of towns. My noble friend has shown the difficulty of carrying out such a scale, and the Government have recognised the difficulty, because they have inserted so many possible modifications of the scale that it cannot have any uniform operation. I think myself the scale is too narrow, it should give a larger number of houses to population. But that is purely a matter for Committee, and I cannot imagine His Majesty's Government would throw any obstacle in the way of a reasonable settlement of this, so I will not refer to it further.
But I do think that the proposal to abolish altogether the licensing Committee of Quarter Sessions and to substitute a central tribunal in London of three paid Commissioners is a very unfortunate proposal. The Liberal party in old days was a great defender of local government and anxious for its extension, and it is a bad omen that during the last two or three years there has been more than one proposal of this kind to take away discretion from local authorities who are known and trusted by the people, and give a power over them to a central board in London. I have every respect for the three gentlemen named, and I am quite sure they would act fairly and impartially in this matter, but they cannot possibly have the local knowledge which is, above all things, essential for 356 an estimate of the number of licences that ought to be abolished.
There is the further difficulty alluded to by my noble friend that, if you have a central tribunal, you must have what the noble Earl opposite described as a national fund for compensation; and. so public-houses in one part of the country, where no public-houses require to be abolished, have to pay for the abolition of public-houses in another part of the country with which they have not the slightest connection. The Commissioners would have unlimited power to levy for compensation, and so those unfortunate people in the one part of the country might be taxed to any extent for the benefit of people in another part. The noble Earl, in defending the proposal, spoke of places in which there had been no reduction of licences, and I agree that some kind of initiative might be required in exceptional cases, but I do not think it should come front a central body in London. I am confident that Quarter Sessions aided by the enactment by Parliament of a reasonable maximum scale of the number of' licences would be by far the best tribunal to settle matters of this kind.
But I come now to the parts of the Bill which have been the subject of the greatest criticism, and those are the provisions in regard to the amount of compensation and the time-limit. I have had very considerable experience in my own county of the administration of the Act of 1904, and I am not quite satisfied with the working of the present system of compensation. I believe its basis to be right. If you want to do justice to a person whose property or rights you take away for the public good, you can take no other basis but that of market" value at the time. But market value has been so interpreted by a learned Judge that in some cases, at any rate, more compensation has been given for the abolition of licences than Parliament ever anticipated when the Act of 1904 was passed. It must be remembered that the licensing justices have selected for abolition those houses which were the smallest and the least useful to the public, the trade of which was so limited that the difference in their value, licensed and unlicensed, was 357 comparatively small. Some of such houses were maintained by their owners not because of the profits they produced, but merely in order to keep competitors out of the district. Suppose one of several houses of this kind, owned by a brewery company in the same district has been selected for abolition. It does not seem to me fair that in such cases the compensation for the abolition of the licence should be on the same scale as in the case of a firm or person who owned but a single house in a particular district and whose whole trade would be gone if the licence were taken away. These are cases where I think that the Kennedy judgment, however accurate it may be in point of law—and I do not for a moment question its legal accuracy—yet has led to insufficient discrimination on the part of compensation authorities between different cases where compensation has to be given. Therefore, I should like to see some Amendment of the Act of 1904 in that respect. But now I come to the proposal of His Majesty's Government. How do the Government propose to reckon the compensation to be given in the case of the abolition of a licence? I am glad to see they propose to compensate the tenant and the manager on better terms than the Act of 1904 provides. But in the case of the owner of licensed premises they propose that the compensation shall be such a sum as will purchase, with interest reckoned at 4 per cent., an immediate annuity for the number of the unexpired years of the reduction period, with three years added, and equal in amount to the annual value of the licence as adopted for the purpose of income-tax under Schedule A.
