§ Order of the day read for resuming the adjourned debate on the Amendment moved by the Marquess of Lansdowne to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out all the words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following 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 LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I desire to support the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. The Bill was opposed yesterday by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition and by others on account of what the noble Marquess called his rooted objection to its principles. I, on the other hand, believe its main principles to be right and sound, and though I should suggest modifications of detail, sometimes in one direction and sometimes in the other, to its main principles I unhesitatingly adhere.
I listened to the debate last night with a sense of the great, perhaps the unbridgable, difference between the way in which such a question as the reduction of public-houses is viewed by noble Lords—statesmen, central administrators of public affairs, students of abstract principles, practical men in the largest sense, who are able historically, socially, politically, and, I suppose, constitutionally, for privilege Amendments fall under that head, to regard such a question— the difference between the way in which they look at it, and the way in which it is looked at by men and women throughout the country who are engaged in facing day by day, and hour by hour, as their ordinary work, the problems of human sorrow, human weakness, human disease, and human sin, and who know them to be in a large measure the result of the multiplied temptations offered to the 539 weak—temptations which this Bill sets itself in some measure to diminish if it can.
There will be, my Lords, heavy hearts and weary disappointment to-day among workers such as these, in whatever field their labour lies. I know that many of them had been looking for some cheering word of hope. They were expecting to hear that those whom they would, perhaps, describe as "the central people in London" would be able to do something to help them in what they feel to be a real need; and they will read that this House at least is not prepared for the present to do anything of the kind. I am referring to quite simple people who perseveringly work in the back streets of our great towns, or in hospitals, prisons, and asylums, and not least in our elementary schools, where the teachers and parents are in such close touch—people to whom such phrases as "privilege Amendments" would have no meaning whatever, but who are daily in touch and contact with the facts and needs and difficulties that your Lordships too, from a greater distance, and in a more general way, are trying to look at. These are the kind of people whom all of us, without distinction of opinion, would be sorry to sadden just now.
My Lords, I draw the contrast with no kind of idea of implying thereby a censure upon your Lordships' House. It is, of course, absolutely the duty of those who sit here to consider this and every other question in the largest and moat far-reaching way. None the less the contrast is significant and it is an unhappy one to a good many of us The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition spoke yesterday of the pleasure which would be given by the passing of a Bill such as this to "people who are passionately devoted to the cause of temperance." It is, in my view, less those enthusiasts whom it would please—some of them are very much disappointed with the details of this Bill—than other workers who may or may not have given themselves specially to temperance work, but who do know the everyday life of the tempted and troubled people whom legislation like this is meant to help. Petitions, memorials, and resolutions have flooded in upon all of us at this time. 540 Put temperance organisations entirely aside—cut them all out from these resolutions and memorials—and look at the other signatories. See the schoolmasters, schoolmistresses, the nurses in parishes or hospitals, the rescue workers, the men or women who are associated with prison or asylum work, or with workhouse infirmaries and the like—eliminate all those who are directly and specifically temperance workers or temperance enthusiasts and look at the other people who know—and judge who are those whom the decision which this House seems likely to come to will distress. I have referred to those who want such a Bill and who support this Bill. A word about those who in the country are its chief opponents. The Prime Minister in his speech on the Third Reading of this Bill, spoke of the strength of the opposition, which had been shown to it. My Lords, if by that strength, or vigour—I think that was his word—of opposition you mean its extensiveness, I am inclined to doubt its extensiveness through the population as a whole. The opposition to the Bill has been, and is, in some cases, very strong—it is red hot—and those who have lighted or fanned the flame have used a gigantic influence. Sometimes the influence has been used in a way absolutely fair and perfectly reasonable, and with weighty, forcible arguments which those who feel as they do are not only justified in using, but, I think, are practically bound to use as honourable business men so that their case may be set forward as straightly and rightly as it can be; and there can be no doubt whatever—it is almost an impertinence to say it—that the ranks of those who are sometimes covered by the denomination of "the Trade" contain men as upright and as high principled, as kindly and as philanthropic, as any of their countrymen. Any one who denies that seems to me to miss a great deal of the importance of, and to be likely to lose a great deal of what might be effected in, the arguments which should be used upon this subject.
But, my Lords, the opposition to this measure, and to legislation of this kind, has of late taken a form sometimes which is less worthy of respect—perhaps less worthy of attention. I refer to the kind of 541 representations which have reached some of us—at all events, some of us who sit on the episcopal bench—threatening either directly or indirectly, the withdrawal of support from religious or philanthropic work because Churchmen or ecclesiastics connected therewith are supporting a measure of this kind. Now, that seems to me a very unwise course of action on the part of those who follow it, because, in the first place, it must, in the case of any honourable man, stiffen his back and make him, perhaps, somewhat tempted to look less fairly upon the cause his correspondents advocate; and, in the next place, because it must undoubtedly lead one to look in a somewhat different way at the motives of those who hitherto have been subscribers to those particular objects. We believed they regarded those objects as wholesome and health-giving, and, therefore, worthy of support. If a man subscribes to a school, or hospital, or charity, or an institution of whatever kind, one likes to think he does so because he thinks it is a good sort of institution, and it does not become a bad sort of institution because some of those connected with it are supporting a piece of legislation of which that man disapproves.
This kind of reason seems to me to be unfortunate. It is, of course, totally different from the appeal made to us from many quarters, that owing to what are believed to be the disastrous consequences of this Bill, people will not be in a position to afford to continue their help; and a very large amount of correspondence has reached some of us of a simple and genuine and even touching kind from people who are under the belief that they will suffer so much by this Bill as to be unable to help forward causes which they have helped before, and that they will, perhaps, find themselves actually in penury and want. For such appeals and remonstrances I have the most cordial sympathy and the deepest possible respect. I have asked, not infrequently, on receiving such letters—Why is it that you think this will be the result?—and with commendable frankness I have received in several instances a draft letter which had been sent to my correspondent by the secretary of the association or 542 company to which he or she belonged as an appropriate letter to be written. That may be quite right. The Secretary may be merely trying to help some person whom he believes to be placed in a difficult position, to express himself or, more often, herself in the kind of way which it is thought will be most effective, but at least it gives a slightly different character to the appeal which has reached us. I believe that opposition has been intense, is intense, and is genuine on the part of a very large number of people, but if I am asked whether I think it is very widespread among those who are not personally financially interested in these matters, either directly or indirectly, I say I have not seen anything to convince me that it is.
I pass to the provisions of the measure itself. It contains two great principles; it advocates the speedier redaction of facilities for excessive drinking and it advocates the securing for public authority of closer control over this particular trade. On the first it may be said, as a matter of course, that I and those who share my opinions are not speaking as though we thought there was something in itself wicked or wrong in the trade or in the consumption of alcoholic liquor. I hold no such opinion, and I take every opportunity of saying so. Then I would say I make no pretension that you can statistically show any absolute correspondence between the number of public-houses in a district and the amount of drunkenness. Prom the nature of the case I think it is practically impossible to compile such statistics with any probability of accuracy, because a great many other considerations besides those on the surface have, in every single case, to be taken into account. I can speak only of the general tendency in that way.
Does any one who knows the history of the last 200 years in England doubt that whenever there has been a large increase in facilities for procuring alcoholic liquor, a mischief has arisen which has, before many years have passed, called for some remedy? Look at the story how the drinking of spirits became common in England in the early part 543 of the eighteenth century. Let any one read Mr. Lecky's "History of the Eighteenth Century" and notice what he says on that subject. In a century which contains the greatest exploits of some of the foremost statesmen and soldiers of our country, no incident was, in his opinion, of so great importance as the introduction of the drinking of spirits as a portion of the ordinary habits of the English people; and everybody knows how it was found before very long that measures had to be taken for dealing with that particular difficulty. Then, again, founded, I believe, on motives inclining to temperance, there was the legislation of 1830 promoting or advocating the universal spread of beerhouses; but it was found before many years had passed that the mischief was so great that it was absolutely necessary to revert to the earlier system, and to deal sharply and sternly with what had grown up.
But apart from that, does anyone doubt, speaking generally, that a great increase of facilities for the consumption of liquor is disadvantageous to the public good? Practically everyone agrees that a diminution is required, and the question is as to the degree of such diminution. The promoters of the Act of 1904 would be the last to say that they did not regard a steady and very large diminution in the facilities for the procuring of liquor as being eminently desirable. Your Lordships will remember that in August, 1906, Lord Salisbury speaking on behalf of the Government said—Under this Bill we propose to change the possible' and occasional 200 licences [suppressed each year] into a constant number of nearly 25,000 which is an enormous change in the direction of suppressing those licensed houses that ought to be suppressed.I never shared the fears of those who thought that under the Act of 1904 the suppression of licences would be insignificant; but, anyhow, it is very much less than was anticipated by the spokesman of the Government at that time. I think that I am right in saying that the suppression which has taken place under the Act is 1,096 a year in contrast with the expectation of 2,500. Anyone who knows financially what can be done under the new interpretation 544 which has been given to the words of the Act will be of opinion that the reduction figures will be much smaller than 1,096 in the coming year.
The need of drastic reduction, moreover, can be justified for another reason. The argument is usually made to turn on the increase or otherwise of actual drunkenness; but the statistics take note only of those who reach the certain stage of helplessness. Excessive drinking is not the same thing as drunkenness. Let any one inquire of the doctors in the out-patients' departments of great hospitals, the police magistrates, the philanthropic workers, and the authorities of hospitals and asylums, and he will find that for one person who is there regarded as having rendered himself diseased or helpless by complete drunkenness, there are fifty who have never gone, perhaps, or rarely gone, so far as that, but who are from the excessive drinking in which they indulge day by day and week by week, impairing their powers to a fatal degree and rendering themselves practically unfit to be considered responsible citizens. It may be said, and probably will be said, in answer to me: How can Parliament help that? You cannot forbid a man to judge for himself. Certainly not, and I make no claim on Parliament of such a kind. But indirectly Parliament can do a very great deal.
Excessive drinking comes from excessive temptation to weak men and women, who are practically unable to resist it. This arises from the constant competition of one public-house with another, and from the desire of the tenant to push forward his trade and to stand well with his employers. We are told that the drunkard is the worst enemy of the publican. It is true, but the man who stops just short of actual reeling drunkenness is his best friend. How can Parliament help that, it may be asked. I say quite frankly, not at all by direct action, but it can help by lessening the temptation. We try, for example, to meet excessive gambling by legislation enacted with almost universal consent; we endeavour to repress impurity and other wrong-doing by making it more difficult, as far as legislation can help, 545 for people to go wrong in this particular way. What the Bill is trying to do is not simply to meet the case of actual drunkards, but by indirect pressure, and without unfair limitation of the legitimate demands of the public, to diminish temptations which grow until they are practically irresistible to the weakest class of the population.
Therefore it is that I welcome the restraints and the restrictions which the Bill contains, provisions diminishing the number of public-houses, restrictions on Sunday hours of opening, the closing on election days, the checking of the absurdity of the bona fide traveller, and, above all, the restrictions imposed in Respect of the supply of liquor to children. I welcome also, as far as they go, the rules laid down for the regulation of clubs. I realise the extraordinary difficulty of that particular problem. But I was a little surprised last night to hear the Leader of the Opposition referring with some reproach to the Bill because it did not go further in respect of clubs. That feeling of surprise is natural when I recall the arguments put forward in 1902, telling us to be very careful not to go too far, otherwise we should do harm. The Bill will render impossible at least the substitution of the tied club for the tied house. That, to my mind, is one of the very best clauses in the Bill. I should like to see those clauses go farther; and if the Bill had gone into Committee I should have been prepared to suggest further Amendments which would be neither unfair nor unreasonable.
The second great principle of value in the Bill is the securing fuller public control over the whole licensing system. I care comparatively little about the details relating to the mode of reckoning compensation or the actual length of the time-limit. I care comparatively little for these things, important as they, are, provided we can secure that some day before very long public authorities shall have complete control, unhampered by permanent vested interests, in dealing with this matter; and, secondly, that in doing that they should act with real fairness and justice to those interests, of whatever kind, that are thereby affected. I have no 546 sort of wish that we should act unreasonably, but I claim and prize the restoration of magisterial control. Up to 1904 the magistrates had, under certain restrictions, a fairly free hand, but now their power of control is virtually destroyed. That power of control this Bill would restore, and I am absolutely certain that in the public interest some Bill or other must before very long be passed to restore the powers of the licensing magistrates.
But I hope for a great deal more than that. I look forward in the coming years to developments and experiments of all sorts in our licensing system and in the management and character of public-houses; but the moment we endeavour to start to bring about changes of that kind we are met by the permanent vested interest which stands across our path, the vested interest of those who want things to remain as they are. It is because I desire above all things to see reasonable liberty of action restored that I welcome the endeavour which this Bill makes in that direction. It is surely beyond question that some day a reasonable date must be fixed after which the community at large, the State, should be able to act freely in this matter, to enforce its own conditions, to impose its own price for the monopoly which its own licence confers. But the moment you say this, the question arises: On what principle can you get rid of existing rights and interests in this matter? I suppose it is true that in strict law, prior to 1904, a bench of magistrates could terminate an existing licence without cause assigned, or any compensation whatever being given. I have always said, however, that the reasonable expectation of renewal had become a species of property the owner of which must in some way be compensated if you take it away. I regard it as fundamental that we should recognise that principle and act with fairness. But that the State should in some way or other get back into its own hands the power of acting with freedom seems almost too plain to require argument.
People talk as though for the first time in legislation we should be lowering the value of investments. It is quite a novel doctrine that, because that result 547 might inevitably, however regretfully, follow, that because investments made in recent years, in perfect good faith, might be diminished in value in consequence of legislation which for the public good Parliament enacted, such legislation ought not to be passed. We talk as though this were quite a novel bit of legislation. On the contrary it has been happening continuously throughout the modern history of Parliament. Take one great example—the abolition of the slave trade. Not a penny of compensation was given when the slave trade was abolished. Noble Lords seem to think otherwise. Is that disputed?
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I must, then, point out to the noble and learned Lord that my statement is absolutely true. No one supposes that the noble Lord would confuse the abolition of the slave trade with the emancipation of the slaves. The emancipation of slaves cost some £20,000,000, but the slave trade was abolished twenty-five years before, and not a penny of compensation was paid. Just one hundred and one years have passed since a memorable debate took place in this House upon that question. A Bill was moved in this House for the abolition of the slave trade, for rendering it illegal that ships should be used for that purpose, and rendering the slave trade practically impossible, at all events in British ships. The Bishops of London and Durham were the principal advocates of the Bill in this House. The Bill went to the House of Commons, and petitions were sent in against it from citizens of Glasgow and elsewhere, and counsel, in support of these petitions, were heard at the bar of the House. And what was the nature of their petitions? The petitioners said that they had invested a great deal of money in those ships, that widows and orphans all over England had invested money in those ships and in buildings for the embarkation and debarkation of slaves, and that they Would be terribly injured by the loss which would fall upon them by the proposed legislation. They further said 548 they had invested their money in the confidence that Parliament had time after time recognised the existence of the slave trade by the regulations it had made, as well as by Royal Charters, and that, therefore, they had an absolute right to expect that if the slave trade were abolished, and the ships and buildings rendered useless, they should have compensation. I am not going to say whether they were right or wrong, but Parliament gave not one penny of compensation, because the proposed legislation was said to be for the common good. It was not denied that the property of all those shareholders would be diminished in value, but it was pointed out that there was no direct taking away of property which belonged to individuals. When, some thirty years later, the Legislature said they were going to take away property—the slaves—which absolutely belonged to individuals, live goods and chattels, the conditions were different. There was an actual purchase of these slaves who were to be set at liberty by the State, and for that compensation was paid up to £20,000,000, notwithstanding the admitted grossness of the evil which was to be set right. Happily there is no close analogy between what we are now doing and what it was then necessary to do. The slave traders got no compensation. Here, in the case of the liquor traffic the case is different; and we desire to act in a generous spirit. We desire to give compensation in the form of a time-limit, and to do it much more generously than has been the case in America and elsewhere when licensing legislation of a corresponding kind has taken place. I understood the noble Viscount opposite (Lord St. Aldwyn) to say last night that by the 1904 Act we made the present licence-holder pay something like a monopoly value by a compensation levy for the benefit of those who were losing their licences. In my opinion that must be something to which a limit must ultimately be set. The question is one of degree and not of principle. I desire to do it with absolute fairness, not only because that is reasonable and right, but also for an indirect reason. It is desirable that we should act with absolute fairness in order not to bring about disastrous consequences on the general 549 sense of security of commercial investment. I am going a little out of my depth in touching on such a subject, but the general financial security of investment ought not to be shaken in the slightest degree by any action taken in this matter.
Now, my Lords, I have tried to show why I believe in the two great principles of the Bill, the reduction of licences and the restoration of genuine and effective public control. I have alluded also to what the Bill contains of a directly effective temperance kind, the promotion of the better conduct of public-houses and the lessening of facilities for the consumption of drink in different ways; and I was specially struck by what was said last night by Lord St. Aldwyn, that it is possible that even yet a Bill containing these clauses might be rescued from the wreck. I should be very grateful to the Government if, before we close the debate to-night, or tomorrow, they would say how they would regard such action taken by myself or any body else in the endeavour to do something of that kind. I feel we ought to have some assurance upon the subject, if we are invited to make such an attempt.
I ask your Lordships once more to look round the country as a whole and to consider the trend of public opinion in this matter. I ask you to consider gravely and carefully who they are who are in favour of such legislation as this— workers of all sorts among the weak, the sick, the tempted, the needy, ministers of religion of all sorts and of all denominations; then there is the practical unanimity—and to this noble Lords may give greater or less weight— of the Labour Members who are in the closest touch with that part of the population which is supposed to be most directly affected. What organised forces do you show on the other side? Are they or are they not forces that are in touch with the country's needs and are trying day by day to remedy its troubles and its evils? I think they are not. My own wish is to be absolutely fair and just. I am not in the least bound to particular figures, to particular processes or to particular dates; but I do profoundly regret that we are to be given no opportunity of discussing these matters 550 in detail, and I deplore the fact that the House of Lords should, on an occasion such as this, place itself in the position of taking what I believe thinking men hereafter will unite in regarding as the wrong side.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I con-fess I had hoped when the rev. Prelate began his speech that we should have had something in the nature of a disclosure, which has not yet been vouchsafed to us, of the mode in which the Bill which he recommends for your Lordships' adoption would operate to effect the objects which he, in common I think, with every member of your Lordships' House, is anxious to secure. I confess that in one respect I am very much disappointed. The most rev. Prelate described the disappointment which would be felt all through the country— and I have no doubt truly described, because he spoke of what I will venture to call the uninstructed multitude who have not seen the Bill and who, as he himself very candidly admitted, would not have understood it if they had, but who are nevertheless deeply impressed by the evils which he has described—if your Lordships rejected an amending Bill, because they were in some way concerned in the interests which certainly were not those to which the most rev. Prelate referred. I want to make a little protest at first. The most rev. Prelate himself is the very last person to have suggested that his antagonists, because they disagreed with him, were not actuated by motives as pure as his own, and he has disclaimed on his own behalf the extreme view which treats the dealing in this traffic as itself wicked and wrong. But he will forgive me for saying that those who speak so candidly and kindly as he did, and with so unprejudiced a mind upon the subject, are a decided minority of those who are insisting upon this Bill.
