§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD BISHOP OF OXFORD
My Lords, I hope it will not be necessary to occupy so much of your time this afternoon as on a previous occasion, three years ago, when I introduced a Bill for Second Reading drawn up on very similar lines. I need only 6ay at the outset that the proposals in the Bill have received in the interval the closest scrutiny and criticism as the result of public discussion and private conference, and have elicited interest and support from quarters which have not been usually or directly associated with licensing legislation and, indeed, have stood aloof, as I myself for a considerable number of years remained detached from a movement which seemed to me to allow very little opportunity for the voice of moderation to be heard on either side. But what is most encouraging and most significant to me is that a measure of agreement has been reached amongst those known as temperance reformers which. I think, ten years ago seemed to be almost impossible.
917 The fundamental principle of the Bill is simple. The inhabitants of boroughs and counties shall determine the mode in which, and the extent to which, the liquor trade in those localities shall be carried on. The Bill claims to provide machinery to enable them to express their judgment and to give effect in practice to their wishes. Four years after the passing of this measure a poll is to be taken, and every three years subsequently certain questions are to be submitted to the voters. Polling areas are constituted, and the First Schedule states what those polling areas are. The electors are persons entitled to vote as local government electors. By means of the alternative vote, they can vote preferentially in favour of one choice and alternatively in favour of another. The object of that is obvious. The alternative vote is adopted in order to avoid the risk of carrying one of the options by a minority vote. It is a safeguard, but for which it would be possible to carry through one of the options by a minority vote, if those who voted for either of the two other choices should split their vote.
As to what the modes are, it seems, so far as I know, that in this country there have been suggested only three ways of dealing with the liquor trade—(1), by a system of private, open competitive ownership, or (2), by a system conducted on the lines of what we now know as disinterested management, or (3), by the withholding of all licences. It is, therefore, natural and fair, as there are in England—and this Bill applies only to England—some supporters in a varying degree of each of those three alternative methods of carrying on the trade, that the three choices should be offered. Either there is to be no change in the existing system, or else there is to be reorganisation along the lines of disinterested management, or there is to be no issue of licences.
The question is at once raised what happens in an area in favour of the reorganisation of the trade on the lines of disinterested management. After the passing of the Bill, so soon as the Secretary of State deems it expedient, he appoints a very small Board of Management to take over Carlisle and any other district which votes for reorganisation. This Board is approved of and is dis- 918 missible by Parliament. It acts through its own servants—its managers and its officers in the particular area concerned—and is responsible for the liquor trade in that area. Its functions are limited to the production and distribution of intoxicants in those areas which have voted for reorganisation. It could not, for instance, vary the hours of closing, and it is subject to the laws relating to licensing. The salaries payable to the Board are determined by the Secretary of State, and the salaries payable to their servants in particular areas are fixed by the Board subject to the approval of the Secretary of State.
Secondly, the Secretary of State, so soon after the passing of the Bill as he deems it expedient or necessary, shall set up a Central Advisory Council consisting, as to not less than two-thirds of the members, of persons qualified to represent, the views of (1), bodies interested in, and with knowledge of, the trade; (2), temperance associations; (3), organisations representative of the manual workers; and (4), local authorities. This Council would report periodically to the Secretary of State and so to Parliament, and the purpose of the body is that it is intended to prevent the exploitation of the sale of drink by the Board itself, or to prevent any unfair competition with adjacent areas who do not happen to have adopted the choice of reorganisation. The Council is unpaid, and the term of office for its members is three years. One-third of the members of the Council, following a common practice in this country, retire each year.
Besides this Central Advisory Council there will be local advisory committees, and these you might say, for practical purposes, will be the most important body At any rate they will be responsible in their different localities, from their knowledge and experience, for giving direct advice. Such a committee will be appointed by the Secretary of State for the area in question, and will consist, as to one half of its members, of persons nominated by the local authorities of the area and, as to the other half, of persons nominated by the justices acting in that area. The members of the local advisory committee are unpaid and the term of office in each case is determined by the Secretary of State. It will be the duty of the local advisory committee to notify the Board of Management as to the number of public- 919 houses in that particular area that is required, as to where they are wanted, and as to which should be closed as redundant, and the Board will be empowered to make such structural alterations as may be required for the supply of food and non-intoxicants. They will not take over hotels and clubs, but they have the power, in so far as the sale of intoxicants is concerned, to impose such conditions as are thought necessary, or expedient for the purposes of their control and the management of the sale of intoxicating liquor in that area.
I now pass to the financial arrangements and the arrangements for compensation. I need hardly say that this is the most complex part of our problem. It is the Part of the Bill which, as we are all aware, is most easily exposed to criticism, and to destructive criticism—so long, that is to say, as the critics are not required to produce any constructive proposal of their own. This part of the Bill has received the closest and the most scrupulous attention. It has been deemed wise and natural and right not to proceed on lines of our own, but to follow the lines of recommendation laid down by responsible persons who have from time to time been entrusted with the duty of investigating this very complicated question. To begin with, I would say that so far as the practical part of the financial arrangements is concerned, a central fund is established and is provided for, first of all, by the trade levy of 1904, increased (and the rates are given in the Second Schedule) in a reorganisation area. The Board of Management, of course, pays equally to the central fund. Secondly, all profits arising from the reorganised area go to the fund. The fund is available for compensation in areas which vote for reorganisation or for no-licence. It is not under the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it has been our object to see whether it was possible to devise a solvent scheme whereby none of the compensation money required would come from the taxpayer and there was no actual or contingent liability upon public funds.
I said that we have tried to follow the lines of recommendation that have been adopted by responsible committees or bodies of persons entrusted with the duty of dealing with this question. For instance, as was done by the Government Committee of 1917, this Bill does not 920 take Stock Exchange quotations or the valuation of individual premises in ascertaining the total value of interest to be compensated. That Committee, upon which the Treasury was represented, recommended unanimously that the capital value of an undertaking—that is to say, of the brewery and all its tied houses—should be arrived at by taking a certain number of years' purchase of the net profit of the whole undertaking during a given period. Clause 26 of this Bill applies the same principle but modifications have to be introduced. That Committee had to provide for the contemplated acquisition by the State of the whole drink trade at a given moment. This Bill has to provide for the possible acquisition of the trade—the possible acquisition of the trade—in various localities by the Board of Management at different times; that is, after the expiration of a varying number of years' notice.
There is another point in which a differentiation has been made. This Bill recognises an intrinsic value and a permanent property interest in the bricks and mortar, but there is no permanent right recognised to compensation in respect of the additional value which happens to be conferred upon premises because there is attached to those premises a monopoly licence, which is granted and which is also liable to be resumed by the community at its own discretion. On the other hand, it recognises that a market value in licences has, in fact, existed for many years. Large sums are constantly changing hands in that market, and severe hardship would be caused if the community were to take back licences into its own hands without either giving notice of its intention, or without paying compensation. Consequently, the Bill prescribes that compensation must be paid, always at a constant rate, for the bricks and mortar element, by whatever poll the reorganisation resolution is carried, but that compensation for the licence element shall be on a descending scale—highest in the case of properties transferred to the Board of Management as the result of a reorganisation resolution carried at the first poll, and descending with later polls in consideration of the longer notice given and the longer profitable user allowed. The principle with regard to licence value is, in effect, this: that the 921 community is entitled to resume at its discretion, subject to its time limit, the licences, with a power to anticipate the expiration of the time limit, on condition that compensation is paid.
The compensation payable in respect of the first poll resolution is equal to twelve years' purchase of the whole property, and is thus—there we have tried to be guided by the recommendation of the Government Committee of 1917—approximately the same as the basis adopted by that Committee, who recommended for a normal concern fifteen years' purchase of the total profit, subject to a scaling down proportionate to the depreciation of capital values since the outbreak of the war. Provision is also made for dealing with companies which are in an abnormal class or for breweries which have houses in an area which votes for a change, but are themselves in a no-change area and vice versa. It seems to me that it is impossible to claim the creation of a property in perpetuity in monopolies which have been granted, and are being granted from time to time, to certain individuals. That is the principle of the time limit, as I understand it.
We have, therefore, to ascertain at what rate the value should be scaled down under a time limit. The Bill assumes that if, after the expiration of the time, limit, no compensation for licences should be given, and that if, at the beginning, 100 per cent. compensation or twelve years' purchase should be given for licences, then, at the second poll, seventy-five per cent., or nine years' purchase, at the third poll fifty per cent, or six years' purchase, and at the fourth poll twenty-five per cent. or three years' purchase should be given. To guarantee the solvency of the compensation fund the Home Secretary is empowered, in Clause 13, to postpone the taking of the poll by one year if he thinks it desirable to augment the fund by one year's extra premium and by the profit from reorganised areas. This postponement obviously diminishes the liabilities of the fund, as there will be a proportionate reduction in the number of years' purchase.
There is only one other financial point that seems to be of importance—namely, that in this Bill there is now no contingent liability upon the Exchequer as was the ease in the Bill of 1921. I can only deal with these questions very briefly, but 922 we are constantly being asked whether this scheme is solvent. We are confident that it is solvent unless a very large number of areas, the majority of them in fact, vote for no-licence at the first or second poll. Neither the experience of Scotland, nor what is claimed by Prohibitionists themselves, nor our acquaintance with public sentiment has led us for a moment to suppose that this is in the least likely to happen. After the first two votes have been taken, the decreased scale of compensation which can be claimed for licences and the accumulation of income from premiums and profits would more than meet any possible call.
In regard to the question as to what is to happen to the fund at the end of the time limit, I do not know that 1, or any one, can possibly tell what the assets and commitments of the fund will be sixteen years after the Bill has passed. No one can tell how many and which areas will have voted for no-licence; no one can tell how many and which areas will have voted for reorganisation or how many and which areas will have voted for no change. All I can say is that the compensation fund may have been receiving a large annual income from the premiums which arc specified in Clause 24, subsections (1), (2) and (5), and it may or may not have had to meet heavy and numerous claims. What we feel is that the scheme is solvent, unless England, to use a common expression, "goes dry" at once, and that it is for the Legislature to prescribe at the end of the time limit—sixteen years after the passing of the Bill—what, if any, changes are needed.
Before bringing to a close what I have to say about compensation I must refer to the Liquor Compensation Commission which is dealt with in Clauses 10 to 13. That Commission is to consist of not less than three Commissioners. It shall be a court of record and shall have an official seal. One of the Commissioners shall be a barrister of at least ten years' standing at the time of his appointment and he is to be appointed on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, one at least of the Commissioners shall be a person who has special knowledge of the valuation of the particular sort of property concerned, and one at least shall be a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (and I would add in that particular paragraph "or of the Society of Incorporated Accountants"), and both are to 923 be appointed by the President of the Board of Trade. The Commissioners are to be paid such salaries as the Treasury shall determine. I draw attention to that because your Lordships will see, if you read the clause, that it gives a certain elasticity to our scheme. In arranging the terms of compensation, the purpose of the Bill has been to secure agreement and a good understanding between the persons concerned, and a good deal of discretion has been allowed to the Commissioners to assist in securing agreement and in arranging terms within certain prescribed limits.
