HL Deb 27 February 1919 vol 33 cc396-418

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading is very fairly explained by the Memorandum that accompanies it. The object of the Bill, briefly expressed, is as far as practicable to take every means and opportunity of converting public-houses which are merely drinking dens into places of reasonable recreation and refreshment. For some years past there has been a general movement in the country in this direction. Many of your Lordships will remember that in former years there were really no comfortable places of refreshment for the well-to-do classes, or for any others. Then there gradually grew up a system by which restaurants were established where the better classes could have their meals under decent if not charming circumstances. Places like Earl's Court and the White City, where there were fairs and other forms of diversion, also had restaurants to which the general pubic could go and at which they could enjoy a meal under pleasant conditions. In the Army itself for a number of years there has been a movement to improve the canteens for soldiers. Instead of being merely drinking places they are developing on lines to provide means for recreation, games, and suppers, so as to induce soldiers to frequent them and be able to get their beer under circumstances which do not tempt them to excessive drinking. There is also the Public House Trust in this country and in Scotland, with the idea of running public-houses on the lines of pleasant recreation and refreshment. The one in England has developed greatly, and I believe the Earl of Lytton is a leading supporter of the Trust in this country. But it did not touch the vast mass of the people, and the True Temperance Association, which has had this matter in hand for a number of Years, has felt as if it were rather crying in the wilderness.

Then came the war, and these proposals suddenly received emphatic endorsement by the establishment of the Central Liquor Control Board. A great munitions area was formed near Carlisle, and the whole of that district, including Carlisle itself, was put under the jurisdiction for the purposes of licensing of the Central Control Board. I do not see Lord D'Abernon present this afternoon; I hope he will be present, as he is responsible for the working of this system. I have paid a visit to most. of the licensed houses in Carlisle. You will find in the main streets and in the slums of that city old-fashioned public-houses now being transformed into places of decent refreshment. I do not know exactly what the statistics are to prove that the system has reduced drunkenness. About a year ago figures were supplied, but I have seen none lately. The Government, having established this system, has really endorsed the policy which the True Temperance Association has been trying to carry into effect. All we now want to do is to develop the machinery which will enable this object to be achieved.

There is one point of difference between the policy indicated in this Bill and that which is carried out by the Central Control Board. The latter had absolute powers given to them, and were able, in order to improve public-houses, to sweep away all the restrictions which had been imposed by various Licensing Acts and Police regulations. This Bill does not go nearly as far as that. Up to 1869 licences were granted freely so long as the licensee was a decent person. Then there came a movement to reduce and limit the number of public-houses. This led to the creation of the tied-house system, with all its mischievous effects. In 1902 the Act of that year intervened so as to regulate any change made in the structure of public-houses, and it is owing to the 1902 Act that the real difficulties have arisen which have prevented public-houses being improved on the lines most people would like to see done. The Act of 1910 was merely a consolidating Act, but it continued these, in our opinion, objectionable restrictions.

What are these difficulties, and what happens from time to time? A man might apply for permission to make some structural improvement in his house. In a case in Chelsea a man applied for two years for permission to make a structural improvement. It was refused by the licensing justices, and on the third application it was taken to Quarter Sessions and granted. In Stockport a licensee applied to be allowed to rebuild his house. It was refused. He then said he would make certain improvements, and the licensing justices agreed but, said they would require a quid pro quo for this concession. Be said he was quite willing to fall in with the wishes of the licensing justices, but that he would not give any quid pro quo. He would not, in fact, be penalised for making a public improvement. The result was that his licence was refused. At Wandsworth, in the case of a public-house where there was a concert in the garden and in regard to which there was no complaint as to the character of the entertainment, the licence was not renewed because children were allowed to go to the concerts in charge of their parents. In Cardiff there recently took place—I will not say an act of injustice—an act of hardship to the general public. The people concerned are very large and important caterers. I will not read the whole of their letter, but will give some of the salient passages. It relates to a place called the "Carlton." They provided two orchestras and a concert party. The letter says— These entertainments appealed to the public greatly, with the result that the restaurant was nearly always filled. Although the house is fully licensed we would not seave alcoholic drinks of any description in this room, as it was frequented mostly by young people. Moreover, we would not serve any female with intoxicating drinks in any part of the house. No complaint was made of mischief accruing from these musical entertainments, but as a matter of principle the music licence was withdrawn because some individuals in Cardiff disapproved. The Watch Committee of the City fully approved of the character of the house; nevertheless, in the end the musical licence was withdrawn. With what result? The letter says— We regret to say that since the music licence has been taken away the drink trade has grown by leaps and bounds, and the weekly receipts from intoxicating liquors have increased by nearly 1,800 per cent.— Let us take that as a misprint, and put it at 180 per cent,— We cannot explain this altogether, except that the class of trade seems to have changed, and people now step in and out for a drink, whereas before they used to sit all the evening over a cup of coffee or some light refreshment. From a monetary point of view we are doing better than ever, but this is not the class of business that we care for. This shows one result of refining a musical licence, and practically compelling the public-house to become a mere drinking shop and nothing else.