I must protest against its being supposed that on this side, either this side in politics or this side in the House, we are less anxious for the temperate and proper distribution of what is, in a great measure, one of the important foods of the people. We have a right, I think, to have our views considered as impartially as those of the most rev. 551 Prelate, and our view has been throughout in regard to this Bill that it was not a Bill for temperance at all—and, indeed, the most rev. Prelate has to some extent admitted its two-fold character—but a Bill which was intended to enlarge the area of taxation and to take from one very large portion of the population property which belongs to it and to vest it in the State. If it is possible for such a Bill as the most rev. Prelate has foreshadowed to be brought in and to be the proper subject of discussion, my impression is that it would be received with open arms on both sides of the House; but it is because the cause of temperance has been weighted, and deliberately weighted, with the other sections of the Bill which bring with them the confiscation of property that we are unable to discuss the question of temperance by itself or to say in what way we would, if it were possible, interfere with the freedom of action on one side and the proper repression of excess on the other.
One proposition laid down by the most Rev. Prelate is a proposition which gives me very great cause to think what sort of Bill he contemplates. He has pointed out with force that great mischief is done by excessive drinking, but drinking which does not proceed to drunkenness. Does he suppose that there is any mode by which you can curb the approach of vice in that way by law? Except there is some outward and visible sign of what has made a man a nuisance, what mode does the most rev. Prelate suppose he can adopt for preventing people drinking too much? I will Come in a moment to what we are dealing with, viz., the public sale of liquor; but upon the abstract proposition, how does he suggest we are to deal with the point I have referred to? The law can only apply the outward test, because you cannot prevent a man being vicious in this sense, if he has either eaten or drunk too much, and I believe it is a very prevalent opinion among persons who have studied that subject that more disease is engendered by overeating than by overdrinking. If you are going to legislate against vice, simple vice, that which does not disclose itself in public or is not made the subject of observation in public, you are 552 undertaking a task which is beyond the reach of human legislation altogether.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
That is almost exactly what I tried to say. Legislation cannot do it directly. It can only be done indirectly by the diminution of temptation.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I am not quite sure that I quite follow the relevancy of the topic. Does the most rev. Prelate intend to suggest that you can only proceed by indirect means, and that the indirect means are to be applied to the public sale of liquor, and its distribution and manufacture? I thought that what the most rev. Prelate was referring to, but I am quite prepared to be corrected, was that he could not be expected to give evidence of the mischief done by the public-houses, because the best friend of the public-house was the man who stopped short of being drunk, and that he was in that way accounting for the inability to prove by evidence that the public-houses were encouraging drunkenness. I understand the relevancy of the argument completely, but I am afraid I cannot follow it now, because the only way by which we know of the mischief done by the public-house, the only way by which the law can take hold of it, is that people get drunk there. If they do not get drunk there what is the difference between the public-house and the private house where people, whether they get drunk or not, have no right to be interfered with? The most rev. Prelate has taken the Bill under his protection, not because he has established any usefulness in that direction, beyond the broad proposition, which, I admit, he laid down, that the diminution of public-houses is to the advantage of temperance. That, from the beginning to the end of his most interesting speech, was the sole observation he made to establish the fact that this was a Bill promoting temperance. My Lords, I can only say that I am an absolute disbeliever in the connection that is supposed to exist between the number of public-houses and intemperance, and I am encouraged in that belief by the Home Office Report of 1907 on that subject. If there is this supposed connection between them one would 553 have expected something would be demanded by the operation of the new Bill which would apply itself to that connection. So far as the diminution of public-houses and its operation is concerned, in 1904, at all events, there was this connection, that there was a power of selection, and the power of selection was carefully confided to those who would be most likely to be able to form an opinion on the subject. But this Bill destroys entirely that power of selection. It takes it away from those who are able to exercise it, and substitutes what might be indeed described as a mathematical or arithmetical procedure, which may have no reference whatever to the particular circumstances of a particular case. I have myself had reason to know what has been the care of magistrates in such matters. I believe, speaking generally, they exercise their discretion with great propriety. But unfortunately, I think at one time they got a notion that there was a policy to be adopted, and a policy which was, I think, somewhat irregularly exercised. The Bill of 1904, I think, became a necessity inconsequence, and accordingly it was passed. In dealing with a question of this sort, when you bring in a Bill Reversing in a great measure the Act of 1904 and establishing a new system, I think it is incumbent that you should show where the Act of 1904, which you are practically repealing, has failed. It has indeed been asserted broadly that that Act was a failure, but I do not believe that that has been established. It appears not by the evidence of its authors only, but by the evidence of chief constables and others, that the Act has worked very well and that the results have been very good, and I have not been able up to the present to understand what it is that has rendered it necessary for a new Act to be brought in to remedy the alleged defects of 1904, which, to my mind, have never been proved.
Now, my Lords, I want to express my deep sympathy with the great number of persons who have written to me on the subject of this Bill, and I have no doubt there will be mourners amongst those whom the most reverend Prelate described. But that which they have assumed as one of the cardinal pro- 554 positions upon which they have urged me to support this Bill, is the fact that it will greatly diminish intemperance. But how? I have over and over again asked that question, and beyond the broad proposition which we have heard about the diminution of public-houses, no one has ventured to explain. The noble Earl who spoke last night, was good enough to say that he would not go into all that. That is one of the difficulties. We have not heard what the proposition is. But the noble Earl was good enough to say that the working man spent a sixth of his wages in drink. In the first place, I should like to say that, in my view, beer is part, and an important part, of the food of the working man, and I believe most people who are familiar with working men, particularly those engaged in certain forms of work, know that that is the fact. I see The Times this morning works out the sum spent in drink at 6d. a day, if a man is earning a guinea a week. Well, I do not know, if a working man requires it, that that is a very extravagant part of his wages to spend. At all events, I should like to know who was the wage earner referred to, what his form of work was, and whether he had any calls upon him which rendered that extravagant. But there again you are to go into the question of a man's family. Apparently the ideal worker is the man to whom the State will dictate how much of his wages he may spend in drink, how much in other things, and, if he is a married man, with a family, how much he must distribute to them. But the noble Earl will forgive me for suggesting that when he says one-sixth of a man's wages are spent in drink, that does not answer my question at all as to how you are going to make the working man abstain from so consuming a sixth part of his income, and in what way this Bill does that. My Lords, I really am reluctant to leave the question of how much this Bill will promote temperance, because I believe that that is the cardinal question upon it, and the question that should be considered by those people who are going to mourn over your Lordships' decision.
But the question we have to consider is not only that which, as I have said, 555 has been allowed to pass without discussion, without proof, and without one single fact being laid before us to show that the passing of this Bill would diminish the intemperance of any human creature, but the question which the most reverend Prelate has described as the resumption by the State of that to which the State has a right. I have not the least notion what that refers to. I have seen it written and I have heard it said, but I do not know to what it refers. What is the right of the State? Is it the right to carry on a trade? Is it suggested that in this country we must ask the permission of the State to carry on a trade; because a right to regulate a trade, a right to prevent its being a public nuisance, to prevent its being in any way injurious to the State, is one thing, and the right to carry on the trade is another, and a very different thing. I should have thought it was part of the liberty of every one of His Majesty's subjects to carry on a trade, and I think that would become a cardinal question when we consider the question of what is called the time-limit. My Lords, I deny any such right. I am not at all aware that it has ever been claimed. There are some monopolies which the Government claimed and has retained. But what right has ever been suggested in the manufacture of the beer by the brewer, or by the growing of the barley by the farmer? All those go to form a great manufacture, and once upon a time, indeed within the memory of many of us, it was a most common thing for a great number of people to brew their own beer, not to sell at all. A great many of the colleges and other institutions and private farmers had breweries. Gradually it was found that both better and cheaper beer could be obtained by a company setting up a brewery. And so it became a great trade, which has been established by an enormous capital. Some of the fanatics to whom the most reverend Prelate referred I take it must include in their virulent denunciations both the farmer and the hop-grower. But the rev. Prelate has admitted that it is a lawful trade, and it would be impossible to deny it. There is a reference in the Statute-book, going back 556 to 1660, showing that it has been a lawful trade for centuries, and treated as a trade belonging to the people who have created it, and not to the State.
What is now proposed to be done? What is it that is to happen at the end of this period of fourteen or twenty-one years, or whatever the period is? To my mind it matters very little whether the period is one or the other. The principle is the thing that one has the right to complain of, and that principle is, as it appears to me, that the State is going to resume what it is pleased to describe as what it has given away. It has done no such thing. As I have pointed out, the trade has grown up like any other trade, under the sanction of the State, in the recognition of the fact of its being a lawful trade, and now it is supposed that you can cure the injustice of taking it away by saying: "We will give you notice that after a certain time we are going to take it; up to that time you can make what you can by the proper exercise of your trade, and at the end of that time we will resume it." As a practical question I should like to know what is going to happen, not only with reference to the injustice to those from whom it has been taken away, but in regard to what you are going to do. Is the State going to carry on the business of brewers or publicans? No one has answered that question. It has been asked a great many times but nobody has told us; at present, so far as I can see, it is left for exposition. In the first place, this is an example of a trade being taken away from different members of the State, and absorbed by the existing Government. That is not a popular view. But if you are not going to do that, what tenure are you going to give your tenants? Are they to be allowed only a year's tenancy; and if so, are they going to be allowed a proportionate portion of this, that, or the other district, within which to exercise what, in that event, may be a monopoly? My view of what has been described as a monopoly is a very different thing. The duty of the magistrates in licensing was to see that there was a due supply in the neighbourhood for the convenience of 557 the public. That is not a monopoly at all, because if the neighbourhood increased the proper course for the magistrates was to increase the public-houses in proportion as the public convenience required. It is the oddest notion of monopoly I ever heard. I protest against the notion of the resumption by the State of what they have never parted with. They have only done that which it was their duty to do, viz.: to regulate in respect to the convenience of the neighbourhood, the needs of the neighbourhood, the health of the neighbourhood, and I quite agree, the morality of the neighbourhood. But that power of regulation gave them no right of property that can be imagined. I am reluctant to say anything which may seem to refer to what I have said as a Judge. I have seen myself quoted over and over again, and I will only make this observation. I have nothing to retract or qualify in what I have said. I adhere to every word of the judgment which is so constantly referred to. But I must say this: that it is neither right nor just to take a piece out of a Judge's judgment and to refer to that as if it were the whole of it, and that is what I have seen constantly done.
My Lords, I confess I heard with very great admiration Lord St. Aldwyn's exposition last night. I desire to add nothing to it. I believe that what he said was both sound law and good sense, and I would make my own every word he said on that subject. But it appears to me that the attempt now is to take away property and to take it away in such a fashion as will prevent its proper valuation being obtained. That seems to me to be grossly and scandalously unjust. It is no light matter with which one is dealing. We are here, certainly, for the purpose, as the most reverend Prelate says, of doing what we can for temperance and for morality. It is a bad start in dealing with the question of morality to take away what does not belong to you, and to treat with such absolute indifference the rights of others. I have nothing to say about what the most reverend Prelate said in respect of the ownership of these different places. But he will allow me to say that he is singular in the fair treatment he has given to that ques- 558 tion. It is talked of as if there had been a sort of gambling speculation in entering into this trade, and that now people were only disappointed that they had not got the complete result of their gambling. That is absolutely untrue. In what I am about to say I will not give names, although any Member may have them privately if he wishes to verify my statement. I have taken three London breweries and examined the capital consisting of the debentures and the preference shares. The capital, taking the three of them, is £6,750,000, and what I want to draw your Lordships' attention to is the mode in which that capital has been supplied. It is the capital of three breweries in London only, and I need not say what the inference derivable from this is, if you consider what really is the capital employed over the whole country. The sources from which that capital of £6,750,000 is derived are:—Trustees of various settlements, £3,559,545; clergy, £66,322; women, £819,421; others not included in either of those classes, £2,804,000. We hear a great deal about the brewers and the persons who have made great fortunes in brewing and so on. Is that capital, typical of the trade all over the country, to be seized on? Is the effect of your legislation to be such that you are to disregard the ruin that you will cause many of the persons in those trusts and other classes? It appears to me that dealing with such capital is a, very serious responsibility; but I do not think that is the most serious side of it. What do you think the effect upon the credit of the country will be? That is a matter which affects everybody, not only the persons immediately concerned, not only those who will have been turned from reasonably well-off persons into persons of a different class and condition. But what very seriously affects the question is the mode in which this is regarded by others, the mode in which you can invest in anything. One has heard of the enormous fortunes established by brewers and so on. These figures seem to me to show, and I think it would be shown in the same way whatever area you took, that what has been done has not been violent, mad speculation, but that trustees and clergy and 559 women who had no other provision, applied to get a safe investment, not one which returned enormous profits but which offered a safe investment; and where would they be when this termination (it is a delicate word) of their interests is determined on in 1923 or 1930? I cannot help thinking that those who devised this Bill had not only something in the nature of temperance theories, but had to pay off an old grudge against what they suppose to be the extremely Conservative side of the trade in this country. And I cannot help saying that I remember that in speeches on that subject in Birmingham, it was pointed out that the trade was throwing itself into one side of politics, which might at no very great interval be in power; and that they would find out that they had made an enemy of the most powerful party in the country. That threat has been held over for some time, but now it has reached its fulfilment. For myself, I cannot do better, I think, when we are dealing with the compensation which is supposed to be shared out, than apply myself to a quotation from one whose name will be received, at all events, with respect on that side of the House. The quotation I refer to is—We ought not to allow a prejudice with regard to this particular claim or our sense of the enormous evil associated with its working, to cause us to deviate by one hair's breadth from the principle on which Parliament has always acted in analogous circumstances, that is to say, where there is a vested interest allowed to grow up, the question of compensation is to be considered whenever that interest is interfered with by Parliament.The words are those of Mr. Gladstone.
I should like to say one word about the supposed analogy to which the most rev. Prelate treated us. I misunderstood him at first. The loose use of the word "slave-trade" may lead to misapprehension. The "slave-trade" was abolished without compensation, but slavery did not exist in this country. It had been held to be illegal, and when the property in slaves was being dealt with, it was compensated for by a very large sum of money. I do not think the analogy is a very forcible one. It was an illegal thing to hold a slave in England, but in the Colonies it had 560 been allowed to grow up, and this country was willing at immense sacrifiec to render it illegal in the Colones. But although people had detained these slaves by means which certainly could hardly be defended, even in the extreme case, this country would not abolish the property in slaves without granting ample compensation. I have only to say that what seems to me to be the vice of this attempted legislation is that it disregards the rights which have grown up, that it attempts to take possession of and to claim property in a trade to which the State has never laid claim before, and to do that in defiance of rights which have grown up and which everybody has regarded as what the State itself was bound to respect; and it seeks to do this in order to increase the area of taxation as well as nominally to assist temperance in this country.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I shall not attempt to follow the noble and learned Earl in the arguments which he has addressed to the House, partly because they have been essentially legal, and in any polemic with regard to a legal question I feel how entirely I should be at a disadvantage with the illustrious Judge who has just sat down. My object is a much simpler and a much narrower one. It is, in the limited time at my disposal, to express as clearly and as succinctly as I can my individual reasons for giving a vote for the Second Reading of this Bill—a vote which I give without the slightest hesitation and without the slightest doubt, a vote, not for all the details of the Bill, but certainly for the fundamental principle that underlies the Bill. I do not think there is any one who, in so vast a measure as this—too vast, if I may humbly offer a criticism upon it—would be prepared to give unhesitating approval to all its details. I very much doubt if any member of His Majesty's Government would be able, in foro conscientiœ, to give full approval to every detail of this enormous measure.
There has been one or two points to which exception has been taken in this House, and with that exception I feel considerable sympathy. There has been 561 the point raised by the Bishop of Bristol in the interesting speech which he made last night as to the question of clubs— whether they have been sufficiently dealt with where public-houses have been so strictly dealt with. There has been the question of boards. There, I confess, I thought the remarks of my noble friend the noble Marquess were not unjust and were not ill-applied. It has been too much the practice of this Government to place in the centre of their Bill, whatever Bill it may be, a well-paid board which is to fulfil the functions that we hoped local bodies were competent to discharge. That is the flaw from the Liberal point of view, and I think a grave flaw, and I wish that my noble friends would, in their measures which I wish to support, avoid imposing on us any more of this bureaucratic regime.
Then there is the question of the sparseness of the public-houses in rural districts. There, again, I was in agreement with the noble Marquess. I do think that would be a great grievance. No one in this House, I hope, no one except a fanatic outside this House, wishes to deprive the poor man of his beer. The labourer in the country has, after all, but few enjoyments and few solaces in his dreary life. The one great advantage that he does enjoy, the purity of the country air, he does not in the least appreciate, and I, at any rate, should feel very sorry if I was going to vote for a measure which tended in any way to narrow and to stint the legitimate enjoyment of the working man. And, again, I do not think that the introduction of local veto was either necessary or advisable in this measure. But all these were points, if not for dealing with in Committee, at any rate for negotiation, and I confess I do regret, and I think that everybody who has the interests of temperance at heart, to whatever party he may belong, will, in his heart of hearts, regret that this great opportunity for settling this question is, apparently, about to be lost, and that no opportunity will be given either for revision in Committee or for negotiation.
The great principle, after all, that we who vote for the Second Reading are voting for and emphasising emphatic- 562 ally is the principle of the time-limit. My noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn, in his speech last night, which, as usual, displayed that masterly grasp of principle and detail which distinguishes him— in the last sentence of that speech, which he will excuse me for imagining, up to the last few sentences, was a speech in advocacy of the Second Reading of. this Bill, jibbed suddenly and in a startling manner at the time-limit. The time-limit is the principle in this Bill. It is the principle which all who vote for the Second Reading have at heart, and, if the noble Viscount cannot swallow that principle, it is quite clear that His Majesty's Government cannot claim his vote.
There is something in this discussion which we have gained, and that is, I think, a certain amount of common ground in discussing this question. No speaker has alleged, and no Member of this House has even thought of desiring, anything but what he in his heart believes to be the interests of temperance. Temperance is on every tongue. It is, I believe, at the back of every mind, and that admission which lurks behind and below our discussion is, after all, a great admission. As against the Bill as an instrument of temperance we have heard a great deal. Everyone on this side of the House appears to think that it is not likely to promote temperance. The Bishop of Bristol, I confess, astonished me by the original position he took up. He confessed himself an almost fanatical teetotaller. No drop of alcohol ever crosses his threshold; no member of his family or household ever touches it. And yet he cannot vote for this Bill. Why? Not because there are not an enormous number of provisions and clauses in the Bill of which he approves, but because it does not deal sufficiently drastically with clubs. I ask, with all reverence, was there ever such a case of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel as a right rev. Prelate voting against a Bill on such a narrow issue as that?
As regards this question of temperance, I myself do not profess to be so versed in the great populations of our cities as to be able to say whether this Bill will in reality promote temperance or 563 not. It is not easy to say of any Bill what it will promote or what it will not, whatever its aim may be. But I do look to the great body of expert opinion which is ranged in favour of this Bill. I do not profess, on every secular subject, to accept the guidance of the right rev. bench, but I do say that their practically unanimous support of this Bill, not merely because they are bishops sitting in lawn sleeves on red benches, but because they are men who have worked in the great parishes of our towns, does weigh with undoubted authority.