I would ask your Lordships to have some regard to the equities of this matter. There are a good many people in this country who look upon everybody who manufactures or sells beer or spirits or wine as a person who does an absolutely evil thing, who ought to be extirpated as soon as possible, if that could be done, but who, if he cannot be extirpated, is no more deserving of compensation if his business is taken away from him than a thief would be deserving of compensation if he were prevented from stealing. That, at any rate, is not the view of His Majesty's 358 Government. In this Bill they recognise the lawfulness of this trade. They propose compensation of a kind to those whose premises are deprived of a licence. They recognise the possibility of a continued existence of some 60,000 on licences fourteen years hence, after the statutory reduction has been effected, and of any number of off-licences, to which, of course, they apply no kind of local option or any other restriction.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
Oh, yes, except charging them with monopoly value which they say at present does not exist in their case. Therefore, they do consider that persons engaged in this trade where a licence is taken away deserve compensation. But why do they deserve less compensation than if they were enaged in any other business? What is Schedule A? Schedule A, according to the Act of 1842, is simply the assessment of the rack rent, or the estimated rack rent of the premises to which it refers. It has nothing whatever to do, legally, with the profits of the trade carried on there. The profits of the trade carried on there must be assessed under Schedule D. How can it be contended that an assessment under Schedule A can be fair compensation to the persons who are engaged in trade in the premises from which the licence is taken away, and who therefore, are deprived of that trade? That is a question which was invited by the speech of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies. I want him to show, I challenge any one of his colleagues to show, how it is possible under Schedule A to compensate a man sufficiently for the trade profits of which he is deprived.
I know that His Majesty's Government intend, in this Bill, to have a reassessment of licensed premises to Schedule A. I fancy they are quite right. I believe myself that, owing to the very small rents often paid by the tenants of tied-houses the assessment of public-houses to Schedule A is much lower in the country than it ought to be. But they cannot, I maintain, legally assess the profits of any person, whether a licence holder or the owner of licensed premises, under Schedule A. They admit 359 themselves that they cannot thus assess the profits of the tenant, because they provide compensation for his profits separately. Why will they not give compensation to the owner of the licensed premises for his profits also? That, to my mind, is perhaps the greatest injustice in this Bill.
What would happen if a company existed, just like a brewery company, having many establishments in different parts of the country, in which they carried on a grocery or a drapery trade? Supposing some public authority, or His Majesty's Government, had to take those premises in the public interest? Do they suppose that such a company would be satisfied with compensation for the loss of their business on the basis of their assessment under Schedule A? The thing is absurd. Of course, it may be said, in reply, that that is a totally different thing—the business carried on in licensed premises depends upon the continuance of the licence. Quite true. That might be a reason for reducing the number of years valuation on which you would base compensation for the profits. It is no reason whatever for refusing to the owner of the premises all compensation on the profits which he makes out of them. There is another difference between the position of a company owning a grocery or drapery establishment and a company owning licensed premises, and that is that in the former case the compensation would have to be paid by the authority taking the premises and putting an end to the business. In this case the compensation is paid by the compensation levy on the trade itself. That is perfectly fair. Why? Because before the passing of the Act of 1904 it was the undoubted law that the justices might put an end to a licence, after considering judicially the circumstances of the particular case, if they held that that licence was redundant. Therefore, the Act of 1904 enacted that an insurance fund should be provided by the trade to insure against any such risk out of which compensation should be paid.
This brings me to the question of the time-limit. I cannot understand the principle on which this time-limit is based. Here are people who have under- 360 taken, at the bidding of Parliament, to compensate themselves by an insurance fund for a certain risk. They are only anxious to go on paying to that insurance fund. Why do you tell them that they are to pay for fourteen years only, and that, at the end of fourteen years, their payments are to come to an end? Why cannot you allow them to go on paying for a reasonable time—such a time might possibly be calculated without much difficulty—sufficient to enable their payments to provide a real and sufficient compensation for the extinction of all licences which you, in your judgment, consider redundant? His Majesty's Government will not do that. Their proposal is this—for fourteen years only the owners of licensed premises are to continue to pay to this fund, but in each year that passes their compensation is to become less if their house is abolished, so that the more they pay to the compensation fund during the fourteen years the less they will receive if their house is abolished as redundant, and when the term has expired the licence may be abolished without any compensation at all by the action—which is, I am afraid, not always very reasonable—of licensing justices, or by the action—which may be still more unreasonable—of a parish majority of two-thirds under the system of local option, while they are absolutely deprived of any benefit from the payments they have made to the insurance fund for fourteen years.