I have another instance where an application was made for a variety of improvements in a house near Guildford. I need not go through all the long series of negotiations that took place, but this is the result. Owing to the difficulty experienced by the owners in the past in such matters, they incurred the expense of briefing an eminent counsel for the last three applications instead of submitting the matter in the ordinary way by a representative of the owners; so that in addition to the expense to which the owners were put in their endeavours to improve the public were deprived of the benefit of bay-windows, a ladies' lavatory, a cloak-room, and of a verandah on the south of the premises. A covering letter says— We particularly wish to bring to your notice that at a meeting between the licensing justices and the representative of the owners in situ the magistrates expressed the opinion that the contemplated alterations would make the premises too comfortable. I could go on giving instances, but I need not take up your Lordships' time. It is not only that the licensee in making his application would probably have it refused, but he would also be saddled with all the expense and with the loss of time taken up; therefore there is no encouragement to make a house a better place of entertainment. I have also in support of the proposal a letter from the Home Counties Public House Trust, to which I have already referred and with which Lord Lytton is closely connected. The letter says— May I, as the managing director of the company owning the largest number of hotels in one group in the world, and also as the largest licensee, say that I welcome your Bill as the best measure in licensing reform over yet introduced. As the matter stands at present, Benches vary in their practice all over the country, and the laws which they administer are nearly as often of their own making as that of the Legislature. As an example of this, my company is absolutely barred from taking over houses and developing them on the lines that you favour in the whole of the Smith and East of London. I have also the support of the Institute of Hygiene, although they wish to promote temperance on rather different lines. They wish to have the person who wants to drink licensed, and not the person who supplies it.

Then right reverend occupants of the Episcopal Bench have again and again endorsed the idea of improving the structure of public-houses. The Bishop of Manchester, in 1916, said— It is useless to think that they would eradicate drunkenness simply by liquor traffic laws. The public-house is a poor man's club, and when we return to normal conditions what are we going to provide for the wage-earning classes in the way of resort? That is the real point. To a great many people the public-house is their place of resort, and in many cases their club. It is surely much better to make these places respectable so that a decent working man can go there and take his wife and family, instead of having to go shamefacedly to a place to obtain a drink. I see present the noble Lord, Lord Harris, who when I introduced this Bill yesterday said that he did not quite approve of it because he, as one of the licensing justices of Kent, had never known a case where any obstacle had been put in the way of a man improving his house. He also said that it was rather the other way, and that people were unwilling to spend money on the improvement of their houses. I think the answer to that is, first of all, that where the noble Lord is the responsible authority there would be a very sane and sensible policy carried out, and if any of his colleagues had strong fanatical views on teetotalism, I am sure that the strong personality of the noble Lord would prevent those fanatical views from prevailing where his jurisdiction was concerned.

It is not only the fact that obstacles are put in the way. To develop temperance you must also give encouragement, so that the condition of the houses may be improved. That is what this Bill proposes to do. I may, perhaps, be permitted to read the report of a speech which recently appeared in the Press by Mr. Sydney Neville, President of the Institute of Brewing. He said— The shrewdest brains in the trade realise that the high standard of sobriety which has been reached during the war is a commercial asset as well as a national benefit, and that the industry would do well to consider, and if necessary initiate, such regulations as would maintain the present standard and discourage that excess which, though falling short of actual drunkenness, detracts from the efficiency of the industrial community it is the business of the licensed trades to improve. Further he said— The art of design of licensed houses had long been unnaturally arrested by unintelligent restrictions and artificial difficulties placed in the way of supplying improved accommodation. It is not only one, but all sections of the community who realise that it is very desirable to have some improvement in public-houses. It must be remembered that the trade has been very much harassed. I believe it is quite true that there are many respectable people nowadays who are so liable to penalties, owing to some technical flaw in the carrying on of their business, that it is very difficult to get people of the highest repute to be managers or licensees of public-houses. Numerous dangers and pitfalls lie before them, and as the State is largely responsible for the general conduct of these public-houses it is only right to ask that the State should now, by its orders and regulations and taxation, assist in furthering such conditions of decency and recreation that temperance may be promoted in the country.

I had the honour of promoting a Bill before with this object in view, but then it was simply limited to trying to restrict the powers of the justices in refusing to sanction improvements. This Bill proposes to set up a new body who should be responsible for the carrying out of the licensing laws. It may be said, Why not simply allow the Liquor Control Board to be developed and to extend its powers all over the country? First of all, that Board was brought into being only for the purposes of the war and lapses as soon as peace is signed; also they have such far greater powers than anything contemplated in this Bill, that really one would not ask the country to agree to such very extensive authority being given to any one Department.