I think the noble Marquess discounted a little the temperance addresses and votes that are sent up from every quarter of the country in favour of this Bill as an instrument of temperance. He said they were apt to be mechanically produced. I do not deny that political resolutions have been and are and will he mechanically produced, but I do say that, by every feeling of the pulse of the country that we can obtain, we are convinced that that great section of the country which has temperance as its main object is profoundly stirred in its enthusiasm by the provisions of this Bill, and that is a fact which none of us can lose sight of.
But I will give my noble friend the temperance associations, the temperance party. I will admit, if he chooses, for the purposes of argument that they are engaged in a strife to the death with what is called "the trade," and that they dislike the party opposed to them, which they think is wrapped up in the trade. I will give the noble Marquess that body of public opinion, though I myself attach the greatest importance to it. But you cannot say that the bishops have any sinister motive in advocating this Bill. You cannot say that the whole body of the clergy of the Free Churches, who are, I believe, practically unanimous in favour of this Bill, can have any sinister motive and interest in promoting it? You cannot say that of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and priesthood, who also, I believe, give a disinterested and solid support to the measure, or of the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland and of Ireland, who also give a United voice in favour of this Bill. And, therefore, though I admit I am 564 not able by experience to forecast what the temperance effect of this Bill will be, I cannot overlook the enormous strength of the spiritual, disinterested, unselfish mass of opinion which backs it as a temperance measure.
While I feel that, I do not deny that I rather share the view that was frequently expressed by the late Lord Salisbury that you cannot look for an improvement of intemperate habits merely to legislation or even mainly to legislation. It must come from the moral elevation and improvement of the people. It does not follow from that that we should neglect the mere mechanical and legislative methods. I believe it is common ground that a licence in strict law—I emphasise the words in strict law—confers only a twelvemonth's interest, and that it can be terminated by a ruthless and intolerant State at the end of that twelvemonth. From that, however, I deduce the conclusion that it is madness and suicidal to identify the cause of property at large with this annual licence as if it constituted a freehold licence. If I were a Socialist— which, thank God, I am not — and wanted to attack property, there is nothing in which I should rejoice so much as identification of the cause of property with the cause of the annual licence in drink.
And here I come to ground on which I shall find more sympathy with noble Lords behind me. We all admit that by the negligence or the policy of successive Governments—and the negligence rather than the policy—an equitable or a traditional interest has grown up beyond the strict law, which may be called the expectation of renewal in the case of good conduct, which cannot be ignored. The State itself has not only not ignored it, but has made a pretty good thing out of it at times. I am at issue with the Government as to the inferences to be drawn from the imposition of death duties. It was argued last night that the State only levied death duties on the present value of objects which might decline or increase in value. It might be a share or a racehorse, and no one knows better than I the varying value of a racehorse as it passes from a position of unrivalled triumph 565 to one of complete decrepitude. But there is a fundamental difference which has been missed by all who have argued this question of the death duties. It is that the property on which the State is levying the death duties it might take away and be actually intending to take away within a few months. The State, even in its most impassioned robbing of hen-roosts, will not expect to find a racehorse in them. It is impossible to say that in every case the State can intervene in any possible contemplation of removing all value from the share or from the racehorse within a few months of its levying full duties on its highest possible value. If you wanted any establishment of the fact —which, perhaps, you do not—that there is a real traditional value beyond the strict legal value of a licence, you have it in the case of the death duties.
Let me take an analogy which, I think, holds good. Just before the great Reform Bill Sir Mark Wood sold Gatton Park to Lord Monson for an enormous sum of money. The value of the park was relatively a small part of the price, but it had, as an essential part of it, what the auctioneer used to call the elegant contingency of the power of returning two Members to the House of Commons. I rather think the Reform Bill was in sight, but it was less than two years before the passing of the Reform Bill. Supposing the State had sold Gatton Park to Lord Monson and had at the same time both the will and the power to take away the principal part of its value, surely his Lordship would have had some right of recovery from the State, and it would have been felt that the State, in the language of slang, had been playing it rather low down. I think we cannot deny that when the State levies duties on the full, though transient, value of a public-house, it has acknowledged an interest which has accrued to it which is far beyond the legal interest, and, indeed, if it did not do so we should not have had this Bill, or the Bill would be of a totally different nature, excluding all allusion to compensation and not requiring a time-limit.
My Lords, the State by its negligence or apathy has allowed this interest to 566 grow up, and in strict logic it should pay the compensation, or most of the compensation. It has allowed and tolerated this understanding—it has almost encouraged it—and why should the burden be laid on others which is due only to that amorphous being which is called the State? But that is outside the region of practical politics. In the first place, the State could not afford to do it. We had a lurid picture from a noble Lord from Wales last night as to the state of our national finance, but it struck me as pale compared to the reality; and with £180,000,000 ear-marked to Ireland—that highly blessed country— and with a deficit of £25,000,000 or so in sight, it would be ridiculous to propose to any practical Assembly the purchase of public-houses by the State. Nor would it be permitted. No one can deny that at present the great temperance party, which was so powerful as to prevent Lord Goschen's object being; carried into effect in 1889 or 1890, would be equally strong enough to prevent any such proposal as that being carried into effect now. I only mentioned it as showing what, in my opinion, is the logical deduction from the facts I have mentioned, and I, therefore, dismiss it.
We must seek another way, and we fall back on the principle of the time limit. It is not a very new principle. Lord Peel and his minority recommended a very much shorter limit than is laid down in this Bill, and it was brought forward, though without a clause relating to compensation, in this House in 1904 by Archbishop Temple, who received substantial and valuable support. I think myself that there is much—everything—to be said as apart from a money compensation, though in this Bill they are coupled, for an exhausture of the interest by efflux of time. I do not much trust analogies, but if I had to offer an analogy to the position of the licence-holder it would be that of the squatters on an estate who have been tolerated by the owner—who have been told they might remain for another twelve months, but who are without a legitimate or prolonged tenure. And surely in a position such as that you would be dealing very liberally with the squatter if you said: You must 567 go in twenty-one years, and for twenty-one years you shall remain free and undisturbed. I entirely agreed with my noble friend, Lord Ribblesdale, when he said last night that the trade had had fair warning. My noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn extracted from that speech many other admissions which were concealed from me by the golden haze of autobiographical reminiscences. But I do think that my noble friend was right in what he advanced on that point. The action of the Liberal Party before, at the time, and after the passing of the Act of 1904 must have shown the trade that there was a great party in the State, sooner or later certain to come into power, which did mean to deal drastically with the trade.
My Lords, I come to the question of why should the State resume these rights. I venture to say that there is a most overwhelming ground for more than one reason for resuming those rights, as I must continue to call them. In the first place, it is the first and the necessary step in any real policy of temperance reform in this country. Until the State resumes the rights which it has allowed to be weakened and almost to expire in its hands, there can be no effective reform having temperance for its object in this country. And remember this, that every year that passes with the present state of things undisturbed and unremedied strengthens that interest as against the interest of the State. The second reason is this. The State has lost, is losing, and must lose until it resumes its control of the vast monopoly value in licences in the United Kingdom. Here I must observe that my noble and learned predecessor in this debate was unable to understand what rights the State had and what was meant by a monopoly, and what there was to resume. He said that it was like any other trade, like the grocer's trade, for instance, and that the Stale had no right to interfere. I never thought to live to hear such a doctrine as that announced from so responsible a quarter.
What is the foundation of all this property? It is the annual licence. What would the property be worth without it? Its value as a dwelling-house or as a warehouse, or whatever else for 568 which the building is fitted. The difference between these two values—the value of the house as a place of resort for drinking purposes, and the value for any other purpose—is the value which is given by the State annually when it confers that licence. My noble friend asked: "What is this value?" I will give him an illustration. There was a licence granted in London, and the man who received it was offered £18,000 for it before he left the hall. The State, for no consideration, practically presented that man with £18,000. He wisely refused the offer, and sold the premises for something nearer £80,000. That is the sort of interest which the State has been allowing to run to waste during all these years, and which my noble friends in the Government are attempting to stay and to resume. You may say that the man who got the licence had to pay duty on the liquor which he sold; he had to pay a licence duty; he did not get it for nothing. Of course he did not; but he knew that he would have to pay duties on liquor, and that he would have to pay for a licence; so what he was anxious to pay £18,000 for was the privilege of selling these duty-paying liquors, and he was also paying for this annual licence. When you consider the financial position of this country, as described by Lord St. David's last night, and to which I might add a few touches if I had leisure, it does seem a most unfortunate circumstance that successive Governments should have contrived to allow so vast an increment and so huge a property to escape.
Then there is the third point on which I hold it to be necessary that the State should recover its interest in these licences. It is, to my mind, the gravest of all, and it goes the deepest of all. It is only by that means you can reduce to its proper position that vast influence which grows and is growing, has been and is growing, and will soon be far too powerful for the State. My noble friend did me the honour to quote words of mine uttered many years ago, and to which I adhere in their fullest extent. If the State does not control the trade, the trade will control the State. What is that power? Eighty per cent. of the houses in England are tied houses 569 under the influence and at the disposal of a certain number of great members of this trade. When you realise that every public-house is a centre of social life and action in its neighbourhood, as well as of great political influence, you can conceive what this power is which in the interests of the State requires to be limited and controlled. One portion of its interest is entirely opposed to the interests of the State. I do not believe the trade wants drunkenness. Drunkenness injures the trade. But the trade naturally wants drinking —drinking short of excess; and in that respect, and as far as it goes, the interest of the trade is opposed to the interest of the State.
That is the smallest part. It interferes at every point and in every fibre with your political and your municipal life. I do not care with which party it is identified. It seems to me to be a matter of comparative indifference; but the trade is generally supposed, and I believe rightly supposed, to support the Conservative Party. I say that this trade, from my own observation, and not with a desire to reflect on my excellent friends engaged in it, poisons the very sources of your political and municipal life. It poisons your political life, because the persons engaged in it, when it comes to a general election or any particular election, ask themselves, not what is the best for the Empire, not what is the best for the public, but what is the best for the trade. In municipal life: no one can have been engaged in municipal work for any time or almost in any community without seeing that candidates are chosen not with reference to their character, not with reference to their purity, but entirely in deference to their subserviency to the trade. I do not believe that any one who has been intermixed with the public life of this country will dispute that grave allegation; and I venture to say that it is in the public interest, in the highest public interest, that this drinking should be brought within measurable size, and brought within the control of the State.
These are the broad and deep grounds on which I should cordially vote for 570 the Second Reading of the Bill. But there are some main purposes of this measure on which I ask leave to say a few words. It may be said—and I think it was said by the Bishop of London last night—that the rejection of this Bill will close the era of temperance legislation, and that it will be long years to come before anything will be effected in this direction. I do not share that view. I think it is almost in some ways a view less pessimistic which I take. I believe that we are only at the beginning of a long vista of years of legislation on this subject, legislation on the part of those who promote temperance, and legislation on behalf of those who protect what they believe to be property. It will also have an embittering effect on the cause of temperance, and on the trade itself it must have a most disturbing influence. Sometimes it will find itself in a state of dejection because it will not know what party is coming into power and what it may effect in legislation. Though I for one am no champion, as will be seen, of the trade as a whole, and though I respect many of the individuals engaged in it, I do regret that any great commercial interests should exist subject to the constant alternatives of competing and warring legislation.
This may go on, but I think that I know what will happen. The nation will grow impatient, and will say: "We are weary of this fooling; come to an understanding; we must have this settled by the co-operation of both parties in the State; a settlement we must have." That has happened, or is likely to happen, with regard to education. How many Bills have each side introduced with regard to education in the last few years; how much time have they wasted of both parties? The State will not tolerate these interminable polemics, and it demands that the question should be settled on the basis of the common-sense view of the community at large.
If you review the course of social legislation you will see that that social legislation only endures which is founded on a compromise. Political legislation and political laws which are placed on the Statute-book, irreversible and irremovable, and indeed the whole history of 571 social legislation, are the result of compromise, That is why I look with a favourable eye upon this measure. When I was the Chairman of the London County Council there were some gentlemen of moderate opinion on the body. One of the stoutest and most stalwart once rose to his feet and said: "Mr. Chairman, I 'ates compromises." That is, I believe, the feeling of stalwarts on both sides, perhaps more grammatically expressed. I myself, sitting on the cross benches, do not view compromise with that aversion or with such horror as my friend of the London County Council. I hoped that we might have passed the Second Reading with a view to a possible compromise.
I know the noble Marquess said the other day that the interpretation of privilege in another place had rendered the task of amending the Bill in Committee extremely difficult for this House. In the history of compromises which I can recollect in this House it was not always necessary to be barred by privilege. There were such things as Overtures between the two sides of the House, intercommunications, negotiations. Those were most fruitful during the controversy in relation to the Irish Church, when Her late Majesty did not disdain to intervene and when the father-in-law of the most rev. Primate played so distinguished a part. I confess I hoped from the speech of the noble Viscount last night that there might be some idea of compromise in the air. Have my noble friends (pointing to the front Opposition bench) approached the Government in any way to find out what they are ready to yield, what they are willing to concede, what they regard as vital, and what in the opinion of all may be preserved in the Bill? If they have not done that they have not exhausted the political resources of which they are the masters. I deeply regret it. I think you are missing an opportunity of settling this question on broad lines which may not easily return.
After all, we in this House all want practically the same thing; all sensible men in this country want the same thing. We do not wish to deprive anybody of necessary comfort, solace, or enjoyment. We do wish to do away with degrading 572 drunkenness which is the curse of our nation, and the curse not merely of themselves but of their posterity on whom will devolve in time the burden of Empire. If I may borrow the phrase of Archbishop Magee, we wish to see England not merely free, but sober also; not merely sober, but free, because the drunkard is the greatest slave of all If you miss this opportunity of settling this question, the time will come, I hope not long hence, when the nation itself will insist on your factions coming to an agreement, will insist on the waters of politics not being disturbed by this noxious and troubling; question. Whatever may be the Government under whose régime this reconciliation may take place, sure I am that in God's own. good time it will come. When it does come it will of course redound to the honour and glory of the transient Government in power, but it will redound infinitely more to the glory of both the great historical parties which shall have condescended to drop their issues and come to an agreement on a subject so far-reaching and so vital.
The noble Earl has told us that in his judgment the principle of this Bill is the time-limit. It is that which fascinates him in this measure, and apparently his devotion to the time-limit is such that he is ready to support it with or without compensation, that he regarded it merely as an accident that in this measure there was compensation. Now, I commend to the attention of the many who regard the noble Earl as a rallying point of moderation on the Liberal side this most recent exposition of his principles of social economy. I must own that I heard with great surprise various of his developments. Apparently his object is, whether this measure be one really to promote temperance or not, to pounce upon the liquor trade profits, and he singularly enough gave an instance of the enormous mistake the State is making in not getting hold of those profits by telling us that in one case in London £18,000 was the price of an off-licence. I could not help wondering if the noble Earl realised in his own mind that the reason why that £18,000 should be offered was that the offerer relied upon a renewal, and yet this is the class of 573 man whom the noble Earl considers it appropriate to call squatters, and of whom he says they have no right whatever, except mere tolerance, to enjoy the possession.
I have heard with great interest, and, I must own, some surprise the cavalier way in which the noble Earl disposed of the case of his friends on the matter of temperance, because he tells you that he, for his part, regards it as an open question whether this Bill will promote temperance at all. He is convinced it will, only because the clerical element tells him so, and he says: "They know much more about it than I do, and no doubt they are right." I believe he overrates the concurrence of the clerical element in that opinion, and I am well informed that throughout the country there is a very strong feeling to the opposite. But I want to point out to the House that in this very eminent supporter of this temperance measure there is a complete scepticism on the subject of its curative power, and what is more he, like many of your speakers last night, is content with merely the title of the Bill—that it is a Bill about temperance—and then he proceeds to invoke all sorts of sacred interests to warn us of the terrible danger we are running in going against the temperance interest. We heard something like that during the course of the debate last night. What we are always told is: "You must do something; it does not very much matter what, but do something, and at all events avoid the grave responsibility of rejecting what is called a temperance measure."
Last night we had a most distinguished instance of that process of reasoning. In naming the Bishop of London I name an old friend, and speak of him with the utmost reverence and affection, but is it not the case that I accurately describe his speech when I say that in the exordium there was a blaze of statistics about the drink till, but that when it became necessary to prove by experience and fact the main proposition about this Bill, that it would reduce the amount of excessive drinking, he had recourse to tropes and anecdotes and that statistics vanished. The Bill is said to be one to diminish excessive drinking and drunkenness. Does the closing of a 574 public-house, of one public-house, stop that drinking which has taken place in that public-house, or does it divert it? When questions of that kind are put a most engaging spirit of courtesy and tolerance comes over the speakers on the other side. They say: "We do not dogmatise upon that subject." I have looked into such statistics as are at hand upon this subject, and I will do no more than say this, that the statistics are equivocal; in some places the result is favourable, in others it is neutral. I am confirmed in my suspicion about this being a foregone conclusion, and not the result of experience, by the entire absence of any material placed before either House of Parliament, and also by the scepticism expressed by the noble Earl who has just sat down, although on this, as on other subjects, I should prefer a more stable guide.
And now I am going to speak from a point of view which I am afraid will not commend universal assent in one part of the House. I want to ask the authors of this Bill what is their theory of the proper place of the public-house in the social economy of this country. Do they desire to wipe out all public-houses, or do they desire to improve and regulate them? Now it is a very remarkable fact that not once in the speech of the most rev. Prelate, not once in the speech of the noble Earl who introduced the Bill, was there the smallest reference to what I may call sober drinkers. The public house, as sensible people must allow, has its use as a club for poor people, A great many men, far the greater proportion of men in the country, go there for their sober glass and for English jollity, and it leaves no bad taste behind, and I am amazed that men who profess to study the interests of the working classes take no notice of that vast class, of the community.
I put it to the Government: "What are your views upon this subject? Do you consider it right that there should be a progressive annihilation of the public-house, or do you consider that the public-house has its proper place in the social life of the country?" I am quite sure that at all events some Member of the Government, remembering the serried ranks of teetotalism in the other 575 House, would be a little afraid to tell me that they intended to preserve the public-houses. But this problem, which is ignored in this Bill, is one of the most salient problems in the temperance question, not merely in relation to clubs and off-licences, but in relation to the general enjoyment of the people of this country; and whether it is popular or not, my position is that I will consent to no legislation which spoils the jollity of English life, and prevents the poor people having the same rights as we have.