I should like also to try to clear up some misapprehensions that have evidently arisen in regard to Clause 40, which deals with the repeal of certain Acts. The Bill doubles the levy which was originally created by the 1904 Act. Obviously, however, it would not be fair to make the trade pay into the national compensation fund under this Bill and also into a local fund under the previous Act; therefore, the Bill abolishes the levy under the Act of 1904. But we do not propose that magistrates should have the power of closing redundant licences without compensation and we intend to suspend this also. If the Bill as drafted does not safeguard the owners of licences, an amendment to carry out more fully the intentions of the Bill would, of course, be accepted
Another point that has been raised is that the Bill proposes that an increased levy shall be imposed even after the expiration of the time limit. I have only this to say in reply, that it might be advisable to insert a clause making that continuance dependent, either in whole or in part, every year upon the initiative of the Home Secretary; that is to say, he would only continue the levy if it were required for the purposes of the compensation fund. He might conclude that only a half, or even a smaller proportion, would suffice.
I presume that it would not be in order for me to raise at this stage a discussion on a great many of the complex details of the Bill, or to attempt to discuss them. There are a great many details. We all know that this is a complex question and that a large number of interests are involved. Those matters have received the most careful consideration, and we believe that the Bill as presented to your 924 Lordships' House contains no serious gap in the details to which I have referred. No criticism that I have met so far has shown that the machinery itself is unworkable or that the trade cannot give what is required in order to finance an insurance scheme. But the details are open to modification and adjustment. Those who support me will be ready, I am sure, to consider amendments so long as the main structure of the measure is preserved. For instance, in Clause 2 polls are made obligatory. It might be desirable to give the initiative by requisition to the locality. Similarly, Clause 2 provides for an interval of three years between polls. It might be desirable to extend the period. The Bill proposes that the choices should be carried by a bare majority. It might be thought desirable to provide that a definite proportion of votes must be obtained in order to carry any change, but I am mainly concerned with placing before you, as clearly as I can, the main structure of this Bill.
If I might be allowed to disclose what is in my mind, I would say that my great desire has been that the Bill should receive a Second Beading, and should then be referred to a Select Committee of the House. If my desire is not fulfilled I would make an earnest appeal to the Government to call together a round table conference, representative of all parties, in order that it might be possible to have an agreed measure on constructive lines to deal with the complex question which has disturbed our political life for a considerable time.
But if I might ask your forbearance for a few moments, I should like to conclude very briefly with two general observations. The first is this. This is a Bill which surely does not lend itself to exaggeration—either to exaggerated hope, or exaggerated alarm. It is an honest attempt to approach the problem of what we call licensing reform in the light of the many interests that are concerned, and an honest attempt to treat all those interests with due consideration. I decline to believe that the conflict between those interests is so intense and bitter that it is impossible they should he reconciled; or, to put it into other words, that it is impossible to give practical effect to the temper of reasonableness. Nor, again, is this Bill 925 an insidious attempt to introduce Prohibition, or to undermine generally private enterprise. I claim that the Bill has decided merits, and should at this stage, whatever modification might be introduced later, be considered fairly on its merits. My second observation is this. If there is to be any legislation at all I am convinced that it should be legislation on these lines. I believe that much of our social and much of our educational reform will move more steadily, and more sanely, so far as it allows scope for experiment to be made, and throws upon localities the responsibility for making experiments and adjustments to meet the varying conditions, circumstances, sentiments and traditions in the diverse localities of a country like ours. None of the experiments suggested in this Bill are fanciful. They can all be made, or they can all be reasonably declined, in the light of experience that has been gained in our Dominions, in the course of the war, or in other parts of the world.
But, more than that, I believe in legislation along these lines because, if we are to live in a democratic community, the principle of this Bill lays stress upon the right trend and only right trend of democracy—which is to learn and to teach the obligation of a common responsibility. At the same time I know quite well that it will be urged that there is no need for any legislation, that we are living in the best of all possible but necessarily imperfect worlds, or that, if legislation should come, it should come upon the initiative of the trade itself, and that we had better mind our own business. It is true that, legislation or no legislation, it will he our business to inculcate the habits of temperance and soberness by all the means available to us, and I am not called upon to rely entirely, or in the last resort ever, upon Acts of Parliament, but I do ask your Lordships seriously to consider the fact brought to our notice by those who are directly responsible for the administration of law and order, that the record of drunkenness, and of the evils, consequent upon it, is bad, and that since there has been a relaxation of control it has become steadily worse.
I would venture also to warn you that if there is no legislation and we drift on, we are running the risk of entrenching, year by year, more and more strongly, the amalgamated interests of the trade 926 which, on the one hand, is so powerful and so penetrating as to be able to influence large departments of our political life, and on the other hand, because it is so large and so powerful those; who conduct it with the very best intentions in the world—and I should be the last to attribute to them anything but the best intentions—are compelled to act upon the maxim that business is business, and to put the attractiveness and the prosperity of their business in the first place. That business is no ordinary business, and those who conduct it incur no ordinary responsibility. This Bill is a fair attempt to include the community itself in some degree, within certain prescribed limits, in their share of responsibility. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Bishop of Oxford.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, in moving, in accordance with my Notice, the rejection of this Bill, I should like to make it clear that I am quite as anxious as the right rev. Prelate opposite, or as any advocate of temperance, to see a sober nation, but I disagree with the advocates of this Bill in that I do not believe its machinery will bring about that desired result. The right rev. Prelate who has just sat down made some allusion to the power of the trade which, as I understood him, is so great that it impels people to vote for what they know to be wrong. I have never had anything to do with the trade—perhaps, from a pecuniary point of view, unfortunately—and I have never held any shares in any brewery. I am not moving the rejection of this Bill because of any pressure which has been put upon me by the trade, but because I believe it is a bad Bill, and one that will not bring about the results which we all have at heart—that is to say, it will not make the nation as sober as is possible.
It is not as if no other nation has tried prohibition. America has tried prohibition. I am glad to see the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of London in his place, because that right rev. Prelate, in 1921, on the Second Beading of a somewhat similar Bill to this—he was quoting the effect of Prohibition in America—said this:—I find these facts are really worth knowing. The cases of drunkenness in Philadelphia have gone down from 43,000 in 1917 to 20,410 in 1920.927 With regard to that, Prohibition, though it has halved the number of cases of drunkenness, has not done away with them, and if the right rev. Prelate could have told us to-day that this result had been continued I think something might be said for it. But what are the facts? The facts are these. In 1920 the figures for drunkenness were 20,410, but in 1921 they were 27,570, and in 1922 36,299. The effect of prohibition is wearing off.
I have taken some trouble to ascertain the population of Philadelphia and I find that it is 1,833,000. That figure is taken from the Statesman's Year Book. I have here the number of cases in which proceedings were taken for drunkenness and disorderly conduct in the Metropolitan Police District. The estimated population of Greater London is 7,466,492 as against a population of 1,833,000 in Philadelphia, and the cases of drunkenness in 1922 in the Metropolitan Police District were 32,688. In the London area, in which there is no Bill of this sort, with a population of 7,466,492, there are 32,688 cases of drunkenness as compared with 36,299 cases of drunkenness in Philadelphia with a population of 1,833,000. The right rev. Prelate said these facts are worth knowing, and if they are worth knowing when they are in his favour they are also worth knowing when they are in mine. Philadelphia has actually more cases of drunkenness than London at the present time.
Having pointed out that fact, I think I might sit down. That is sufficient to show that this Bill is quite unnecessary. However, there are a few other points which I should like to bring before the attention of your Lordships which show that the effect of prohibition in the United States is wearing off. The figures I am about to quote are the official figures of the police in Washington. Arrests for intoxication out of a population of 1,356,000 were 2,812 in 1918, 5,415 in 1921, 6,375 in 1922 and 8,099 in 1923. Instead of Prohibition having any effect in America in reducing those numbers, the facts are quite to the contrary. I agree with the right rev. Prelate as to crimes which drunkenness sometimes undoubtedly occasions, but what about the crimes which prohibition occasions, the evasions of the law which take place under prohibition?
I have here a report, which appeared in the Morning Post of June 9 of this 928 year, of a statement made at a political meeting in America. This is what the speaker said:—The alleged attempts to enforce prohibition represent the most disgraceful chapter in our judicial and legislative history. It has made cowards of many of our legislators, crooks of many of our officials, sneaks of many upstanding citizens, and has created an army of bootleggers, whose illegal operations have no counterpart in history. It has destroyed respect for authority in the rising generation and is slowly but surely undermining the morals of the country. Ask any school teacher what effect the flask is having on the morals of her pupils, boys and girls. We prate of moral leadership of the world while the world laughs at us as the most guileless race of hypocrites ever gathered together under one flag.That is a very good description of what is taking place in America at the present moment.
But that is not the only example. We have another in Scotland. I have been informed that in a place called Auchterarder, a place associated with the Lord Chancellor, a no-licence resolution was carried, with the result that the inhabitants of Auchterarder went to the neighbouring villages and consumed as much liquor as they wanted. The publicans in these neighbouring villages did such a roaring trade that the people in Auchterarder, being Scotch, and seeing their money going into the hands of some one else, were most anxious to go back. I am told they wanted to go back.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am informed they have gone back. But let me show you what has taken place in Scotland. In Scotland, since local option came into operation, there have been 590 polls, and in 527 there has been no change. Forty-one voted for no-licence in 1921 but ten have since seen the error of their ways and have gone back to no change, including the district associated with the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. So that now there are only thirty-one areas which are "no-licence." In these circumstances I submit that there is really no occasion whatever for this Bill. Wherever a Bill of this sort has been in operation its only effect has been to increase drunkenness and create distrust of the law. Instead of doing good, it has only led to people getting drunk on worse liquor and at greater expense. 929 The right rev. Prelate who moved the Second Heading said that a certain number of points in the Bill might be amended in Committee. He enumerated several. My Suggestion is that he should bring in a new Bill and not attempt to amend a bad Bill in Committee. It must be remembered that if this Bill becomes an Act polls are compulsory every three years. I have been informed—I do not know it of my own knowledge—that each poll will cost £250,000. At a time when we are all groaning under excessive taxation it is proposed to institute new polls which will cost £250,000 each time, and which will probably result in there being no change at all. It is said that this is a local option. It is nothing of the sort. If, on the first poll, an area voles for no-licence, then there can be no further change until the termination of the world. We go on under the system of no-licence. But if it votes for no change—mark the fairness of this—there can be another poll every three years, and the decision can be reversed, it is almost incredible to me that any one should bring forward a Bill in which such an utterly unfair proposal is embodied.
