HL Deb 27 October 1908 vol 195 cc2-26

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill was originally introduced in the House of Commons at the beginning of this session, and it was there supported by a number of Members of not only one party complexion; but, owing to the block of business in the other House, the Bill made no further progress. It may seem rather strange to advocate the improving of public-houses when the diametrically opposite policy has been, and is still being, carried on by many licensing authorities. Their policy has been, in a great number of cases, to allow public-houses to deteriorate and to become uninviting, to make them disreputable rather than to improve them.

That policy was, I think, fallacious in conception, and it has been disastrous in practice. It has been wrong because it has gone on the principle that to drink alcoholic beverages is in itself a crime, instead of recognising that it is almost universal for mankind to wish to gratify the instinct for some alcoholic drink, and in any case it has been futile owing to the existence of houses with off-licences and grocers' licences where drink can be procured, in abundance. Again, the licensing authorities have failed to recognise that for the great bulk of our population there is no other place of meeting than the public-house. The poor live in sordid, mean quarters, and if they want recreation there is no other place for them to go to except the public-house. This applies to women as well as to men, and, therefore, as they are almost forced for any relaxation and pleasure to go to a public-house, you should make the surroundings inviting rather than the reverse.

If you drive people to extremities, where can they go? The result is that they form drinking clubs. Therefore, I maintain that the policy has been wrong, and ought to be amended. Many cases have occurred where the licensing authorities have refused to allow games such as dominoes, skittles, and bowls. I have heard of a number of such instances. In Leeds the owners of a house wished to rebuild their premises and make them more commodious, but their application was refused. An application was made from another quarter to enlarge the dining-room, but that also was refused. In another place, where the owner had a large entrance hall, he had a table placed there on which commercial travellers used to unpack their bags, and where clothes brushes, etc., were kept. The police came in and ordered the table to be removed, as it might be taken advantage of for the sale of drink. In Liverpool attempts to be allowed tents on bowling greens have been refused, and people have been forced to go into the public- houses when they wanted any refreshments. In Bradford the magistrates have declared that they want no improvements, and that their desire is to improve public-houses out of existence.

It is the same story in Monmouthshire and also in Shropshire, where applications for improving buildings and securing better sanitary accommodation have all been rejected. There is the case of a public-house at the end of a tram line which is much frequented by country people, and at which they put up their horses and traps. The owner wished to build a larger house and to set apart a garden and also a room for the sale of non-intoxicants, teas, and light refreshments. That application, too, was rejected; and so it goes on. Even in cases where concessions are made very onerous obligations are imposed. Thus, in Lancashire one brewery firm in five years spent £15,000 on improving six licensed premises, and they were only allowed to do this by surrendering other licences of the value of £6,800. That means that a very heavy burden is placed on the company or owners of the public-house to recoup themselves for the surrender of these other licences. In fact, every obstacle has been placed in the way of preventing the improvement of public-houses, which it is desired, in the interests of temperance, should be brought about.

There is only one argument that I know of against this proposal, and that is that if you improve public-houses you attract the outside public and also young people. Well the outside public may be called people who have self-restraint and self-control, and can be trusted to look after their own interests in this matter; and as for the young, I imagine that as soon as a boy is of the age to be served at the bar he is more likely to go to the bar to which he had previously been denied admittance and order drink than to stay away; whereas, if that public-house was able to sell other drinks and give other forms of recreation, that boy would not be thereby more tempted, but would have the means of indulging in a far more harmless manner his desire for refreshment. This may be said to be only theorising, but I can prove it absolutely from what has occurred in the past.

I do not think anybody will deny that there has been a great improvement during the last three generations in the drinking habits of the nation throughout every class, but it has been more particularly marked amongst the upper and middle classes. Why has it been brought about? Not by restrictions being placed by an outside party on drinking, but solely by the forces of self-respect and example. These two forces have produced a very beneficial improvement in our habits, and they are gradually becoming so recognised that we find many semi-philanthropic societies being started for the development of the public-house system on what is termed model lines. But, of course, it is impossible for them to cover the great area of country that there is, but I might just quote a letter that was sent me to-day unsolicited to show what is done in this direction. The policy of the licensing authorities has been to keep to partitions and saw dusted floors, zinc counters, and so on, and to have perhaps no seats, or an insufficient number of seats. By contrast to this is the description sent to me of a public-house opened at Wolverton, and which is daily frequented by workmen of the London and North Western Railway— On Saturday afternoons we have often had a good local band playing, and the residents here brought their wives for an afternoon's quiet enjoyment. Tea and all kinds of refreshments, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are served at small tables in a tea pavilion and on the lawn, just as in a Continental beer garden. That is what I maintain should be the aim and object of all our public-houses.

Reference is made in the Memorandum attached to the Bill to the practice in vogue on the Continent, and anyone who has been there will have seen the cafés and beer restaurants where men with with their wives and families spend their leisure time happily and without the slightest idea of over-indulgence. It may be said that these are conditions that do not belong to this country, and therefore cannot be quoted as a strong illustration. But I give instances nearer home. You have large pleasure grounds like those of the Crystal Palace, where throngs of people assemble on various occasions. You have had the Franco-British Exhibition visited by millions of people of every class of society, young and old, and yet I have not heard of any drunkenness or disorder there. I might quote, too, the management of Army canteens on those improved and more liberal lines. Similar cases might be given throughout the country. The more you encourage the pressure of the general public the higher the standard of sobriety and general order. That is the whole principle of this Bill.

The Government will, I trust, see their way to give the Bill their support. As we know, they have a very large licensing measure of their own in another place, and it is to be presumed by the drastic contents of that measure that they do not view with satisfaction the present condition of our public-houses. Therefore they should be most anxious to see that the condition of those public-houses is reformed and improved. But there is one particular point on which I think I may claim their support. Great danger does lie if that measure becomes law owing to the almost certain increase of drinking clubs, and I think every section of those who desire to see temperance inculcated in this country are agreed that drinking clubs are a very great source of danger. It must be remembered that these clubs can supply liquor at about half the price charged in public-houses; they are open at hours when public-houses are closed, and they offer attractions certainly far more formidable than the innocent and small forms of recreation to which I have referred, such as dominoes, skittles, and bowling greens. I have papers here containing the advertisements of these clubs, and I think it would be a revelation to many Members of this House to know the kind of entertainment that is provided in these places. They are practically music-halls in many cases; they have beauty shows for both sexes, dancing, and other attractions which presumably appeal to a large section of the public. Surely it is better to try and get a counterpoise to these clubs by improving moderately our public-houses, and, above all, exposing them to the full glare of public opinion. The safeguards that exist in the case of public-houses are but mildly felt in the case of clubs; there is only a small amount of police supervision and a small force of public opinion directed against them. I trust, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will see fit to give their support to this Bill as possibly the only true way of meeting the evil of drinking clubs.

I do not pretend for a moment that if this Bill becomes law there is going to be a sudden transformation of public-houses. The expense of alterations and improvements is very great, and catering in refreshments other than intoxicants is not very remunerative, except in the case of large central depots or of firms having many retail branches. Again, the enlargement of premises is a difficult matter in large cities and towns. But even here the licensed victualler might be allowed to re-arrange his existing premises so as to make them more club-able and more commodious. I trust that this Bill may become law, and that by breaking down arbitrary and harmful powers of prohibition and restriction something may be done to dispel the pernicious traditions that attach to our licensing system; and then, just as sunshine is the greatest purifier, so other and better influences will have play, and these will brighten the atmosphere and turn into pleasurable resorts those places which are now admittedly haunts for drinking, and for drinking only. I trust I have said enough to secure for the Bill a second Reading which I now beg to move.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Lamington.)


My Lords, I expect your Lordships will agree that this would not be a fitting occasion to enter into a general discussion of the evil of intemperance and the different methods which may be adopted to deal with it. We shall have an opportunity later in the session of discussing that large question when the Licensing Bill of His Majesty's Government comes before us. But the Bill of my noble friend raises one very important question, and one which I think he is to be congratulated on having brought before the House in a form which enables it to be discussed free from the other considerations of graver import attached to the larger measure, and free also from some of the acute controversy which centres round the Government proposals.

I do not mean that this Bill is entirely uncontroversial. I do not expect my noble friend imagines that it would meet with unanimous approval, but at any rate, such controversy as attaches to it is of a minor degree compared with that which attaches to the Licensing Bill of the Government. There is a Memorandum prefixed to this Bill which is very interesting reading—a Memorandum which is practically a Second Reading speech for the Bill, and which contains many interesting statistics and arguments. I cannot think that, my noble friend quite accurately describes his Bill in the first words of the Memorandum, because he says— The object of this Bill is to reform public-houses. Yet I see nothing whatever in the terms of the Bill itself which will have that effect. The only effect which the Bill itself will have is to remove certain obstacles, or supposed obstacles, which exist at the present moment in the way of reforming public-houses.