May I put it in this way? I know there are exceptions, but most of us meet together at dinner parties or what not, and enjoy our wine and our spirits. Could we face the poor people in the country and say: "That is very good and right for us, but we will shut the doors of houses where you can enjoy similar pleasure?" I go further. Unless you mean to abolish public-houses altogether, you have a duty, not merely to the publicans, but to their customers, to secure that the publicans are decent and reputable, and how can you expect a decent, irreproachable man to engage in that trade if he is liable to have his property taken from him at six months notice? You cannot evade this question. I know what is said, for popularity's sake, about the immense importance of reducing the number of public-houses, and up to a certain point I agree. Redundant public-houses are a nuisance to everybody. But the duty of the State is never to lose sight of the fact that publicans are the ministers and agents of social pleasure throughout the country. You will pounce upon them if you like—you do it at your peril—but your duty is to see that they are treated on such terms as will ensure their living reputable and respectable lives. For that reason I am dead against creating an insecurity in the tenure of those people. The commonsense of Englishmen has put that question upon the, I admit, somewhat illogical, but very intelligible, footing upon which it now stands. The Legislature has shown by enactments that the man who holds a licence and has presumably proved that he is well qualified to hold it, shall continue to hold it; and the practical result is that there has 576 grown up that expectation of renewal which, observe, is founded upon good conduct, for good conduct is a necessary condition of renewal. That expectation has grown up and is one of the assets of the man's life. I am not going to join issue with the lawyers, amateur and otherwise, who like talking about "freeholds," and this being no property. In every relation of life every person who has to deal with the man who held such a position recognises that he has a commercial interest in it, and I need hardly say that in transactions to which the Government have been party they have recognised that, as in the case of the "Coach and Horses" at Portsmouth. But I am not going to indulge in personalities or tu quoques on a subject so grave.
I hope I have made it clear that whatever other people may say I am in favour of giving these men such expectation of tenure and security as will ensure that the right men are attracted to the business. May I say one word upon the Act of 1904? I think that Act has been very greatly misunderstood, and has led to a good deal of confusion in debate. The Act of 1904 did not enable justices to do what was unlawful, but reminded them that in the course of lawful administration they could put down houses on account of redundancy. At the same time there was made a compulsory insurance among those who were likely to profit by the cessation of one of the houses, and the person who lost his licence should be compensated, if you choose to use the word, out of that fund. Now, observe, the essential difference between the proposal in this Bill and the Act of 1904 is this, you are legalising what would be illegal without this Bill, It is illegal for magistrates to draw up a fine schedule about a proportion of population to area and say "We will act upon this; it is desperately clever, it is a very fine scheme and we will act upon it." They could not have done that and that is the essential difference between the two cases. In this case you are taking from these men that asset which I have described, a commercially valuable asset in their property. You are taking that from him, and I say the logical result is not that you should also take part of his 577 brother's, but that the State should pay for it. It is one of the merest commonplaces of legislation that the State, if it takes a man's interest, property, or anything you like from him that is worth money, it shall pay for it, and accordingly I denounce this measure as one which does wrong to persons having valuable pecuniary interest and takes their property from them for nothing.
Now I am going to say something which is, perhaps, very bold, but the most rev. Prelate has almost challenged it. The most rev. Prelate mentioned in his speech—a matter of which I had never heard and of which I entirely disapprove—about people writing to the clergy and saying that if the bishops support this measure they will withdraw their subscriptions. I hate and detest anything of the kind, but I am aware of this, that there is a deep feeling of disappointment that in what seems to many people a clear case of right and wrong, the course is being taken by the bishops that is being taken at present. I think many honest people who make no profession of being better than their neighbours but are sound, good men, are shocked that it should be considered the height of Christian heroism to take joyfully the spoiling of the goods of other people.
I have spoken of the direct attack upon these men and I need hardly do more than incidentally remind you of the gratuitous insertion of a double-barrelled scheme of local option. Here, again we are on matters of principle. I will never consent to a majority of ratepayers deciding upon whether a man shall have his drink or not, and it is peculiarly odious that the teetotalers amongst the middle class should determine the diet of the poorer classes. I hope that a strict account will be taken between political parties, and between Minister and Opposition, upon questions like this, and I say to your Lordships you need never fear if you interfere on this occasion to prevent not merely spoliation but an indirect attack upon the liberty of poor people to enjoy themselves as they like. I have assumed that people have a right to convivial enjoyment, and not the less because they are poor.
578 I am quite certain that any measure of temperance reform will find warm support on this side of the House; any measure which takes the publican by the hand, recognises his responsibility, supports him in his responsibility and induces him and his proprietors to better the houses, and make them more attractive, to introduce more amusements, and more amusements will divert from drink. But I am not going to make the pretence of associating myself with the fulsome flattery of teetotalers which has been too much in the air during the last few months. The worst of this Bill is that when one examines the clauses he finds not the hand of the philanthropist at work, the hand of him who will consider the needs of men, their propensities, their tastes and their traditions, but through every clause you see the scowl of the teetotal lecturer. Your Lordships have had various exhortations addressed to you as to your duty on this occasion. I think that converging towards my noble friend's Amendment are various streams of tendency in modern politics which are irresistible. I will never believe that we shall be wrong when we stand up to resist direct spoliation, I believe we shall not be wrong when we stand up to resist the tyranny of a majority especially over poor people, and I will rejoice when the time comes when we can go to the country and ask them which of the two Houses best represents their views.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
I rise because I wish to correct what might otherwise go forth as a grave misapprehension. The noble Earl who spoke just now seemed to imply that the whole of the clergy of the Church of England were of one mind in support of this Bill. My Lords, that is not the case, and I will appeal to the most rev. Prelate, and I will ask him whether it is not the case that at the Representative Church Council which met in London last year, there was not a very profound and grave division of opinion in regard to the support of this Bill, and whether the gravest apprehensions were not expressed, both by clergy and laity, as to the effect of this Bill in regard to temperance. I think the most rev. Prelate will not deny that fact. There is one other point I wish 579 to mention, because it comes within my own personal experience. I have had some experience of the mining population in the north of England. Close to my home at the present there is about to be opened one of the very largest coal-pits and a model village has been built for the convenience of those who will work in that pit; there are thousands of persons now inhabitating this village. Do your Lordships know what is the most earnest desire of the best part of the population in that village? It is that a respectable public-house may be opened in that village in order that something may be done to neutralise the effect of the clubs which are the very curse of the population. I am acquainted with a man who has given his whole life to working among the mining populations in the North. He is a man of great ability, he is a man who does not agree with me upon many things, but it is impossible to know his work without knowing how admirable it is, how entirely he has devoted himself to the working classes and also how much confidence they repose in him. He said to me only the other day when I happened to meet him: "What are you going to do in regard to this Licensing Bill, because I am most sincerely anxious that that Bill shall not pass. Among those with whom I work, a well-managed public-house is distinctly to the advantage of the population. It is the clubs that are the curse of my people and these clubs are largely increasing. The trail of the serpent is over most of them and I am quite satisfied that the effect of this Bill will not be to promote temperance, but it will be to promote those clubs which are the source of every sort of evil-drinking and every kind of mischief to the population." My Lords, I know that man is right.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
I wish to associate myself, speaking with the knowledge I have of the feeling of Birmingham, with what was said by the most rev. Prelate when he spoke of those large classes who have the best and most intimate acquaintance with the habits and needs of the people who will be deeply disappointed if your Lordships did not give this measure a Second Reading. I had the honour of 580 presenting yesterday, at the Table of this House, an immense petition of many thousands of signatures got up in Birmingham by the Citizens' Council for promoting the passing of this Bill; I hold in my hand an analysis of the classes in that petition, and there is one fact to which I want to draw your Lordships attention. It is that among the signatures to that petition are the names of 1,176 school masters and school mistresses. That testimony is, I think, a very important witness coming from those who have the most intimate acquaintance with the habits and the needs of the people, of the children and of the parents.
I should like leave to say a few words, first of all, with regard to what was said by Lord Robertson as to the motive which underlies this Bill. We desire, he said, to wipe out all public-houses. We have no regard for the needs of the sober drinkers. He said that the most rev. Primate had said nothing about the needs of the sober drinkers. If the most rev. Primate did not enlarge upon that it was, I suppose, because he could not conceive that anyone would suppose that he had not in view the needs of the sober drinker. Indeed, he explicitly said that he desired to make room for the better provision for the needs of all those who might want to indulge in moderation in the liquors which are the subject of this special legislation. A great deal has been said in this House about local option. I am not able myself to conceive what principle there can be which justifies a landlord in excluding all public-houses from his estate, which justifies a trust like that which controls the great area close to Birmingham, the Bournville Trust, in excluding all public-houses from its estate, and then goes on to say that it is a serious infringement of human liberty that you should allow the vast majority of the inhabitants to do the same. But that is not, I must admit, the line along which I desire myself to see the country moving. If I may use a phrase which has not infrequently been used with regard to another subject, I wish to see public-houses mended and not ended. In Germany and also in other foreign countries I have been in the public-houses, and I have seen great numbers of 581 the working classes with their wives and families, engaged in what appears to me to be purely innocent merriment and conversation, drinking their beer or coffee or those curious substances which children drink, the constituents of which I have never been able exactly to discover. At any rate there you see a delightful scene, and again and again I have asked myself why have we not public-houses like that in England. It is the reform and not the ending of public-houses that I desire. But if we then ask what is the need for a Bill of this kind I reply it is because it is the existence of the present system which renders any such great and vital change in the whole idea of the management of public-houses impossible, and I am quite sure that if there is to be in the future any such desirable change it is only because the country has been able to give notice that after a definite interval of time it is going to institute a quite different system of running this necessary but also most dangerous trade.
There is another subject upon which I want to say a word. It has been said very often that you cannot make people moral by mechanical rules. It is only two nights ago that I heard a very remarkable testimony from one of the ablest of the evangelical clergy in the East End of London, the Rev. Watts Ditchfield, who related a very interesting and remarkable experience showing a reason why those who hold the evangelical faith should take deep and profound interest in social conditions and social life. He said he had gone to the East End of London desiring to preach the evangelical faith, and he had found by an experience which he could not possibly resist, that the way to those moral and spiritual changes he desired to promote was barred by the social conditions. Having gone there with the desire to preach the evangelical faith and not having ceased from that desire for a moment, he had come to the conclusion that the way to open up the road for that faith was to be found in pressing forward those kinds of social reforms of which a change in our licensing system was the first.
This is not a perfect Bill, no doubt, and yet I venture to think that a good 582 many speakers in your Lordships' House have greatly underrated the number of points in which this Bill does very greatly promote temperance. These are some of the minor points. One of the greatest evils in the diocese of Worcester, over which I used to preside, was in the traffic in spirituous liquors on passenger steamers on the Severn. There is a clause in this Bill which deals with that traffic. There are others which deal with the distribution of liquor from vans, with the closing of public-houses on election days, and with the diminishing of the number of public-houses. I feel a profound conviction that your Lordships can only give a true impression of your attitude towards this Bill if you give it a Second Reading, and then proceed to amend it on those points in which it is faulty, whether it be as to the scale of compensation or as to the grocers' licences or as to the dealings with clubs. I am sure that the attitude of your Lordships if this Second Reading is refused will be very gravely and seriously misunderstood by that part of the English people with which I have opportunity of being acquainted.
There are two chief points in this Bill; one is the reduction in the number of public-houses and the other is the time-limit. In regard to the former it has been questioned whether there is any need for such a reduction or whether it would be any good. I am inclined to reply that, if there is no need for the reduction of public-houses, what in the world could have been the meaning of an Act that was passed by His Majesty's late Government which had for its main purpose and end a reduction of the number of public-houses? In regard to the time-limit I am certain that, at least in that part of the country with which I am acquainted, your Lordships' action, if you do not give this Bill a Second Reading, will be interpreted as meaning that you assent to the claim of the licensed victualler to regard any time-limit of any number of years as an act of confiscation, and I really can conceive no more serious disaster than that your Lordships should give your adhesion to this tremendous extension of a claim beyond all law and equity. There has been a great deal said about death duties, but there is one thing which, 583 in my audacity, I sometimes feel a desire to press upon the attention of those who use that argument. It seems so often to be supposed that the Government, in regard to death duties, does something in particular in regard to a particular trade, whereas I suggest it acts only on a general principle, and I have observed that in dealing with any class of the community the action of the Inland Revenue is nothing else than to demand as much as they think they will be able to get, and to leave it to those on whom the demand is made to resist it if they think more is asked than they ought to be required to pay. I am informed that there are very-large numbers of business men who pay a great deal more than they need pay simply because they do not choose to reveal the actual state of their business, the fact that their returns are diminishing; so that the Inland Revenue goes on demanding and they go on paying. I often wonder, supposing those who are interested in the business of the trade had united in representing that it realty was a monstrous thing to deal with a licence as if it were more than an annual licence, if they had united in representing that they were being dealt with as having a freehold when, in fact, they hold only an annual licence, is it not very probable that that united representation would, if not directly then indirectly, have brought about a reduction of the amount of the claim which the Inland Revenue could have made. But it does not appear to me on inquiry that they have ever made any kind of resistance to the Inland Revenue dealing with their property on the basis on which they have done, and is there any reason at all why they should suppose that they should be dealt with differently from any other class of the community in this respect?
But the matter which seems to me to be of chief importance from this point of view is that here those who are interested in the trade have made a claim in which is an unwarrantable extension of the rights of property beyond strict law and equity, and it seems to me to be of the deepest importance that we should not sanction that claim. I cannot understand how it can be denied that a property for one 584 year, plus the expectation which has been allowed to grow up, is exactly what can be met by due and sufficiently long notice of an intention to terminate the present arrangement. It seems to me that, if the claim of the trade is to be justified, the State ought to have given some sort of assurance that it never intended to alter its licensing system. Instead of any such assurance the trade has had repeated warnings from the days of Mr. Bruce's Bill that it was in the highest degree probable that after a certain time the State would bring to a termination the expectation that had been allowed to arise on this annual licence.
The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, said something about there being no one who would have occasion to rejoice if your Lordships assented to the claim of the trade in this respect except the Socialists. My Lords, there are two kinds of Socialism. There is the Socialism prescribing a specific economic theory as to the abolition of private capital, and in that sense, as an economic theory, I do not suppose it has any very considerable hold on this country, and I sometimes wonder whether it is advancing. But there is another kind of Socialism. The word is often used to describe the state of mind of those who feel that the industrial developments of our country in the last-fifty years have represented, individualism run mad to the detriment of the interests of the whole community, and that we have got to re-assert the claim of the interests of the community under which alone property has been allowed to grow up and consolidate itself; that we have got to re-assert the interests of the whole community over the claim of individual property, and I am sure there is a vast body of moderate reformers in this country, moderate social reformers, who are deeply concerned, not to defend the theory of economic Socialism, but to guard against the unwarrantable extension of the rights of property.
It seems to me that if in a special way this House stands for the rights of property it is of the greatest possible importance that your Lordships should not sanction, and confuse with the legal and equitable rights of 585 property, an extension of the right s which is neither legal nor equitable. I am persuaded that there will be a profound and wide-spread sense of disappointment and distrust if your Lordships do what you will be understood to do if you fail to give this Bill a Second Reading— sanction against the interests of the whole community an unwarrantable claim for the extension of the rights of private property beyond their strict limit.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, having taken some little part in the guidance of the Bill of 1904 through the House and followed that up by having considerable experience of the administration of that Act as chairman of the licensing committee of my county, may I ask your attention for a few moments? I am one of those who have had grave hesitation about the course that is to be pursued with regard to the Second Reading of this Bill, and I confess that I should like to have had the Bill discussed in Committee, where we could have tested how far those statements which have been made with regard to the injustice of the principal clauses of the Bill are true. More than that, I should have liked to have seen some chance of the latter clauses of the Bill being discussed, because I believe that those clauses, if they were made more effective than they are, would perhaps have done more to promote the cause of temperance than any of the heroic clauses in the first part of the Bill. In the first place there has been very much said in this House to prove that a stringent amending of the Act of 1904 is necessary. When I ventured to interrupt my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn when he alluded to the fact that he did not think the expectations of the promoters of the Bill had been fully carried out, it was because I had seen a circular sent around by some temperance society which stated in categorical terms that I had, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, stated that the number of licences which would be done away with under that Bill would be about 2,240 in the course of the year. As I pointed out to my noble friend. I made no statement of that sort. I expressly avoided, 586 representing the Home Office as I did, attempting to prophesy with regard to the numbers which would be done away with by that Bill, but I did say that if the compensation was an average of £500 per house, that would be 2,240 done away with, and I went on to add further that if the average was £800, then there would be 1,500 houses done away with in the course of a year. If I am charged with having made a false prophecy of the Bill, at all events I can claim that the latter part of my statement was very near what has actually taken place under the Bill, 1,500 having been done away in the year and the amount I named as compensation, £800, is certainly somewhat the average of those houses that have been done away with in my own county.
With regard to the administration of the Act, I do not think anybody who has watched it, at all events, in the cities, would be able to bring the charge that it had been administered unfairly in any way. There was an organised attack made on the provisions of the Act on the ground that they were going to take away from the discretion of the local magistrates, and the Quarter Sessions were to have the power of revising the decisions of those magistrates. Let me give my experience in my own county. In dealing with all the houses that have been done away with, I cannot recall more than one instance in which the decision of the local magistrates was over-ridden by the Committee of Quarter Sessions, and in the particular case, it was obvious that the first decision had been come to on imperfect knowledge and the chairman of the local bench was present at the meeting of the magistrates, and asked that that decision should not be confirmed. I think if an alteration is desired to be made in the law of such a stringent character as is now proposed, at all events some evidence should be given that the Act has not worked fairly or in the interests of the locality by those who had to work it.
Is it not almost an irony of fate that the Members of the Government who principally attacked the clause of the Bill that gave a discretion of Quarter Sessions over magistrates, should come to this House and propose that a 587 Commission of strangers to the county should have an absolute power of over-Tiding those on the spot who have a full knowledge of the circumstances of the cases of which these Commissioners cannot possibly know anything? I know that there is a very small modicum of discretion given to the local magistrates, because they are informed that they may select the particular houses which are to be done away with; but I have some little knowledge of local government, and if there is anything I have learned, it is that there is hardly any question which can come forward in which it is not generally desirable that those who know the locality should have the discretion as to the manner as to which they should deal with it and administer the law. If this is true of all sorts of things that come before county councils, surely it is true in a much greater degree with regard to the question of licensing, where the manner in which the public-houses should be dealt with must depend on the local circumstances, on the population, on the position of the houses, on the class of house, and on the areas which they have to serve. I venture to say that no man without knowledge of the 1ocal circumstances could possibly come to a satisfactory conclusion in such cases.
Nothing that has caused more dissatisfaction among those who have the management of local government than this new idea that their powers should be overridden by a Commission appointed by the Government. We had some experience of that with regard to the Small Holdings Act. I admit that we have not heard so much about that Commission since the county councils have got to work, because county councils are doing the best they can to administer the Act in a reasonable and fair manner, and therefore the Commissioners have not been called in; but in this case the Commissioners are actually to administer this law, and I venture to think that the Government should trust the localities. If their motto is "Trust the people" it is, at all events, an extraordinary course to pursue to give some discretion to the people to do away with more licences than are required under the Schedule, but not to trust them to carry out the Schedule, and to do away with a sufficient number of licences.