The Bill itself makes a very bad start. It begins with a Memorandum, and I feel quite certain that the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Oxford, did not write that Memorandum, because it contains five statements which are inaccurate and misleading.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My noble friend below me, who is an authority, says that there is also one bad mistake in grammar. The Bill begins with the Title: "Liquor (Popular Control)." I have shown that it is not popular control. It might happen that in the County of London, which is one of the areas concerned, there were 30,000 electors voting for "no licence" and 29,999 electors voting for "no change." If the no-licence resolution is carried by a majority of one, we are to have nothing whatever to drink in any club or private residence or in any part of the County of London, except in a restaurant car on a railway. I was for many years a director of the Great Northern Railway Company, and for some years its Chair- 930 man, and as an old railway director I welcome that exception, because, if I. were still a railway director, I should attach a restaurant car to every train, and I am quite certain that it would be full "from morn … to dewy eve." The next misstatement is to the effect that there is to bea central body (called the Board of Management) appointed with the approval of and dismissible by Parliament, but otherwise bearing some such relation to Parliament as do bodies like the Port of London or Mersey Dock Board.But this is a body appointed, with one exception, by the Secretary of State. The Port of London is quite a different body. It consists of twenty-eight members, of whom eighteen are elected, not by a local body of electors or by a Parliamentary franchise, but by the payers of dues, wharfingers and owners of river craft. I do not know whether the noble Viscount, Lord Milner, is present, but he made a statement during the last debate on a similar Bill with reference to public ownership and the Port of London Authority, which lie described as being a popularly elected body—which it is not—and which he said was successful. I will show your Lordships in a moment how it is that it has been more or less successful. In addition to the eighteen members whom I have mentioned ten others are appointed, three by the Government, four by the London County Council, two by the Corporation, and one by Trinity House.
Why has the Port of London been more or less successful? In the days before it was constituted we had that which was called free water, that is to say, the lighters could come into the docks, paying nothing, and discharge the goods which were in the ships. Now you will see, if you will refer to the Act of 1908 which set up the Dock Board, that all the goods have to pay dues, whether they are discharged in a dock or landed on the premises, and, in addition, there is an authorisation to charge rates which shall be sufficient to meet expenditure for ail purposes. Further, they have a monopoly. Anybody can manage a company or an undertaking which is a monopoly, and which has power to charge as much as is necessary to provide for their expenditure, with a certain amount of success. I beg to point out that this part of the Memorandum again is entirely misleading.
931 The next point refers to contributory insurance. The Memorandum says:—The Bill extends to the members of the licensed trade the principle of contributory insurance against certain definite risks to them which has been already applied to large classes of the community in the schemes for insurance against the risks of unemployment and of sickness.It is also pointed out, in the preceding paragraph of the Memorandum, that none of the compensation money will come from the taxpayer. But all these contributory schemes are contributed to by the taxpayer. There, again, we have a misleading statement. Then comes the time limit, which, it is said, has already been recognised by Parliament. When, and by whom? I do not know any Act of Parliament which recognises the time limit. I have had some experience of Acts of Parliament; in fact, for thirty-one years in the House of Commons I read every single Bill that was brought in, and I have no hesitation in saying that the worst Bill I have ever read is this one. Then, with regard to the compensation, it is stated that this will be given on the basis "recommended unanimously by the Government Committee in 1917." I do not know whether anything turns upon the word "basis," but the compensation recommended by the Government Committee in 1917 was fifteen years' purchase, the State to find the money. Under this Bill the State finds nothing, the highest purchase is twelve years instead of fifteen, and in many cases it comes as low as six and even three years.
I hope I am not taking up too much of your Lordships' time, but the Bill really is a very bad one. In the first place, we are to have a number of committees. How many committees are there going to be? As I make it out, there are to be four. There is the Secretary of State first of all; then there is a Board of Management appointed by the Secretary of State; then there is a Central Advisory-Council, also appointed by the Secretary of State, to advise the Board of Management and the Secretary of State; and then there are local bodies, which are not actually appointed by the Secretary of State—or rather, he appoints them but the members are, I presume, recommended to him by certain people in the local area. These bodies are to advise the Central Advisory Council, which is to advise the 932 Board of Management, which advises the Secretary of State. How on earth car any business be conducted if you are going to have a number of bodies all advising etch other? It is perfectly unworkable.
Then there is to be set up another Star Chamber. The promoters of the Bill know perfectly well—at least, I presume they know—that if any dispute arises as to the terms of purchase, and so on, of the breweries and various properties which are to be acquired, it would not be wise to go to a court of law, and so they set up another Commission—another Star Chamber really—and the Board of Management and the Secretary of State are to be plaintiffs and judges in their own cause. Indeed, this Bill does require amendment. Are we now, in these days, going to set up another Star Chamber? Are we going back to the days of Archbishop Laud? Are we going to set up another Star Chamber, which, as we know, had such bad effects in the old days?
I notice that there are to be plenty of expenses. There are to be any number of new officials, and they are all to be paid. I have some figures here showing the expenses of the Civil Service, which under this Bill is going to be increased. I may say that I was Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure after the first Chairman, Sir Herbert Samuel, went, to Palestine, before that I was Chairman of one of the sub-Committees, and I was Chairman of the Estimates Committee during the whole of its existence in the House of Commons. I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that the great, majority of the members of those Committees were unanimously in favour of reducing the expenditure on the Civil Service, if ever we were to get back to anything like normal taxation. This Bill, however, proposes to add to the cost of the Civil Service. In 1913–14 the cost of the Civil Service was £57,515,000, and in 1923–24 it was £256,341,352, or nearly five times as much. Yet the cost of living has not doubled. And we get nothing out of it. We are bothered by forms and requisitions, and we get nothing out of it, and here we are asked to put something more on. These figures do not include the expenditure on the Post Office, which in 1913–14 was £24,198,000, as against £50,871,000 in 1923–24.
933 Now let me for a moment deal with the Star Chamber, which I think is one of the worst features of the Bill. Clause 10 provides that:There shall be established a commission, to be called 'the Liquor Compensation Commission' … and consisting of not lees than three Commissioners, which shall be a court of record and have an official seal, which shall be judicially noticed. The Commissioners shall be appointed by His Majesty before the first reorganisation or no-licence resolution shall come into operation, and from time to time as vacancies occur.Therefore, before anything is done, before any area has decided for reorganisation or no-licence, we are to set up a Commission which is to appoint officials and pay them salaries.
I need not trouble your Lordships with the qualifications of the Commissioners, but one Commissioner is to be a barrister of at least ton years' standing. I am not a member of the legal profession, but I always understood that it took at least ten years before a man knew anything about the bar or had got any practice, and yet here a man who has been ton years at the bar, but who may have no practice, may be appointed a Commissioner and deal with property of enormous value, without any appeal. Clause 11 says there shall be attached to the Commissioners such officers, etc., as the Lord Chancellor, with the consent of the Treasury as to number, may from time to time appoint. The salaries of the Commissioners, and of all such officials, and all their expenses, are to be paid out of the central fund. There will be very little left out of the central fund to be paid to the brewers if they begin paying all these gentlemen salaries.
The Secretary of State, if satisfied either of the inability of a Commissioner to attend at the hearing of any case, or of there being a vacancy in the office, and in either case of the necessity of a speedy hearing, may appoint a temporary Commissioner to hear such case. The Secretary of State will be all powerful, and we may assume for the purpose of argument that he is a temperance fanatic. He might be Lord Astor, whom I do not see in his place. What might he do? One of the Commissioners might be unable to attend, but is it not possible that the Secretary of State might say: "Here is a Commissioner to try this particular case whom I do not think is 934 very sound; he is not going sufficiently strong against the brewers, and I will appoint a Commissioner whom i know, and he will decide as I would have him decide," and he will appoint one of his own creatures, who will do as he is told? It is setting up a Star Chamber, which is repugnant to a lover of freedom like myself, who has a great belief in the Judicial Bench. I will ask the Lord Chancellor how he likes to be set aside and a barrister of ten years' standing appointed in his place.
To my mind, Clause 16, or at any rate a part of it, is not at all clear. I cannot understand what it means. It says:—On and alter the date upon which any area becomes a no-licence area, no person shall sell by retail any intoxicating liquor within the area, and no retail licence, whether justices' or excise, for the sale of intoxicating liquor shall be granted or renewed in respect of any promises within the area, and the bolder of a wholesale or manufacturer's licence shall not be entitled by virtue of such licence to sell any intoxicating liquor in the area, except to a trader for the purposes of his trade.What on earth does that mean? A publican is a trader is he not? And he buys liquor for the purpose of his trade. Therefore, so far as I understand it, that part of the clause contradicts the first part of it, which says that on and after a certain date no person shall sell by retail any intoxicating liquor within the area. All through this Bill, if you read it carefully—during the vacation I had nothing to do and I rend it every night, and I begin to know something about it—you will find clauses which you think are not very clear. After very careful study you begin to think you understand what they mean, and then you go on to find some proviso that lands you in a state of worse confusion than you were in at the beginning.
Next we come to the provisions as to reorganisation which sets up official public-houses. Why should it be not harmful for a person to drink intoxicating liquor if he buys it at a Government house, but wrong and harmful if he buys it from a private trader? If the thing is wrong you should go for the whole thing—Prohibition. But if it is right, as I think it is, for people to be able to buy alcoholic liquor in moderation, why should you say that they may buy it from the Government, but not from a private trader?
935 That brings in the question of Government management. I was for twenty years a director of the Great Northern Railway, and for the last six years, terminating last April, I was its Chairman. I take the ease of that Company because I know the facts. As your Lordships know, the railways were under Government control, and what was the effect of Government control? Government control finished at the end of August, 1921. During the first eight months of 1921 the Great Northern Railway Company was not only not earning sufficient to pay anything on its debentures, but it was not earning sufficient to pay its expenses. In the last four months of 1921 we palled up a little under private management. The State had to pay the revenue which existed in 1913, and out of that we paid certain dividends. In 1922, the first year in which we resumed control of our property, we not only earned dividends on the debentures and on the preference shares, but we earned seven per cent. on the deferred stock, and paid it. We did not take a single shilling from the Government compensation fund; it was all paid out of earnings, properly earned. That is the difference between State management and private management.
