HL Deb 23 July 1924 vol 58 cc913-39

LORD LAMINGTON had given Notice to move, That it is desirable that an inquiry should be made, and a report made to Parliament, on the different systems of disinterested management of licensed houses, and in particular on the working of the licensing system in Carlisle. The noble Lord said: My Lords, not very long ago we had repeated debates upon the Bill introduced by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, called the Liquor (Popular Control) Bill. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that in our discussions then, particularly on the part of those who supported the measure, there was one theme above all others, and that was that the Bill should be read a second time so as to be considered in Committee. There were two main principles in that Bill—Prohibition and what was termed reorganisation or, in other words, disinterested management. It seems to me, therefore, that into one of those principles it would be desirable now to hold an inquiry, thereby meeting the views of those who were the keen supporters of the Bishop of Oxford's Bill.

I see here this afternoon my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who were keen supporters of that Bill, and particularly of disinterested management, specially my noble friend Lord Bafour of Burleigh. I should like to assure them that in making this Motion I am not actuated by any idea of hostility to disinterested management. I laid stress on this point in the speech I made when that Bill was under dissussion, but it appeared to me that, the present was a very good opportunity of getting at the truth as to what has been the measure of success of this control by the State known as the Carlisle experiment.

Many who took part in the debate to which I have referred seemed to consider that the system of control at Carlisle had been thoroughly successful. I mentioned one or two points which raised some doubts as to that success. At the present time Carlisle stands as low down as sixtieth among the great towns of the country in regard to convictions for drunkenness, and it is rather noticeable that the number of licensed houses per 10,000 of population in Carlisle is 12—I am leaving out the decimals—and con victions for drunkenness 17, as compared with a place like Wigan, which has about the same population, whore the number of public houses per 10,000 population is 25 and the number of convictions only 11. Then I also mentioned the opinion of Sir George Hunter, a very pronounced teetotaller, who says that he is not assured as to the success of the experiment in Carlisle; and that the police in Carlisle did not arrest for mere drunkenness, but only if it was accompanied by acts of violence. I quoted one case which happened only a few weeks before the debate. Therefore, I think it is time that we should know more definitely what has been the result of this State control.

My Motion has suffered one or two transformations. My noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury wished that the inquiry should be held as to disinterested management generally and not only as regards the Carlisle experiment. I have no objection at all to that. I am no opponent of disinterested management. On the contrary, I am connected with one of the trust companies. One of the great features of disinterested management is the improved public-house, and I am in favour of any proposal which conduces to that end. I am convinced that if you want to have a real measure of temperance reform it will be by an improvement in public-houses. How it is to be achieved I do not know; but that is one of the things to aim at. We must see that a man can have his refreshment under decent surroundings. Therefore, I gladly incorporated certain words to allow the inquiry to take a rather wider field than that of the Carlisle experiment, though I think the real and important question is to find out what has taken place in Carlisle and the area of control. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has an Amendment on to-day's Order Paper in which he desires to extend the scope of the inquiry so that it should be in inquiry "into the operations of the drink trade in some other English town or towns of similar character to Carlisle where the drink trade is conducted for private profit." That is rather an unbusiness-like Amendment. Who is to decide what towns are of a similar character and what towns should be taken under survey?

When I moved the Second Reading of the Bill which I had the honour to introduce in your Lordships' House the noble Viscount said that he disliked "side blows" or attempts by the trade to improve their position. I repudiate any idea that I have any connection whatever with the trade. My sole object is to encourage the temperance habits of the people of this country; and it seems to me that really the noble Viscount's Amendment to-day is nothing else but a "side blow." If you are going to include a general consideration of public-houses outside the area of control it becomes a perfectly limitless inquiry. I regard it as a bluffing, or wrecking Amendment. The noble Viscount does not want the inquiry confined to the one venture, he wants an inquiry into the whole question of the drink system of the country. That is a matter which should be dealt with by a Royal Commission. In my view this is a very proper inquiry and I hope the Government will see their way to accept it. As to how it should be conducted it will be for the Government to say, and to find the best means of making the investigation. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That it is desirable that an inquiry should be made, and a report made to Parliament, on the different systems of disinterested management of licensed houses, and in particular on the working of the licensing system in Carlisle.—(Lord Lamington.)

VISCOUNT ASTOR, in whose name stood an Amendment to add to the Motion the words: "and that it is also desirable that a similar inquiry should be made into the operations of the drink trade in some other English town or towns of similar character to Carlisle where the drink trade is conducted for private profit," said: My Lords, I should like 10 associate myself entirely with the terms of the noble Lord's Motion. I am for obtaining all the most reliable and latest information about every aspect and every proposed solution of what we know as the drink question. I was a member of the Central Control Board when it acquired Carlisle. I kept in the closest touch with the so-called Carlisle system so long as I was on that Board, and I remember perfectly well a conference which was held, I forget whether it was at Carlisle or in the neighbourhood, some months after the Control Board had taken it over. I remember several representatives of local authorities saying: "We were against this experiment when you made it. We thought it was the wrong way to deal with the question. We thought you had failed. We watched the experiment critically. But we have now been converted and hope it may be possible for the Control Board to extend its boundaries beyond the limits of Carlisle in order to apply this system of disinterested management to other areas."