588 I would like to pass to another point, and that is the question of the time-limit. Let me say for myself that I have not the slightest objection in the world. I think it very desirable that the State should, if possible, get control so that they can deal with licences in the way they like in the future. But the whole test of what you ought to do in this matter is how is it to be done with perfect justice to those whose monopoly value you are going to resume? Let me say, however, that a time-limit is absolutely incompatible with a system of compulsory insurance and compensation, for the reason that the object of a time-limit is to give the licensee security for a specified period, long or short, in which he may be able to recoup himself for the money that he has invested in his business. If all the time he has to be paying very considerable compensation, how can he possibly recoup himself during that time, with the prospect that the moment the time-limit comes to an end his licence may be taken away altogether without any compensation at all? And as was pointed out by a previous speaker, he is now to be shot at from two barrels, because, if the magistrates do not take away his licence, then the enthusiasm of the ratepayers, exercising for the first time their powers under local option, may do away with it. I venture to think that for these reasons it has to be proved that you can fairly attach a time-limit to a system of compensation. It also seems to me to lie with the Government to prove that, a certain amount of compensation being given and a certain number of licences being done away with under the Act of 1904, to do away with the same amount of money with a much larger number of houses is also fair and reasonable to the licensees whose property is going to be taken away.
I venture to say we have had no answer to the arguments which have been used with regard to these matters in the first part of the Bill. No one could listen to the speech of Lord St. Aldwyn without feeling that the questions and arguments he used ought to receive full answer, and until that answer is given, and until the Government show, as they have not shown at present, that they appreciate what we believe to be a grave injustice of the Bill, and give an assurance that they 589 are going to give consideration to the arguments that are used, I certainly cannot vote for the Second Reading. Then with regard to clubs we have learned in the last few years how important that matter has become, because the more licences that are done away with the more clubs are opened in their places. In my own county we have had representations from the police authorities stating in the strongest terms that they could not be answerable for keeping a hold over drunkenness so long as there was no provision for these clubs in regard to which they are perfectly helpless. In accordance with that the licensing committee over which I preside passed a unanimous resolution asking the Government to pass more stringent regulations in regard to clubs. If we could have gone into Committee I should have liked to have seen that part of the Bill made much more stringent and effective than it is, because I believe if those provisions were amended and improved they would have more to do with putting down drunkenness than the former part of the Bill.
I certainly imagined when I took up the Bill that Clause 22 was not necessary, because powers were already given to magistrates, but it appears a legal decision was given which makes it very desirable that that clause should be inserted; but if we had any power of discussing it in Committee, I should have liked to move some Amendments to it, which I think would make it much more effective. I should like to see the magistrates given power in granting a licence to compel any public-house they liked to select to provide reasonable refreshments of a nonalcoholic character. I think one of the great causes of drunkenness at the present moment is that if a man wants some refreshment and is tired, having had a hard day's work, he has nowhere to go except into a drinking-shop, and that if he goes into an ordinary public-house he cannot get ordinary temperance drinks, or ordinary refreshments. I think a very great improvement would be made in the condition of those houses, and that it would be in entire conformity with the growing wish of the people of this country, if some legislation were passed which would insure that there 590 should be in every district a considerable number of houses for the recreation and refreshment of the people where nonalcoholic liquors were provided.
If any of the clauses in the latter part of the Bill were embodied in a separate Bill I should be inclined, in common, I think, with many members on this side of the House, to give them most cordial consideration, because although not what I might call the heroic clauses of the Bill, I think they would really do more to promote the welfare of the people and improve the general conditions under which the liquor laws are now carried on than any other part of the measure. I cannot help expressing my regret that these matters are not able to be discussed in Committee. I feel deeply the objections to the first part of the Bill, but I hope that on some future occasion at all events, this House may be able to voice what I believe is the general feeling of moderate men of all parties who desire to promote legislation for the purpose of improving our public-houses without doing any injustice to those who hold the licences.
§ LORD FABER
My Lords, there is one very important matter connected with this Licensing Bill that has hardly been touched upon in the debates in this House so far. It is a very important matter, both on account of the money that is represented by it, going into many millions Sterling, and also because of the class of investor who is interested in it: I refer to the debenture stock-holders and the preference Stock-holders of the big brewery companies. Perhaps I am particularly interested in this subject because I had the advantage of heading a deputation last spring, which waited upon Mr. Asquith, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and put before him the claims of upwards of £1,00,000,000 sterling debenture holders. We tried to show to Mr. Asquith, and I hope with some success, that the debenture-holder was an honest investor of a good class who had invested in brewery debentures, because he thought that he was getting a safe investment, and he had nothing at the back of his mind with regard to the ordinary profits said to 591 be earned by brewers; he was quite satisfied with the 4 per cent. that the ordinary shareholders promised to pay him in consideration for his debentures. Mr. Asquith listened with great courtesy and attention, and at the end of our interview assured us that there was nothing like confiscation in his mind. We were very well satisfied with that, and I must say it astonished me somewhat when this Licensing Bill was introduced to find as regards debenture-holders and preference shareholders that, if there was not confiscation, there was a great measure of hardship, and I should like, if your Lordships would kindly permit me for a few minutes, to explain to you what I conceive to be the position of the debenture-holder in these great companies.
Let me give you the case of a brewery company, a very common case, I know many like it, whose capital is divided in this way; £400,000 in 4 per cent. debenture stock, £100,000 in 5 per cent. preference stock, and £100,000 of ordinary stock. The debenture stock is covered in the first instance by £400,000 worth of public-houses. I conceive that under this new Act the company will go on for twenty-one years, at any rate, and will continue to pay to the debenture-holder the 4 per cent. to which he is entitled, otherwise, of course, the debenture-holder forecloses and takes the public-houses at once. Therefore they go on for twenty-one years. At the end of the twenty-one years I suppose again that, owing to the fact that the Government will resume possession of the public-houses, the brewery companies will cease to exist. What then is the position of the debenture-holder? He starts, I may remind you, with having put £400,000 cash into these debentures, for which he receives security in the shape of £400,000 worth of public-houses. During the twenty-one years, according to the most expert evidence, he has had drawn for payment under the compensation clanses one-fifth of his debentures. We will say that for that one-fifth of the £400,000 security he gets £80,000 in cash—that is considerably more than he would get, I apprehend, but I want to understate the case rather than to overstate it. Therefore, at the 592 end of the time the £400,000 debenture holder will be represented by £80,000 in cash and £320,000 in houses. You will notice that he no longer has £320,000 of public-houses but he has £320,000 of houses, which is a very different thing indeed. Now what is the value of this £320,000 of houses which were not originally bought as dwelling houses, but which were bought as public-houses? Fortunately we have statistics which tell us the approximate value of the £320,000 of houses. Messrs. Orgill, who are well known valuers in London, have valued 126 houses for the local authorities for compensation purposes, under sworn testimony. Those 126 houses with their licences were valued at £280,870. Without licences they were valued at only £59,071. Therefore the loss on those houses was £221,799 or 79 per cent. or four-fifths. Therefore we are reduced to this position, that with regard to the debenture-holders, their £320,000 of houses is only a fifth of the £320,000, that is £66,000. Therefore they are left with £80,000 of cash that they get under the compensation, and with £66,000 that they receive for their houses without licences. That is at the end of twenty-one years under the most favourable circumstances the debenture holders will get £144,000 for their £400,000. Of course, against them I have not taken into consideration the possibility of their being done away with altogether without any compensation at all under local option during the last seven years. In their favour, on the other hand, this may be taken, that there should be some margin of loose assets over which the debenture holders would have some claim. But I apprehend, as we are all of us only human, that the ordinary shareholder will have taken care to annex those loose assets before the end of the twenty-one years. That being so the debenture-holder is in the position of only getting £144,000 under the most favourable circumstances instead of the £400,000 that he put in.
Now I come to the preference shareholder. He is in a much worse position, poor man, than the debenture-holder. He starts with 5 per cent. interest, which he gets I suppose for the twenty-one years. At the end of the twenty-one years where is he? He is left 593 without any security whatever, there are no assets, they are all absorbed by the debenture-holder, and, therefore, the preference holder is absolutely confiscated altogether; he gets nothing for his £100,000. I have looked into it as closely as I can, and have tried to state it as fairly as I can, and if this is not confiscation as regards the preference shareholder it is a case of very great hardship indeed, and I confess I cannot see any escape from it. As regards the ordinary shareholder, he has this great pull, that if trade is good during the twenty-one years he can make a very good profit, and out of that profit of course he can secure for himself a certain amount of money which will protect him from any loss he may suffer at the end of the time. That is if the brewery does well, but if it does not do well, he is as badly off as the preference shareholder and the debenture-holder. But if a debenture-holder is a man who earns only a fixed rate of interest for twenty-one years, 4 per cent., I do not see how there is any margin to set aside a reserve fund to preserve him from loss at the end of the time.
I do not know whether it is true, but I should like to mention that if the debenture is in danger then the debenture-holder has a right of entry into the public-houses there and then, but then we have first of all to decide whether the debenture is in danger, and that is a question for the Law Courts, which might take a great deal of law to decide. If, however, he does enter into the public-house how is the debenture-holder capable of managing that public-house? Another important question to my mind is this: a debenture-holder by his deed is only entitled to 4 per cent. interest. If he entered into and got possession of the public-house and that public-house paid 8 or 9 per cent., would he be able to take what he got above the 4 per cent., and put that aside for the twenty-one years? I cannot answer that question. I think it is a very doubtful one. If the debenture-holder pursued that course, would he not be bringing a civil war, so to speak, into the brewery itself, as between the debenture-holder and the ordinary shareholder, and that in 594 any event would mean ruin for the brewery. Therefore, I think, with regard to the ordinary shareholder as against the debenture-holder and the preference shareholder, he is in a very parlous condition indeed. I suppose the investing public invested in these debentures in the first case relying on the well-known legal maxim, which we have heard quoted in this House already although not exactly in these words, that if a public house was conducted according to the law of this country, and properly conducted, there was a human expectation that that licence would be renewed perpetually. On the opposite benches it has been said that the debenture-holder deserves all he gets because he was a foolish investor. Are we not all foolish investors at times? Are we quite sure that we investors who have invested in Government securities during the last three years have been entirely wise? I daresay a debenture-holder would be unwise if he gave £110 for a 4 per cent. debenture for which he ought only to have given £70, but because he gave £110 for what is only worth £70 is that any reason at all why you should confiscate the £70, because that is what you are going to do, at any rate, with regard to the preference shareholder, and most likely with regard to the debenture-holder.
I cannot think that the House intend that any such measure as that should be passed. The teetotallers contend that if this measure be passed, and a reduction of houses brought about thereby, it would add to the bone and sinew, the morale, and the general well-being of the country. If that is so, is that not a further argument in favour of the nation paying a fair price for these public-houses? The nation evidently agree to that argument, and if they are going to receive good value for their money, should they not then be in a position to pay fair value, if not full value, for these public-houses to enable the owners of them to put themselves right with the public whose property they are more or less taking away? Such a change as is proposed will do injury to thousands of His Majesty's subjects. Apparently a kind of moral atmosphere has grown 595 up around this Licensing Bill which people seem to think justifies confiscation. I do not think they intended in the first instance to be so unwise as regards their confiscatory measures, but, at any rate, confiscation has been in the air with regard to it; this idea of confiscation has done a great deal of harm to all our securities in this country and has shaken the faith of the investing public, and I think there is very little doubt that that is the reason why, at this moment, the share market is so depressed.
It has been said that this is eminently a temperance measure. I do not deny that it does make for temperance, but as long as clubs are left in the nearly untouched state in which they are under this Bill, I do not think that it can make very greatly for temperance. For instance, in a big town in the North that I know very well— Leeds—you see every day, now that public-houses are well-conducted and shut up at eleven o'clock at night, the people who have been in them streaming out and going across to their club, where they can drink all night and every night, and all day and every day and all Sunday. Under this Bill the only provision with regard to clubs is that they should be registered and occasionally visited by a policeman in plain clothes. Of course that is nothing like the supervision which is given to the public-houses which are being done away with. The public-house is under the eye of the policeman, who stands close to the door most of the day; the public-house is open to the public gaze, and everything that goes on inside is known. That is not the case, however, with regard to the club. The club is a place where secret drinking can go on, and it wants more supervision than you have given to it in this Bill. I am not here to say that drink is a good thing; I do not think that it is, and I, for one, am decidedly in favour of temperance, if it can be brought about by an ordinary degree of fairness; but if you strive after temperance you must, as I say, remember the innocent holder of these debentures who is going to be confiscated in order to make the people of this country temperate all at once. I say the way to foster tem- 596 perance is by education and by example. It is being so fostered. We see that temperance is going ahead by leaps and bounds every day, and I am one of those people who are proud to think that, if we can go on in the course we are pursuing, it will not be so very long before England is sober as well as free. The 1904 Act, under which we are now working, is doing fairly good work; licences to the number of 1,200 to 1,500 a year are being done away with; these licences are being paid for by the trade; and I cannot help thinking that it would be more statesmanlike to give a further trial to that Act. I feel sure that it is doing good work, and it is within the knowledge of all of us that the country has become more temperate, from the higher classes downwards. I do not think coercion will do much good. We must gain, surely, the mastery of ourselves. I remember when one was younger, talking about the mischief of want of self-control, some lines that run very much like this, that illustrate the case very well—There is a little public-houseThat everybody knows,It is the little public-houseJust underneath the nose.It is a little public-houseThat anyone can closeand so on.
I think that shows very well the idea that it is more by mastery of ourselves that we shall attain to temperance than by this oppressive measure. There is a clause in the Bill, which I think is a good one, about Sunday-closing, making the hours for being open in London much shorter, reducing them to four instead of the seven or eight at present allowed. That, in my opinion, is good, but I should like to be assured, if I can be so assured, that that alteration in hours would not lead to any possibility of London becoming a secret drinking town. I allude to that, because we all know a very large and prosperous town in the North which, owing to repressive measures of a very harsh sort with regard to drinking facilities, has grown into a town of secret drinking. It would be a lamentable thing indeed if this London of ours were to be turned into a town of that description. We are at any rate fairly temperate at the 597 present day. I do not think that the country wants this Bill; I do not think at the moment that they want legislation by the extremist in any sense or shape, but I do think that the country wants legislation by moderate men for moderate men. Therefore, my Lords, on these grounds I am against the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I do not want to waste your Lordships' time unduly by flogging the dead horse of the Licensing Bill. I think I should be right in saying that the news of the death of this animal will be received with very great relief in all parts of the country, and I am not all at sure that the owners of him will not also share in that relief to a very great extent. I only rise for a moment or two for the purpose of saying how very glad I am that I have been able to listen to this debate; because although I have listened most attentively and have read very carefully in the newspapers the speeches to which I have not had the opportunity of listening, I have not really, with very great respect to noble Lords opposite, heard a single argument except arguments which would only strengthen my resolve to vote for the rejection of this measure. I do not think that it ought to go down to the country, as so many of our opponents try to make out, that this House is not in favour of temperance and that we have ruthlessly cast aside the opportunity now given to us of saying that we are in favour of the temperance cause. There is nobody on this side of the House or in any other part of it who would not gladly favour a good temperance measure provided that it was not accompanied by injustice. But I have not heard in favour of this Bill any real arguments to prove that it is a temperance measure. All the arguments that we have heard proceeded entirely on the assumption that shutting up public-houses is going to make working men more sober. You cannot advance this argument in any direction unless you take into account the other and much more vicious means of obtaining drink of which working men are sure to avail themselves, and indeed have already done so, supposing public-houses are all shut down. No doubt in considering 598 a question of this sort there is something to be said for the doctrine of diminished opportunity. But I submit with great respect that if there is anything in the doctrine of diminished opportunity that doctrine is already on a fair way to being satisfied by the Act of 1904. But personally, as far as I can ascertain for myself, I am not at all sure that the Act of 1904 is going to be such a tremendous success as a temperance measure. Am I not right in saying that the closing of the public-houses which has been effected by that measure has been followed by a rapid opening of clubs, where, as we have heard in the able speech which was delivered just now, drink can be obtained at all hours of the day and night?
I do not know whether noble Lords opposite have ever seen a paper, which I expect is circulated in several of the London districts at any rate, called Club Life, and stated to be "Written by a Club-Man for Club-Men." I was looking at that paper this morning. It is a paper with a great many pages in it, and it contains nothing but advertisements of the various forms of entertainments at different working men's clubs on Sundays and so on. I will not say to which political shade of opinion these clubs belong, but most of them belong to one particular grade of political thought. This paper reveals a state of things which I am quite sure the bishops would not care to see taking place generally: that is that on Sundays at twelve o'clock music-hall artistes come in and give performances, and these performances are continued intermittently all the afternoon and evening, and probably most of the night. There is another thing about club life which has not yet been mentioned in this debate, and that is that working men can, by becoming a member of one club, and by the payment; of, I think, 5s., become affiliated to all the other clubs in the country, so that a London working man can go to any of these other clubs if he happens to be in Liverpool, or in Manchester, or anywhere else, and straightway avail himself of all the privileges of membership. So you have on foot in this way what is really tantamount to a vast system of public-houses all over the country; but where the restrictions placed on public-houses 599 are entirely evaded. This discloses to my mind a state of affairs for which, that school of thought which has always tried to make the public-house unattractive to working men is largely responsible, and it is a state of things that I should like to see altered very much. I was much struck with the eloquent speech delivered by such a very ardent and sincere reformer as the right rev. Bishop of Birmingham, who described the innocent pleasures of the foreign restaurant. In order to avoid a charge of having no remedy on our own account I venture to think that that must be the eventual direction in which we must look for a solution of this problem, and I do not think that it ought to be difficult for the Government, let us say, to attach as a condition to a licence that the public-house must be something more than the mere institution that it is at the present, and that we must realise that we shall have to give to the working man something corresponding to the excellent and luxurious club life of which we are always able to avail ourselves. That is a possible solution by means of legislation. It has been said over and over again in this debate, and in other places, that men must be made sober not by Act of Parliament, but by the force of example. I thought the noble Earl in introducing this Bill was a little bit hard on those who favour the doctrine of the force of example. He said that those who talked about the force of example were not usually those who conducted the moral agencies of the country. With the greatest respect to the noble Earl, I venture to suggest that there is no greater agency in this or any other country than the force of example. It is not so many years ago in the history of this country that all the influence and most of the wealth was in the hands of Members of your Lordships' House; probably a Peer was the only person who had sufficient money to get drunk with; the possession, consequently, of a title used to be regarded as a synonym for a perfectly legitimate, praiseworthy, and enviable over-indulgence in the pleasures of the table, and it was considered quite a correct expression if a man was noticed to be in a particular state to accuse him of being "as drunk as a lord." But we have changed all that, and I 600 do not think you can look to a better example of the changed times in which we live than by going into any mess of Yeomanry officers when you will see them all drinking barley-water. That is the sort of enormous change that has been going on amongst the upper classes. The noble Earl who introduced this Bill said a thing which, I must say, made me feel rather uncomfortable. He said that the public good must over-ride private interests. I suppose to a certain extent that is true, but I hope that the Government to which the noble Earl belongs will guard themselves against the ruthless, cruel, and thoughtless application of that doctrine. It has been said by another noble Lord who favoured the Second Reading of the Bill that the vast body of clergy in this country were in favour of the measure. With regard to the public good over-riding private interest, I should very much like to quote to your Lordships what the Bishop of Worcester said the other day in answer to a correspondent. I will stand corrected if needs be, because I do not say that these are the actual words, but it is the substance of what he said. I think they are almost the exact words. "While in favour of a measure of temperance, no morality or philanthropy or religion could possibly thrive if it was based upon spoliation or injustice."