I must say that, to my mind, almost the worst thing about this Bill is the introduction of this system of local option. Why cannot you leave it alone? I do not think that local option, in the South of England at any rate, is likely to be put in force at all. In the case of existing licences, you do not mean it to come into force until the end of fourteen years; therefore what is the use of legislating for it now? But you propose to try it in the case of new licences. Perhaps the effect of that may be that you may find yourselves considerably disappointed in the receipt of monopoly value. This idea of monopoly value has nothing whatever to do with temperance. It is a mere process of exacting more money out of the licensed trade. It is, as Lord St. David's told us, just one of those hen-roosts which the Chancellor 361 of the Exchequer desires to rob. What sort of monopoly value do you expect a man to pay for a licence that may be taken away by local option a year after? What sort of expenditure is he expected to make on the premises to which such a licence applies, in providing for the public comfort and accommodation, which my noble friend Lord Lamington desired should be furnished in his Bill and which in my belief would be the greatest antidote to drunkenness in this country; what sort of encouragement has he to make that provision if you leave his licence open to local option? What right have you to subject existing licences to local option? They are licences which the noble Earl says are annual, having only a mere expectation of renewal and always regarded as terminable. But how terminable? Only terminable by law on account of the unfitness of the premises or of the misconduct of the licence-holder, or because the premises are redundant in a particular district. That principle of redundancy never applied at all to the ante-1869 beer-houses until the Act of 1904; and yet the noble Earl speaks of licences being terminable, as if there ever was a time at which, without any reason, they might have been terminated by the will of any bench of magistrates. Is it consistent with common justice that either by the | action of the magistrates or by local option, the owners of licensed premises should be deprived at the end of fourteen years of their legal rights in this respect, not merely without compensation, but after themselves paying compensation to rivals where houses have been abolished as redundant, though by the working of your own scheme it will have been shown that the continuance of their own houses is required for the public convenience?
Neither do I understand the proposal with regard to monopoly value. What is it? It is something that is supposed to have accrued since Parliament and the licensing authorities adopted the policy of diminishing the number of existing licences and of declining to grant new ones. That, at any rate, is a matter of somewhat recent years. If it did accrue the proper way to meet it, to my mind, would have been by the increase of the licence duties: but I 362 am not sure that it did accrue, because, on the other hand, it must be remembered that there has been a considerable diminution in the consumption of drink since former days and also that considerable additional taxation has been imposed upon intoxicating liquor. But since the Act of 1904 is there any monopoly value at all which you have a right to extract from existing licence-holders? I contend that they are paying for any monopoly they have obtained by the extinction of licences under that Act in the annual compensation levy, and that to impose a further payment for it even at the end of twenty-one years is an injustice which you have no right to commit. You must, if you want to give any just compensation to the owners of licences—you must fix your term of compensation at something like twenty-eight years. If you were to fix the term on such a basis as that, reverting at the end of it to the law as it stood before 1904, you would no doubt make a proposal which would not be inconsistent with justice both to the holders of licences and the owners of licensed property. But that is by no means the proposal in this Bill. This whole scheme, to my mind, is quite inconsistent with justice to those interested in this kind of property. I do not believe it would ever be accepted by the people of this country as fair or reasonable.
I come to the final point. What is the course to be taken in regard to this Bill? It comes to this House recommended by the votes of a very great majority of the representatives of the people. At the same time, we feel that on the ground of privilege we cannot touch some of its most important provisions. My desire has been, if possible, to go into Committee on this Bill and to amend it in such a drastic way as to meet the objections which I have placed before your lordships. I should have liked very much to have given the House of Commons the opportunity of considering such Amendments, and, in spite of what passed last summer, of waiving their privilege if they thought fit to do so for that purpose.