Now, with a great deal of what is stated in this Memorandum, and with practically everything which my noble friend said in his speech, I find myself in entire agreement. As I understand the contention of my noble friend, it is this: that, in the first place, there is at the present moment in this country a growing opinion amongst those who belong to what I may call the moderate section of the temperance party in favour of reform of public-houses—reform in the direction of making them places of general refreshment where people can congregate for social intercourse, and converting them into what corresponds to the continental café or the workman's club rather than the mere drinking bar. He further contends that many owners of public-houses are at this moment desirous of falling in with this view and of lending their influence in bringing about these reforms, but that they are frequently thwarted in their efforts by the action of the licensing benches. With every word of that I find myself in entire agreement. I have for some years been closely associated with a movement which has that object in view. I refer to the Public House Trust, the object of which is to bring about this reform of the public-house.

I believe with my noble friend that it is time we recognised the part which the public-house must play in any practical scheme of temperance reform. I agree with him in thinking that we are postponing the day when such a reform may be brought about by continuing to treat public-houses as places of disrepute. I am inclined to think that one of the greatest obstacles of temperance reform at the present moment is the fact that the extreme section of the temperance party, like drunkards—I hope my noble friend on the cross benches will excuse the simile—will persist in abusing the public-house. On that I agree with my noble friend, and I admit that in a great many instances licensing benches do not at the present moment appreciate the value of reform on these lines, though I am inclined to think the noble Lord has I somewhat exaggerated the action of the beaches in objecting to structural alterations which licence-holders may bring forward with this object in view; but in London, at any rate, licence-holders have found considerable difficulty in adapting their premises to the refreshment-house type of public-house. With all this, as I say, I entirely agree.

But when I turn from my noble friend's speech and from the Memorandum to the Bill itself I confess that I am considerably disappointed, because what is set forward in the Bill is not really a practical remedy for the state of things which my noble friend deplores. In fact, the provisions of this Bill as they stand would, I fear, lead to endless confusion in practice. All that the single clause of this Bill does is to give a very general direction that licensing justices shall do nothing to interfere with the good intentions of a licence-holder who is desirous of improving his premises. My noble friend contends that obstacles are placed in the way of a licence-holder who is anxious to improve the food and non-alcoholic portion of his trade in existing licensed premises, but that difficulty does not arise on the premises as they exist already and are licensed by the magis- trates. In fact, it is part of the law of the land that a publican is obliged to provide food and sell it to whoever applies for it, and that failure to provide food on licensed premises may be treated as an act of misconduct which may forfeit the licence. The only difficulty arises in the case of extending premises. It is only when the licence-holder comes forward and wishes to add to his property that he finds obstacles placed in his way by the bench.

Conceive what would be the effect in practice if this Bill were to become law. Whenever a licence-holder appeared before a licensing bench and asked for any extension whatsoever in his premises, it would be easy for him to contend that he was asking for it so as to develop the food and nonalcoholic trade, and it would be impossible, according to this Bill, for the magistrates to refuse their permission. Any clever lawyer whose services the licence-holder might secure would have a very easy time with the town clerk or the licensing justices. He could prove that in applying for these alterations the licence-holder was solely actuated by temperance motives, and that the magistrates, if they refused to comply, would be running contrary to the law, and I cannot help feeling that the effect of this Bill would be to paralyse altogether the action of the magistrates, to relieve them entirely of their discretion in the matter of sanctioning or refusing to sanction these alterations, and to deliver them over-bound hand and foot to the mercy of the trade.

Therefore, regarded as a practical piece of legislation to meet a recognised evil, I cannot help thinking that the proposals of this Bill are not satisfactory. I have no knowledge what course the House may decide to adopt with regard to it, nor do I know if my noble friend intends to push the Bill through all its stages in this House. We know, of course, that there is little chance of its passing into law. For my own part, I welcome its introduction, and I sincerely hope that it will give rise to a lengthy discussion of the very important question which is raised by the Bill, and if it were granted a Second Reading merely with the object of affirming approval of the principle that reform of the public-house is needed, I should very much favour such a course. But if the Bill is to be taken as a serious piece of legislation and passed through all its stages, I cannot help saying that I should, though with the utmost possible reluctance, find myself unable to support it.


My Lords, as I do not often take up the time of your Lordships' House, I hope I may be allowed to say a few words this evening in criticism of this very revolutionary measure. The noble Lord gave such a glowing description of the state of things which he hoped to produce that I think it may probably have escaped notice how very much his short Bill is contrary to all the traditions of our licensing legislation, contrary to what has been the tendency of the legislation in this country ever since the beginning of licensing laws, contrary to the advice given by Lord Peel's Licensing Commission in both the Majority and Minority Reports, and contrary to the Act of 1902, which embodied the advice on that subject contained in both of those Reports.