That, my Lords, I think, is a very important opinion, coming from a very high authority. I will not make too great a point of the word "spoliation." It may be an ugly word, but at the same time those of us who had the good fortune to be here have just listened to a very masterly and lucid exposition of the position of the innocent investors in breweries, who have invested their money in brewery shares in perfect good faith. I know quite well from what has happened this afternoon that if I were to mention the widows and the orphans noble Lords opposite would probably laugh, but it is no laughing matter for the investors in breweries, whether they be widows and orphans or not, and I think all these small investors will heave a very great sigh of relief when they know that this Bill 601 is once and for all killed. Their circumstances are such that they will think that they are peculiarly inappropriate to the exercise of that spirit of sacrifice which the noble Earl who introduced the Bill considers so essentially a portion of the measure. There are so many of these people to whom to cross the very narrow margin between poverty and penury would be a very serious matter indeed. A great many of them have only a sufficient income to enable them to buy the very smallest comforts, even only the necessities of life, and to indulge in the very small acts of charity which their previous bringing-up and good breeding would legitimately entitle them to indulge in; and for those people the passing of this Bill would be a very serious matter, invested as their money has been by their trustees in an investment which has been sanctioned, and, indeed, encouraged, by the Legislature. It has been said that it is no use talking any more about the Licensing Bill, because the result is a foregone conclusion. I think with great respect, on the contrary, that the debate—I am not referring to my own contribution to it, but to the contribution of the noble Lords opposite—will have a very good effect indeed on the country, because I think that anybody who carefully studies this debate will not be able to find any cogent or forcible arguments in favour of the passing of this Bill as a temperance measure; and I do not hesitate to say, on behalf of those whom I have had the opportunity of meeting in the country districts, that the action of the House of Lords will be thoroughly applauded by all who value the good faith of the State and the credit and integrity of the country.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down said in the earlier part of his speech that he had heard no argument from this side of the House which in any way convinced him that this Bill was a Bill which ought to be read a second time. I understood him to speak to that effect. If that is so I can hardly hope that I can say anything which would be likely in any way to influence 602 his judgment. If he has not been persuaded by the arguments of the noble Earl who introduced the Bill, or let us say the arguments of the most rev. Prelate who spoke this afternoon, or of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, I am quite sure that nothing that I could say would have any influence on him. But there is one remark of the noble Lord with which I do most thoroughly agree if I understood it aright, and that is that he said it was alleged that this debate was practically a debate on a foregone conclusion. Many of us feel that, and it is a fact which makes debating very difficult in this House. We feel that our attendance here during these three days of long hours of listening is a work of supererogation, that we are not engaged in an attempt to persuade or convince each other, but that we are engaged in a solemn make-believe, and that the speeches that are being made are in fact little more than funeral orations on this measure. That is, at any rate, the impression which has gone abroad in the country, if I may venture to say so. It is felt that the noble Marquess has come down to the House with his mandate from the meeting in another famous house, and for my part I profoundly regret that that mandate is so directly contradictory to what I. hold to be the mandate that really comes from the country and the people. That mandate ought surely to be plain enough to most of us Members of this House. We have the mandate which has come in the various petitions which have been presented to the House, and those who are outside the House hardly know, I venture to think, the enormous amount of public feeling which has been poured into this House on this occasion in the shape of petitions from all sorts of organisations who are working up and down the country in every quarter for the benefit of the people. We had on our Notice Paper yesterday, I think something like ten folio pages taken up with the names of the various beneficent and other societies, Churches, Chapels, congregations, engaged, all of them, in working for the good of the people—something like ten pages covered by the names of these associations sending petitions in favour 603 of this Bill, and on the other side we had only about ten lines enumerating the petitions sent up in favour of the trade. In this morning's Notice Paper, if I counted aright, we had fourteen pages covered with the names of the various societies in the country petitioning for this Bill, and we had, on the other hand, four lines only filled by those petitioning against it. Therefore, we have the mandate, I think I am justified in saying, of the great majority of the people in this country who are working for the good of their fellow countrymen—twenty-four pages covered by names on one side in favour of the Bill, and fourteen lines on the other side. That is the sort of mandate which I really thought would have made some impression on the noble Lords who met in that famous house the other day. Then again, we have the majority of 237 from the representatives of the people of England in another place. That, I take it, should have had some influence with noble Lords in waiting for the discussion in this House rather than in virtually condemning the Bill before they had heard arguments in favour of it. I say nothing of the gigantic evil which everywhere pervades our English life, and must be to some extent familiar to every Member of this House. It has been described here in these debates in eloquent terms, and I will not detain you with any attempt at further description of it, but from every quarter we have received the unanimous declaration that this evil of excessive drinking is the one which meets every reformer first of all, and is the greatest of all obstacles in the way of social reform. Under these circumstances I venture to think it would have been at any rate more Respectful if the country had not been flooded with the accounts of that remarkable meeting before we came to discuss the matter in this House.
Turning to the Bill, surely we have had many admissions from the other side of the House that this Bill deserved discussion with something more like an open mind. We have heard a great deal, especially about the financial aspect of the question, but in spite of all the argument we have heard many of us still believe that this Bill on its 604 financial side is not only a just Bill, but a generous one. Some noble Lords seem to think that a statement which is in itself ludicrous, but, my Lords, if a Bill which gives to the licence-holders fourteen years respite with an additional halcyon seven years is not just and generous what are we to say of the decisions which such men as Lord Peel and Archbishop Temple came to after a long and serious and dispassionate investigation of the whole question? As all the world knows, they said that the conclusion to which they came, and Lord Peel entered that investigation with a thoroughly open mind, and if I may venture to say so, with a mind trained beyond that of most of us, was that they considered a seven years notice would be just. What has happened in the meantime to make a fourteen or twenty-one or practically a twenty-two years' time-limit unjust? I do not think that any Member on the Opposition side of this House can explain to us how it is there should be such a difference in the estimates of honourable men on that point. Then again we have here in this Bill, putting aside these clauses with regard to finance, many clauses which all acknowledge to be full of great and beneficent reforms, and reforms not only beneficent but long overdue, overdue because of the infinite mischief that has been done year after year for the want of these reforms, and which mischief will go on working and extending itself during all the years which, follow from your rejection of this Bill.
I was glad to hear the noble Viscount St. Aldwyn say last night in effect that he hoped what he call the temperance measures in this Bill, as apart from the financial portion of it, might be reintroduced as a new Bill. I was glad to think that he with his great influence would be ready to facilitate the passing of such a Bill. We thank him for that expression, and I think my noble friends on this side will be ready to take advantage of it. This Bill strikes many of us as deserving of support not only for these reasons but because it gives back to the people freedom to improve the conditions of their own lives, and that I take it is one of the best elements of the 605 Bill. Then again it is a Bill, as all of us, wherever we may live, must know, that removes manifold temptations out of the way of the weaker and more tempted members of the community. We have had some attempt at brushing aside the value of this diminishing of temptation. I do not know why the authors of the 1904 Act should now stand up and say that the lessening of the number of public-houses and the decreasing accordingly of the number of temptations is not a temperance measure. If they say that, why did they introduce their 1904 Bill and why, when they introduced their Bill, did they say, "This is the greatest temperance measure that has ever been brought into Parliament"? But it is really an amazing statement, when you think of it, that the shutting up of these houses is not to be a benefit to the temperance of the country, is not to save people from the dangers of falling into the sin of drunkenness. Why, indeed, it is a new and amazing and alarming doctrine which is really involved in this argument which we have heard more than once in the course of this debate—this new doctrine that temptation does not lead to fall. It is difficult for anyone who is familiar with all the details of the life of many of the weaker members of society to listen patiently to those arguments. Are there those among us who really held that the multiplying of temptation does not lead to fall? If so, I ask them with what sort of thought do they use their Lord's Prayer?
I deeply regret the determination with which apparently so many noble Lords have come down to this House to reject the Second Reading of this Bill. But while saying so much I have also to confess that there are parts of the Bill with which I am not very much enamoured. I confess to a certain sense of disappointment in regard to the part that deals with clubs, like the noble Lord who has just sat down and other speakers from the other side. I feel that that portion of the Bill, though good as far as it goes, might be materially strengthened, and I had hoped that if your Lordships had read the Bill a second time, you would have joined hands with us in attempting to strengthen the Bill. That was my hope, but I confess to some surprise that this 606 denunciation of the existing clubs should be used as an argument against the new measure. The new Bill at any rate would make it impossible for any of the existing clubs to go on as they are now going on. It would sweep them away by the conditions of annual registration, inspection, and all the other improvements connected with it. It would sweep away the greater part of the abuses now complained of by noble Lords opposite. But may I be permitted to say that I think the authors of the 1904 Act are the very last persons who ought to have any claim to bring that argument before us. When they introduced their Bill and passed their Act with its marvellously imperfect arrangement for the reduction of houses, why did they not take the matter of clubs into consideration? Why did they leave an open field for any bogus club to be established immediately? Why did they leave it possible for a brewer whose house was shut up for some reason or another to open that house the next day as a drinking club? I imagine that they have no answer to that question, and having no answer I think that they ought to have spared us the denunciation of this Bill because of the futility of their own Act. The noble Marquess made a great deal of that point, and I was surprised that he did so. He even illustrated his argument by the case of a club—I do not know whether it was a Radical Club, but very likely it was—in which, as he said, the accounts showed the sale of a halfpennyworth of bread to an intolerable amount of sack. That was a very interesting quotation, but I wonder it did not occur to him that this was a club that had come into existence under their own Act. Coming from the other side of the House that was not a convincing argument, because some of us felt that there was even an inclination on that side to increase the cost of the bread and to make the sack more abundant.
Besides the club question I confess also to not being very much satisfied with what has been done in regard to the off-licences. If I may venture to hark back for a moment and say one word more about the clubs, my desire and my hope would have been, with regard to the sale of drink, that all clubs, whether they be in Pall Mall or anywhere else, 607 should have been placed as regards the sale of drink on the same footing as the public-houses. That is perhaps an extreme temperance view which would hardly be endorsed even by noble Lords opposite. I pass to off-licences for a moment. I have to confess that although the steps taken are good so far as they go, because the Bill brings those licences under the local authority, still I consider that the arrangements of the Bill are inadequate. I venture to think, as the result of my personal experience, that off-licences should not be given to tradesmen who sell all sorts of things. A grocer ought not to be given a licence which brings him within the sphere of this dangerous trade. That is the principle on which I base my objections to the off-licences. I say the licence should be given to those who are engaged in this particular trade and not in other trades as well. I think few of us can have lived in the country without being conscious of the openings that exist for abuse which the grocer's licence gives. I have in my own mind at this moment the memory of the ruin of a young curate—this is my own experience—simply because he was served by his grocer along with his grocery with various kinds of drink. He had been in the habit of sending for this drink, and the grocer's cart brought to this curate, a poor man with a very small stipend, something like so 1arge an amount as £31 worth of drink in six months. So that he was spending more than even the working man is supposed to spend a week out of his limited income. He ruined his prospects in life, and yet the grocer who held that licence, and supplied that drink, which by the by was never paid for, was a very respectable person holding a responsible position, and I venture to say that instances of that kind, which can be multiplied, are sufficient to show that we ought to put an end to this system. There may be better ways of putting an end to it, but my own humble suggestion would be that a licence should not be given to persons who are also sending out other articles besides drink.
But there is another reason why I am somewhat lukewarm with regard to this Bill, and that is in respect of the 608 time-limit. My reasons are somewhat different, probably, from those of the noble Lords opposite. I look upon the time-limit of fourteen years that this Bill has introduced, as not only a just, but a generous limit, and I have been led to that conclusion both by my own investigations in the matter, which have been considerable, and by the conclusions, as I have said, of such men as Viscount Peel and Archbishop Temple. But I have never seen or heard any reason yet why the Prime Minister should have given another period, a halcyon period of seven years. I read the Prime Minister's statement when he made that concession. I noticed the very fervent and emphatic way and the very attractive rhetoric in which he said that it was not intended to placate the enemy; but I heard no adequate reason why it should have been given, and I hold that it is an extravagant giving away of the money of the people. I imagine that many persons hardly realise how much of the public money is really being given away by this long extension of time-limit. I am prepared to give it, if we could have the settlement, but I feel that we are giving a tremendous price, and that we are not giving our own money, but the money of the taxpayer and the ratepayer.
Allusion has already been made to a very interesting and, I venture to think, authoritative book which has lately been published and is now in its second edition, Messrs. Rowntree and Sherwell's book on the taxation of licences. I do not know whether noble Lords have studied it, but it is really a very interesting and illuminating book; and in that book it is declared that if we were to tax our liquor trade up to the average of the United States we should have an additional income from it of £7,300,000 per annum. If we raised our taxation to the level of that of the finest state of America, it would be very much larger than £7,300,000. So that, you see, if we earmark and hand over to the trade for twenty-one years, all this enhanced income, which would only bring us up to the level of the United States, what a tremendous amount of money we are handing over to this trade. I suppose I may presume that practically 609 this Bill is dead, and that we are only really attending here at its obsequies. But my hope is that this is by no means the end of the matter; it is really the beginning of a new period of temperance legislation perhaps on new lines, and possibly more effective ones. And my hope, to begin with, is this, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have the courage to give us something like a proper return from this trade in the shape of high licences. I think it is time that the people began to come to their own, and on that account I feel it is a consolation that we have not to wait for twenty-one years before we come to our own.
Then, again, I have the hope that we may see established a new system of inspection of public-houses. I have for a considerable time, as the result of my experience in one city and another and in one country town and another, come to the conclusion that if we are to have the existing laws properly administered we ought to have a system of what I may call State inspectors, and that we should no longer be content to leave the oversight of these houses and this trade entirely to this or that locality, because of all the manifold influences in every locality which tend to interfere with the proper administration of the law in this respect. I have here what I may venture to say, on behalf of a new system of State or Imperial inspectors, the testimony of a very experienced justice of the peace. This gentleman has been a justice of the peace and a sheriff in Lancashire, and he has also been a justice of the peace in a southern county. He is a man of long experience, and he holds that Licensing Bills would hardly be required if we had a proper system of national inspectors, altogether independent of local influences, watch committees, and so forth. No one can read the evidence before Lord Peel's Commission without having seen what corruption, indirect or direct, you may find, in this matter, under the various watch committees. This experienced justice of the peace declares in the strongest terms that a great many of the most dangerous public-houses in the country could be shut up if we had a proper system of inspection, and this gentleman whom I 610 am venturing to quote is a very staunch and sound Conservative.
May I venture another remark on behalf of this system of inspection which I advocate? It is based on what the Bishop of London told us last night. He reminded us of what was said with regard to on e of his missions in Westminster on a certain midnight march. I forget the exact number of people under the influence of drink, or drunk, whom he and his companions met in that march, but the curious thing was that there was not a single publican in that district who had seen a drunken man, and there was not a single policeman in that district who had arrested one. Why, what a curious state of things We have! Here are a number of very disinterested persons who believe that they see a great number of drunken people, and here are the people who supply the drink, who are certain that not a single drunken person was in their houses; and here are the police, who also see none of them. It seems almost as difficult to arrive at a definition of drunkenness as it is to arrive at a definition of monopoly value. But I venture to think that if We had a system of inspectors independent of local organisations we should find it much easier to agree as to when the law was broken and when it was not. So much for my hopes with regard to the future. I hope to see the high licences; I hope to see a better system of inspection; and largely a national one, and a new Bill, with all the best clauses of this Bill, again before this House, and I feel sanguine that we may see that placed upon the Statute-book.
If I may venture to intrude a little longer, I would like to add that there is a good deal of misunderstanding about the really equitable claims for compensation in regard to this matter. For my own part, I hold that we cannot arrive at a real and right understanding of the matter without looking for a moment into the history of the tied-house system. This tied-house system does not represent the traditional system, and it has none of the claims of an old established system. It is in fact a mushroom growth, and a growth under very peculiar circumstances, and it is on account of these circumstances 611 that I hold these new companies have very little claim either in justice or in equity. Really the root of our trouble in this matter has been because of the system of tied houses to brewery companies. These companies have almost all come into existence since 1883. The late Lord Chancellor gave us an illustration of three companies. But for fear of interrupting him I should have liked to interpose, and ask when those companies came into existence. I am sorry he is not here, but I may say that most of these companies came into operation after the year 1883 and after the legal advisers of the trade gave decisions one after another reminding the trade that the interest created by a licence was not anything like a freehold, but was precarious, and was likely to disappear, or diminish in value and volume. At this moment, that is after 1883, the financier steps in, and he begins to float company after company. I am old enough to remember all these years, the phenomena before us were these: private breweries became limited liability companies, and owners gathered in outside investors, in these companies, many of whom, of course, were the trustees for the widows and orphans, so that these brewery companies became a sort of refuge for outside investors. But there are some curious facts connected with this flotation of Companies, as noble Lords know very well. In that interesting book by Rowntree and Sherwell, to which the noble Marquess referred, I found the other day a mention of three companies which were amalgamated; that statement has been before the public a long time, and has never been contradicted, so far as I know. Those three breweries before amalgamation and the issue of a prospectus under new conditions owned a capital of a little more than £3,000,000, but in the course of a very few months those companies had been amalgamated and floated afresh, and, by some mysterious process that capital had grown to £8,000,000. There was an increment of £5,000,000 on the capital of those companies. I suppose a good deal of that £5,000,000 was taken up in debentures and by shares by trustees, and widows and orphans. That case may be a somewhat exceptional one, but there 612 you have an instance which certainly shows what a hollow business this financial flotation was as regards, I will not say more, the interests of the innocent outside investing public. This capital grew in the night like Jonah's gourd, and was it surprising that it withered in the light also? You have been reminded by the Bishop of London that many of these companies were practically ruined by this overcapitalisation before this Bill was thought of and I do not think it is quite fair on us who are advocating temperance measures that we should be held responsible, or that we should be asked to compensate those who have indulged in this kind of gigantic speculation.
Then, again on the formation of these companies there followed a competitive boom of baying up public-houses all over the country at exorbitant prices. I have cases close to my own lodge gates by which I can illustrate that. Then comes the question of low rents in connection with these tied-houses, artificial rents, and altogether inadequate valuations, and what has been the effect on the local ratepayers? Surely the effect is that the local ratepayers have had to pay an undue share if these houses are not paying their proper share. These are among the objections which I feel to the tied-house system, and they are arguments, I take it, against the very large claims which the owners of property under that system are making upon us. But I have still a greater objection than all. This tied-house system is part of what is called exclusive dealing I have been surprised again and again that this system of exclusive dealing, in connection with licences given by the public for the public interest, should have been allowed to go on as it has, because the granting of a licence under the conditions of exclusive dealing is detrimental to the public interest; it is not in the interest of the public that the man licensed should be bound, for instance, to sell possibly the worst beer of the neighbourhood, and possibly the worst articles of the neighbourhood. It is altogether against the public interest, and it is entirely against the interests of the publican, and still more it is contrary, if 613 I understand the matter aright, to the principles of the Truck Acts which led your fathers to pass those beneficent Acts a generation ago. On these grounds I am entirely opposed to the tied-house system, or to any compensation beyond what is just and reasonable and generous. I have a still greater objection and that is the moral objection. I do not think that many of the investors in these tied houses really know the nature of the trade out of which they make their profits; they would not, I believe, continue to take them if they realised that it is a trade which they would be ashamed to conduit in their own person.