With regard to compensation, Lord Sumner's Committee required fifteen years' purchase. The most to be paid under this Bill, on the first poll, is twelve years' purchase. On the second poll it goes down to nine, on the third to six, on the fourth to three, and afterwards to nothing. That is very different from Lord Sumner's recommendation. The brewers, who, since 1904, have contributed to the fund which was set up then, in order to recompense them if their livelihood was taken away, are to have that fund taken away from them. It is not to be devoted to compensation for licences which are taken away, and the contribution is to be doubled. I do not believe your Lordships will miss a clause of that sort.
There are the most extraordinary clauses with regard to the purchase of breweries. If there is a brewery, not in a reorganisation area but outside it, and if fifty per cent. of its trade is done in the reorganisation area, then the Board of 936 Management can step in and buy the brewery at the absurd figures which I have just quoted. And, further than that, if the Commissioners—the Star Chamber—approve, the Board of Management can step in and buy this brewery. Take Clause 34, which says:—No notice to treat need be served upon any person interested in any premises or property which vests in the Board under Part IV of this Act, and Sections one hundred and twenty-seven to one hundred and thirty-two of the Lands Clauses (Consolidation) Act. 1845, shall not be incorporated with this Act, and, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any Act, all questions of disputed compensation arising under this Act shall be determined by the Commissioners in the manner provided by this Act.I do not think I need comment upon that.
I have endeavoured, I am afraid very feebly, to put before your Lordships the effect of this Bill. I am anxious to see a sober country and I believe that, by example, we may get it. All the figures in my possession—with which I have not troubled your Lordships but can produce if necessary—show that cases of drunkenness are decreasing and have been decreasing during the last fifty years. It is true that for the first year or two after the war, though the numbers were much lower than they were thirty years ago, they did go up. That was the effect of the war, and of people having too much money. But now the numbers have gone down. For many years I walked home from the House of Commons every night, and I used to see a picket and drunken men outside Wellington Barracks. Twenty-five years ago that was done away with, and I did not see a drunken man afterwards. There were a few after the war, but that was all.
I would remind the right rev. Prelate that there was a marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, and that the governor of the feast had not provided any wine, and our Saviour turned the water into wine. Has the right rev. Prelate a better authority than that? I believe in a moderate amount of alcohol. It has never done me any harm, and I do not believe it has ever done anybody else any harm. I have known occasions in my life when, if I had not been able to get a glass of wine, I should probably have been ill; at any rate, it put me on my legs for the time being. And, furtherfore, believing in freedom, I 937 do not think any man has a right to say to me that, because A or B sometimes drinks to excess, I am not to have a glass of wine if I choose. It is the very negation of freedom. I hope that your Lordships will reject this Bill, and, as I believe that there will be a considerable number of speakers, I would suggest, if it meets with the approval of the Government (whom I do not see very largely represented at the moment) and of my noble friend, that if, by half-past six or seven o'clock, we cannot take a Division, we should adjourn the debate until to-morrow or the next day. I beg to move.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months")—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
My Lords, my noble friend said he thought that after the few opening sentences of his speech and the facts which he would disclose it would be quite unnecessary for him to say anything more. The destructive criticism which he has levelled at the right rev. Prelate's Bill has made it unnecessary for anybody else to go into details; he has destroyed the Bill from the first clause to the last. The right rev. Prelate, in his interesting speech, told us that he and the promoters of the Bill were prepared to accept Amendments in regard to certain details. But I agree with my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam that the only course to adopt in the circumstances is to withdraw this Bill and to produce a fresh one.
The Amendments suggested by the right rev. Prelate go to the very root of the measure. One of the fundamental objections to it, one of its most serious blots, is that it proposes to hold these elections triennially, and not by the choice of the people but by command. The right rev. Prelate dwelt with great force upon the contention that this Bill is a measure of local option. There is not a word of local option in it from beginning to end. It is the most autocratic measure of which I have ever heard I have never quite understood what the word "democratic" means in English, but supposing it to bear its ordinary interpretation, the Bill might be democratic when you have, a Labour Government and a Labour Secretary of State, but if you suggest that the putting of all the power there is in this Bill into 938 the hands of a Secretary of State is an example of democratic legislation, I can only say it is something very different from anything that I have ever hoard of under that description. You are giving the Government more and more power.
I do not believe that anybody who has watched the development of government in this country during the last quarter of a century does not feel—at all events, I hear men of all creeds and classes and shades in politics concurring in this view—that the tendency towards what is called bureaucracy has been dangerously on the increase, and that to-day the interference of the Central Government in the administration of affairs generally is far more serious, more general and more widespread than it ought to be. It is true that when these bodies have been created under this Hill they are to have certain powers; but how do those bodies come into existence? Do they come into existence by the will of the people? Not a bit of it. They are to be selected for certain reasons. When they have been selected and appointed, they are compelled under the Bill to hold an election whether they want it or not on the three resolutions which are to be submitted to the electorate.
Perhaps I might dwell for an instant upon the point made by my noble friend, to which I think too much importance cannot be attached—that this Bill gives power to adopt what is called the no-licence proposal, which practically means Prohibition, and that once it is adopted you cannot go back a single step. You may adopt either of the other alternatives, but however bitter your experience may have been, however convinced you may be that you have made a mistake, however willing you are in a straightforward way to acknowledge that yon have been wrong, this Bill says that you shall not go back. You may if you like substitute something else of a less drastic character, but you shall not abolish the no-licence policy. Is that popular legislation? Is that the clothing of local bodies with power to administer their affairs? I venture to repeat what I said a moment ago that there is nothing in the shape of local option, local government, or popular control to be found in this Bill from the first clause to the last. I look upon it as a case of bureaucracy gone mad.
939 I have not been the industrious apprentice that my noble friend below me was during his long years of service in the House of Commons, but I have had what is probably a unique experience in preparing Rills for Governments of which I had the honour to be a member and in fighting Bills on behalf of my Party against, the Government of the day in the House of Commons, and I entirely endorse what my noble friend said. I have read many a bad Bill, and many a Bill which gave one an infinity of trouble to understand and interpret and to gauge what action would be taken under it when it passed into law; but I never read a Bill so difficult to interpret or one so full of direct contradictions as this Bill is. Therefore, on all grounds I submit that the rejection of this Bill is the only fit and proper course to adopt.
The right rev. Prelate made a very powerful appeal to us not to sit with our hands folded, but to do something. I was immensely struck by the fact that in the course of his extremely comprehensive and interesting speech—no doubt, the omission was due to pressure of time—there was not one single word or quotation regarding the causes which made further legislation necessary at the present time. Lord Banbury of Southam has told us that according to the best information that can be obtained there is undoubted evidence that since the temporary increase of convictions for drunkenness which followed the war, there has been a steady decline, the figure having fallen to about half of what it was in the early days of the war. It must be borne in mind that it is not fair to dwell upon those years after the war in which the figures increased, because of the return of the wearied fighting population who had lived under great restrictions during the war and were physically not in a position to protect themselves against undue consumption. There is one further reason which weighs more than anything else with me as an Englishman, proud of my country and proud of my race, as I am sure the right rev. Prelate is. I refuse to believe that if you impose shackles of this kind upon our people you can by any possibility do it without the degradation of their character, the weakening of their moral power and, in the end. I believe, the weakening even of their physical powers. One, to a large extent, follows the other.
940 When we are asked to pass a drastic Bill of this kind we ought to be given more information than we have received—we have had none in this debate—to show us that this reform is necessary. Lord Banbury quoted the reduction in the figures of drunkenness. In addition to that, a most remarkable change has taken place in the number of public houses in the last few years. That number has steadily decreased at an average rate of something over one thousand a year, and that reduction has been brought about exactly under the conditions which the right rev. Prelate said that he desired to see established and maintained here—namely, good will on all sides and a readiness to join in the movement for reduction. That has been done. There is no injustice in the Act of 1904 as amended by the Act of 1910. The Act provides a just method of compensation. I am informed that the parties interested are satisfied with it. At all events, advantage has been taken of the powers contained in the Act, and houses are gradually disappearing. Let me remind your Lordships that they are abolished in some cases without compensation, where evidence is forthcoming that compensation would not fairly be payable. This work is going steadily forward.
I can confirm what my noble friend said. I go about the country a great deal. Twenty or thirty years ago I used to see, as he did, drunken men in the streets of London, in the country villages and, in fact, everywhere. To-day, thank God, the sight of a drunken man in a village or a small town is almost unknown. The cases of drunkenness have enormously decreased. Let any one go into our country villages, where they are constantly deploring the lowness of wages, and he will find that in the clothing of the men, the women and the children, in the general appearance of the people and the condition of their homes, a change of a most startling character has been effected, due in large measure, no doubt, to the altered conditions in their lives. Many of your Lordships are old enough, as I am, to remember the day when drunkenness was not confined to the lower orders, when drunkenness obtained in all classes, and was paraded almost ostentatiously before one's eyes. Those days have long gone, and to-day, thanks to a variety of causes, the country is steadily progressing along the path which must be followed if the 941 nation is to be sober. I beg your Lordships to do nothing which will attempt to hurry this work by compulsion, or by depriving the poorer classes of this country of those opportunities which they enjoy at present and which they are ceasing gradually to abuse. If the young generation is to grow up reliant and strong it must retain that freedom which is enjoyed by us to-day. I feel that my noble friend, Lord Banbury of Southam, has said all that can be necessary at the present time upon that aspect of the matter.
I, like my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam, have never been connected in any way with this great trade. I wish that I had to make the avowal that I was largely interested in it, because it is one of the most prosperous industries. I have, however, nothing to do with it. I do not pretend to be familiar with it in its details, or even with it in its general aspects. I have looked at this question quite apart from the trade aspect. I think the right rev. Prelate and those who are around him will forgive me for saying this. They will feel that the last thing I would be guilty of would be any sort of disrespect to their Bench collectively or to them individually. I am, I hope, an honest and a devoted member of the Church to which I belong, and in the work of that Church I take a humble interest. I have tried to look at this Bill from the point of view not at all of the trade, but to dismiss the trade altogether from my consideration of the measure.
The right rev. Prelate sought to prove that this Bill is wholly for the best, and that it is going to work wonders. I asked myself this: Will this Bill, if it passes in anything like its present form, be beneficial to Church and Stale—to the Church from the layman's point of view, and to the State from the point of view of the ordinary practical politician and administrator? The answer I have been forced to come to is an absolute negative. So far as my own Church is concerned, never in its long and glorious history has it been more sorely in need of hearty co-operation and union than it has to-day. We have great wants. The condition of our parochial clergy, of our incumbents, the pay of our curates, and a whole host of other things call with voices which must be listened to for immediate assistance, and yet a Bill of this kind is going 942 to alienate some of the best friends that the Church has got, not because it makes them selfish, still less because they want to retaliate, but because, if you threaten a man in all that he desires, if you threaten a great interest, all other interests immediately take a line.