Lord Peel's Commission heard a great deal of evidence on this very subject. Complaints were commonly made, according to the evidence before the Commission, of the development of snugs and bar parlours, which prevented proper supervision either by the police or the licence-holder. In Pontypridd and Rhondda evidence was given that the justices had sanctioned licences for plans which gave promise of large palatial-looking buildings, with coffee-rooms and commercial rooms, exactly what the noble Lord requires, and then subsequently the licence-holder, after obtaining the licence, closed these rooms and used all the accommodation to establish a long bar without food or proper refreshment for travellers. I cannot but think that if this Bill gave unlimited permission for the extension of premises, the result would very probably be the same, and that improvements which were undertaken with the specious promise of providing a sort of Continental café, would result before long in a mere extension of drinking accommodation. At any rate, that was the view taken in both the Majority and Minority Report. One of the recommendations of the Majority Report ran as follows— As to rebuilding and alteration of premises, the custom of submitting plane should be made statutory. The Minority Report also recommended control of the structure.

As to games, there is a very common misconception that games are not allowed on licensed premises. Mr. Balfour fell into this error in a speech at the Albert Hall, in which he complained that people were prevented from playing dominoes in public-houses. It is a mistake to suppose that games are forbidden. It is only certain illegal games which are not permitted, and I do not imagine that the noble Lord really wishes to permit roulette tables and petit chevaux in public-houses. As to music, both the Majority and Minority Reports agree that it is undesirable that public music or dancing should be allowed on these premises without a licence from the licensing authority.

The example given in support of this demand is the Continental café system. It is difficult for the passing traveller to form a judgment about the effect of a thing in a foreign country, but my impression is that the great change that has taken place, at all events in France and Italy, in the last forty years is the immense growth of the drink-shop. Whereas when I was young one used to see nothing but the ordinary café, you now see as many gin palaces there as you do in England, and I think the statement that the noble Lord makes in the Memorandum to his Bill about drunkenness in France is rather contradicted by the last Report of the French Government. They say in the Volume for 1905— Proceedings for drunkenness have been somewhat more numerous in 1905 than previously. It would be desirable, in the interest of public health and morality, that the gendarmes and police should show more activity in dealing with infractions of the law of 1903, which are in reality much more numerous than those which form the subject of proceedings. In this respect the gardes champelres are absolutely wanting in the necessary vigilance. We must not then find in this increase any precise indication as to the progress of alcoholism. Everything points to the belief, in fact, that a mere fraction of those who ought to be prosecuted fall into the clutches of the law against, drunkenness. In Brittany, especially, proceedings against drunkenness ought to be counted by thousands. In this region people are so constantly seen under the influence of drink that the authorities do not intervene except the offenders are in a condition which prevents them from moving or which causes public scandal. The progress of crime is closely connected, as we have several times established, with the progress of alcoholism. Proceeding, they state that there is an increase in the number of drinking houses, in the amount of drinking, and in drunkenness, which does not seem to show that the café system saves France from the evils of which we complain, Moreover, the French Government have gone much further than our Government, although I am not aware that they are being moved by any fanatical bodies in that country. A placard on alcoholism has been published by the authority of the Government, in which they say— L'alcoholisme est l'empoisonnement chronique qui résulte de l'usage habituel de l'alcool, alors meme que celui-ci ne produirait pas l'ivresse —very good advice, but which might be considered fanatical in this country.

Then, as to Germany, the amount consumed in the German beer gardens is phenomenal, and the very rapid growth of temperance societies of late years, taking exactly the same view of the question that is taken in England by similar bodies, seems to point to the fact that the state of things is not very satisfactory there. Once I inquired from a very eminent German doctor, who is not at all a teetotaler, as to his view on this subject, and he said— The real fact is that our people can consume ft great deal more drink because in the past our people have been so poor and frugal that their constitutions can bear it; but, owing to the great commercial prosperity that has fallen upon us lately, our people are drinking a great deal too much, and in a generation or two they will be as bad as yours. But I think the English experiments are more to the point than the foreign ones. The great English experiment of this kind was the Act of 1830. In the early part of last century the restrictions of the magistrates became excessively unpopular, and the consequence was that the Act of 1830 was passed. A fortnight after it came into operation Sidney Smith wrote to say— Everybody is drunk, those who are not singing are sprawling; the sovereign people is in a beastly state. That opinion of Sidney Smith has only been confirmed, and endless trouble has been caused by the attempts to rectify that very well-intentioned mistake.

I remember hearing Mr. Gladstone giving an idyllic description of the Continental café, and the families drinking together in the open air, and so on, and how he was going to introduce this by his, Budget. The noble Lord himself has expressed his opinion as to the results. Mr. Gladstone was going to produce, this by giving grocers off-licences, and now the noble Lord tells us that the greater part of the drunkenness of which we now complain is caused by these off-licences. The motives that were put forward for that measure are entirely the same as those now put forward by the noble Lord. Then it is contended that the clubs have largely produced this monstrous evil. Clubs were introduced with exactly the same argument, that of giving an opportunity of enjoying rational society, and the rest of it. The late Government found it necessary to legislate on the subject of clubs, and the complaint I understand now is that there is not further legislation on that subject. I think that if this Bill were passed, giving to every publican a free right to increase his attractions, the evils that have been produced by free trade in beer, by grocers' licences, and by the drinking clubs would be magnified enormously, I believe, as the noble Lord who preceded me said, that there is not the slightest chance of this Bill becoming law, but I hope your Lordships will not, by passing the Second Reading, give any encouragement to the idea that it is desirable. I do not know what the intentions of His Majesty's Government are, but if it should be necessary I am prepared to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment moved— To leave out the word 'now,' in order to insert at the end the words 'this day six months.'"—(The Earl of Carlisle.)


My Lords, everyone who has listened to the speech of my noble friend in introducing this Bill, will, I think, so far agree with him that they sympathise with his object—namely, that of promoting temperance by means of giving facilities for the consumption of non-alcoholic liquors and the provision of opportunities for reading newspapers and for amusements such as music in connection with licensed premises. Perhaps I might also say—and I do not think the noble Lord will complain—that to a certain extent we on this side of the House look upon this discussion as a little reconnaissance in force in regard to the provisions of another Bill which we hope before long to be able to lay before your Lordships' House. But I make no complaint of that. At the same time, as we shall, very shortly, we believe, be presenting a large and important Bill touching nearly every issue connected with licensing, we feel that this discussion, even if in itself useful, can hardly be considered an adequate justification for its ending by our consenting to the Second Reading of the Bill, which forestalls discussions that will be perfectly in order when we reach, as I hope we shall reach, the Committee stage of the Government's Licensing Bill.

I cannot help saying that I think there is sometimes a little exaggeration in regard to the statement which is very frequently made that the average Englishman, especially if he belongs to the working class, has very often no choice except between going to a public-house for the purpose of recreation, which must be combined with the consumption of liquor, or of having no means of recreation at all. That is a very great exaggeration. It is an exaggeration looked at even from the strictly legal point of view, because the law provides in many ways for the encouragement of refreshment houses—that is to say, of places where accommodation can be provided for the public in regard to both eating and drinking. If anybody wants to set up an ordinary refreshment house for the consumption, let us say, of tea, coffee, gingerbeer, and harmless non-intoxicants during the day, no licence is required at all; if he, on the other band, wishes to continue the sale of those non-alcoholic refreshments at late hours — namely, between ten o'cock at night and five o'clock in the morning—the law expressly provides that in a case of that kind he shall, no doubt, have to take out an excise licence, though not a justices' licence, but at the same time he gets a slight reduction in the sum to be paid.

Then, in addition to that, I must remind the House that it is a principle, and always has been a principle, of the common law of England that if a house is provided for the refreshment of what is popularly called man and beast—that is to say, travellers—the licence-holder of that inn is bound to provide ordinary refreshments, and a traveller can take legal proceedings against him if he refuses to do so. That is an exceedingly important provision, and not at all a mere idle declaration of law. But that ancient principle of common law, which only applied to inns mainly licensed for the reception of the travelling public, was by the Licensing Act passed by the late Government—and I desire to give them all credit for it, though I think it was not part of the original Bill as laid before Parliament, but was inserted in Committee—extended in this way. It was declared that if the licensing justices of a district refused to renew an existing licence on the ground that the holder thereof had persistently and unreasonably refused to supply at a reasonable price, suitable refreshments other than intoxicating liquors, the justices should be deemed to have refused the licence on the ground that the premises had been ill-conducted. Your Lordships know that if the justices decline upon one of four grounds, of which ill-conduct is one, to renew a licence, there is no appeal to quarter sessions, and, incidentally, the man in the long run would lose the benefit of any claim he might afterwards have for compensation. But the important immediate result is that the refusal of the justices is final. Your Lordships will see that that is an exceedingly important provision of the law. I quite admit that to a certain extent it is a new departure, that you may say it is inconsistent with what had hitherto been undoubtedly the principle upon which the whole edifice of our statutory legislation had been built up. The law on the whole might be said, to put it mildly, not to have encouraged over much, the provision in licensed premises of refreshments other than intoxicating liquor. I call attention to this clause because it has an immediate and direct connection with the provisions of this Bill.

I ask myself whether, after the speech which we heard just now from the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, the final answer was not given by that speech to the Bill. Because if your Lordships will look at these different provisions you will see that if the justices could be shown in any case to have refused unreasonably the proposals of a bona fide applicant in regard to any of the matters mentioned in Clause 1, and more especially in regard to subsection (a)— (a)The provision of accommodation for the supply of tea, coffee, cocoa, or food that is to say, of non-intoxicants, the justices would immediately have brought themselves into collision, not merely with the spirit, but with the letter of a clause in the Act of 1904; and it is hardly conceivable that, with the clear direction which Parliament has given, any body of justices would run the risk of trying to defeat the clearly expressed purpose of Clause 9, of the Act of 1904 by refusing a reasonable addition to, or alteration of, premises in the manner apparently contemplated as possible or likely by the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill. And I am bound to say that, as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, pointed out, the justices, if this Bill were passed, would have rather a bad time in the future, because they would be constantly under the risk of legal proceedings being taken against them to question their decisions in Courts of law where they had, on grounds reasonable to them, refused a certain alteration or addition.

But, in addition to that, there are some especial points of detail which are alarming. There can be no doubt that it is quite reasonable on the part of the police and of justices to be very careful about permitting alterations in licensed premises giving back or side entrances. The police, for obvious reasons, desire to be able, to supervise these premises, and are very careful in calling the attention of the justices to any additional facilities for back or side entrances, because it makes the control of these places far more difficult and expensive from a police point of view. Let me suppose that under the Act of 1904 plans had been deposited, and this question arose about back and side entrances. I think the noble Lord will see that it would be very easy for a clever applicant who was well advised to declare that this back or side entrance was required to give more light and air, that it was wanted for sanitary accommodation, that it was also wanted, perhaps, to make the place more airy, clear, and so on. All these questions would tend to great litigation, and I cannot help thinking that, therefore, for the reasons stated by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, the task of the justices would be rendered exceedingly difficult were this Bill to become part of the law of the land.

I would suggest to the noble Lord who has brought in the Bill that he should wait until he sees the Government Bill in the shape in which it will reach this House. There are clauses in it, so far as I know—I am not speaking with such minute knowledge of the Bill as I ought to possess—on which the noble Lord would not be out of order in raising the questions which he desires to raise, namely, what are the conditions to be upon which justices may or may not sanction alterations. But to ask this House to read and eventually to pass and send down to the House of Commons in the present session a Bill, if I may say so, drafted rather in haste, and which to secure its object would require very large alteration, would be asking us to enter upon a vain and useless task. I, therefore, hope the noble Lord will be satisfied with the discussion he has raised, and will see that the best course is to allow the question he desires to deal with to wait until we lay our proposals before your Lordships' House.


My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down expressed, at the commencement of his observations, a general approval of the objects which my noble friend who sits behind me had in view in introducing this Bill. I think my noble friend would have been more satisfied, and your Lordships would have been more satisfied, if the noble Lord had supplemented this general approval with some indication that the Government, if they are not willing to accept his proposal, are prepared themselves to make some change in the law with the object of carrying out those intentions. What is the good, if I may say so with great respect to my noble friend opposite—what is the good of this barren approval of the principles of my noble friend's measure if the Government are themselves not prepared to take advantage of the opportunity which my noble friend has given them in order to announce what their policy in this matter is?

The noble Lord referred to the possibility in the future of another measure of importance on the licensing question coming before your Lordships. I should have expected him to have said that when that Bill reaches this House the Government will be prepared to submit proposals upon the lines which they approve to carry out the intentions of my noble friend who has introduced this Bill, for they have themselves announced that they approve of the objects of the Bill. That, I think, is unsatisfactory in the reply of the Government, because they have to meet a real case. I do not pretend to be familiar with the facts myself, but I listened with attention to what my noble friend laid before your Lordships. He brought forward a series of instances for which he vouched, which showed that in certain parts of the country magistrates were using their licensing power in order to prevent what may be called the reform of public-houses. He instanced several cases, including one of the principal cities in this country, in which that policy appears to be pursued. I do not myself know of this from my own knowledge; I merely take it from my noble friend's speech. If that is the case, that is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy said just now that the policy of Parliament, as shown in the Act of 1904 was, at any rate in one of these particulars, quite evident. There was a provision which he read to your Lordships, the object of which was to give increased power to justices to insist on reasonable refreshment being given at public-houses. That was evidently the policy of Parliament of that day, and, as I judge from the speech of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy, the policy of His Majesty's present advisers. That being the intention of Parliament, my noble friend behind me comes to your Lordships' House and shows that in certain important centres, so far from this intention of Parliament being carried out, the magistrates have gone about to some extent to thwart it and to prevent the reform of public houses. Unless those facts can be controverted, then I say we are entitled to a more complete answer from the Government as to whether they intend to take any steps to see that this intention of Parliament, of which they approve, should be carried into effect.

The drafting of the Bill has been criticised by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy. I daresay that in some respects it is not perfect. That is a feature which is not peculiar to this Bill; I think I have had occasion to say it with respect to many Government Bills. Indeed, if all rumours are true which reach my ear, the drafting of a certain important Bill on the licensing question now before the other House is open to serious criticism by those whose business it is for the present to criticise it. Therefore, I do not think that is a very heavy charge to bring against my noble friend. That may, of course, govern the further progress of the Bill at a later stage, if it reaches a later stage, but it is not a serious matter in itself at this stage.

The question as to whether magistrates would be hampered in the exercise of their functions by the words in the Bill has, I think, been exaggerated by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy; but if the words are not sufficiently clear and sufficiently guarded, that is a matter which could be set right hereafter. The real policy of this Bill, the essential principle of it, is to remedy the present degraded condition of many of the public-houses in this country, and I cannot but believe that that must command the universal support of your Lordships' House. That is undoubtedly a policy, which, however difficult to achieve, ought to be achieved if it be possible. The condition of things in many public-houses now may be described by the old phrase of giving a dog a bad name and hanging him. They are treated with such disrespect, they are hampered in their efforts for reform so much, that they become disreputable; they are not then open to the influences of the best public opinion among the working classes in the country, and they sink from depth to depth. It is with the object of trying to remedy that state of things that this Bill has been introduced.

May I say one word as to the policy of the late Government when they were in office? I had something to do with the passing of the Licensing Act of 1904 through this House, and I remember we dwelt with great emphasis on the opportunity which that Act afforded of raising the status of public-houses. The predecessor of my noble friend Lord Lytton, who has addressed us with so much effect to-night, in the Public-House Trust Company is the present Governor-General of Canada. He took part in the debates of 1904, and was very anxious on behalf of the Public-House Trust. He pointed out that the provisions of the Act of 1904, if properly used, might help the Public-House Trust in a very remarkable degree. I say that in order to show how anxious we were at that time to help forward this movement for the reform of the public-house. It is quite true, I am sorry to say, that in practice it has not been used by licensing justices for this purpose. That may have been owing to faulty drafting, or it may be due to some other cause, but the intention was there, and we may claim, to some extent, at any rate, to be the forerunners of my noble friend Lord Lamington in the policy of this Bill. After these observations your Lordships will not be surprised if I say that for my part, and I believe I speak for those who sit near me, we should be glad if the principle, at any rate, of this Bill could be affirmed.


My Lords, I have always taken a deep interest in this subject, and, therefore, ask leave to say a few words upon this Bill. With the general object stated by the noble Lord, my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has indicated assent—namely, that public-houses should not be restricted merely to drinking shops. But the noble Marquess is a little mistaken in thinking the objections to the Bill are merely questions of drafting. Will your Lordships allow me to point out what this Bill really does?

The Bill, in the first place, enables any publican to require any extension of his public-house; practically that is what it comes to. The publican may say: "I want a much larger area for my licensed premises; when I have got it I can do what I like with it." And if asked why, he might say: "I should like my place more airy." If he said that, the licensing justices could not refuse the extension. If he said he wanted more room to supply tea, while he is not obliged to supply tea, he would get a large extension of area. If he said: "I would like chairs and tables instead of bar accommodation, and for that purpose I want an extension of premises," it could not be refused. Therefore, by the framework and scheme of the Bill, and not merely by its drafting, any publican could claim practically any extension of his premises, and when he had got it there is nothing in the Bill to prevent him using it for the sale of liquor. That is the first result.

The second result of the Bill is that the publican would be entitled to enlist in support of his selling of liquor any kind of game, garden, newspaper, music, or any means of reasonable recreation. I can understand that if you have a music hall you might, as an ancillary convenience, allow the sale of liquor; but this Bill would allow the music hall to be ancillary to the public-house, and all these methods of recreation are to help to induce people to go into the public-house for the purpose of obtaining entertainment and recreation, whereas the real object would be to further the sale of drink. No doubt the noble Lord who introduced the Bill in a speech marked by great moderation, and with a great deal of the matter of which a good many of us would agree, did not contemplate such a result as that.


My Lords, I venture to think that the large majority of this House are, at any rate, of one opinion up to this point, that we are grateful to my noble friend behind me for having initiated a very interesting discussion upon an extremely important question. His Bill has been criticised in no unfriendly spirit, but still criticised with considerable force. Some of those criticisms are of a more or less technical character, and after listening to the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I am bound to say that those objections, if they can be described as technical, are certainly not objections of a kind which this House could venture to regard lightly.

The noble and learned Lord, speaking with all the authority which belongs to his position in this House, has in effect warned us that if this Bill were to pass into law in its present form, very inconvenient consequences might arise. He has warned us that it would work, not by any means, I take it, as its promoters intend it to work, but in a very different manner, and although I certainly should hesitate to offer criticism of a legal or technical character, I am bound to say that the Bill does strike me as open to this objection, that not only might it afford to publicans a pretext for sheltering themselves behind the provisions of this Bill in order to push their trade in intoxicating liquors, but that also the Bill, as we have it, really suggests that the existing law is in a condition in which, speaking as a humble layman, I cannot believe that it really stands.

If the Bill is correct, then we must infer that under the existing law it is open to the justices, when granting permission for structural alterations of licensed premises, to impose conditions of a kind which would prevent the premises or any part of them being made more open, clear, or better ventilated. Now, I cannot believe that the present law is exactly in that position. Or, again, that it is open to the justices to impose conditions which would prevent the improvement or enlargement of the sanitary accommodation of a public-house. Those seem to me to be very far-fetched and rather dangerous implications; and when we are told, as we are told, in the explanatory Memorandum which is attached to the Bill, that the owner or licensee is strictly and systematically debarred from improving his premises in these ways, again I say I should be very sorry to be a party to legislation which assumed that the existing law produced those effects.

But when I pass from these more or less technical aspects of the case, I am bound to say that, so far as the principle upon which my noble friend founds himself is concerned, I am entirely in sympathy with him. I think my noble friend has pointed the way to-night towards a path of temperance reform which we are much too apt to neglect, and it is a path which I hope, after what has been said from the front bench opposite, His Majesty's Government will not altogether disregard when they come to deal with this most important question. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that at the present time the tendency is a great deal too much in the direction of promoting or attempting to promote temperance reform in the first place by harsh treatment of those who are engaged in the licensing trade, and, in the second place, by making the consumer of intoxicating liquors as uncomfortable as you can possibly make him. That I believe to be an altogether mistaken policy, and it is a policy which, as my noble friend pointed out, is bound to have the effect of driving those people who cannot get on without consuming a certain amount of liquor towards secret drinking and towards the frequentation of clubs in which drinking is carried on without any of the precautions which we should all of us like to attach to it.

My noble friend's policy is, I think, a very much sounder one. It is a policy directed, as I understand it, to what may be called the reclamation of the public-house. It desires to improve the environments in which alcoholic drinks are consumed, and so to arrange things that the conditions which surround the consumers shall be of a much more decent and reputable character than those to be found at present in a great many public-houses. That is a sound principle, and I hope, the approval which I understood was extended to it by noble Lords opposite will not be, as my noble friend said, merely a barren approval, but that they will bear in mind, when dealing with the question, that there is this other aspect of it to which, in our opinion, too much attention cannot be paid. Before sitting down I would suggest to my noble friend, particularly after the speech delivered by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that it might be better for him to be content with this discussion and not to put the House to the trouble of a division. I should be extremely sorry to vote against him, but, after listening to the arguments of the noble and learned Lord, I cannot vote for the Bill as it stands.


My Lords, in reply to the general discussion I must first disclaim any intention of making this a kind of preliminary campaign in regard to the Government's general measure on the subject of licensing. The Government's Bill never entered into my consideration at all, and it seems to me that this measure does not conflict in any way with that Bill. I confess I should like, as a matter of principle, to divide the House on the Motion for the Second Reading; but, after listening to the speech of the noble Marquess on the front Opposition bench, I feel that there would be absolutely no use in my putting the House to that trouble. I understand that the noble Marquess has been chiefly guided in the advice he has given me by the words of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I may be wrong, but I should have thought that the answer to the noble and learned Lord's strictures was that if the publican, having got this extension of premises for the purpose of improving the accommodation, then devoted it to the serving of alcoholic drink, the magistrates could refuse a renewal of the licence the following year.


That is not one of the grounds on which they could do so.


But if the publican provides small tables and chairs and instead of serving tea serves a glass of beer, I cannot see that any great harm is done. The noble Earl on the cross benches stated that games can now be played in public-houses. It is true that they may be played, but no accommodation is provided for playing them. The whole point is that there is no proper accommodation for indulging in this lawful and innocent recreation. Again, it is said that licence-holders are bound to provide food. It is no use providing food if you do not allow people to take that food under decent conditions and in pleasant surroundings. The whole crux of the question depends on the provision of proper accommodation, and I should have thought it would have been perfectly possible to have given an injunction against magistrates wilfully refusing to sanction the provision of accommodation which would meet the convenience of the general public. In view, however, of the statement of the noble Marquess, and also of the opinion expressed by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I withdraw my Motion for the Second Reading.


I also withdraw my Amendment.

Motion and Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.