As to the Bill itself, it first deals with the setting up of the new authority. Clause 3 hands over the powers of the licensing justices, and Clause 4 deals with a Committee to frame rules and regulations; while Clause 5 enables a certificate to be given to those homes which have been improved. That certificate confers certain privileges, among others the holding of entertainments on the premises, although the privilege would be subject to review and withdrawal, if thought desirable. Clause 7, in the case of these improved houses, would allow children to go on the premises. Of course that idea is very obnoxious to the minds of some people, but surely it is the presence of children and women that tends so much to improve the character of a place of this kind. Of the other clauses the only one of importance pro vides that an improved public-house shall be entitled to the remission of half the licence duty—this by way of encouragement to the person who makes these improvements. Security of tenure is also provided for.

Personally I dislike Government control of any industry, but I think half-and-half control is worse than anything. We have had many discussions in this House about labour unrest, but I believe it is Government control without responsibility that produces much of the trouble. In the case of public-houses the Government, or at least a public authority, interferes almost every day, for at no hour is the licensee free from some vexatious interference. It is the uncertainty that results which is the most mischievous of all conditions, and it is this objection which the Bill seeks to remove; we wish to have some stable authority with a consistent plan of dealing with these matters.

There ought to be an end of the idea that the whole business of the publican is to sell beer and spirits. He ought to have some other object in view—namely, to give fit and proper recreation. We wish also to abolish the power of those who, from fanatical devotion to a cause, really hinder improvement. It may be said that the financial clauses of the Bill contravene the privileges of the House of Commons; but if the Bill is passed in this House, at the last stage those clauses will be brought into harmony with the privileges of another place.

I regret very much that the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, who should have had charge of this Bill in this House, has for a number of months been seriously ill, and it is owing really to his interest in the matter, a meeting having been held at his house, that this Bill has been brought forward. I regret his inability to be here on this occasion, and in his absence I invite your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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


My Lords, my noble friend made some reference to me which I could not quite catch, but I gather that it as in consequence of the very brief conversation that I had with him yesterday when I intimated to him my opinion that there was no reason why the administration of the licensing law should be taken out of the hands of the justices. One can only speak from one's own experience, And my experience does not go to prove that there is any necessity to substitute paid Commissioners for the "great unpaid" who have been doing a very valuable work for many years—in this respect and in many other respects as well. I should like to interpolate here that I do not think nearly enough gratitude has been accorded for the enormous mass of unpaid work which is being done in this country always, but which has been done to such an enormous extent during the last four years—and by people, I may say, who have never struck work.

I am entirely sympathetic with the noble Lord in his object of supplying better entertainment in the public-house. I regret extremely that for some reason or other the ordinary public-house seems disinclined to supply in the form of drink anything but alcoholic liquors. I imagine that the reason of this is that in the trade in tea and coffee and cakes there is tremendous competition. There is probably also a local antipathy to cutting into Another man's business. The local tea shop has this particular class of business, and very probably the licensed victualler thinks it unfair for him to cut into it. I regret this very much, and I have pointed out, in addressing licensed victuallers at the annual meeting of the licensing authority, that it would be very much in accord with the feelings of the country if they would endeavour to make a new departure in that respect. I have also had to point out to them, particularly during the war, that they have no right whatever to close their houses to the public as a great many of them were doing, opening them only during those hours when alcoholic liquors might be sold under order. I told them that their houses were for the use of the public, the only place to which the public could go, especially travellers and others, for refreshment which they could not obtain elsewhere, and that they were bound to keep their houses open.

I sympathise with my noble friend in regard to the extension of the class of, business public-houses may do, and in many cases I think it would be of great: advantage if the privileges of the public- houses included the permission to have music and entertainments, and possibly dancing. But I really do not see why it should be taken out of the hands of the present justices and handed over to the authority of commissioners. In the first place, that means more expense to the country in the way of an enlarged Civil Service, against which many people have been protesting for a long time. In the second place, I do not see why we should anticipate that commissioners are going to do any better work than the justices have done. That is my principal reason for objecting at any rate to that part of the Bill; and I should be sincerely sorry if I found that His Majesty's Government were asking their supporters to support this Bill. I hope that they will leave us free to vote as we please, and not say anything very strongly in favour of it themselves, because I think it would be a great slur upon the justices.

I cannot possibly vote for the Bill because of the Memorandum. I do not mean to say that the Memorandum is in the Bill, but it contains the excuse for the Bill. It mentions "the existing system of administration by committees of justices"—they are licensing committees as a matter of fact, though the members are justices—" and the tradition of repression rather than of development which characterises the policy of many of them." I do not think that is a correct statement, at least not in my experience. We should welcome any indication on the part of the licence-holders that they would make their houses more attractive to the public than in the past by the introduction of such reforms as the noble Lord suggests. But I dispute the allegation that the justices have repressed any efforts to reform the character or the kind of entertainment which is given in public-houses. I have no knowledge of it at all. It may not be to the interests of the licence-holders to introduce this kind of reformed entertainment; but I have no knowledge that it has ever been the policy of the justices on the licensing committees to repress an attempt to introduce reforms.

The Memorandum also says that the County Commissioners would approach their duties unhampered by the old policy of restriction. I have no knowledge of any policy of restriction; and I certainly cannot confirm a Memorandum of that kind by giving my vote for a Bill based upon it. There is, of course, something in the character of the entertainments which the Bill proposes to give which I should accept with some reservation. For instance, I do not think I should welcome the duty of attending at a public-house which had been given a licence for dancing, and deciding whether or not the dancing was for the benefit of morals; and I do not know that the Commissioners would care about such a responsibility. With this exception I am in entire sympathy with the class of entertainment the noble Lord would like to see introduced, and I see no reason why it should rot be introduced if the licence-holders are willing. But they are the people you want to get at, and not to change the authorities which give out the licences. You have to encourage the licence-holder to improve and to enlarge the kind of entertainment which he may give. So far as that part of the noble Lord's Bill is concerned, I am entirely in sympathy with him; but I cannot commit myself to a Memorandum which states that we who have had the responsibility of administering the Licensing Act for many years—and I believe have done so honestly and judgmatically—have for a long time been following a policy of restriction, because I believe that to be absolutely incorrect.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord who introduced this Bill will believe me when I say that I not only sympathise with the admirable intentions of the Bill as set out in the explanatory Memorandum, but that appreciate the broad-minded spirit by which he seeks to attain those ends. I recognise with pleasure that the noble Lord does not desire to interfere with the liberty of the individual in selecting the beverage he prefers, whether it be of a temperance nature or otherwise. Nor does he seek to enforce restrictions or prohibitions in that direction. I understand that his intention is to encourage temperance by kindness and suggestion rather than by any drastic measures; and I am sure that this policy is one which would commend itself to your Lordships' House. I fully recognise also the wisdom of his desire to bring the State and "the trade"—if I may use the term that is commonly applied—into closer harmony, rather than to provoke needless antagonism in trying to effect reforms which, after all, must be for the benefit of both parties. Your Lordships also will probably agree that improved surroundings, by offering other inducements than drink, and other attractions are the most likely way of promoting temper- ance in an unobtrusive and effective manner.

Therefore if I venture to suggest certain criticisms, I trust the noble Lord will believe that I do so against the Bill as it stands and not against the motives which actuate it; because with those motives I am, as I have already said, in entire sympathy. Really the ideal which is set out by the True Temperance Association is so alluring, the picture that they draw of improved houses, social evenings, innocent recreation, and homelike surroundings, is so attractive, that it seems hard—I might almost say it seems cruel—to have to analyse the scheme from a practical and businesslike point of view. I have had the advantage of studying the Report which that association issued, and when I read there that they looked forward to the time when, in the improved houses, we should have music, dancing, amusements that were suitable for both sexes and for all classes, I really felt that by not welcoming this Bill I should be seeking to deprive myself of some possible future recreation under irreproachable conditions, approved by the most austere authorities, possibly even in the company of some members of your Lordships' House. I see foreshadowed there a return to bygone days, and I see visions of freedom of action which have certainly not obtained in recent years.

But I think I must ask your Lordships to set the visions on one side and to turn to the realities. The main provision of this Bill is the substitution of Commissioners paid out of public funds for unpaid magistrates who for generations have devoted their energies to licensing work. I cannot but think that the noble Lord in his explanatory Memorandum, as was pointed out by Lord Harris, is unduly hard on the efforts of those licensing justices. I think I might even say that he is a little bit ungenerous to those who have given their time voluntarily to the public service. He speaks, as has already been said, of "the existing system of administration by committees of justices and the tradition of repression rather than of development which characterises the policy of many of them," and he says that it is to this that "the present unsatisfactory state of public-houses is by many critics in a large measure attributed." He then goes on to suggest that salvation is to be found in a more professional body of administrators. I should like to ask on what evidence he bases that assumption.

I think I am correct in saying that the criticisms against the action of licensing justices hitherto have come both from the licensed trade and from the temperance reformers. Therefore I think it is fair, and not unreasonable, to argue that as they appear not to have given unqualified satisfaction to either party, they have done their work in an impartial manner and have made an honest attempt to arrive at a happy mean, in so far as their powers permit. After all, I would remind the noble Lord, they can only carry out their duties in accordance with the laws, and why he assumes that they are adverse to effecting improvements I am unable to see. It is true that in his speech he quoted a few instances, but it is hardly fair to condemn the whole body of licensing justices owing to certain instances which he has been no doubt at considerable pains to obtain. To sweep them all away, good, bad, and indifferent, and expect a newly-formed body to effect improvements, is an experiment which may be justified by results, but I think it is difficult to see why these newly-appointed commissioners, merely because they happen to be salaried officials, should be more broadminded, far-seeing, and ready to effect improvements than voluntary workers.

I wish to say a few words on the financial aspect of the question. If the success of this scheme were assured, no doubt in the interests of the community the financial aspect would be of little moment, but I would point out that the areas proposed to be set up in this Bill would number about 140 in all. Taking the salaries of the commissioners at the figure named—£2,500 a year for each area—the total cost would amount to £350,000 a year, to which must be added the cost of staffs, travelling expenses, and so on. That is no inconsiderable figure. Then consider the effect upon the houses themselves. I understand that in addition to their ordinary duties the new commissioners would have instructions to issue certificates to certain houses, when they fulfilled the qualifications set out in Clause 5, that they should be recognised as improved public-houses and that they are then to have certain privileges conferred upon them which are not to be enjoyed by other houses. The suggestion appears to be that the central authority shall formulate certain guiding rules, and I ask whether these rules are to be strictly defined or elastic. If they are to be strictly defined, then they must surely act hardly in many instances, owing to local conditions, whereas the present system is able to prevent those hardships. If, on the other hand, these guiding rules are to be elastic, then you would have the present conditions reproduced, and the same charges that are now levelled against the licensing justices—that they act arbitrarily and on no fixed principle, and that the holders of licences are subject to the whim for the moment of the justices, would be equally true of these new commissioners whom it is proposed to set up; and it would appear that dissatisfaction and jealousy would be fostered rather than alleviated.

I presume that the noble Lord considers the general relaxation as to entertainments and the admission of children as an essential feature of the scheme. I do not propose to deal with that at any length, but merely to point out that it is a considerable innovation, requiring very serious consideration and the adjustment of other enactments. I will pass to one point, which I think is specially worthy of notice, and that is the proposal that there should be a rebate of half the licence duties when licensed premises are recognised. as an improved public-house, and that the holder of the licence should be excused contribution to the compensation fund for the extinction of redundant licences: Apparently at the same time the Public Exchequer is to be charged with the expense of paying the new commissioners and their staffs, and also to be deprived of some part of existing revenue. This, I would point out, would very considerably increase the figure I have already named as being the initial cost of the scheme.

There is another point to which I would direct your Lordships' attention. This compensation fund is needed for the extinction of redundant and undesirable houses. This fund will apparently be very considerably reduced, and the consequence will be that fewer undesirable houses will of necessity be extinguished, and this, I think, must be an argument which will appeal to the advocates of temperance reform. There is a further argument which will appeal to all advocates of fairplay, in whom I am sure I may include the members of your Lordships' House. It is this. There must be certain unfairness in relieving improved houses of their liability to this contribution, and at the same time leaving the charges to be paid by the remaining licence-holders. Although their individual contributions may not be increased, yet they will have to face the position that the number of their rivals would not, be reduced comparatively, and therefore indirectly they must suffer.

There is another point—namely, that many of these licence-holders whose houses: will not be recognised as improved houses would probably be very glad indeed to comply with the conditions which would entitle them to rank as improved houses, but they may be prevented from fulfilling the qualifications by situation, available resources, and very likely by the conditions of the leases on which they hold their premises. Therefore the position is this, that before committing themselves to the expenditure involved in the Bill the Government would need to assure themselves that the results of the Bill are to such a wide and fruitful nature as to justify the charges on the public funds which would be entailed if it became law. They would also have to assure themselves that the comparatively small amendment of the licensing system which is proposed in the Bill would not constitute an obstacle to further and more beneficent reform at some future time. It cannot be said that careful consideration of the Bill offers any ground for confidence on either of those heads, and therefore the Government are unable to support the Bill as at present drafted. In conclusion, I wish to repeat the assurance that this decision does not arise from any reluctance to assist or promote that improvement which the noble Lord and I am sure all of your Lordships desire. It arises solely from a doubt as to the efficiency of the scheme now put forward, and I would ask your Lordships not to be too ready, owing to your sympathy with its object, to pass this measure without being sure that it really will effect in a permanent and satisfactory manner that improvement which we all would so heartily welcome.


My Lords, may I, in the first place, say with what great satisfaction I am sure your Lordships listened to the noble Earl, who is representing the Government for the first time to-night. I listened to him with the greatest possible pleasure. I thought that he made a very lucid and admirably moderate statement of the case as he was instructed to do, and I look forward to many opportunities to hear him in the same capacity again. I am a little sorry, I must admit, at the conclusion at which the noble Earl arrived in not supporting my noble friend's Bill. I would like to remind your Lordships that we are not asked on the present occasion to support every provision in the Bill. That is not the question. The question is whether we agree with the principle of the Bill. That is the well-known Second Reading issue which we have to determine.

My noble friend Lord Lamington has been for many years a great representative, both in the country and in your Lordships' House, of the true temperance movement. That is a movement which has, I believe, yearly gained strength in public favour. The original position, of course, was that there ought to be as free a supply of refreshment to the public as the public desired. That is the old idea of all. Then came the great temperance movement—of which I will speak with the greatest respect, because it has done an immense amount of good—in which a totally different point of view was put forward, namely, that places for the sale of intoxicating liquor ought to be permitted with a certain amount of reluctance; that they ought to be severely controlled—which is obviously right—and, more than that, that they should be very severely limited so that not only should they be open for a very restricted number of hours but that they should be curtailed in numbers, those numbers being gradually reduced, and that they should be prevented from offering any attraction to the public which might tempt the people to enter them and consume intoxicating liquors.

It was the universal policy of nearly every bench of licensing magistrates, and to some extent, I believe, of the law, to prevent anything like amenities, or games which should be played, or music that could be heard, lest the public-house should become popular. Partly through the law and partly through public opinion, public-houses began to be looked upon as rather disgraceful places, which a woman could not enter without losing her character and which a child must not be allowed to enter in any circumstances whatever. That was the general policy. Although I yield to no man in the House in my feeling as to the awful results of intemperance or in my admiration for the efforts of the temperance societies, yet I believe that the whole of that view of treating the consumption of intoxicating liquors as something disgraceful was wholly wrong and founded on a false foundation; and anything false is bad in public policy. This did not command the assent of the public. The electors did not really agree with it, and it was not genuine. There is nothing wrong in the consumption in moderation of intoxicating liquor. Therefore, I always welcomed the movement of which my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury is president, and of which my noble friends Lord Lamington and Lord Plymouth are supporters—a movement for true temperance, to put the whole question on a rational basis. While you do your utmost by the law and public opinion to restrain anything like intemperance you can give the wage-earning classes what they have a right to have, which is reasonable and decent accommodation for refreshment. This ought not to be looked upon as in the least disgraceful, and you should give every amenity to the public which they have the right to demand. That is the true temperance movement.

My noble friend has come forward and submitted a Bill with a view to carrying out the policy of that movement, and, with great respect, I think he is entitled to the approval of your Lordships for the effort he is making. I believe he is on the right lines, and therefore I am, if I may say so, a little impatient of the detailed criticism to which the Bill has been exposed this afternoon. Detailed criticism is, of course, right at the proper stage. When we come, if we do come, to the Committee stage, the views which were put forward so ably by Lord Harris and the noble Earl who speaks for the Government ought, of course, to have every weight given to them by your Lordships, but in my humble judgment they realty do not touch the essence of the matter. My noble friend Lord Harris said that he was going to oppose the Bill because of the Memorandum. That is a little hard. I am sorry he should have thought that; because I should regret it if the practice of attaching Memoranda to Bills were to be discouraged. They are very useful indications of the Bills, because they enable your Lordships, and I believe the other House of Parliament, readily to grasp the general tenor of the Bills. It would do nothing but discourage the whole practice of having Memoranda if they were read into the Bills themselves. They are not the Bills. They may not accurately describe the Bills. If you want to find out what a Bill says you must take the text of the Bill, but a Memorandum is a very useful indication of contents. Therefore, I should deprecate the argument addressed to your Lordships that you ought to throw out a Bill because a particular noble Lord did not agree with the Memorandum.

It is said—I think I beard the noble Earl who represents the Government say so just now—that the principle of the Bill was the establishment of this body of commissioners who were going to supersede the licensing magistrates. Personally, I have a great sympathy with the noble Lord's objection to that proposal. I should certainly like to hear the proposal argued before I assented to it. But I do not take that to be the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill is contained in Clause 5. It is the principle that if public-houses comply with certain conditions and satisfy a certain authority that they have complied with the conditions, they may be entitled to certificates as being improved public-houses with all the advantages which those certificates carry with them. Of course, the conditions which they are called upon to satisfy are the conditions of being public-houses conducted on what I may compendiously call true temperance principles. If they do that then, instead of being henceforward looked upon as something discreditable and as places where a decent woman cannot go and as a concession to the original sin of human nature that ought to be severely restricted, they become a reasonable opportunity for refreshment to the wage-earning classes which they would not otherwise get, and are entitled to be treated accordingly.

That seems to me to be the principle of the Bill, and if your Lordships go to a Division—I do not know what my noble friend intends to do—I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill because it contains that principle. As to whether that particular new set of things should be administered by commissioners or by the old licensing magistrates, that appears to me, though a very important matter, certainly a secondary matter. I have a very high regard for my brother magistrates—I speak of the county magistrates. I have no great experience of the borough magistrates, but the county magistrates I know to be a high principled body of men, who do their work for nothing and are entitled to the greatest credit and gratitude. I am sure the great body of them would carry out any policy which Parliament imposed upon them. No doubt there is that difficulty which my noble friend has called attention to, that they have been accustomed to administer a law very different in character from the one he is seeking to have enacted. But I do not say for a moment that they might not be entrusted with the obligations and duties of administering the law on the new basis which my noble friend would seek to establish. That is a matter to be argued out in Committee.

The noble Earl opposite said that one of the objections to the plan was its expense. That is an objection, and a very strong one. I was delighted to hear a member of the Government putting in a plea for economy. It is economy in a small way, no doubt. My noble friend says it is about £350,000; but when I think of the millions which have been absolutely wasted every day by His Majesty's Government, I feel gratified that there is a beginning of economy. It is a strong argument, and I hope it is one which will weigh with my noble friend Lord Lamington in Committee, let alone the fact that it does not fall to your Lordships' House to inflict taxes on the taxpayer. I am afraid a little difficulty may arise on this point notwithstanding the devices my noble friend will seek to avail himself of in order to evade the difficulty. On the whole I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading to the Bill, as I gather from the noble Earl that the Government do not object to the principle and the effort to reform public-houses, and that we shall deal with the machinery under which that great principle is to be carried out when we get into Committee.


My Lords, the noble Marquess who had just sat down has stated his case so clearly, and I am in such complete agreement with practically everything he said, that I have very little to add to what has fallen from him. I think it cannot be disputed that in drafting his Bill as he has, with the exclusion of the licensing bench and the substitution of special commissions for those who now licence public-houses, the noble Lord has certainly not adopted the line of least resistance. He will find, in fact, that by this proposal he has raised something like a hornets' nest all over the country. So far as the County of London is concerned, I have already received some animated protests by those who are entitled to speak for the magistrates of London, strongly protesting against the terms in which their activities are described in the fatal Memorandum to which allusion has been made.

On this point I quite agree with the noble Marquess, that it is not fair to set aside or even to oppose a Bill, if you think its terms are tolerable, merely on account of the terms in which a Memorandum is framed by those who are responsible for the Bill. But it is right also to add that these Memoranda, which we find exceedingly useful in many cases, ought to be purely explanatory in their terms and not argumentative. This Memorandum, beyond all question, goes further than mere explanation, and is rather of the nature of a First or Second Reading speech, bringing certain charges for instance against the licensing benches. That is a pity, and I think it would have been far better if the Memorandum had been differently framed. In spite of that fact, I agree with the noble Marquess that His Majesty's Government would do well to give this Bill a Second Reading on the understanding that the principle of the Bill is as the noble Marquess described—not the substitution of a body of commissioners for the existing licensing bench, not the enactment of certain substantial pecuniary advantages for those who are willing to undertake a particular form of licensed house (because that is not in our power to enact here), but the assertion of the principle that there should be two types of public-house—that is to say, the ordinary licensed house which may be devoted to the sale of alcoholic drink and nothing else, though it need not necessarily be so, and an improved form of public-house, a place of general resort and refreshment for which certain special privileges may be claimed. Those privileges can be defined in Committee.

I think it is quite clear, at least I assume it to be clear from what I know of your Lordships' House, that this Bill is not likely to pass here in its present form, and that it probably would be subjected in Committee to not inconsiderable amendment. But if the House would agree to pass the Second Reading on the understanding that the principle is such as the noble Marquess has described, I think it would produce a far better effect in the country than the apparent rejection of the whole possibility of improving public-houses on the lines which Lord Lamington has described in his speech. We note that the noble Earl, in explaining, in his extremely clear and capable speech why the Government were not able to accept the Bill, did not hold out any promise or hope that they would be prepared with any alternative method. He blessed the general and vague idea of improved public-houses, but he in no way indicated that His Majesty's Government were prepared to encourage their inception. That being so I am afraid, if this Bill is simply rejected on Second Reading and nothing more is said, that the country generally, and in particular those who are in favour of this reform, will get the impression that your Lordships are indifferent.


My Lords, I desire to say only a few words on this Bill, and my excuse for doing so is that I have had a long experience, as a magistrate and at the Home Office, of the licensing laws. Upon the main purpose and object of the Bill I find myself very much in the position of the noble Earl who spoke for the Government. I am strongly in sympathy with the purpose of the noble Lord opposite. It seems to me to be a matter for reproach to our licensing system that there is so wide a difference between the house of temporary refreshment abroad and the corresponding house here. In many countries abroad citizens of all classes go to these places of refreshment, take their rest there for some part of the day, and take with them their women and children, and no danger and no reproach attaches to them. Here we have, I am afraid, a very different state of things. There are some houses here to which people are very reluctant to go, in which you do not expect to see women at all, and from which of course children are by law excluded. That is not right, that ought not to be the position of things; and there aught to be some way of arriving at a better system in this country. There ought to be something approaching to what we see elsewhere. Therefore, so far I am entirely in agreement with the Bill.