I am not thinking of wealthy members of the trade who are well able to give, and do give most generously, to all good objects, but I am thinking of other men altogether of whom I have seen a good deal, and from whom I have heard a good deal, in the course of the last two or three years about this question. I assure your Lordships that they are filled to-day with a great feeling of anxiety and misgiving because, they say, this Bill is in itself not only unsound but unjust, and is so framed that it would become very easily a method of confiscation. They say: "If we are to receive at the hands of the leaders of our Church legislation of this character, what must be the effect of it upon those who are hostile to our Church, or hostile to the Church's various interests? Will they not say: 'If it is right for the Bishops to lay violent hands upon the property of this industry, is if not right, for us to take what we think we ought to have for State purposes, and to confiscate your tithe or endowments or any other part of Church property?'" I hope nobody will think that I am using these words from any desire to threaten, but I can assure the right rev. Prelate that I have heard within recent days that this is causing a grave feeling of anxiety, and that if continued it will do infinite harm to the Church to which I have the honour to belong. Therefore, from the point of view of a layman of the Church, I believe that legislation of this kind, coming from the leaders of any particular Church, will do that institution immense harm.
Then look at the question from the point of view of government, both central and local. What are you doing? You are giving to a Secretary of State power to issue certain regulations, and to make certain appointments, and, in fact, generally to lay down how this particular measure is to be worked. What is your Secretary of State? He varies with every Government. You get a Labour Government with a Labour Secretary of State. He may be followed by a well-known member of the Liberal Party or by a member of the Party to which I 943 have the honour to belong. I ask your Lordships to remember that these questions of what we call regulation are regarded in a very different way by men of different political Parties. I am sorry to say that to a very large extent politics during recent years have been associated with this particular question of departmental regulation. The right rev. Prelate told us with perfect accuracy that there has been during recent years a great deal of embittered controversy upon this matter. Embittered controversy is not the word for it. When you get a country fighting over this question of whether you shall issue a licence or not, whether you shall impose these regulations, you then get family against family, children against their parents, neighbours against their neighbours, and you stir a whole district into quarrels, disunion and disturbance, breaking up the very thing you want to maintain—namely, the quiet friendly character of those living in one area.
When I pass from the question of central government to local government I feel myself most profoundly exercised. I have always been a firm believer in local government. I have had something to do with a variety of measures which have from time to time been passed through Parliament altering the system of local government. You have reached the end of your powers. I warn your Lordships that you have given to the local authorities, and above all to the county councils, more work than they can possibly do, and you ought not to add one single task to the burden which they have already to carry. It is hard, to-day, to get capable men to come and do the work that has to be done. Many a man has said to me: "I have been a member of this council since its origin. I have always been willing to give one or two days a fortnight or a month to the work of the council, but now you are throwing so much work upon us that it is not one day a fortnight or a month but one day and perhaps two days a week." It is unreasonable to expect men who are engaged in business affairs to give up so much of their time to work of this kind.
If you throw this burden on county councils, borough councils and the larger urban district councils, you will taint all their elections, it will enter into everything they do, and you will produce a feeling of bitterness in our local areas 944 which happily does not exist to-day. In my opinion you will ultimately destroy that local government which is to-day one of our proudest boasts. If they were unable to carry on I do not know to whom we could turn. Therefore, from the point of view of the State this Bill is altogether mischievous and undesirable, and I join with the noble Lord in the hope that it will be rejected by such a majority as to show that the general opinion of men who have nothing to think of but their own views, actions and duties, is that if we are to proceed along any new lines in dealing with this question then they must be very different lines from those found in the four corners of this Bill.
I do not think the figures which are available show, as the right rev. Prelate suggested, that we live in the best of all possible worlds. No, I do not think that; but no case has been made out for the passing of any Bill of this kind. If fresh legislation is required—it has not been proved to my satisfaction that it is—then I would beg of those who make themselves responsible for it to abandon this Bill altogether and make entirely fresh proposals. I dare say the proposals of the right rev. Prelate may be workable, and that the Government may call a general conference. I only say, in advance, that if they do anything of the kind, I hope they will not ask me to serve on it. It is the last thing I should care to do. The statement of figures and facts leads me to believe that we are going steadily on in the way the right rev. Prelate desires, and with the consent of all reasonable men and women. All the information your Lordships can get will confirm the truth of what Lord Banbury of Southam and I have said.
What moves me most is not the fact of an injustice to a great industry, nor the fact that many men have been doing their best to provide themselves against the need for compensation by paying large sums of money for fourteen years since the Act was placed on the Statute Book. They will lose every penny they have, and that is a very cruel state of things to which I could not assent unless it was absolutely necessary in order to effect some urgent reform. I say that we should go warily and steadily, and remember that the greatest asset of this country is not the brains of our great men, not the powers of leadership of our great leaders, 945 but the high moral qualities, the unfailing courage and steady determination of the working classes of this country, and your Lordships will agree with me that the least we can do—it is our solemn duty—is to take care that nothing is done to weaken their position.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, after the two speeches to which we have just, listened, and which have been so absolutely destructive of the Bill, I do not want to say anything about its details. I only want to make one remark. A considerable amount of support has been accorded this measure throughout the country, and the right rev. Prelate has chimed that he has received support from unexpected quarters. That is mainly owing to the entirely misleading character of the Memorandum which is printed with the Bill. A great many people who want to learn what a Bill does look at what appears to be a comprehensive memorandum, and after reading it think they know all about the provisions of the Bill. They do not read the Bill. Any one who has done so in this case has gone wrong.
Attention has already been called to the statement that "the Bill gives to the inhabitants of boroughs and counties the right of deciding periodically whether they are to have no change in the conduct of the liquor trade in their area, or whether the trade is to be reorganised, or whether all licences are to be abolished." With all respect to the right rev. Prelate that statement is absolutely untrue. It is contrary to Clause 2, and once a no-change resolution has been adopted there can be no going back. The only alternative is either a so-called reorganisation, which is another something between State purchase and disinterested management, or a no-licence resolution. I do not know whether I understood Lord Banbury of Southam correctly when he said that one of his objections was that if a no-licence resolution was adopted there was no going back on that. I do not read the Bill in that way.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
If that is the case it, is certainly another objection, and shows the utter hollowness of the argument that there is to be anything in 946 the nature of a periodical revision of any decision which may have been come to by an area, very likely on a mere chance vote. It is said that it is subject to the supervision of the justices. It is not subject to the supervision of the justices at all. We have heard about various powers which are in the bands of the Secretary of State, and all that the justices can do is to act with the Advisory Committee and any recommendations which are put forward by the Advisory Committee are to be taken into consideration. There is absolutely no obligation on anybody to accept the advice of the Advisory Committee, and it is a perfect farce to say that it is to act under the supervision of the justices.
The climax comes with regard to the contention about compensation. It is one of the most extraordinary statements in the whole of this Bill. The Memorandum says:The Bill extends to the members of the licensed trade the principle of contributory insurance against certain definite risks to them which has been already applied to large classes of the community in the schemes for insurance against the risks of unemployment and of sickness.Apparently, the idea is to compel them to pay an increased levy into a fund from which they are to be compensated if the area votes for reorganisation or prohibition. But at each poll at which the vote is for "No Change" the compensation is lowered, until, I believe at the end of twelve years, they get nothing. This is a very ingenious way of applying a squeeze to those who are interested in the trade or in public-houses, in order to lessen their desire to continue their existence and to make them see that the longer they Jive the less they will get-when they die. It seems to me that it is tantamount to telling a man whose existence is at the mercy of a chance vote, to insure himself against the expenses of his own funeral on the understanding that the longer he remains alive and the more premiums he pays the less he will get in the end, until at last nothing is contributed to the funeral at all.
I desired to call attention to this point because I believe that a great deal of the so-called support which has been given to the Bill has been due to complete misconception. I only hope that everybody who is interested in this question will read the speeches of the two noble Lords 947 who have just spoken. If they do so they will, I think, gain a better idea of the probable result of the passing of this Bill by Parliament than they would ever obtain by reading the Memorandum.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I will leave what may be called the Committee points mentioned by the last speaker to be dealt with by my right rev. friend when he replies, but I should like to say a few words in reply to one for whom I have the profoundest respect as has all the Church—my noble friend, Viscount Long of Wraxall. The noble Viscount made a very touching appeal to us for justice to the people. I can only ask, in reply, when the working man has ever had the chance up to now of saying whether he wants this traffic in our midst or not. He has never had such a chance. One of the Labour leaders, Mr. Burt, whom everybody, I think, respected, once made a remark which I have always remembered. "You talk," he said, "about the public house as the working man's cellar. For Heaven's sake give him the key." We must always remember that we have never had a chance to find out whether the people of this country want this traffic, and whether they desire working men and their wives and children to be at the mercy of it.
Lord Long also asked the perfectly natural question: "Why should anything be done?" I am told that this has not been very clearly stated to the House at present, and this is the case which I have undertaken to put before the House myself. Before I come to it, however, I will say a, word in reference to the speech of Lord Banbury, who made various quite polite remarks about me in a most good-tempered manner. He cited the case of America. We are not out for Prohibition. But do not forget that, whatever you may say about America, there is not a man who could become President of the United States if he once proposed the abolition of Prohibition. The other day I had the pleasure of meeting the American Bishops at the Lambeth Conference. I asked all fifty-two of them down in order to find out from them the real state of things in their country, because we hear such very misleading statements on the subject. They were very honest about it, and said that they had nothing to do with the change. One dear old Bishop told me that he had 948 opposed it. I asked: "Will you change it?" They told me there was not the slightest chance of that. They said: "We have seen such a wonderful improvement that we would not change it for anything." That is worth thinking over when we read such statements as are made from an interested point of view in the Press. That is the statement of fifty-two men. whose opinion is absolutely unbiassed, of that which is happening over there.
I think my noble friend Lord Banbury must have nodded once or twice when he was reading this Bill, up to midnight apparently, night, after night. He made a little mistake on one or two points. For instance, I may remind him that not a penny of the Government's money will go towards compensation. It comes out of the compensation fund.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
That is how we understood it on this Bench, but, of course, I accept the correction Then again, there is a tremendous difference between Government control and disinterested management. My noble friend seems to me to be confusing the two. Government control is one thing, disinterested management is another. If you go up to Carlisle, as I have done on my temperance tour round England, you will see the difference between the public houses elsewhere, with their flaming advertisements, and the quiet restaurants which they now have at Carlisle. You will there see what we mean by disinterested management, and the difference that results where a man is not paid to make his customers drink as much as possible, but has a steady salary whether he sells intoxicating liquors or not, with a small percentage on the non-intoxicating drinks.