But what is the position in which we find ourselves? Was there a sentence in the speech of the noble Earl opposite 363 implying that the Government would aid in any such project? The Government have had some little expression of opinion in. this House to-night on the part of their own supporters. Lord Ribblesdale is an out-and-out supporter of the Second Reading. He thinks your Lordships ought to revise the Bill. He does not approve of the compensation proposal; he does not approve of local option; he does not approve of the time-limit, and thinks it ought to be extended. He thinks that in calculating any payment for monopoly value a clear preference ought to be given to the old licence-holder. He thinks that tender and considerate treatment should be accorded to an industry whose conditions you are about to change. But I did not observe that those sentiments were cheered by the noble Earl responsible for this Bill, though even the right rev. Prelate took a far more liberal view than the Government have ever hinted at with regard to a time-limit.
I am afraid that from everything they have said, we find ourselves obliged to believe that the Government have nailed their colours to the mast on the questions of time-limit, the compensation basis, local option, and the institution of this tribunal of three Commissioners in London. I do not believe they are able, even if they wished it, to make concessions which would satisfy my mind on these points. If they can do so, I appeal to the noble Earl, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of many who would like to aid in passing a reasonable Act of licensing reform—if such an Act could be passed consistently with justice to those concerned—to tell us in the course of the debate, not merely that they would consider our Amendments here—we know very well how they were dealt with last summer, even Amendments proposed by Ministers themselves—but Would do their best to induce their supporters in the other House to look favourably on these Amendments and waive any question of privilege there. If any such assurance could be given, then I confess for one that I should not like to record my vote against the Second Reading. But if we have no such assurance, then we have no other 364 course open to us but to exercise the constitutional privilege we possess and reject on the Motion for Second Reading a Bill which as it now stands is unjust, and which is undoubtedly unpopular in that part of the United Kingdom which it primarily concerns.
§ THE EARL OF CARLISLE
My Lords, I am exceedingly unwilling to take up your time, but, as I am not an habitual supporter of His Majesty's Government, I feel that in giving my vote for the Second Reading of this Bill I am bound to state my reasons for so doing. The Amendment moved by the noble Marquess the head of the Opposition, states that this measure will not materially advance the cause of temperance. It is because I sincerely believe that it will do this that I support the measure. The statement that has been repeated again and again that this is not a temperance measure appears to me, if I may say so with all respect, to be an extraordinary paradox. If the education agreement that has been arrived at were not only approved by the bench of Bishops and the Leaders of the Nonconformist Party, but had also received the assent of my noble friend Lord Halifax, and the heads of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Dean of Canterbury, I think it would be a paradox in that case if the secularist party were to say that this arrangement did not give sufficient security for religious education. That is really the paradox that is put before us now. Every society that is working for temperance in the country supports this Bill, and I venture to say that the support of those who work for temperance is more valuable than that of those who only profess a platonic feeling of admiration for it. There has been often repeated already to-night those parts of the Bill which make for temperance. The reduction of licences was always, before this Bill was introduced, thought a valuable thing for temperance. Not only the Royal Commission, not only both parties in Lord Peel's Commission, but also the late Government looked upon the reduction of licences as a valuable temperance measure. As Lord St. Aldwyn has pointed out, the reduction of licences under the Act of 1904 has not gone on as was hoped and as was promised. 365 Almost as valuable as the reduction of licences is the restoration of the magisterial authority which this Bill will give. Then there are twenty-five minor temperance measures of which Lord St. Aldwyn spoke. I should like to put this question to the noble Marquess at the head of the Opposition, whether, if this measure was brought in as Lord St. Aldwyn suggested, it would receive his support—whether if that part of this Bill were re-introduced, apart from any of the financial measures, it would receive the support of the Head of the Opposition?