On the other hand, I also concur with what the noble Earl said as to the machinery proposed in the Bill. To begin with I see, of course, the great financial objection. I can imagine the Chancellor of the Exchequer having the greatest objection to this Bill. It would deprive him of a very large revenue indeed. Apart from that, you have the change of administrative body. I do not endorse from my experience, which is a very long one, what is suggested in the Memorandum about the magistrates who have administered the licensing law. I have never come across the policy of repression to which the Memorandum refers. I think that most magistrates are anxious to encourage the improvement of public-houses, but the fact is their powers are very limited indeed. They have only the power of dealing with applications made to them. They have no right of initiative if I may say so, in the way of suggesting improvements, or of requiring improvements to be made, and it is apparently for that reason that they have been unable to effect the improvements which many of them would desire to make.

There is also the point—a very real point—as to the nature of the body proposed to be set up. It is proposed to set up in lieu of the voluntary committees of magistrates and committees of Quarter Sessions, a body of county commissioners, three in number, I think, who would be paid, and of which body the County Court Judge is to be the chairman. I know something of the work of County Court Judges, at all events from information, and I doubt whether any of them would have the time to give to so important a duty as this. The suggestion is that they should take it, I suppose, in their spare hours, at some slight additional remuneration. Many of them are overworked already, and could not possibly give time to important work of this kind. Apart from that, the whole charge upon the Exchequer, as the noble Earl has pointed out, would be a very serious one indeed.

There is another objection which has not been put. I very much doubt whether the noble Lord would get the improvement which he desires by means of any local bodies, and I am not quite sure that the time has not come for setting up a central body which would endeavour to arrive at the ends which he has in view. We have much to learn from our experience in the war. I do not say that all the regulations of the Central Board of Control ought to be continued into peace times. I am far from saying that. But I think that every one who knows the facts, and who has studied them, will agree with me that certain features of the work done by that Board have been attended with very real success. Very few people, possibly none at all, would be willing to go back to-day entirely to the state of things before the war.

The quotation which the noble Lord made from the Chairman of the Institute of Brewing was very much in point. Being connected with the trade, he of course knows their thoughts. He said, as I understand, that to some extent he would desire the regulations of the Board of Control to be continued. I do not want to go into that matter in detail, but I suggest that the time has come when it is worth while considering whether we should set up as a permanent body some kind of central authority which would have some of the powers that were given to the present Board during the war, and which night, as I suggest, deal with the matters to which the noble Lord's Bill especially refers. I think it would be an advantage, if the system is to be adopted of bringing into existence two kinds of public-houses, that that should be done on a system uniform throughout the country, and that regulations, if they are to be made, should be made by a central body, and be conformed to by the local authorities. I only desire to add one other observation. I was rather disappointed that the noble Earl did not go a little further than he went, because many people would be glad to-day to learn what is to be the policy of the Government with regard to these licensing matters. Whether we like it or not, we are to-day the parting of the ways. We have come to a point where some policy must be adopted and deliberately followed up.

A variety of courses have been suggested. There are three or possibly four. The first is prohibition or veto, general or local. To that in any form I am myself entirely opposed. I think it is contrary to all our British traditions. Secondly, there is the policy of purchase. That, I know, has received very serious and very thoughtful consideration during the last few years, and it was with a view, I believe, of arriving at a conclusion upon that proposal that the Government appointed certain Commissions to go into the question with regard to England, Scotland, and Ireland. Those Commissions presented Reports which will be very valuable indeed. The Report which was presented by the Commissioners over which my noble friend Lord Sumner presided is full of facts and of excellent advice upon that matter. The same may be said, I have no doubt, of the Scottish and of the Irish Reports. But I am afraid that the result of those Reports is that there is a strong financial bar in the way of the proposals for purchase. There are, I know, other arguments against it into which I am not going; but at all events the proposal means a very substantial addition to the National Debt of this country, and, without expressing my own opinion, because I ought not to do so at this stage, I am afraid that one must come to the conclusion that the financial argument alone would be sufficient to prevent any Government from adopting at an early date the proposal for purchase. The third alternative I suppose is going back to the old pre-war conditions, which I think would mean losing a great deal of valuable ground.

There remains, as far as I can see, only the fourth course, and that is to adopt, and carry out a system of control. We can by following up, by bettering and improving, and by carrying on the system of control initiated during the war, do something to retain the improvement in the habits of the people which has been brought about during the war, and also do something to attain the ends which the noble Lord's Bill has in view. Whether your Lordships pass the Second Reading or not, I hope at all events that these points will be considered at an early date, and that we shall have a declaration from the Government as to their policy; and I believe that the very discussion of this Bill will have done something to bring, that result about.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.