I now come to the question which my noble friend Lord Long specially put before the House regarding the case for anything further happening at all. One would really suppose from some of the speeches that one hears that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I must at once admit that there has been a great improvement. That improvement has not been brought about, however, by sitting still and voting against everything in the House of Lords or the House of Commons, but by the indomitable efforts 949 of those who are keen on temperance—efforts spread over thirty or forty years—to get something done. When I last spoke here it was in opposition to a noble Lord who actually proposed that we should go back in London from ten o'clock to eleven o'clock as the closing hour. What 4,200,000 people were under the ten o'clock rule and only 200,000 under the eleven o'clock rule, in order to have symmetry we were to go back from ten o'clock to eleven o'clock I think I convinced your Lordships—indeed I know I did, because it was not pressed to a Division—that in such districts as White-chapel, Bethnal Green, and Islington it would be disastrous to go back to that extra hour, disastrous to children who were getting to bed earlier and to wives whose husbands were coming home sober. Shorter hours and more expensive drink have certainly contributed to the cause of temperance in England.
What am I to say as to the state of affairs now? Is all well? One would gather from the noble Lord's speech that his policy is to let well alone. Is it well that at this day when, as Lord Banbury himself says, all economy is necessary, we should be spending £365,000,000 a year on drink? That is a thing which we cannot get over. We now know a great deal more about alcohol than we did forty or fifty years ago, because we have had expert reports, not from temperance fanatics or from people like myself who have been teetotalers for so long, but from the eight Government experts who undertook to tell us what alcohol was. Everybody knows row, unless we give the lie to those men, that alcohol does not warm at all. It drives the blood from the inside of the body to the skin. I remember saying, in one of my temperance tours around England, that this was the cause of the toper's red nose. We have to be careful, because the noble Lord who was taking the chair said to me afterwards: "You did hit me hard over that red nose." I looked at his nose, and it was purple. It must always be remembered, therefore, that a red nose, sometimes comes, not from excessive drinking, but from natural causes.
Then it must not be forgotten what extraordinary results were deduced from the experiments made with a hundred riflemen who had had a little alcohol and a hundred who had had none, and from 950 a hundred clerks who had had a little alcohol and a hundred who had had none. In every case the riflemen who had none won hands down. The extraordinary thing was that the men who had had alcohol thought they had never done better in their lives. Therefore, it has been shown that alcohol is not a stimulant at all but a narcotic, and a dangerous narcotic. Of course, when it is mixed with water, and taken with the strictest moderation with food, it does not do much appreciable harm, but it is a narcotic and it is harmful to man. Only the other day a man who had served for fifteen years in the Navy, with a good character, was executed for first violating and then killing a child, and it was because this drug had drowned his higher nature and turned him from a man into a beast.
With regard to the increase in the length of life, this is a very important thing. Out of a hundred thousand, starting at the age of thirty and reaching seventy, 55,000 who do not take alcohol reach the age of seventy as compared with 45,000 who do. Therefore we have to consider what is now proved by scientists to be the nature of alcohol and its effect upon the human system, and when I find that £365,000,000—of course, I know that £200,000,000 comes back to the State—is spent on something which neither warms nor nourishes a man, but tends to shorten his life, and does not improve his efficiency, surely it is a matter to think of when you come to the question of economy. Further, you must remember that we have to reckon in the matter of trade with a dry America. I can recall the story of a deputation to one of the Prime Ministers. A speaker, who was a Member of Parliament, stated that the great firm with which he was connected was competing with America, and they had had to make it a rule, not from any moral or temperance point of view but from a business point of view, that all the 1,500 men employed in their factory must be teetotalers, because otherwise they could not compete with their American rivals. Therefore, it will be a serious thing to the country if we are going to allow this £365,000,000 drink Bill to continue.
When we come to figures, I wish I could agree with Lord Long that everything is improving so tremendously that it is unnecessary to do anything. Take, for 951 instance, the figures as to drunkenness among women. In 1918 the number of convictions was 7,222. In 1919 the figure was 11,183, and in 1922 13,094. Can your Lordships picture the awful misery which this drunkenness among women means in the homes?
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Will the right rev. Prelate tell me from what figures he is quoting, because they are contrary to my information?
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
Yes, I will do so presently. We must also look at the figures of deaths from alcoholism. The Registrar-General tells us that in 1020 there were 200 more deaths from alcoholism than in 1918. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children report that 5,000 cases with which they dealt were due to drinking parents. Can we say that this is a splendid world, and that we cannot do anything to improve it, when cases like that occur?
As to this Bill, it is not really my job to defend the measure. I am merely answering the question whether there is any ground for further legislation. When, however, I turn to the Bill, we who are heads of the temperance societies look upon it as a most moderate measure. The United Kingdom Alliance will not look at the Bill because they consider it too moderate. We are offering compensation, and another thing which we have included in the Bill is disinterested management, a question over which we have had a great fight with some of the temperance societies, because they do not believe in it. They want to do away with the trade altogether. We have, however, consented to this option being put in the Bill, and therefore there are two points in this Bill both of which are very questionable from the extreme temperance point of view.
In conclusion I would only say to those two noble Lords who have told us that this is a most rotten and bad Bill: What are you going to produce in its place? You have never yet introduced a Temperance Bill, or made any great efforts to deal with the matter. It is no use offering destructive criticism. If your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill, which is a genuine attempt at a fair settlement, then, in Committee, we can consider any point that may be raised. 952 Do let us, however, read this Bill a second time, so that it may be seen that the House of Lords is really keen upon a fair settlement of this matter.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, in offering you some observations upon this controversial subject, I hope that I shall not add to the controversy. After what has fallen from the right rev. Prelate I do not think I need labour the point as to whether a problem which requires urgent and immediate attention exists or not. If there is a problem, it is relevant to inquire why there is a problem, and what is the principal obstacle in the way of reform. The answer to that question lies quite simply in the fact that the liquor trade in this country is carried on under a system of competitive private ownership. The bald fact is that there is a direct conflict between the interests of the nation, on the one hand, and the interests of the liquor trade, on the other. This conflict is inherent in the situation, because, while increased consumption of intoxicants is contrary to the national interest, an increased demand for intoxicating liquors is essential to the prosperity of the liquor trade.
I am not one of those, if there be any, who think that alcohol is an evil thing in itself, nor do I desire to suggest that the liquor trade consists of people who desire deliberately to harm others in order to make money for themselves. On the contrary, I have no reason to doubt that brewers and the holders of shares in distillery companies are as decent and as high-minded as other citizens. The fact, however, remains that anything which promotes temperance to the extent of involving a decrease in the consumption of intoxicants is contrary to the interests of the trade One can hardly picture, for instance, the director of a distillery company appearing before his shareholders in general meeting and asking them to re-elect him for another year on the plea that, on the grounds of national interest, he has effected a gratifying decrease in the sales of the company's products The inevitable conclusion, which I do not think we can possibly escape, is that it is absolutely impossible that the trade should reform itself.
There is one other consideration of some importance which supports the conclusion that the liquor trade is not 953 suitable for competitive private ownership. By our existing system the trade has been forced into politics. Innumerable trade societies have been formed to support, the interests of the trade at every stage, from manufacture to consumption, of each and every form of alcoholic liquor. No secret whatever is made of the fact that such societies exist, not only for technical but also for political purposes. The trade machine, thus constituted, undoubtedly exerts a large political influence. Naturally enough, there exists an extensive liquor Press, and references to those political activities can be found on almost every page of the trade newspapers.
I do not think that the point that I am making is really a controversial one, but some illustrations I may perhaps give from the trade papers. I find in the National Guardian of June 7 last that Mr. Belsher, who, I think, is Chairman of the Board of the Licensed Victuallers' Central Protection Society, is quoted as having referred to his organisation as "the strongest political machine in any trade defence in any country." I little doubt that the boast is well-founded. Then again, the following is rather interesting. In the Morning Advertiser of January 31 last Mr. Belsher, at a meeting of his Society, is reported as having said:Of course, they must have regard to what the trade did during the last General Election. He wished to repeat what he had often said in the past, that as a licensed trade they had never, within his own experience as Chairman of the Board, identified themselves with one particular Party. Their questions had always been addressed to candidates of all political complexions. They had invariably given their official support to candidates, irrespective of political Party, who returned satisfactory replies to their test questions, and whom they could trust to carry their pledges into effect if they were returned.Every candidate who has stood for the House of Commons will be familiar with those questions. They are questions affecting purely the prosperity of the trade, and the support of the trade machine can be had in return for favourable answers to those questions. If a candidate does not chose to pledge himself body and soul to the trade, the trade will give neutrality if only he will promise under those, circumstances at least not to give a pledge to the temperance party. That is why at Parliamentary elections 954 temperance reform has come to be looked upon as such a thorny subject. Candidates and political organisers know very well that it is a subject which it is better to leave alone.
I find some evidence also in the trade papers that the methods of persuasion sometimes adopted in the political activities of the trade appear to be rather questionable. At least, I see that in Harper's Gazette of May 5, 1923, a gentleman at a meeting of the Wine and Spirit Trade Defence Fund is reported as having said:The accounts were not published but could be circulated privately to any member who would like to look at them. … It was impossible for them to tell even their subscribers everything they had been doing. …I do not want to stress that aspect of the matter. It is sufficient for my argument that here we have a powerful trade, extremely wealthy, extremely well-organised, exercising a large influence on our national and municipal politics. That influence is frankly exercised, not in the direction of national interest, but in the narrowest interests of the business of its members. One last quotation will illustrate this point. The leading article in Harper's Gazette on June 14 said:It is important that we should have a clear conception of the future prospects of our trade in view of the political outlook. … From the national point of view it may be sound policy to boycott the Labour Party …, but when taking the future position of our trade in politics into consideration we cannot afford to pursue such a simple policy.Surely it is self-evident, in these circumstances, that private ownership stands condemned as a menace to the purity of our political life.
When I turn to alternatives, admittedly I am on rather more controversial ground. The first alternative, against which we have heard some very eloquent speeches this afternoon, is Prohibition. I am convinced that there are no arguments in favour of Prohibition which are strong enough to justify the interference with individual liberty which would be involved. I do not claim to know what are the results of Prohibition in the United States, but, even if I were convinced that they were good, that is no reason why that should induce us to adopt the same remedy over here. Our national characteristics and circumstances are entirely different. Above all, 955 our geographical situation is entirely different. Our coast line—and we have an enormous coast line in relation to the area of our country—would, I think, make the problem of coast guarding a very difficult one if we adopted Prohibition. But Prohibition, whether it be good or bad, is not practical politics to-day. Private ownership and Prohibition alike, in my opinion, are condemned. I believe the real solution is to be found in some form of disinterested management, and that is the reason why I support this Bill.
The war-time Liquor Control Board reported unanimously, at the end of 1916, that although much had been done it was impossible under competitive private ownership fully to control the drink trade and get the best national results. Mr. Carter, himself a member of the Control Board, summed up the matter thus:A necessary element of any thoroughgoing scheme of reform is the removal of the barrier of private interests in the sale of drink. The breadth and variety of changes made under the rule of the Control Board mark how far legislation was in arrears of the needs of industry and social demands, and how swiftly advance can be made towards sobriety when the hostile barrage of private interests is lifted.The Control Board, as a result, recommended State purchase. At that juncture German submarines became extremely active, and, owing to the destruction of enormous quantities of food, the materials available for the trade had to be reduced, and therefore the problem was solved in another way. If it had not been for those German submarines I believe that State purchase would have been an accomplished fact to-day.
State purchase is to-day impossible on the grounds of finance. This country is somewhat in the position of a company which, though entirely solvent, suffers from a heavy load of debenture debt. Capital expenditure is inadvisable even though the investment would prove ultimately amply remunerative. But this is what the War Cabinet said about disinterested control. The War Cabinet in 1917, which included Mr. Bonar Law, Lord Milner and Lord Curzon—it is in the Report—said:Under disinterested control at Carlisle progress has been achieved which would have been impossible under the system existing now over the whole country.956 It is therefore at disinterested control that we must look, and that is what this Bill seeks to achieve.
I am quite aware that there are other things in the Bill besides disinterested management. There is, for instance, the Prohibition option. So far as I am concerned I should be very glad to see the disappearance of that option; but I recognise that short of experiment you will never convince Prohibitionists that their policy will be a failure. Moreover, I am also convinced that when you have a Prohibition option alongside disinterested management the live issue will be between no-change and disinterested management; Prohibition will disappear and we shall never hear any more about it. Another reason why this Bill meets with a good deal of opposition is the fact that it is a local option Bill of a sort. That is largely due, I am convinced, to habit and tradition. Hitherto local option has always meant local veto. The whole aspect of the matter is changed by the introduction of a constructive option. Surely the sting is out of local option when there is no interference with liberty and when there is no attempt to make temperance compulsory.
We have heard a great deal about the Bill being a confiscatory measure. I will be no party to any unjust or confiscatory legislation. In introducing the Bill the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Oxford, removed one or two misconceptions. There are the points about national and local levies and about no compensation being given in a no-change area. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, who moved the rejection of the Bill, told us that he had read it many times and that he had read it every night. As I think the Bishop of London said, the noble Lord must have nodded. Perhaps he nodded also during the remarks of the right rev. Prelate, who made it quite clear that that was not the intention and that if the Bill did not give effect to the intention it might be put right. We believe, and people who have read the Bill believe, that its effect is not that stated by the noble Lord.
In regard to the charge of confiscation, so far as it does not rest on this misconception, it appears to have to do with the time limit. The time limit is a technical matter on which I think I should not be justified in taking up your Lordships' time. But surely the principle of a time 957 limit is unassailable. It is only a question of the duration. There may be discussion as to a fair length of time, but even if you make it ninety-nine years, the principle obviously is unassailable.
It is alleged, again, that this Bill means nationalisation and that it affords on that score a dangerous precedent. In considering that question the same considerations apply as apply to the advisability of having a system of private ownership for the liquor trade. There is no analogy, for instance, between alcohol and coal. There has been a good deal of talk about the nationalisation of coal. In the case of coal the national interest demands that we should have the largest possible supply at the lowest possible cost, a result which a system of competitive private ownership is admirably suited to produce. Again, there is no analogy between alcohol and such other commodities as bread and milk. The greater the consumption of bread or milk the better it is for the State and the consumer. A comparison of the advantages of a greater consumption of bread or milk with a greater consumption of, say, gin or milk reveals the absurdity of the analogy.
Others object that nationalisation would lead to elections on the quality of beer, and so forth. This is not nationalisation in that sense. All those objections can be referred to Carlisle where, as the Bishop of London said, State control works perfectly satisfactorily. Under the Bill there would be no State Department responsible to Parliament for routine. Certain lines are laid down in the Bill on which the statutory body must work, as are the limits within which it must work; otherwise, they have a free hand to run the business in the best interest of the community. Lord Banbury is making a mistake when he thinks that once Prohibition is voted there is no getting away from it. I do not think that a reference to the Bill will show that.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
The question is between a Prohibition option and disinterested management, and I do not think there is any doubt as to which one will win. In regard to Canada, we 958 sometimes read that a Canadian Province has gone "wet" or "dry." But it is worth noting that the change has nothing to do with private ownership; it means going back to disinterested management. I can conceive nothing more sane, more proper, or more consistent with Conservative principles than this proposal. It is the marked failure of private ownership and the proved necessity for disinterested management of some kind or other which leads me to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I venture to express the hope, as a member of the rank and file of the Conservative Party, that if any invitation is issued such as that which is suggested it will be responded to in the spirit in which it is made.
§ LORD SUMNER
My Lords, judging from the speeches we have heard from both right rev. Prelates and the very interesting address we have had from Lord Balfour of Burleigh, I venture to think that the real gist of this Bill has hardly been appreciated, and it is about time that we came to closer quarters with it. I suppose we are all agreed in desiring to see England sober and temperate, and we seem to be nearly all agreed in thinking that Prohibition has great dangers and that there is something to be said for a glass of wine. But if there is any interest in this Rill at all it rests in that part of it which is concerned in the institution of the Board of Management and in the provision of what is supposed to be a fair and just compensation by means of the said Board. If those two things crumble no amendment in Committee can put them right, and if all that is left of the Bill is the necessity of having periodical local elections upon the three questions of no-change, no-licence and reorganisation, I think even those moderate temperance reformers who stand behind this Bill will feel that they cannot press it forward any further.
As I understand the scheme—the Bill is an obscure one, and I may be wrong—it is this. Almost every part of the scheme was expounded to us by the Bishop of Oxford with a lucidity that was most gratifying, but he and, I think, the other speakers who supported the Bill have fought rather shy of considering what, the nature of the compensation is. They are anxious that the brewers should be fairly compensated. They are anxious that they 959 should get their money. Are they fairly compensated? And will they get their money? It all rests upon the central fund. It is one of the great features of this Bill, we are told, that it takes no State money whatsoever, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot lay hands on the central fund, so carefully has it been protected in order to spare the taxpayer.
How is the central fund made up? It is made up from two sources. One is the compensation fund and the other is the profit made from disinterested management. When, under disinterested management, the disinterested managers manage a disinterested public-house, they are bound under the Bill to pay the compensation levy upon their house, but if they prefer to leave it in the hands of a publican whom they authorise to carry on the business subject to their control, of course it is out of the publican that the money will come that goes into the compensation fund. Therefore, except to the extent to which the directly managed house belonging to the Board pays compensation levy into the fund, it all comes out of the existing publicans. We are told also that there is a source of income of some importance which consists of the profits that the disinterested managers will make out of public-huoses where it is expressly their duty to en courage consumption of everything except alcoholic drinks, and your Lordships must judge for yourselves whether there is likely to be much contribution of that kind. But all the rest comes straight out of the pockets of the brewers and the public-house owners, themselves—every penny of it.
The Bill lays hands on the compensation fund which has been built up by the contributions of the brewers and public-house owners It levies for the future upon brewers and public-house owners a doubled compensation levy. It levies on houses which, I think, were free from it before. As I understand it, it repeals in the Third Schedule the sections under which any further working of the Act of 1904 is possible. Thus, the money being all put up from one source or another from the trade itself into the central fund, it is out of that central fund that eventually the compensation is to come. The right rev. Prelate rightly said that everything 960 turned upon the solvency of that fund, and, without explaining the calculations upon which the result had been arrived at, he said that he believed there could be no doubt of its solvency, unless a considerable number of districts at the start carried a no-licence resolution. I think that was the conclusion he relied upon. As I do not know upon what his calculations were based I cannot criticise the result, but there is one thing that I fail to notice in the Bill which, it seems to me, may very much alter that result. When the Board of Management undertake to exercise all the vast powers that they possess where are they going to get their working capital from? They can buy, by compulsory acquisition, breweries and any other places where intoxicating liquor is manufactured. They can buy or lease premises. They can buy or lease public-houses. They can carry on the trade of a public-house keeper, of a refreshment house keeper, of a manufacturer and of a brewer or distiller. Where are they going to get working capital for that purpose? And if they make losses instead of profits how are the losses going to be paid? The Bill does not say. The Bill proceeds, so far as I can make out, on what I, with great respect, venture to call the principle of supposing that disinterested management is going to make profits out of the public-houses when the whole point of that kind of management is to make the profit as small as possible.
It is, of course, possible that they may get their working capital in this way. They take the premises by compulsory acquisition. They go to the Commissioners and have the compensation adjusted, and during the interval between the judgment which makes the money payable and the moment of acquisition they may, of course, be disposing of the stock in trade and thereby, if not making a profit, at any rate accumulating some working capital; but unless it is done in that way, I do not know where the working capital is to come from, except out of the compensation fund. If they make losses—and nobody that I know believes that they will be free from making trading losses—unless they can come upon the compensation fund to make good their losses then the people who trust them, whether traders for raw materials or brewers for the drink they sell, will 961 find that, they have no security whatever, because the Board is a corporation, and the members of it cannot be sued. The Board is a trading corporation itself. It has no assets except the public-houses that are vested in it, and I can only suppose that when judgments are given against the Board execution of those judgments must go against the free public-houses and breweries which are supposed to be in the Board's hands for the purposes of disinterested management.
Unless something is forthcoming to meet this difficulty it seems to me that the solidity of the central fund is shaken at the outset, because, instead of your being able to say: "Here is money raised by annual compensation levies and earmarked and set aside," if it is liable to be raided at any time because boards of management are not successful then you never know when your central fund may be depleted for making good those losses. If it is not the central fund that is to be the source of making them good what is to happen? Nobody suggests that these concerns can be allowed to go down in bankruptcy. The Board of Management would have to throw the losses upon the State. In that case, by the vote of a majority of a few people in favour of disinterested management, you will have the State committed in a certain area to trade in beer with the certain result that if losses are made they will have to be make good out of the Exchequer. Such is, as I understand it, that part of the system.