In conclusion, I desire with all respect to say that I think that in the somewhat—I hardly like to use the word cynical—but in the manner in which this Bill has been practically destroyed, before it has been discussed in this House, your Lordships could hardly have considered the full effect of what you have done, and I am quite sure from my knowledge of the country that there will be a very general feeling that your Lordships have not considered the best interests of the country in this matter, that you have in fact subordinated the legislative freedom of the people, the modern and social well-being of the masses, and the progressive improvement of those masses, in some degree to the claims of party policy, and in some degree to the interests of a particular trade, and I am convinced that the people are not likely to forget this. As a matter of fact, if this Bill is rejected in this way, and nothing else is done, it amounts to slamming the door in the face of all social reform. Yes, we sometimes enter into these matters with a light heart, as conflicts have often been entered into with light hearts before—conflicts which have led to ultimate disaster, and I venture to say this much, that if your Lordships make it a challenge to the people I think the people will accept the challenge. For myself I am an old man, but still I hope to live to see a good many advances in popular freedom, and I rather wonder that you do not take a warning from the lessons of history. I am assuming that the people in the mass, the intelligent part of the people—and we have their representatives in another place unanimously 614 in favour of this Bill—will say that you have not treated this Bill with the respect which it deserves, and I venture to ask, if you come into conflict with the people on these great and fundamental social matters, was it ever seen in the conflict between a free people and the privileged classes that those classes won anything in the end but discredit and ultimate disaster; and I am afraid that we are, perhaps, precipitating that end. My last word is this. I think your Lordships have to some extent overlooked and disregarded or forgotten or under-rated what is a very important and growing factor in public life, and that is the uprising of an educated and free democracy, a democracy that has begun to feel its own strength, and to see with a clearer vision and to be more firm about its claims, I venture to think that this democracy will not be very long content to have its claims for social reform contemptuously thrown aside, and unless I am greatly mistaken, I fear that an action of this kind taken upon such a great measure may be tantamount to digging the grave of some of your Lordships' inherited privileges.
§ THE LORD STEWARD (Earl BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, the exigencies of the course of the debate in the last few days have made it difficult for a Member of His Majesty's Government to reply earlier to the speeches which have been made from the front Opposition bench. I hope, however, that the noble Marquess whose Motion is on the Paper did not think it discourteous on the part of His Majesty's Government for them not to have been represented earlier in the debate. The reason was that we were anxious that those Members of your Lordships' House who had not had an opportunity of addressing it, should, on such an important occasion as this, have every opportunity of making their views known to your Lordships.
However, it now falls to my lot, as the first speaker from this bench after the noble Marquess had moved the Motion which is now before your Lordships, to deal or to attempt to deal with some of the arguments which he specially addressed to His Majesty's Government. In attempting so to do, I am glad to 615 think that I am fortified by some of the arguments which were used by the noble Marquess himself on a previous occasion. He told us yesterday that his objections to this Bill were directed, not to points of detail, but to fundamental principles in this Bill, and he explained to your Lordships that it was mainly a Bill for the reduction of licences. In 1904, in winding up the debate on the Licensing Act of that year the noble Marquess used these words—Although the Bill may not be as imposing a measure as some noble Lords opposite desire, it is, nevertheless, a substantial step towards a diminution in the number of licences which all who have given consideration to the question, from the Royal Commission presided over by the noble Viscount downwards, have regarded as an indispensable preliminary to any progress in temperance reform.And there is another quotation from the speech of the noble Marquess on the same occasion to the effect—I gather from the speeches delivered that we all believe that a reduction in the number of licences is a step in the direction of temperance.Therefore, so far as this Bill deals with the question of the reduction of licences, I am glad to think that, in spite of yesterday's criticisms, the noble Marquess is persuaded that a considerable reduction is really and truly necessary.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
If the noble Lord had paid attention to what I said yesterday he would have seen that I admitted that reduction of licences carried on in a discriminating fashion was undoubtedly a step in the direction of temperance reform. My complaint is that this Bill is wholly different from our Bill of 1904.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
If the noble Marquess will allow me, I will deal with that point by reading another quotation of his on the same point. It was not only the Marquess himself who spoke in favour of the reduction of licences, but the Leader of the Opposition in another place, who was then the head of His Majesty's Government, spoke to the same effect, and I think Viscount Cross spoke even more strongly in that direction. If the complaint of the noble Marquess is that this Bill dealt mainly with the question of the reduction of licences, and neglected altogether a 616 great part of the field of temperance reform, I do not think that he quite does justice to the full scope of this Bill. A large number of the speeches delivered in the course of this debate have dealt with the other topics contained in the Bill—monopoly value, time-limit, and the very large number of matters which are dealt with in other clauses. Let me remind the noble Marquess that of this Bill of forty-nine clauses there are twenty in Part III., which deal with miscellaneous Amendments, six in Part IV., and an equal number in Part V. Those six clauses in Part IV. deal entirely with clubs, with regard to which I think the noble Marquess complained that the Bill had not sufficiently dealt.
One of the main points with which I think the noble Marquess dealt yesterday was that it was not yet proved that excessive drinking facilities were really conducive to drunkenness. I am glad to think that I am able to bring to the notice of the noble Marquess a very striking case which really deals with this question. There is an area in Birmingham which is known as the Floodgate Street area, a district which has attracted a great deal of attention from all those who are interested in social reform throughout the country as well as those who live near Birmingham itself. In that district, the Floodgate Street area, in Birmingham, there is an immense proportion of public-houses. The justtices unanimously decided in 1904 that there were too many licences in that area. There were no less than forty-five for a population of 7,000 persons, that is, one public-house for every eighty-nine persons over the age of eighteen years. I have here some statistics with regard to the general death and birth rates which show the condition of that area and to which I specially wish to draw the attention of your Lordship's House, not because this is a particularly exceptional case, but because I think it is fairly typical of the condition in a great many, too many, of the slums in the large cities. The general death rate in that area was 31–51 per 1,000, as against nineteen in the city; infant mortality was 252 per 1,000, as against 151 in the city. In the healthiest area the general death rate 617 was only twenty-one whereas in the worst it was no less than sixty-three, and in the year 1902 one out of every three deaths took place in some public institution. But that is not all. A large number of hospital cases coming entirely from the Floodgate Street area have been dealt with in the Birmingham General Hospital. In one year no less than 625 were dealt with in that way; and there is constant complaint from those who are interested in the school children in that area of the condition in which they come to school. In this area, as I have said, there is a very large number of public houses. So much stirred was public opinion in Birmingham on this question that they insisted on a reduction of the licensed premises and of the facilities for drinking within that district, and I have before me the report of the medical officer of health, in which he says that the drink question is one of the greatest importance and one of real danger to the public health. What has been the result of such reduction? What has been the effect of this too small reduction which has taken place in that area? It is the unanimous testimony of every social worker concerned in that area that the evil complained of has considerably toned down since that time, that the number of violent cases are much fewer, and that there has been a very considerable improvement all round in that district. There are still in that area twenty-eight licensed houses to a population of 7,000, and I hope it will be possible to reduce that number still further, and I do not doubt that the effect of further reducing those facilities will lead to a further reduction in the number of cases of brutality and drunkenness.
Now let me turn to some other points which have been mentioned by the noble Marquess. He said that this Bill did not touch the consumer. It is quite true that our measure does not touch the consumer directly, but I would like to ask the noble Marquess if his own Act of 1904 touched the consumer. A large number of those people who have been convicted of drunkenness in the past ought to be considered as being victims, to a large extent, of the circumstances under which 618 they live, and it is the express wish of the Government to remove those temptations from the people and give them fewer opportunities for drunkenness. The noble Marquess stated that this Bill did not tend to humanise the conditions of the public-house trade. In reply to this point again I rely on his own Act of 1904 in which that matter was left out altogether.
Another criticism which has been made is in regard to our treatment of clubs. In this respect I think there is a very important correction to be made in regard to the statement which has been made by more than one noble Lord in the course of this debate. Before I touch that statement let me put this point to the noble Marquess. He said it was useless to deal with excessive drinking in public-houses unless we treat clubs in a similar manner. This indicates that there are two alternatives. Either the whole matter should be left alone, or else the noble Marquess is anxious that we should deal with clubs far more stringently than we propose to do in the Bill now before the House. I venture to ask the noble Marquess what is the policy of himself and his friends upon this point. Are they really anxious that we should put further restrictions upon clubs, and if so, will they indicate in the course of the debate what other restrictions they think should be imposed upon clubs. It is a remarkable fact that more than one of the noble Marquess's friends in another place were very anxious that some of the restrictions imposed by the present Bill upon clubs should be removed because they thought some of them went a great deal too far. We shall watch with interest the line which will be taken by the noble Marquess when the Bill dealing with this question is brought in from an independent quarter of your Lordships' House. We shall then see whether the noble Marquess in the consideration of that Bill, will propose Amendments strengthening the clauses which relate to clubs. The statement I am anxious to correct is to be found in a quotation made by Lord Midleton on 25th June, in which it was stated that wherever a public-house was closed a club was there established to swoop down on the profits 619 and continue the abuses, thus keeping alive for the temperance party a valuable subject matter for agitation. The noble Marquess yesterday used language almost as strong. He told us that if there was one thing which had been clearly established it was that where public houses were reduced the number of clubs increased.
Let me turn for a moment to inquire how far that proposition is borne out by the available statistics. I turn to the licensing statistics for 1907 and compare them with those published for 1905. I shall trouble your Lordships with the actual statistics, first with regard to county boroughs, and then I will give the figures relating to municipal boroughs. The net increase in the county boroughs of England in the two years from 1905 to 1907 in clubs is thirty-three, but the decrease in public-houses is no less than 946. That shows a striking discrepancy in view of the statement that for every public-house which is shut a new club opens. In the municipal boroughs of this country during the same period there was a decrease of 216 in the number of public-houses and a net increase of only thirty-five in the total number of clubs. Therefore, I think it is rather important if that statement is going to be repeated in your Lordships' House that it should be substantiated by figures and not merely by vague assertions. It has been complained that this Bill does not deal sufficiently with clubs. I venture to draw the attention of your Lordships especially to one clause which was the subject of considerable discussion, which relate to tied clubs. That really is a very valuable clause and one which deserves a little praise at any rate from the noble Marquess. Another complaint made is that our Bill does not deal sufficiently with off-licences. It is not enough in this matter to rely merely upon the fact that the Act of 1904 did not deal with this question. I wish to point out that in regard to this matter of the off-licences there was a Parliamentary bargain made in 1902, and therefore there is very good reason for not disturbing it at the present time. But apart from this bargain there is a provision dealing with off-licences, because the monopoly value for a new licence is taken under this Bill, and at the 620 end of the period the monopoly value of all those off-licences is also taken.
Let me turn to another point upon which we have heard a great deal to-night as well as last night, namely, the question of the compensation, which is to be given for these public-houses. The noble Marquess gave us last night what I venture to think was a rather curious figure. He stated that 95 per cent. of the money available for compensation had actually been, spent. I think we can go further and tell your Lordships the actual number of public-houses which have been closed in order to show how very little has been done in comparison with what was promised at the time of the passing of the Act of 1904. This is the quotation from the noble Marquess which was referred to earlier in the evening also by the noble Lord who is not now in the House, Lord Belper. The noble Marquess, speaking on the Second Reading of the Licensing Bill in 1904, said it would get rid annually of something between 1,500 and 2,000 licences. What are the facts? What has resulted in regard to this pessimistic prophecy of the noble Marquess? The Act of 1904 has been in full operation for three years. Under its compensation clauses 2,805 houses have been actually closed; the licences of 515 others have been refused and will be paid for out of the fund provided for the year 1907. That makes a total of 3,320 or only 1,107 for each year. There is this still more remarkable fact about it, that both the references and the refusals were fewer in 1907 than in 1906. It is pretty evident that, bad or inadequate as was the operation of this Act during the first years after it was passed, the rate of the compensation and reduction is decreasing year by year, and I think we may fairly say in view of those facts that the Act of 1904 has not fulfilled the expectations held out to us by the then Government, and therefore there is urgent need for a revision of the whole matter. The noble Marquess intimated that he was satisfied with the rate of reduction as it was going on at the present time.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I said just the contrary. I stated that I should welcome a measure for accelerating the rate of reduction.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I understood the noble Marquess was satisfied with the rate of reduction, but I am very glad to hear that that portion of His Majesty's Bill does not meet with his entire disapprobation. I only wish we could carry him a little further and obtain his approval of the method which the Government has adopted to accomplish this object. How badly the Act of 1901 has worked is not very difficult to prove. The Birmingham justices have passed a resolution in which they call attention to the inadequacy of the compensation clauses of the Licensing Act of 1901, and they urge upon the Government to promote such Amendments to the licensing laws as will render an increased rate of reduction possible. I should like to give your Lordships one example of the way in which the compensation clauses of the Act of 1901 have worked. I will give the case of a Leeds public-house which was closed last December. It was assessed for rates at £65 per annum. After the licence had been taken away it was assessed only at £50 per annum. That is to say, after subtracting the one from the other the annual value of the licence appears to be only £15. If you capitalise that sum at twenty years purchase you get a capital value of £300. What, my Lords, was the compensation which was claimed for this house? It was no less a sum than £10,223, although the annual value of the licence appeared to be no more than £15. The compensation which was actually received was no less a sum than £6,300. That shows, I think, very clearly indeed that there is a very urgent need for some reform. I think the noble Marquess himself went so far as to agree that there was need for reform with regard to the incidence of taxation upon public-houses. There is clearly something wrong in this matter. If the compensation in this case was not excessive, then I think it is clear that the house should have been assessed for rates at a very much larger sum than £65 a year before the licence was taken away. I am afraid this point is closely bound up with the question of the innocent investor and the widows and orphans of whom we have heard so much to-night. But there are more widows and orphans to be considered than those who have placed their investments in brewery companies. There are 622 the women and children whose husbands and fathers have been ruined by drink, and I do not hesitate to say that for every woman and child who may have been placed in the unfortunate position alluded to through a reduction in the value of brewery shares there are nearly 100 who suffer because their relations have taken to drink. Whether you find them in the public-house or in the workhouse there is a very large number of those un fortunate men whose unhappy position is the direct result of habits of intemperance, which has brought ruin and misery upon their families. There are other women and children who may have lost money in connection with brewery investments. There are those women and children who were induced to put their money into breweries which were over capitalised. Many brewery companies have been floated for a sum of money far exceeding their real capital value, and now those companies have reached a more stable level, and have really come down to what we may call the proper investment paying level. The result, however, of all this has been that the women and children whose money was invested in those companies have had to suffer loss. But that, my Lords, is no fault of the Government and it has no relation what ever to the Licensing Bill. All those transactions took place before the present Government took office, and it impossible to saddle His Majesty's Government with any responsibility for that.
I will now ask your Lordships to turn to the First Schedule of the Bill, because on more than one occasion it has been said that the scheduled proportion of licences to population is based upon a cast-iron scale. It is the second modification to which I should like to call attention. This matter was specially mentioned, amongst others, by the noble Marquess. He said that in country areas, it would be a hardship upon the agricultural labourer There is, however, a provision that a modification may be made in a rural area where the strict application of the scale appears to be expedient, and that seems to meet this case. I venture to hope that this "uninstructed multitude' to which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred will not learn what this Bill proposes from the speeches 623 made by noble Lords opposite. Let me go a little further. This anxiety on behalf of the agricultural labourer is somewhat new on the part of noble Lords opposite. [Cries of "No, no."] When the Small Holdings and Allotments Act was before the House I do not remember any noble Lords who were anxious that the small holdings and allotments should be provided close to the cottages of the agricultural labourers. It is only on behalf of the mug of beer that there is this anxiety to provide for the comfort of the agricultural labourer. [Cries of "Oh, oh."] There is a very fair analogy which may be drawn with regard to the compensation which is offered by His Majesty's Government. There is also another analogy which might also have been taken in regard to agriculture. There are a large number of farm leases which are merely held on an annual tenancy with an expectation of renewal. When these leases are withdrawn no compensation whatever is offered. It is, however, different in regard to this Licensing Bill, under which considerable compensation is offered to the tenant. There are a large number of Committee details with which, at this late hour of the night, I shall not venture to trouble your Lordships, because I think it is really of very little use considering Committee points upon the Second Reading, and more especially upon the present occasion.
The noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, seemed to me to base most of his opposition to this Bill upon Committee details. Like the noble Lord who spoke from the cross benches this evening —I wondered for some time upon which side in the end he intended to give his vote. But at the conclusion of his speech, the noble Viscount said it was because no compromise had been offered by His Majesty's Government that he had finally determined to vote against the Second Reading. If the noble Viscount had been present, I would have asked him at what moment he expected an offer of compromise to be made. Hardly had the Third Reading of this Bill been passed in another place, when your Lordships met in a famous house in a famous square. Are we to understand that that meeting was not the 624 hostile one which some of us imagined it to be? Was it really an Ark from which a new olive branch was sent forth from noble Lords opposite? If so, I have never seen a more bellicose olive branch than the Motion which the noble Marquess has placed upon the table of your Lordships' House. There was one point made in the discussion with regard to monopoly value. One noble Lord stated that the State had no right to the monopoly value, and that it had never parted with it. Under these circumstances I will turn to the Act of 1904 under which the monopoly value of all new licences is retained, and I am only sorry the noble Earl is not here, because I should have liked to have extracted from him some further explanation on that point. I will only make one reference to the remarks made by the noble and learned Lord on the back benches who spoke just before dinner. He was full of consideration for the moderate drinkers of this country, and he thought that insufficient attention was given to them in the Bill proposed by His Majesty's Government. I could not help wondering if the noble Lord had considered the fact that after all these reductions have taken place under this Bill there will be no less than 60,000 public-houses left in this country, and if he thinks a reduction of 90,000 to 60,000 licences will really spoil the jollity of the people of this country I cannot help wondering what kind of jollity it is to which the noble and learned Lord refers. I think there will be ample opportunity for every kind of jollity for the people of every class under this Bill.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
It is quite true that at present the 90,000 houses are not collected in one place; neither are the 60,000, and the reduction is not confined to one area either. The noble and learned Lord must have a somewhat ghastly idea of jollity. There is another point to which I wish to call attention, and it is one we may hear more of when some other measure comes before your Lordships' House. Complaints have been made by noble Lords opposite that the 625 Government do not give sufficient time to your Lordships' House to consider the measures sent from another place. Let me point out that while the Third Reading of this Bill took place on Friday last in another place, so full was the information in possession of noble Lords opposite that on Tuesday last they were sufficiently well informed that forthwith and without hearing any speeches in this House they indicated their desire and intention of rejecting this Bill. Under those circumstances I think noble Lords opposite will be somewhat embarrassed if they complain on a subsequent occasion that they are given insufficient time in this House to consider the measures brought before them by His Majesty's Government.