I am certain that the noble Lord desires a solution of this very complex and difficult question, and I suggest that unless he accepts my additional words we are not going to get anything which will be so satisfactory as if we compare Carlisle with other centres. There are various points on which we want information. We want to compare Carlisle as it has been under the Control Board with Carlisle as it used to be under the old system, and we want to compare Carlisle with other centres to see exactly the nature of the improvement in Carlisle. I am convinced that if the Government accept this Motion and set up a Committee of Inquiry that Committee will have no difficulty whatever in selecting one or two other English towns comparable to Carlisle, and I am convinced, too, that the result of the inquiry would be enormously more valuable if we were able to compare Carlisle with other towns.

There is another point. We want to find out whether the people in Carlisle wish to abandon the existing system of disinterested management and return to private ownership. We want to know the attitude of persons who are responsible for the social welfare of Carlisle. There are two aspects which we have to take into consideration, and this is one reason why I hope that your Lordships may be willing to extend this inquiry to other-towns. We want not merely to deal with the physiological aspect—that is to say, the social consequences which arise from the effect of alcohol upon the nerve centres and brains of a limited number of individuals. There is another and far more difficult point with which we must deal—namely, the political side of the drink question.

We are constantly hearing about the effect of Prohibition in the United States of America. Reports differ as to whether it is good or bad, but, so far as I know, everybody who comes from America agrees that Tammany as a political force was bad and corrupting, and that the influence of Tammany in politics has been, and is, a bad one. If in this country we had a wealthy monopoly, or the equivalent of a monopoly, a sort of trust, in a very highly organised industry, whether it were an oil trust or a meat trust or anything else, and if this monopoly were able to control hundreds of votes in many constituencies and to claim that it did so in its own financial interests, even when those interests clashed with other interests, I venture to suggest that we should regard that as a serious feature in our public life.

I can show that this is not a purely hypothetical point, because in England now the drink trade claims to have more than this power which I have described. I will give only one illustration, though I might give many more. It is taken from a newspaper associated with the drink trade. In January, 1923, in the report of a mooting of the licensed trade, a representative of the trade is reported to have said that, in connection with the Parliamentary Elections, they had seventy-six successes in the Metropolitan area in the return of men wholly favourable to the trade, and that they were unsuccessful in only twenty instances. That is to say, this one industry claimed that it had seventy-six Members of Parliament pledged to its financial interests, and that it had failed to keep out of Parliament twenty members who were supporters of the policy of the Christian Churches upon that which the Churches consider to be a social and a moral issue. That is a very real question which, I submit, requires investigation. We cannot possibly dismiss it and look the other way, and I suggest that it will not look well if we refuse to deal with this really difficult and dangerous aspect of the drink question.

I should like to suggest a number of special points for inquiry. First of all, is any money made in Carlisle out of the sale of drink going to political organisations for the return to Parliament of candidates favourable to the financial interests of this trade? Again, does any money made in Carlisle out of drink go to political organisations for the purpose of keeping out of Parliament candidates who support the temperance programme of the Churches? Does any of the money made in Carlisle from the sale of drink go to societies which conduct propaganda against the Temperance Council of the Churches to influence electors in favour of these specific financial interests? To what, if any, extent do the salaried staff of the Control Board, or whatever the Government body at Carlisle may be to-day, organise themselves politically on behalf of their industry? Finally, does the Committee, or the body which runs the drink trade in Carlisle, bring pressure to bear upon publicans in Carlisle at Election times as to whom they should support? This is an influence which exists to some extent to-day. I have a letter written by a licensed victualler to a candidate during one of the recent Elections. This publican says:— I am one of your supporters, but I am bound to fix posters for the opposite candidate I in my windows, which the brewers send me, as my inn is a bound beerhouse. Why should not a publican have as much liberty——


May I ask the noble Viscount if that is in Carlisle? There is no such public-house in Carlisle.


It is not in Carlisle, and the reason why I suggest that the inquiry should not be limited to Carlisle is that I want to see the advantages of the Carlisle system by comparison with others. This particular case happened outside Carlisle, and I hope that this inquiry will show that no such pressure as this is brought to bear upon the managers in Carlisle. In my opinion a publican is entitled to support any Parliamentary candidate he likes. He may be a Socialist, a Liberal, or a Conservative.


Or a teetotaller.


Or a teetotaller, as many of them are. That is one of the reasons why the tied house system makes the solution of this question so difficult. A publican who is tied to a brewery is not so free a man as the publican who runs a free house. Those are the points which I suggest should be inquired into in Carlisle, and also in other areas, and we may then compare the answers to these specific questions. This is a very much bigger question than many people realise. The real question is the political question, and not the physiological side of the drink problem. To my mind there is more danger to the nation in the political influence of this one industry than there is in drunkenness, and that this opinion is shared by persons who are in a position to know I can quote the present Prime Minister to show. The Prime Minister stated that the trade had become a menace to the public life of the country and corrupted politics.


Who said that?


The present Prime Minister. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, it is my privilege to know many brewers, publicans and wine merchants, and I am glad to say that I have kept the friendship of many of them, although I have been pretty active—the noble Lord shakes his head, but he is entirely wrong. I know many of them and I am not blaming them as individuals. I have never criticised brewers or publicans for defending themselves as individuals, but what I do say is that you have two irreconcilable interests in conflict, and the existence of this conflict brings this highly organised trade into politics, and creates what I consider to be a real national danger to clean politics.

This is a problem which affects all Parties. Take the Labour Party. The drink clubs claim that the majority of the Labour Members of Parliament have surrendered their Parliamentary freedom of action on this question, and that they have pledged themselves to protect, the drinking rights of these clubs, even if they clash with other interests. That is the claim made by drink clubs. It is a serious allegation, and I hope that the Government will take steps to inquire into this. I notice that, to-day, one of the papers associated with the trade threatens the Government with serious disaster if it attempts to legislate on this question. I hope that the Government is not going to be intimidated by any industry in its attempt to solve this question. I regret to say that this question even cuts across the Party to which I belong. I am perfectly prepared to help this inquiry by indicating more than one constituency in which candidates who stood for temperance, and who were supported by the official local Conservative Association, found attempts made to keep them out of Parliament by Conservatives and by members of the staff of a drink-financed society run by Conservative Members of Parliament.

Let me quote the policy of one of these societies, enunciated by an official spokesman. He said— We oppose anybody who stands for the principles of the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches. Is it a political crime for Conservatives to support the policy of the most rev. Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury? Is that a reason why his fellow-Conservatives should try to bring about his defeat at an election? If Conservatives try to drive a member of their Party out of public life, on the ground that he supports Christian leaders on social and moral questions against the financial interest of the trade, there must be a sinister influence at work, and the sooner we face and probe it the better. I have tried on more than one occasion to help by drawing the attention of responsible persons in the Conservative Party to the matter, but I regret that what usually happens is that they look the other way, as we are all apt to do when brought face to face with some uncomfortable truth. The Conservative Party has played a great part in the past, and can play a great part in the future, but it can only do so if the public believes that it is absolutely free from the influence of any single financial interest.

It is no good closing our eyes to a problem which every thinking person knows exists. We cannot shirk it. If the Carlisle system prevents political intimidation and corruption, whereas the sale of drink for private profit tends to encourage it, let us find this out. It is no good saying that what I have said is untrue or exaggerated, until you have had a genuine investigation. If you do have a real inquiry I am convinced you will not say that I have exaggerated, because you will find it to be true. Because of that I venture to hope that you will agree to the Motion of the noble Lord, and also will agree to the addendum which stands in my name. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— At the end of the Motion insert ("and that it is also desirable that a similar inquiry should be made into the operations of the drink trade in some other English town or towns of similar character to Carlisle where the drink trade is conducted for private profit").—(Viscount Astor.)


My Lords, Lord Lamington, in moving his Motion, referred to myself and to my interest in disinterested management. I want to say that I accept absolutely his assurance that he did not put this Motion down in any spirt of hostility to Carlisle. I am perfectly convinced of that, and, indeed, I never thought that he did. The noble Lord produced some statistics tending to prove that Carlisle was more drunken than other county boroughs.


I said there were figures which tended to show that.


He produced figures which do indicate that there was more drunkenness in Carlisle than in other county boroughs. I have here statistics which show the figures of convictions before the war, and so on. Statistics, however, form very uncertain ground on which to found an opinion, as I think the noble Lord will agree. I prefer to look for an indication, if you must have one, at local opinion in Carlisle, where the system has been carried on. I am not going to weary your Lordships with quotations, but I think that the mayors of localities are men who are in a good position to judge. The Mayor of Carlisle holding office in l921 wrote to the Press on September 24, 1921, and said:— My predecessors in office with myself are unanimous in expressing appreciation of the results achieved in Carlisle, and we are in an especially strong position to judge the matter impartially. The same view is held by those who have investigated the facts from the same standpoint. The Mayor in 1920 said:— Whether they liked it or not they were bound to admit that improvements had taken place in the conditions under which the trade was carried on in Carlisle, and it seemed to him that the present method was very much better than the former one. And the Mayors in 1919 and 1918 told the same tale.

The view of the Chief Constable of a place like Carlisle is also entitled to carry a certain weight. Year after year the annual report of the Chief Constable gives the licensing system of Carlisle a good mark. I will read only one; quotation. In 1920 he said in his Report:— The continuance of sobriety I attribute almost entirely to the system under which intoxicants are sold in Carlisle, where none of the managers have any interest in the amount of liquor sold and all are given strict injunctions not to serve customers who appear to have had enough. I am unable to account for it in any other way … There can be no question in the minds of careful and impartial observers that the direct management of the licensed trade by the Control Board has been of great benefit to the City. Now in view of what the noble Lord said the other day about the action of the police in certain cases in Carlisle, I think it is right, when quoting the evidence of the Chief Constable, to refer to the matter.

The noble Lord said in this House a few days ago, referring to an extract from the Carlisle Journal:— I will read what occurred in the case of a certain gentleman, according to the evidence given by Police Constable Warwick. This officer is reported to have said: At 10.20 p.m. beside the Caledonian Hotel accused looked at witness and said, 'What the——are you looking at? Seeing that the man was drunk witness ignored his remarks and walked on. The noble Lord commented thus:— No wonder there are not so many convictions for drunkenness in Carlisle if that is the attitude of the police. I think in view of that quotation and the comment of the noble Lord your Lordships will be surprised to know that this gentleman was actually arrested a few minutes afterwards by the same policeman.


Because of an act of violence.


Of course. A police constable has no right to arrest for drunkenness but this constable knew his man and when, a few minutes later, the man smashed a window the constable arrested him. I think that is evidence of zeal and efficiency on the part of the Carlisle police, and not the contrary.

Now it is not local opinion alone which is in favour of Carlisle. I will only give you two more quotations. The late Home Secretary, Mr. Shortt, said, after personal inspection— I cannot help feeling that if authorities responsible for areas like Carlisle saw what is being done there, they would agitate for the same experiment to be tried in their own districts. And the present Home Secretary, Mr. Henderson, said something very much to the same effect, I think I have said enough. All I want to show is that there are certainly two sides to the question, and that is why I support the Motion of the noble Lord. I do not think the Amendment of Lord Astor is really quite so wide as Lord Lamington thinks. I do not think there would be any difficulty in finding a representative area. I therefore support both the Motion and the Amendment.


My Lords, I desire to support Lord Lamington's Motion. That Motion is confined to the City of Carlisle, but the Amendment which the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, proposes is, in my opinion, simply an effort to block Lord Lamington's Motion.


No, no.


The real truth is that the noble Viscount wishes to go into the whole question of the licensing system of Great Britain. I do not see how that can possibly be done under the Motion before the House. The noble Viscount has given us a most interesting lecture, with many points in it. I do not propose to follow him in all those points. He has means at his disposal by which he can get every sort of evidence about every little happening in many towns of the country. I hope your Lordships will not countenance this effort to side-track my noble friend's Motion The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, with all respect to him, rather echoed at the end of his speech what the noble Viscount had said. I know quite well that they have every good intention to improve public-houses and to make people sober, but there are thirsty souls still in England, and when they are thirsty they like to have a drink of beer, or cider, or perhaps something stronger.


My Lords, I desire to make it quite clear that I sincerely support the noble Lord who moved this Motion, because there is a great feeling in Cumberland that things are not quite fair and as they should be. It is felt that the Carlisle experiment was instituted at a time when it was absolutely necessary and it did the greatest possible good—a time when some of the scum of the earth, who could not be employed in military affairs, were set to the work of excavating at Gretna Green. An enormous number of people, foreigners and others, went to Carlisle, and for that reason I ask you to think very carefully over the figures given as to the state of drunkenness in Cumberland to-day and the state of drunkenness in Cumberland in the past. I do not believe that there is any county the people of which, on the average, drink less than they do in Cumberland and Westmorland. I fully admit the success of the Carlisle experiment during the war, but it does impose hardships on the County. We wonder why Carlisle and Cumberland were selected under D.O.R.A. for the purpose of trying the experiment. What have we done that people should point at us, and say: "This is a drinking area, which wants control." We also feel that certain public-houses that were taken over during the time of the war were not taken over quite in a just way. Those who have given the greatest assistance on this Committee have been teetotallers. They were logical and level-headed men, and did a very real service. Nobody is more anxious than I am to see temperance prevail. While I do not believe in the total abolition of drink, I have always maintained that anything that can be done to reduce the amount of drinking in this country will help to raise the mental level of the population.


My Lords, I very much hope that the Government may see their way to accept the Motion of my noble friend Lord Lamington. In saying that, I am speaking not for myself alone but for my noble friends who have acted with me in the past, and who sit upon this Bench now. We are all of opinion that the time has arrived when there ought to be an inquiry into the system of disinterested management, and we make this formal request to His Majesty's Government, speaking with a full sense of responsibility, that they should accept this Motion or some motion of a similar kind. The Motion obviously issues out of the debate which took place recently on the Bishop of Oxford's Bill. I am not going into that Bill again. It was rejected by your Lordships' House by a large majority because your Lordships considered it to be an unworkable measure. But I think no one who was present at that debate could fail to have been impressed with the general feeling in all parts of the House that, if possible, something should be done with the object of promoting temperance in this country. That feeling existed not only on the Episcopal Bench; it obviously existed on the Government Bench, and it existed on the Conservative Benches also. I really believe that if that Bill had dealt with disinterested management alone, even though, in my judgment, the particular form of disinterested management which is suggested was a very imperfect form, there, would have been a different result in the Division Lobby. I do not say that the Bill would have had a majority, but a large number of Conservatives who voted against it would have been very doubtful whether they ought not to vote the other way.

I am afraid it is a very commonplace observation, but there is a good deal of confusion in people's minds when they speak of temperance. Some people mean by temperance that no one should be allowed to have any alcohol to drink. Other people mean that an effort should be made to see that no one should drink alcohol to excess. The two things are absolutely different, but the same word is used for both of them, and that has led to great confusion. The Bishop of Oxford's Bill belonged, of course, in a great many of its provisions to the first class. It contained provisions under which people would not have been allowed to drink alcohol at all. The other part of the Bill which dealt with disinterested management was, as I think, a very imperfect attempt to prevent the drinking of alcohol to excess. If we are to have any improvement at all I think it is upon that line that it ought to take place. The present position is not satisfactory. There is a conflict in the public mind. There is a large body of opinion, with which I have the greatest possible sympathy, which considers that people who desire to refresh themselves ought to have an opportunity of doing so; but there is another body of opinion which thinks there is something discreditable about the drink trade. The consequence is that though public-houses are permitted there is a sort of disreputable slur cast over them which is unfair to the trade and most disastrous in its consequences to the public.

It is positively the fact in the case of women, and to some extent in the case of men, that if they avail themselves of the facilities which the public-house affords they incur a certain odium, a certain feeling of degradation amongst a large class of their neighbours. It is a most demoralising thing that a man should do that which he is not quite sure he ought to do, and should have a sort of feeling of sin cast over it, a sense that he is doing something wrong when, poor man, he is only having a glass of beer to refresh himself. It is most demoralising that there should be such confusion of thought. The result is, of course, that when a woman has gratified a natural taste for refreshment she thinks that she has done something which has degraded her a little, and consequently, in many cases—I do not say always—she becomes worse and worse until she really drinks more than she ought and deserves all the obloquy which is cast upon the practice. That is true in some degree of men. That is most unsatisfactory. It is due to the licensing system as it exists to-day and to this curious conflict in the public mind.

A great many attempts have been made to mitigate this position. Among them there is, notably, the Act of 1904 associated with the name of my noble friend the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. The object of that Act—I do not go into its procedure—was to get rid of the public-houses which were in a precarious condition and whose occupiers were, therefore, under a very considerable temptation to press drinking further than they ought. That, I think, was the principle of the Bill, and by a system of buying them out and paying compensation that end is in course of being achieved. I believe it has been a most beneficent Act and has worked extremely well. The question is whether we cannot go a step further. That is, perhaps, the very kernel of the problem. Let those of us who have thought of what is necessary not to present drinking but to prevent excessive drinking, see whether we cannot get to that point. Cannot we attack excessive drinking and distinguish it from attacking drinking itself? That I believe to be the object of what is called disinterested management. Your Lordships are probably familiar with the phrase, but the object of disinterested management is that the actual seller of the drink shall have no interest in pushing the sale of it. He is there to supply the wants of the public, not to resist the legitimate demands of the public for refreshment and not to press it upon the public. If a man's profit depends upon the quantity of drink he sells there is, naturally, a great temptation to press it upon his customers. If, on the other hand, it does not matter a shilling to him whether the drink is or is not sold he will serve the public but will not press excessive drinking upon them.

The question is whether it is possible to set up a system under which such disinterested management can be achieved. It is upon that question that my noble friend asks for an inquiry. It is unnecessary in reference to anything which comes from my noble friend to say so, but this is an absolutely sincere desire to see whether this system is a workable or possible one, whether it would involve injustice to others or undue expenditure, and what difficulties there may or may not be in its path. It is not, I may say, in any way inconsistent with the plan of the reformed public-house with which the name of my noble friend Lord Lamington has been associated. It is perfectly possible under disinterested management, when it is established, to have houses of refreshment in which other amenities may be provided as well as alcohol. I do not mean other classes of refreshments merely, but music, dancing, and so forth; other things more in the nature of those we see amongst the upper classes in this country and amongst all classes abroad. Those are perfectly possible developments. I earnestly hope that the Government may accede to the request for an inquiry.

A great many different systems have been suggested and some have been tried. There is, of course, the system proposed in the Bishop of Oxford's Bill. There are also two systems which were proposed twelve years ago in reference to the Scottish Temperance Bill, one by the distinguished father of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh and one by myself. I have no pride of authorship in that proposal, and I dare say that the time for it has gone by. But those proposals proceeded upon a totally different basis to the system in the Bishop of Oxford's Bill. They proposed to act through recognised societies and companies. Your Lordships are aware that there are certain trust companies already in existence, and it was proposed that companies of a somewhat similar nature should be given facilities and, perhaps, legislative and administrative advantages by the State under which they might take their place in the system of supplying refreshment to the public. All those are possible systems. The question is to find out whether they will work.

There is, of course, the system which exists in Carlisle and is specifically mentioned in the noble Lord's Motion. I am not going into the question, if my noble friend will excuse me, as to how far the Carlisle experiment has been a success. That would be pronouncing the verdict before the trial. That is what we want to find out. I rather deprecate, if I may say so respectfully, the arguments backwards and forwards as to how far the Carlisle system has succeeded, because if noble Lords have made up their minds on that subject it is hardly worth while holding an inquiry at all. I am going to keep my mind properly balanced so that I may be able—and others of your Lordships, I hope, similarly judicially minded, if I may venture to put it so, may be able—to come to a just conclusion. I only take note of the fact, as my noble friend behind me has said, that there are two sides to the question, and a certain reserve must be adopted by your Lordships in approaching the subject. I think I am right in saying there was an experiment at Enfield in disinterested management.


Very small.


Perhaps I ought not to have mentioned it, but I do not think it was an unqualified success so far as it went, I have said what I have to say in favour of the Motion. What I would deprecate is the widening of the terms. I know my noble friend does not intend it. He is a most public-spirited advocate of temperance reform, but everybody who has been in Parliament as long as I have knows that there is one way of killing an inquiry, and that is by making it too wide. If you do that the Committee or Commission, or whatever it is, will sit for months and years, and bring in an enormous Report, and nothing will happen. The thing will be killed by its own size. That has happened over and over again. We do not want to go into all the questions which are connected with the liquor trade.

I may almost go so far as this. For the sake of argument, though for no other reason, I would assume that everything my noble friend Lord Astor says is true, and that all this iniquitous pressure which he says exists does exist, but that would make no difference in the decision which I should come to as to his Amendment and as to this Motion. Assuming it is all true, all the more necessary is it to find out whether there is a reasonable system of disinterested management which could take the place of the present system. We do not require to know that into which my noble friend Lord Astor asks us to inquire. Even assuming he is right, the simple Motion of my noble friend behind me becomes increasingly necessary. Therefore I should very much deprecate— in fact, I should be prepared to resist—the widening of the Motion in the way suggested. Let us have a real inquiry which is intended to bear fruit, which is intended to report in a reasonable time, and which is intended to be an answer to what I believe to be a real demand in the country.

You must take the opportunity as it serves. It is all very well to say: "Let us put it off for a year or two while we inquire." There may be no opportunity then to carry out any system of disinterested management or of anything else. Let us be practical and sincere in this matter. Let us have an inquiry into this system which, I believe, if it can work—and I am not going to assume what the verdict of the Committee will be—will be a real solution of the temperance question, and will at the same time allow people to have reasonable refreshment, as they are entitled to have it, and yet prevent that excess which all temperance reformers deplore.


My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just eat down began by giving the impression left upon him by the debate, which I think, lasted three days, on the Bill brought forward by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, and he said that impression was that there was a general desire in all quarters to promote temperance reform, though there was a large majority in your Lordships' House against that particular Bill. I do not dispute what the noble Marquess said about the character of the debate and the impression produced upon him. But the impression produced upon me was, I think, equally true, and less favourable. It was this. How often one has listened to debates on temperance which have brought out exactly this particular feature, that there was a general desire to promote temperance reform, and yet have left one with the impression, after they were over, that we were no nearer to making any progress than we were before. I voted for the Bill the other day, though I recognised there were considerable defects in it. I voted for it because I vote for every Temperance Bill almost, whatever it may be, till I can get something better to vote for

What seems to me one of the heartbreaking things about temperance is this. People take the attitude of the noble Marquess who has just sat down—which is really my own attitude, too—namely, that the use of alcohol, as Lord Dawson, I think, said with his high authority, at proper times and in proper form, is not harmful, and may even be beneficial; they take that attitude and say that therefore what we ought to concentrate on is not to prohibit the use of alcohol but to prohibit the abuse of it. Most of those who take that attitude are so occupied in speaking, as the noble Marquess did the other day, and voting against Bills which are promoted in the interest of temperance that we never make any progress with a Bill of a moderate kind. It is really one of the most melancholy reflections to look back on some thirty or forty years of public life, and see how much zeal has been thrown into the temperance question, how much time has been spent in debating it, and how exceedingly little progress has been made.

Everybody admits the evil of the abuse of alcohol. Say the utmost that you will in favour of the moderate and proper use of alcohol and the advantages of it, I believe they would be more than counterbalanced if you added on the other side the disadvantages which arise from its abuse. I am quite willing to go with the noble Marquess in this respect, that it would really be very desirable if we could get before us some Bill which, though it might not satisfy and would not satisfy the extreme advocates of temperance, might yet have some chance of passing into law without prejudicing measures which we might subsequently wish to bring forward, It seems to me that the question of disinterested management is one of those lines which, theoretically at any rate, ought to be practicable, and which, if practised, would solve the difficulty, leaving it open to those who wish to use alcohol to obtain it and yet getting rid of the abuse of alcohol.

What leads to the abuse is, I believe, that the trade should be in the hands of people whose interest it is to push the sale—not merely to supply alcohol to people who want it but to supply every sort of inducement in the public-house which will entice people to go there and, when there, to consume alcohol. That is the system which the noble Marquess would like to see changed. If it is to be changed, disinterested management seems to me the most hopeful direction. But what I feel is this. So far as I know the results of the Public House Trust, which was launched under most enthusiastic and generous auspices, they go to show that disinterested management, when tried alongside with the existing system, which exists to push the sale of drink with all the energy and enterprise and capital put into it for that purpose, cannot be a financial success. If that be so, disinterested management is only going to have its chance if you acquire certain areas and there establish disinterested management as the only means of giving to it the monopoly which is now practically in the hands of the trade, the monopoly of the supply of drink.

I should like this inquiry to take place in order that we might ascertain what is the best system of disinterested management, so far as we can gather it from experience so far as it has gone. But in order to do that I think the inquiry ought to be widened to embrace a comparison, between the working of houses under disinterested management where they exist side by side with houses conducted under the ordinary system. It should be wider than the terms of the Motion on the Paper. The Amendment may involve an inquiry which is too large, but I do not think the inquiry ought to be so limited to disinterested management that it applies only to districts where disinterested management is existing by itself as a monopoly, nor do I think it should be so narrow as to preclude an inquiry instituted where it will be found possible to compare what has happened in houses under disinterested management and in licensed houses under the ordinary system. Rather than support the Motion and the Amendment, if they remain as they are, I shall vote for the Amendment, though I think it can be improved.

A Bill which settled what was the best and most satisfactory form of disinterested management, provided a means of local option, not for prohibition but for disinterested management as against the existing system, cleared away the existing system and substituted disinterested management for it, would do a great deal to prevent the abuse which is such a source of evil at the present time. There should be coupled with that something further. The noble Marquess spoke with great force about not interfering with the liberty of the subject. His speech reminded me of a story I was once told on very credible authority of a Scottish town where a motion was brought forward in favour of Prohibition, or some other drastic temperance reform. One member got up and moved as an amendment that every man should "gang tae the de'il at y'ere ain gate." I agree that you must have regard to the liberty of the subject and that you should not put it in the power of bare majorities to prevent minorities doing what is harmless for them.