I will now deal with the other part. When the fifteen years have elapsed, the compensation has come to an end. Who will find the money for the compensation then? I agree, not the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I agree, not the rates. I agree also, not those fervent persons who have succeeded in carrying a disinterested management resolution. Where has it come from? It all comes out of the pockets of the trade, and, with the single exception of the sums that may have been paid in out of problematical profits, and of the sums which may have been paid in as compensation levy on the managed houses, the trade will have compensated itself out of its own money and by itself. Of course, there will have been a redistribution of the money. There are some 962 people who seem to think that so long as you transfer money out of one pocket to another that is all right. In many parts of the country that kind of nationalisation is rather popular just now, but I fail to see the fairness and the justice of a system which is based essentially and finally upon the proposition that the brewers and the publicans themselves will find the money with which to compensate themselves. Yet that I believe to be the exact truth.
I wish to say something in regard to the time limit. I think there was some confusion in the speech of the noble Lord who spoke immediately before me about this. It is not merely that you limit the number of years' purchase of the property. It is not a question between 99 years' and 50 years', 25 years' and 10 years' purchase, but it is that there is to be no compensation after a certain length of time, in this case 15 years, and the longer it is put off the less compensation you get. Of course, there is a reason for that. It is said that the longer your expropriation is put off, the longer time you have in which to make money, and, therefore, that you must make hay while the sun shines. You must, during the three, six, ten years, or whatever the period is, make enough not merely to provide an income, but also make enough to constitute what is called an insurance premium, but whether you say that it is to be done by means of an insurance premium, or by saving up your money against the day of expropriation, however it is done, it is always the same thing—the money comes out of the pockets of the compensated persons themselves. Whether you put upon them the necessity of insuring their licences with an insurance company and paying the premiums, or constituting their own insurance fund and putting up the money themselves—however you do it, if you are going to say at the end of fifteen years that there is to be no more compensation for anybody, then you have not instituted a system by which you calculate the amount of compensation but a system under which the man who gets expropriated earliest will come off best.
In this Bill there, is apparently a desire to get a certain portion of the brewing trade in favour of the earliest possible 963 form of disinterested management so that they may come in for compensation on a twelve years' basis. You can quite conceive of intelligent brewers saying they had better get out as soon as possible, and all supporting State management and putting upon the Board of Management the obligation to take over their public-houses. In that case the central fund is bankrupt at once, and all that the scheme provides is to induce people who are going to get compensation to try to get their compensation at the earlier stage of the scheme rather than hang on. If there is any justice in this at all it must rest on the idea that the brewers do so very well that if you give a man fifteen years in which to trade he will get out of the public enough to pay the total value of his house and still have a proper annual return for his capital and labour. I will not labour this financial scheme any further. It is a matter on which we ought to have detailed figures in order to show on what ground these rates are based.
The right rev. Prelate made a reference to the Committee which sat in 1917, of which I had the honour to be Chairman, and suggested that its Report had been followed with respect and with a certain amount of adoption, but that it had been departed from in suitable particulars. That Report was made in circumstances so different that it affords little or no guide to any scheme now, unless it is frankly recognised that there is the whole difference in the world between a war scheme and a post-war scheme. The terms of reference to the Committee stated:—His Majesty's Government being of opinion that it may shortly be necessary as an urgent war measure to assume control of the manufacture and supply of intoxicating liquors during the war and the period of demobilisation and that such control would involve the purchase after the war of the interests concerned in such manufacture and supply. …I understood from that that the policy was that the control was so strict during the war, and the beer was so severely watered during the war, that the compensation to be paid after the war would be so high that you might buy the whole thing and yet save money. I do not know 964 more about the policy of it than I have told your Lordships.
We reported unanimously upon a scheme by which the purchase price could be arrived at, as we thought on the evidence, justly, and I only mention that it was an unanimous Report in order to show that it was not, and could not be, a Report in favour of any manner of purchase whatever. It was merely an answer to the question by saying that if you calculated in a certain way you would find, as we believed, that a fair value would be arrived at, and then you could buy. That was a war measure. In 1917 there was no experience at all, except pre-war experience. We proceeded therefore on pre-war profits. We proposed to capitalise pre-war profits, and pay the result; and the State was to pay. At any rate, the brewers and publicans would have got their money. They would not have had to find it themselves or never see it at all. In order to ascertain the amount of compensation we asked what the profits were over a given period of years, then took an average, and multiplied that by a multiplier. We agreed, after some little difference, on the multiplier, I think fifteen, which would bring out the result that would have to be paid. It was not a multiplier of twelve, which would only be paid if the axe fails on you after three or four years; nor would the compensation disappear altogether if the axe falls on you after fourteen years. The departures from this simple scheme seem to be much more extraordinary than the respect paid to it in the speech of the right rev. Prelate.
It seems to me that a wholly new valuation should be made. The brewers are said to be doing well, some very well. I do not know whether that is so or not. But we have now a surfeit of figures by which we can ascertain the truth from 1920 onwards, and as three years have to pass from the passing of the Bill to the holding of the first election there is a matter of another four years or so during which more materials can be obtained before any question as to the amount of compensation payable can arise. I suggest that before any scheme is put forward we ought to have some machinery or estimate of a new valuation of the whole.
965 I am not so sanguine about there being no no-licence resolutions carried. The right rev. Prelate was willing to allow this Bill to be adapted if it was first adopted, and suggested that we might get rid of the no-licence vote. But there is that sword always hanging over the brewers and those degraded persons who consume brewers' products. As the Bill stands, and we can only discuss it as it stands, under the name of local option you arc to have in every one of a large number of constituencies in England, which may be as small as 50,000 persons, an election on these three issues. Mechanically, and without any regard to the state of business or to a General Election, this question is to come up again, and every time, until "no-licence" has been resolved, the owners of property of this kind will have to fight for their lives. Is that a prospect which is very attractive or temperate? Is that bringing peace or a sword? I cannot imagine a scheme more likely to embitter a controversy, the sole solution of which is by the cultivation of a reasonable spirit and reasonable habits, and of faith.
Why is it to go to local option? Is it really right that Parliament should delegate to the inhabitants of boroughs of 50,000 persons the right to engage us in the State management of public-houses?—because I cannot see how the Board of Management is anything but a State board, and some Minister must be responsible for it in Parliament. Is it right that Parliament should delegate to a body of persons like that the right to pledge somebody or other to this enormous compensation scheme? Is not Parliament recreant if it throws aside the duty put upon it to make up its mind for the whole country what policy ought to be pursued? Is there anything exceptional about the sale of drink? Is it right that there should be a different policy in one place from that which prevails in another?
I know nothing of the instances which my noble friend quoted concerning Scotland, so I will say nothing about them, but I have occasion in the way of my calling to know something about the disputes which arise in Canada on the frontier that runs between two Provinces where they have divergent liquor laws, or in the case of institutions which manufacture liquor under the Dominion laws when they are restrained in their local enterprise by local powers. Wherever the 966 line is drawn you always have these frontier differences all the way along it concerning the sale and manufacture of drink, and this does not seem to me to make either for peace or for dignity. Nor can I understand how it is that people who live on one side of the street in one county should be, more interested in the decision as to the existence of public houses in the rest of the county than the people on the other side of the street, who cannot take part because they happen to be on the other side of the line.
To my mind, in a matter of this sort, Local Option is not a policy at all. It is a dodge—a dodge to enable an inconvenient political question to be put off upon other shoulders. My recollection of politics is that of a reader of the newspapers, but it goes back a good long time, and my impression is that when Local Option was first heard of it was regarded in a very different light, and I am pretty sure that it suddenly became popular because it was a way of getting rid of a very disagreeable and awkward question. The question of the right of the individual to consume liquor and to sell or to manufacture liquor is, at any rate, a nationwide question. We have gone very far in having separate legislation for Wales and also—though there, perhaps, it may be said that we have not gone quite so far—in having separate legislation for Scotland. I should have thought that the whole of Great Britain should be treated as a single area in which one policy should prevail, and that counties and boroughs should not be agitated every three years on a requisition signed by so many inhabitants.
That is a suggestion which I cannot understand. Nor do I understand how this procedure is to be justified when you consider who the electors are. If Parliament were to decide the question, it would be decided ultimately according to the votes of the whole of the manhood of the country, and perhaps, before long, by the votes of the womanhood as well; at present, at any rate, it would be decided by the votes of women over thirty years of age. But that is not the electorate which will decide the question under this Bill. If is a wide electorate, no doubt, but it is a very different electorate from that one. I should have thought those who speak for the great heart 967 of the people have the light to say that this Bill prejudices their right to be heard rather than gives them an opportunity of being heard for the first time. That, however, is a hypothetical matter.
The other proposition which I should have thought was evident is that a Bill like this ought not to be introduced by a private member, even by a right rev. Prelate. It is a Government matter or nothing, and a Bil of this sort, so drastic, so far-reaching, interfering so deeply with liberty, is not likely to go very far unless the Government, backed by the power of Government, is prepared to take it up. We have been challenged for having criticised this scheme. I have always thought that when a Bill was introduced into either House it was introduced for the purpose of being criticised. Sometimes it obtains that criticism and sometimes it does not. We have been challenged because we have criticised it, and we are asked what we have to propose. Is that the right way to conduct controversy? Surely it is not incumbent upon us to withhold our criticism on a Bill which we are asked to pass because we do not come forward with any working scheme of our own. Twenty thousand superfluous public-houses have been suppressed under the Act of 1904. That is to come to an end. Under this Bill they are to be suppressed in other ways.
Nobody disputes that things are still very bad in some places, nor must we be thought to be disputing anything that has been said upon the other side of the House about the dreadful fate of those who have a drunkard in their homes. But I think we have to recollect that this is not an evil that can be swept out with a besom or eradicated with a high hand. There is a story, which I dare say many of your Lordships will know, of a Bishop—I believe it was said to be the ex-Bishop of Manchester—who found a man much the worse for drink, and said to him: "My man, how can you do such a thing as this? How can you make a beast of yourself?" The man's answer was: "Because it is the shortest road out of Manchester." I am a Manchester man, and, although I do not say that it is any worse than any other town of the sort, I do say quite sincerely that I should think long, in the existing state of housing, of wages and social conditions, 968 before I made it impossible for that shortest road out of Manchester to be found by any man who wanted it. But we look at these things from different points of view. I cannot profess to have any faith at all in this complicated piece of mechanical legislation. I have the greatest belief in a well-managed public-house if only the licensing justices will allow it to be well managed, but you cannot reconstruct everything at once. You cannot alter the social habits of the people in a year or two. You must take time, and accordingly I respectfully say that it is no answer to us to say that we ought to produce something better or else vote for this Bill. For myself, I do not propose to vote for the Second Reading.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, I believe there is a general desire to resume the discussion on Monday, and therefore the debate will be adjourned until Monday next.