It is unnecessary for me to emphasise what is perhaps after all the underlying principle of this Bill. What I allude to is the human aspect which has hardly been touched upon except by the Bishop of London, who has had special opportunities of studying that side of the question. It is well-known that the crime, lunacy, and pauperism existing to-day are largely due to the influence of drink. The hospitals are largely filled from this cause, and there is hardly any form of crime, including cruelty to children, which does not arise from the same cause. There is scarcely any form of crime which your Lordships can call to mind in which drink does not play an important and determining part. All this is well known to social reformers, who have been referred to by the most rev. Prelate to-night. I do not think that there is a single social reformer to be found outside your Lordships' House who will rejoice at the rejection of this Bill. In their view this measure was considered as a great blow struck for national righteousness. Noble Lords opposite have preferred by their rejection of the Bill rather to encourage that very influence which is at the bottom of most of the national evils which are corrupting our national life to-day. The responsibility of noble Lords opposite and of the noble Marquess is very great indeed, and after the speeches we have heard from the most rev. Primate and the right rev. Prelate I should have thought they would have found it almost impossible to justify their attitude to this Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I do not propose to discuss at any length the defects of the Act of 1904, neither shall I enter into the tu quoque arguments which the noble Lord has addressed to my noble friend who moved this Resolution. I prefer to call the attention of the House to the important principles which are contained in this Bill. When the noble Earl rose to speak from the Government Bench, I felt sure he was about to address himself to that minute and detailed review of the criticism of the Bill which was offered last night by the noble Viscount. The House will recollect that the noble Viscount said that if he could obtain assurances from His Majesty's Government on certain points, he was prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill. So far as we have gone, no single person who has spoken in favour of the Bill, with the exception of the Bishop of Hereford, has declared himself in favour of this measure as it stands. Lord Ribblesdale began his speech last night by offering a great many criticisms, and giving a great deal of valuable information to the Government with regard to the details in the Bill, which I hope the Government have marked, learned, and inwardly digested. The next speaker was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has to-night announced himself as an active supporter of this Bill. But even the most rev. Primate admitted that with regard to the business part of the measure he did not feel himself very capable of offering criticisms, and he went so far as to suggest that he might support Amendments of one sort or another. I greatly regret that the most rev. Primate did not proceed and tell us what those Amendments were. Then the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, does not seem altogether to have pleased His Majesty's Government, although he has declared himself to be a strong supporter of the Second Reading of this Bill.
THE EARL of CAMPERDOWN
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. I think he will recollect that he said there was a 627 noble Earl to-night who spoke from the cross benches, and for a long time he could not make up his mind whether he was for or against the Bill.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I am sorry there has been a mistake, but I referred to the noble Viscount Lord St. Aldwyn, and the speech he made last night. [Cries of "Oh, oh."]
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I beg pardon, but my noble friend stated that, like the noble Earl, he felt uncertain whether the noble Viscount was going to vote for the Second Reading or not.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I know that the noble Lord who spoke for the Government referred to a noble Earl, but I will let it pass. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, said he was going to support the Second Reading, but what did he proceed to say? He said that he found fault with the Central Commission, and hoped the Government would not create any more of those Central Commissions. The noble Earl also said that while he approved of the time-limit he entirely disapproved of the mode in which the compensation was to be calculated under this Bill. I hold that I was rather puzzled by that part of his speech, because the time-limit and the mode of calculating compensation are so closely allied as to be practically indissoluble, and I could not understand how it was that the noble Earl was approving of the one and disapproving entirely of the other. Without in any way depreciating other speeches which have been made, I may say that up to the present time, in my opinion, the speech made by my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn has examined more closely than any other the details of the Bill; it has placed before His Majesty's Government more clearly than any other the respects in which many of us think the Bill is defective, and 628 with regard to which we are anxious for an explanation. We have been asked why we did not ask for a compromise, but I would like to know is this the time to compromise? I would like to know when will the time for compromise come? Is it expected that my noble friend the Marquess of Lansdowne will offer compromises to the Government? If the Government have any compromises to offer, it is for them to bring them forward in a clear and definite manner which we can all understand. A good deal has been said about this unfortunate meeting at Lansdowne House, where this bellicose olive branch, which appears so much to have disturbed the noble Earl, was grown. I am afraid this is a matter into which it is quite unnecessary for me to go at this time of the night, but I can assure the noble Lord that there was nothing mysterious about that meeting. On the contrary, I think if the noble Lord had been present he would have learned a good deal, because he would have found that there are a great many peers sitting on this side of the House who were most anxious to read this Bill a second time if there was any possibility of amending it. The difficulty is that the Amendments which are necessary to make this measure acceptable go to the very root of the Bill, and it was not until there had been a long discussion that finally the noble Marquess proposed the course which nearly all present at that meeting concluded was the only one they could follow.
I do not know whether my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn still hopes that the Government are going to offer any compromise which will enable him to vote for the Second Reading. I doubt myself very much whether they can or whether they will offer any compromise. There is very little hope of that. What did the Government offer in the way of compromise while this Bill was before the House of Commons? Was there any tone whatever of compromise? Was there any proposal at all in the direction of mitigating the great defects which are to be found in this Bill, some of which I am bound to say the promoters of the Bill themselves seem to admit? There is one grave omission to which the noble Earl who spoke just now referred—I mean the 629 absence of any provision dealing with off-licences. At one time there was a provision in the Bill which included off-licences, but His Majesty's Government found that they did not know what the meaning of their own Amendment was, and as soon as they discovered that it brought existing off-licences under the Bill they declared that they meant nothing of the kind, and they hastily proceeded to withdraw it. Not only did they withdraw that clause, but they put words into the next section to say that under no circumstances was local option to apply to existing off-licences. It will be very interesting to know what was the reason for withdrawing the off-licences. Then there are the grocers' licences. The Opposition in this House have been accused of being in league with the brewers. I do not know that it will be altogether unfair if I say that it is just possible that the exclusion of off-licences from this Bill arises from some natural inclination on the part of the Government towards the grocer.
The principles of this Bill have been examined by the noble Viscount and by others so closely that it is not necessary for me to do more than call your Lordships' attention to one or two points which I think have hardly been sufficiently noticed in the course of this debate. This Bill is a measure to promote temperance, no doubt, but it is also a Bill which relates to the Exchequer and to obtaining money for the Exchequer. From the point of view of temperance, what difference does it make whether there is a time-limit or not if all the licences have to be resumed by the State? What difference does it make if the licences remain in the hands of those who at present hold them? I suppose there are to be some public houses left. What difference does it make whether any of the remaining public-houses are in the hands of the publican or in the hands of the State from the point of view of temperance? Then there is another point. The Bill provides for a stereotyped reduction of 32,000 licences. I wonder whether any of your Lordships have really considered the amount of inconvenience which that mast necessarily cause. Let me give the House an illustration. I can speak from my own experience of 630 the past. In the jurisdiction of the licensing bench to which I belong there happens to be a little town with a population rather under 2,000. Four years ago in that town there were twenty or twenty-one licences in all, and now there are sixteen. That town accommodates not merely the 1,800 people who live there, but it is a market-town to which a large number of people come on market days. Under this Bill those sixteen licences will be reduced to four. I put it to your Lordships that the four houses which will be left under this Bill are pretty certain to be all of one sort, and they will be the higher class houses such as hotels and houses of that kind. It is a fact that a great number of the people who come into that town want to drink their glass of beer amongst their own class of society, and the people whom they want to meet. They do not want to come among the farmers and the grain-dealers and that sort of people. All I can say is that on the fair-day which occurs once a month, I can imagine the pandemonium which will exist if there are only four public-houses in that town. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Robertson and others that you can promote temperance far better by strong regulations applied to public-houses than by such proposals as are contained in this Bill. You can promote temperance better by regulating those houses than by abolishing them. As for the establishment of a Central Commission, which can know nothing whatsoever of the locality, I cannot conceive of any body which will be less able to produce a real improvement.
It has been said that this Bill restores the discretion to the justices of the peace. What did the Act of 1904 do in this respect? That Act said that the justices were to suggest to Quarter Sessions the houses which were to be abolished and that Quarter Sessions should pay the compensation. The authority of Quarter Sessions is done away with by this Bill. Under these circumstances how can it be said that this Bill really restores and gives increased discretion to the justices of the peace. What authority have the justices of the peace in regard to the statutory reduction? They are ordered to do certain things by the Act of Parliament, 631 and they are compelled by this Central Commission to make the reduction provided for in the Act in any way that the Commission may please.
And then, after all is said and done, there comes in. the operation of that beneficent local option. Local option is to override the magistrates, and how in the world anyone can say that this Bill, with clauses of that sort, restores liberty to the justices, I for one, cannot understand. But there is another objection to this Bill, and it is that it entirely breaks up all continuity of legislation. I am sorry that the Government, if we are to judge by their usual practice, considers this to be rather an advantage than otherwise. Unfortunately if there is a violent way of doing a thing and a quiet way, the Government almost invariably choose the violent method. This is the way in which they have dealt with all that in the past has been customary in legislation, and more especially that dealing with land, and the only misfortune is that their knowledge is not equal to their audacity in these matters. This Bill professes in some degree to proceed upon the Act of 1904, but how does it do it? It takes out of the Act of 1904 anything that happens to be convenient for the purpose of this new system. The Act of 1904 enacted that all redundant public-houses were to be reduced, and established a compensation levy for the purpose of compensating them. It also ordained that that levy was to be paid by the trade. Now what doss this Bill do? It says that after fourteen or twenty-one years all licences are to belong to the State, and that during fourteen years there is to be a compensation levy upon, this unfortunate trade from whom the whole of their property is to be taken away. Is there any conceivable reasons why members of the trade should be called upon to contribute in this way any more than your Lordships? Then there is this question of compromise. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, told us to-night that here was a grand opportunity for a compromise in regard to which we might make ourselves famous. Unfortunately the noble Earl's arguments appeared to me to be rather in support of the 632 action which your Lordships have decided to take, because after what has happened in. a mother place it is quite certain that the Government would not accede to any compromise either with regard to the Central Commission, the statutory reduction, the time-limit, or Schedule A as the basis of compensation. Unless the Government are prepared to make a compromise on those points it is utterly impossible that any of your Lordships with your present opinions can vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.
There were two possible courses open with regard to this Bill. One was to reject it on the Second Reading and the other was to read it a second time and then proceed to amend it. Whichever of those two courses was adopted the result was certain to be the same. It was merely a difference of procedure, and that is why I tell the House frankly I made up my mind after great consideration to support the Motion which has been proposed by my noble friend the Marquess of Lansdowne. I felt certain that there was no chance whatever of compromise on any of those principles of the Bill, and that unless it could be radically and fundamentally altered the only course for me to pursue was to support its rejection. Whichever of those two courses your Lordships had adopted the result would have been the same, although perhaps the criticisms would have been slightly different. It you decide to reject the Bill on the Second Reading it will be said, as has been said, on some previous occasions, that your Lordships are enemies of temperance. On the other hand, suppose you elect to read the Bill a second time, and after amending it you find that the Government will not accept your Amendments? You will then be told that, having accepted the main principles of the Bill on the Second Reading, you have no right to propose Amendments which go to the root of those principles, and that really you are acting in a cowardly manner. You will be told that you hate this Bill, that you have always wanted to throw it out, and that you have taken an indirect and cowardly way of doing it. That is the only difference, so far as I can see, between trying to amend this 633 Bill and taking the course which the noble Marquess proposes. I can never assent to several of the principles in this Bill. I think you are not merely doing what is uncalled for by this measure, but you are doing what is unjust; and so far as I am concerned I shall give my vote unhesitatingly for the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
My Lords, I do not intend that on this occasion my vote shall be misunderstood. I wish in the first place to point out that I do not belong to any syndicate connected with the trade, nor do I own any brewery shares. I do not propose at this late hour to enter into a discussion of the time-limit proposed by this Bill. On that point I am quite satisfied with the definition which has been given by my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn, and my noble and learned friend Lord Robertson, and others. What I do say is that the main reason why I am not prepared to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill is that the compensation clauses are most unfair and unjust. I do not wish to put a licence on the same footing as a freehold, but if you take away a man's property he has a right to demand, to be paid the full price for it. I am afraid noble Lords opposite cannot feel well satisfied with the speeches of two of their spokesmen to-night. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, alluded to Gatton Park and what took place there before the Reform Bill, and he said that if property was taken by the State the person who owned it was entitled to compensation. I wonder why he did not allude to the famous "Coach and Horses" public-house connected with the War Office. I do not know whether that case has entered into the consideration of His Majesty's Ministers. Then we had the speech of the Bishop of Hereford, who talked a great deal about the crime that was caused by the trade carried on under off-licences. The noble Lord should not forget that the originator of off-licences was the late Mr. Gladstone. It is quite true that good intentions pervade all the remarks we have heard in favour of temperance from the right reverend Prelates, but they have never given us any information as to how this Bill is going to effect 634 temperance at all beyond reducing licences. I wish to put before your Lordships this point. If all these public-houses are automatically reduced you will absolutely prevent working men in the country districts being able to get a glass of fresh beer. It is perfectly well-known that the only result of that will be that every working man who is not a teetotaller will deliberately set to work and get a bottle of spirits, probably of a fiery quality, and take it to his own house. There is no doubt that that will be very bad indeed, not only for the present, but for future generations also. It must be a bad thing if, instead of allowing facilities for working men to drink good wholesome beer in our country districts, you compel those who desire to take intoxicating liquors to have a bottle of spirits at home. I have never yet heard any remarks made to show why those who live in agricultural districts should not be allowed the fullest opportunity of obtaining wholesome beer. I would ask those who talk so much about temperance to remember that the working men in the country villages who are not teetotallers desire to have alcoholic drink, and it is better for them to take good pure wholesome beer than fiery spirits. It is also better that they should consume their beer in a well-controlled public-house rather than in a club. If there is one thing which to me will justify the vote I am going to give on this question it is the remark made by the right rev. Prelate, who said that privilege Amendments have no meaning whatever. We know perfectly well what would happen if we sanctioned the Second Reading of this Bill. We have had a sad experience of that kind of thing before. Your Lordships are aware of previous instances where Amendments have been made in this House, and the Government in the other House have immediately proposed their rejection. We know perfectly well that anything which might be done here would be a question of privilege, and the whole thing would be lost in amazement, because the British public do not understand privilege Amendments. I prefer to go to the country with a perfectly clear record, and my vote is going to be given against the Second Reading of this Bill, because it has not been 635 proved by any speaker in this House that, with the solitary exception of the provision for the reduction of licences, this Bill is in any way a temperance measure. No other temperance argument has been brought forward, and this Bill is founded upon the principle of giving most unjust compensation for legitimate property, and that is simple, plain robbery.
§ LORD GLANTAWE
My Lords, the attempts which have been made before the introduction of this Bill to further the cause of temperance and moderate drinking have been of very great value to the working classes. Many of your Lordships will remember the state of things which existed before the Act of 1872 was passed. At that period drunkenness was very rife and trade was prosperous. Frequently, during periods when trade is prosperous, drinking takes place in the ratio of the amount of working men s earnings. The Act I have referred to has had a good effect amongst the working classes. The Sunday Closing Act of 1881 has also been of very great benefit, not only to the working classes but also to employers, and consequently to the State as well. Before the Sunday Closing Act of 1881 was passed all employers of labour know how difficult it was to get working men to attend to their duties on a Monday morning, but the passing of that Act had almost an immediate beneficial effect, and the work done in our different manufactories on Monday is now equal to that carried on upon any other day in the week. That has had a wonderful effect upon the cost of production and of the materials used, because it is a well-known fact, especially where furnaces are employed at enormous cost, a great waste used to take place on account of the men not turning up on Monday morning, and this used to add considerably to the cost of production. Although I shall give my vote for the Second Reading of this measure, I wish to state that there may be clauses in the Bill that need amendment, and on that score I am very sorry that your Lordships have deemed it right and proper to reject the Second Reading without attempting to make it into a workable Bill. I regret your Lordships have 636 resolved to receive this measure in a contrary spirit to that in which it has been introduced by the Government. There are several important clauses in this Bill, and one of them is Clause 22, which gives the licensing justices the power of attaching conditions to the renewal of licences. One important part of that clause relates to Sunday closing, and it gives power to close public-houses during the whole of Sunday, or of still further limiting the hours during which public-houses may be open on Sundays. Another very important part of that clause is that no drink shall be supplied before eight o'clock in the morning. Those of us who have mixed amongst the working classes know how detrimental this habit of drinking in the early hours of the morning has been in very many places. Frequently people who work all through the night finish their work between five and six o'clock in the morning, and the fact that public-houses are open during those hours frequently gives, working men a taste for drink which keeps them in the public-house pretty well the whole of the day instead of their going home to rest. The consequence is that they are almost unfit for the work they have to perform during the following night. Another important part of this clause is subsection (g) which proposes to close partly or wholly public-houses on election days more especially in regard to local elections. We know how very detrimental drinking is upon polling days. We know also what a large amount of drink is illegally consumed on those occasions. With them it is not so much a question whether the person they vote for is better qualified for carrying on the duties of a local administrator as whether he is able to satisfy their craving for drink. Drink frequently settles the election, and guides those who vote for the different candidates placed before them. Then there are limitations as to the power of the justices, and when it is proposed that they should grant licences conditionally no conditional licence can be granted without due notice being given. There are other clauses such as the penalty clauses for the non-performance of the conditions of licence.
I have watched this Bill very closely in its progress through the other 637 House, and I have read carefully many of the speeches made in another place, more especially those by the representatives of Labour. With regard to the latter speeches you will find, with scarcely a single exception, that every representative of Labour in the other House is in favour of this Bill, and they have all voted for it with the exception of a few who were unable to be present, and they took good care to pair in favour of the measure. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me when I say that no one is more qualified to decide upon what is for the benefit of the working classes than those who directly represent them in the House of Commons. I do not wish to find fault with the trade or with any of those who supply working men with drink. I know well from my long experience amongst them—having sat on the bench with them for many years—that there are some very excellent men among the licensed victuallers. There are also bad ones amongst them the same as there is in every other section of society. I do not wish to put any impediment in the way of people getting a moderate amount of drink. I know that in many cases it is absolutely necessary that they should be able to get it. I know a good many cases where working men have been teetotallers from their youth. I have heard it said in the course of this debate in your Lordships' House that it is impossible for a working man to perform his work properly without having a certain amount of drink. There are exceptions to that, and I know many worthy exceptions. But in the case of working men who cannot conduct themselves properly it is absolutely necessary that we should, as far as possible, limit the temptations offered to them to procure drink because it not only injures them physically, but it also forms a very expensive luxury. In the course of the debate one noble Lord said that many working men spend 6d. per day on beer. Another noble Lord said 6d. per day would not affect him very much, but he evidently forgets that to a working man who earns about 20s. or 25s. a week, and has a wife and family of three or four children to support, 6d. per day is a very serious item, and that money would be very much better applied to obtaining 638 other comforts for the family than in being spent on drink. Therefore, I think it is, necessary that we should, as far as possible limit temptations to drink because in the experience of those who have mixed with working men the less temptations they have the better and more sober they remain. Personally, I am exceedingly sorry that your Lordships have deemed it proper to throw this Bill out on the Second Reading without giving it full consideration. I feel certain that the feeling which will be let in the minds of the majority of the people will be that your Lordships' House thinks more of the interests of the trade than of leading the people of this country into more temperate habits.
§ Debate adjourned till to-morrow,
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before Twelve o'clock, till to-morrow, Twelve o'clock.