But there is a point about the liberty of the subject which is rather ignored in this matter, and it is this, that those who habitually abuse the use of alcohol do interfere with the liberty of other people. A man who habitually drinks, and is publicly drunk, undoubtedly interferes with the liberty of other people, and I think we ought to have in any Temperance Bill some provision by which men or women who have proved that they are not to be trusted with the use of alcohol, by being convicted a certain number of times, should not be allowed to be supplied with it. That is in the interest of the liberty of the subject. I shall vote for an inquiry, but unless the Motion is widened somewhat I shall vote for the Amendment. It is time that those who wish to see some progress made in temperance reform, who see Bill after Bill thrown out because it goes too far, should concentrate their efforts on a Bill which will have behind it all the reasonable opinion in the country which at the present moment is so much taken up with opposing extreme Temperance Bills—a real and moderate temperance reform which would not be open to some of the objections to which other Temperance Bills have been open.


My Lords, it may be convenient to your Lordships if I indicate the view with which the Government approach the question now before the House. I have been much impressed by the debate and by its practical character. I listened closely to the speeches of the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount, and I found myself in much agreement with both, and particularly with the qualifications with which Viscount Grey of Fallodon approached the proposition that he should vote for the Motion. It is obvious when you come to try to define the scope of the inquiry you desire that it is not a very easy matter. In the first place, ft is not enough to discuss disinterested management by itself. You want to know what has to be added if it is to hold its own against the competition of privately owned public-houses. You want to know how the results of disinterested management compare with the results which take place when there is only the ordinary system, and I am at one with the views expressed by my noble friend, Lord Grey.

I agree with him that it is therefore necessary that the inquiry should be wider than the original Motion suggests, and yet not so wide as to take it into other matters which are entirely for Parliament and the nation and which should not be before a Select Committee at all. To illustrate what I mean, I think it would be rather an absurdity to refer the question of Prohibition to any tribunal of any kind. That must be a question for Parliament and for the nation. I am not suggesting that that question is before us now, but I suggest that it; must be kept out of the scope of this inquiry. That being so, how do we stand? I agree with nearly everything which the noble Marquess said on the subject of disinterested management. It is a very important subject. The Carlisle experiment has been very valuable and we should wish to know what it really means. We want to know how far it: may be necessary to modify or go beyond it in other places where the conditions may not be so favourable. We agree that there ought to be an inquiry, but we think that the terms of the inquiry will have to be very carefully settled so as not to diverge beyond what are the proper limits of an inquiry on the one band, or fall short of yielding the necessary information on the other.

The course the Government propose to take is this. They will scrutinise the terms of this Motion and the Amendment. They will also consider what other points there may be which arise, and which are germane to an inquiry into the system of disinterested management. I do not say that anything else will come up, but if it does it must come up in such a way as not to divert the inquiry from its plain terms to see whether there is any system which renders the work of temperance on the Carlisle model possible. In saying that, I wish carefully to guard myself against anticipating the results of the inquiry. it may be that the inquiry will be adverse to disinterested management, or it may be that the inquiry will say that you must go further in the direction of the limitation of facilities for the sale of drink. I do not want to pronounce upon that point, or to make any suggestion of view as to what an inquiry might do, but I do wish to say—and this is germane to that which was said by the noble Marquess—that an inquiry into the system of disinterested management—


Will the noble and learned Viscount allow me to interrupt him? I am not sure that we quite appreciate his meaning, and it is very important. Am I to understand that the Government are prepared themselves to draft a Motion setting up an inquiry limited in the manner which the noble and learned Viscount has described?


I was just coming to that. The reason that I was slow in corning to it is that I regard this matter as one of exceeding difficulty. The Government are willing to attempt it, and will devote themselves between now and the time when Parliament meets again to seeing whether they can make such a reference as will cover the points that we have been discussing to-day. I do not think that it is easy to do, but I think that it can be done, and what I have to say is that the Government cannot take either the original Motion or the Amendment as sufficient, but they are prepared, if these Motions are not insisted upon, to proceed with the effort to frame an inquiry in such a fashion as will, I hope, give satisfaction to those who have spoken in this debate, and at the same time will not run away into that which, I agree with my noble friend Lord Grey, is a very great evil—I mean that the inquiry should diffuse itself into too wide a volume. We have suffered, as he said, above everything from the temperance question not having become practical, and what we are anxious to do is to see whether we can give any practical form to an inquiry which may have fruitful results in the shape of something which can be presented in a Bill.


My Lords, we have listened with satisfaction to the statement of the noble and learned discount on the Woolsack, for, if we understood him correctly, he entirely agrees both with the letter and with the spirit of the speech made by my noble friend who sits behind me. In fact, if we are to judge by the debate which has taken place this evening, there appears to be almost unanimity of sentiment in this House that we should, in the first place, investigate the experiment which has been carried on at Carlisle, and that the investigation should supply us with the necessary materials for framing legislation. Whatever our views on temperance may be, legislation founded upon such investigation ought to be, at all events, a step in the direction of temperance reform which all men, whatever their opinions may be, might rejoice to see carried into effect.

I am a little surprised that the Government cannot frame a Resolution the substance of which has really been adequately expressed in the debate this afternoon without taking two months and a half to consider its terms. I am aware that a great many difficult questions confront this Government, as all Governments, and I am aware that when a Government asks for time they always have in their minds a sufficient excuse for delay in the shape of other labours which are thrown upon them. But this is, after all, substantially a drafting matter. The problem to be dealt with and the Resolution which would adequately represent your Lordships' opinion ought not to be very difficult to express in the English language, and I rather hope that the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack will be able to come and tell us, before the House separates for the Recess, what views the Government entertain upon this subject.

He accepts, as I understand him, the two fundamental proposals upon which my noble friend based his statement. In the first place, he accepts the view that an inquiry into this particular kind of temperance reform is eminently desirable. The other point is that such an inquiry ought to be so limited as not—I will not say to waste, which is perhaps an offensive term, but as not to expend months and perhaps years in sounding this controversial morass in which temperance reform is apt to find itself drowned. There is to be at once a positive investigation into a particular kind of reform, and the limitation of that investigation so as not to embrace the whole vast subject of the schemes and expedients, the failures and the successes of legislation in this and in other countries upon the most embittered and controversial subject that any nation could have before it. That limitation is an essential part of the policy which my noble friend, the noble Marquess behind me, has recommended the House to adopt.

I believe that this will not meet with hostility from those who think that this is but a small step in the direction of carrying out temperance reform compared with the vast schemes of Prohibition which they have in view, but at all events those who believe in the largest methods of dealing with this subject will perhaps, after the bitter experience of many years, be inclined to think that, if their scheme has yet to be carried into effect—and I am one of those who do not anticipate that it will ever in this country be carried into effect, nor do I personally desire that it should be—if we cannot all make together the whole length of the journey which some of my more ardent friends among the temperance reformers desire, we may at least agree upon a step forward which may prove to have admirable effects and which may, on the experience of the experiments already performed, form a model for future action in other parts of the country.


My Lords, on the point of an inquiry being unduly restricted by the terms of the Motion of my noble friend, that would be so if the inquiry were held into the Carlisle area or similar Government areas further north. But once an inquiry is directed towards disinterested management, whether in the form of a company with ten, twenty, or thirty public-houses in different parts of the country, or that of a village trust holding one licence, it would then be impossible, I think, unduly to restrict the scope of the inquiry, because, where there is no monopoly, these trust operations are in competition with those of the ordinary liquor trade. In such circumstances the scope of the inquiry should be wide enough, and the working of the whole licensing system almost necessarily comes under review. I doubt whether the Amendment proposed by the noble Viscount is necessary, in order to widen the scope of the inquiry. I should have thought that as the Motion stands it will be found wide enough.

I have only one other observation to make, and that is that I think the Motion is a very timely one. The noble Earl who spoke last spoke of Prohibition. We happen to have a Licensing Act in Scotland which permits the cancelling of licences. The result of the popular poll has not been altogether satisfactory. There are three options given, and there has been a good deal of see-saw about the decisions, but the option of a reduction of licences might well, I think, be dropped, as it is so little availed of. The result of the Scottish Act tends to show the importance of giving an option in favour of disinterested management. I agree that it cannot be put into operation except as at Carlisle and in other Government districts, where it is a monopoly. In competition with the ordinary liquor trade it could never be a financial success. I think an inquiry into the experiment is very desirable and that, if it be conducted, it will be found to have a very wide scope.


My Lords, when I put down the Motion I imagined that the matter would be over in a few minutes, and that everybody would agree to it. However, I am very pleased to have excited so much interest, and I think the whole range of the debate shows the danger of accepting the Amendment. The speeches which we have heard show that once you go outside the strict limitations of my Motion you get into endless questions. It is so desirable to have, as speedily as possible, some authoritative declaration to show what is the result of the Carlisle experiment, that I trust the Government will accept the Motion and also that, whatever action the Government take afterwards, they will limit the inquiry to the distinct object which I have in view. May I say one word about the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey of Fallodon? It was very pessimistic indeed, but I wish those who are interested in temperance would realise the fact that temperance is growing in this country.


I do not know whether your Lordships will give me leave to make one word of explanation with reference to the speech of Lord Grey. Of course, if we agree to the Motion we are not absolutely drawing the terms of reference for any inquiry that may be held. Those terms may have, to be considered very carefully afterwards It is the general limitation of the inquiry which we desire.


My Lords, all I want to guard against is that my undertaking may not be thought to be confined to the terms of the Motion. In view of the undertaking which I have given I should have thought that it was hardly necessary to go on with the Motion.


If the noble and learned Viscount says he will produce his terms of reference before the rising of the House for the Recess, then, of course, it may not be necessary to press the Motion.


You must take your own course. The view of the Government in this matter is "More haste, less speed."


Supposing the Motion is carried, will the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, still consider that his undertaking holds good? And will he produce a Motion of his own, drafted in his own terms? I Because I shall be reluctant to vote for this Motion if it means that the noble and learned Viscount's undertaking is withdrawn.


I did not say so. The Government propose to hold an inquiry, and also to draft their terms of reference, but those terms will not necessarily have reference to the Motion of the noble Lord. If your Lordships insist on passing that Motion it will not affect the purpose of the Government inquiry.


Before your Lordships decide what to do, may I make one suggestion with regard to my own Amendment? My one desire is to assist the noble Lord, and whether you accept my Amendment or not I should not vote against the Motion. The reason I suggested the Amendment was to bring out the advantages or disadvantages of disinterested management. In my opinion you can only do that if you compare it with another system in another locality. If it is feared that the terms of my Amendment are too large, and would lead to a too prolonged inquiry, I am perfectly willing to amend it so that it shall read "a similar inquiry should be made into the operations of the drink trade in two other English towns of similar character."


No! we cannot have that.

On Question, Amendment, as amended, negatived.

On Question, Motion agreed to.