Then I think, when it is stated that this is a hypocritical measure, because there is nothing in the Bill to do away with grocers' licences or to deal with clubs, Members of the Opposition seem to forget how much they did themselves in 1902. The grocers' licences now are under the jurisdiction of magistrates, and they are rapidly decreasing, and would have declined still more had it not been for an unfortunate Amendment which was introduced in your Lordships' House. As to clubs, my belief is that the clauses with respect to clubs are capable of improvement, but it is quite a mistake to say, as has been said, that where one licence is done away with, there a drinking club arises
The increase of clubs in this country since the year 1902 is partly caused by the Act of that year, requiring the registration of all sorts of clubs, including golf and rowing clubs, and these certainly do not affect the question of private drinking. The curious thing is that in Birmingham and Manchester, where there has been a very great reduction of public-houses in the last two years both in regard to on and off-licences, the number of clubs has not increased, but has actually diminished; and an increase in clubs has occurred in places where there has been no diminution of public-houses. I think it would have been a very useful thing to bring in Amendments strengthening the clauses relating to clubs, but owing to the course it is proposed to take of throwing out this Bill on the Second Reading, that has become no longer possible. We are told that we ought to leave the Act of 1904 to do its work without further interference. 366 The noble Viscount has told us that he considers the Act of 1904 is capable of further Amendment, so that I do not think I need labour that point. What I should like to say is that the objection I have to the Act of 1904—and this objection was much more ably expressed than I can express it by Lord Peel at the time of the introduction of the Bill—is that, practically speaking, it introduced something analogous to the capitulations in the East. This is how Lord Cromer describes the capitulations. The capitulations impair those rights of internal sovereignty which are enjoyed by the rulers and legislatures of most States, and in his last Report from Egypt he said that one of the principal nuisances of those capitulations was that it was now impossible to interfere with the drink houses. By the Act of 1904 you introduced domestic capitulations which prevented you from interfering with this class of property in the way that the rulers and legislatures of most States are accustomed to do.
There is one thing I should like to say, and it is that, although we criticise the Act of 1904, there are two things for which we feel grateful, one is establishing the principle of a regular diminution of licences all over the country, and the other is establishing the idea of the monopoly value. Both the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount who preceded me attacked this principle of the monopoly value, but it appears to me that they did not recollect that this principle has been taken from the Act of 1904, and having been inserted there it is absolutely impossible not to extend it now to all licences, because, unless that is done you will have two different kinds of licences, and you will create the same kind of nuisance that you found in the old beer-houses, namely, one kind of licence which cannot be touched, and regular licence which can be touched by the magistrates. The Act of 1904 did away with that anomaly and made beerhouses subject to the magistrates, but in doing so it created a repetition of the same evil by creating a class of new licences which, having paid the monopoly, could be treated by the licensing authority without any difficulty, and the old licences receiving compensation which you could 367 not touch unless the state of the compensation levy permitted you to do so.
I will not attempt to follow the noble Lord on the financial question. It appears to me that it is really a piece of useless argument to go into that matter at present, because it is impossible to remedy it, as there is to be no Committee stage. We have no evidence whatever that compromises could not have been arrived at upon that subject, but unfortunately the majority of this House has decided that no compromise should be attempted. I regret that very much. It has been stated that property is endangered by this Bill, but my belief is that property is much more likely to be endangered by the course which your Lordships are taking. The Leader of the Opposition in another place told your Lordships that you were as safe as cattle-drivers. I am not quite certain whether that is the case or not, but at all events, the noble Marquess has made use of this cattle drivers argument. He instanced tenant right in Ireland as analogous to the rights of licence-holders, and indeed, the language of many noble Lords in this discussion has reminded me of the old debates in the House of Commons when the Land Bill was coming on. We have all the same phrases about "unwritten contracts," "tacit understandings," "in justice if not in law," and the like. In those debates it was admitted even by those who opposed the Land Bill that the Irish landlords had stretched the ideas of property to an extent that was injudicious. On the other hand they had the written law behind them. They were opposed by those ideas of unwritten contracts and tacit understandings. It seems to me that noble Lords on the Opposition side are now combining the mistakes of both parties. They are stretching the ideas of property to the cracking point, and they are founding that claim not on the letter of the law, but merely on imaginary claims and expectations. I sincerely hope that the result of that action will not be to encourage Socialism more than could be done by l00 Graysons.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL
I think it is just as well that someone on this bench should speak to-night just to 368 show that the Bishops are not all on one side on this question. I am very glad to be allowed this opportunity of showing that I am one of those who cannot take the Government view of this matter. First of all my feeling is that legislation for the future should always be put on such lines that the train does not come to an end with a great jerks; things should be put on such lines that they will move smoothly on. Under this Bill the State train is to be suddenly pulled up and drastic action is to be taken. The Bill is putting the burden of doing, as I think, an unjust thing, upon the people of 1923 and 1930, not upon ourselves; we only say it, they have got to do it. But besides that, as a very keen worker in the cause of temperance myself, and as one whose family and whose whole household, without a single exception, are water drinkers, as one who has devoted as much time as most bishops to working for the temperance cause, I confess to the most bitter disappointment in this Bill, and I cannot regard it as a temperance measure. If those sitting on the Government bench will bring in a temperance Bill I will vote for it and speak for it, but I do not regard the Bill before the House as being in any sense a temperance measure. The details have been spoken about several times. We have heard what the Bishop of London has said. When I was Bishop of Stepney I had some experience of the East End of London. I remember on one occasion seeing a collection of dishevelled looking women, all of them quite sober, and they were looking at a certain place. I asked them what was the matter, and the reply I got was: "If you parsons would pull down that place you would do the best thing for us women that men have ever done for women." The place they pointed at was a drinking club. In one of the towns in my diocese I was told that the great curse of the place was the clubs, and I felt it so strongly that I pressed upon the Government of that time the absolute necessity of dealing very promptly with clubs in any temperance measure, and they did to a certain extent deal with them. Only the other day I had a meeting of rural deans, and one of them said to me: "I have five public-houses in my village, and 369 probably there are three too many; but all the harm done by those five public-houses is nothing like the harm done by the one village drinking club." To deal with clubs in the miserly way in which this Bill proposes to deal with them seems to me to be an outrage upon my sense of what the proper interests of temperance absolutely demand at the hands of your Lordships. I hold in my hand a little pamphlet which has been sent to me this month, and it professes to give an answer to every objection to this Bill. I have looked with very great interest to see what it contains in reference to clubs, and I notice that it says: "the club question is partially dealt with in Part 4 of the Bill, and it may be deemed desirable to omit this portion of the Bill with the idea of treating the subject more fully in a separate Bill upon the Report of the Royal Commission." That is all the comfort I get with regard to the miserably inadequate provisions dealing with clubs.
The noble Earl said that probably we bishops knew more about matters of temperance and intemperance than other Members of your Lordships' House. When I speak to my town clergy on this subject they tell me without the slightest question that the one place we really ought to strike at if we wish to stop the terrible evil of drinking among women—and when I say women, I mean persons of that sex in all classes of life—the one thing which is imperatively necessary is that we should do something of a most drastic character with regard to grocers' licences. I turn again to the pamphlet which professes to give an answer to every possible objection, and I do not find grocers' licences mentioned at all. What am I to say as a strong temperance reformer and advocate of temperance, and as a practicer of total abstinence myself, to a Bill which calls itself a temperance measure and which can have this sort of accusations hurled against it? I do not care how drastic you make a Bill which really makes for temperance. You may say that we should amend the Bill. But we cannot. There is more between us and another place than has been stated. The question of privilege has been sufficiently touched upon, but there is one point which has not been mentioned, and it is that noble Lords in office here and persons in another place with Ministerial respon- 370 sibility have put such a gulf between us and the other House that it is hopeless to make any really important Amendments in a Government Bill in this House. Therefore I feel that it would be a waste of time to go on with this measure, and I shall be prepared to say in all parts of the country where my voice is heard that the fault of the rejection of this Bill will not lie with the noble Lords geographically opposite, but with those who have raised these questions of dispute between this House and the House of Commons which make it absolutely hopeless for us to amend the Bill in any conceivable way. Just think what it would have been if you had brought in a Bill framed on the sort of lines which the noble Viscount opposite expounded to us. If such a Bill had been presented to this House there would have been no division, it would have run through the House. In every part of the country which my voice can reach, I shall maintain that the rejection of this Bill will not be the fault of noble Lords geographically opposite; it will be the fault of those sitting on the Government Bench.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SALISBURY
I am not going to make a speech myself, though I regret that this House is not going to undertake the task of considering the details of this Bill, but I desire to move the adjournment of the debate on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow.