HL Deb 30 June 1924 vol 57 cc1072-124

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment, moved on Tuesday last by Lord Banbury of Southam, to the Motion for the Second Reading—namely, that the Bill be read 2a this day six months.


My Lords, when this Bill was discussed last week I ventured to suggest that the debate should be resumed to-day in order to have an opportunity of putting before your Lordships a considered view of what is the real question before this House. The discussion has largely turned upon details of the Bill. That, of course, always happens and is quite natural, and yet that discussion did not go to the real point. The Lord Bishop of Oxford, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, made it clear that he was putting forward a general principle. The Bill embodies an attempt to put that principle into detailed shape, but he did not tie himself to the details. What he desired was that your Lordships should pronounce on the principle and that then this Bill should go to a Select Committee, which might inquire into the fashion in which he had embodied the principle and express your Lordships' view upon the subject.

After listening to the whole of that debate, and after reading the report of it and re-reading the Bill, I have come to the conclusion that this discussion in reality turns on a great question that is foundational, and that we should make a great mistake in the interests of our own House if we bolted and barred our doors upon every project of this sort. The question raised is one which has excited vast public interest not only here but all over the world. If I understand the principle which the right rev. Prelate intends this Bill to embody, it is this: You cannot, by mere abstract legislation from some centralised body like Parliament, deal with the liquor question efficiently, nor would it do to leave it alone, for it is a question too urgent to be left alone. But there is a third course, and that is to lay down the principle that the authority of the State should be applied in conjunction with local opinion; in other words, you apply to this problem the principle which you have applied to other questions—the method of devolution. That mode of dealing with the matter was put into operation in the Carlisle system, and the general testimony has been that the experiment succeeded and that it was an experiment well worth considering. What I understand the right rev. Prelate to ask is that your Lordships should appoint a Select Committee to consider the principle, to consider the way in which it may be applied in this Bill, and, if necessary, to amend the Bill—in short, to deal with the whole subject in such a fashion that the principle comes to the front and the details are dealt with as, of necessity, subordinate.

For this procedure there are many precedents. Your Lordships have dealt previously with grave, questions by the method of a Select Committee. A Select Committee can be given great powers. It can call for witnesses, it can call for Papers, and it can even go so far as to send down commissioners to inquire upon the spot into the working of institutions that are called into question. That was done in, among other cases, the Inquiry that was made into the sweating system some years ago, and I see no reason why it should not be done on this occasion. That, as I understand it, was the attitude of the right rev. Prelate.

The debate, however, at once took another shape. Speeches were made, on this side of the House in particular, which went in the direction of condemning the Bill merely upon its details. Of the details of the Bill I wish only to say that in many points I think that those speeches raised questions which must be closely considered. They are essentially questions with which the Select Committee would have to deal and they are essentially questions which require to be solved before we can make real progress. But they are questions which have to be dealt with on the footing of having first settled the large principle.

Upon this side of the House, it was said that Local Option had failed and that Prohibition in particular had been a failure. My noble and learned friend. Lord Sumner, instanced the case of Canada, where it is undoubtedly true that in one Province you have a liquor system of a certain kind and next door, in another Province, you have a liquor system of a different kind. This often leads to very curious results. In Ottawa, for instance, not one drop of alcohol is to be got, but if the members of a well-known club there choose to cross the river to the municipality of Hull they can get everything they desire. Very odd results occur, both as regards the wholesale and the retail trade, in Provinces which have set up different systems of liquor control. But although this has given rise to confusion, and in some cases even to a certain amount of harm, I have talked to public men of all kinds in Canada—I do not know if my noble and learned friend has done the same—and they have told me, be they lawyers, or merchants, or manufacturers or politicians, that, although the system of more control and less control gives occasion to inconvenience, and at times, indeed, to discomfort, yet on no account are the public in Canada likely to part with this control. The reason is that the workmen are better, people are more efficient, and a better state of things prevails generally, so that on the balance the varying systems have been a success.

If you turn to the United States, which were also called in question, you find the same thing. I dare say that there is an enormous amount of illicit drinking in the United States, and I have no doubt that the "boot-legger" drives a thriving trade, but you have to take these things on the balance, and I ask anybody in contact with American feeling whether he has ever been told that the United States are likely to go back on Prohibition. They are certainly not likely to do so just now, so far as I have discovered. Before the recent legislation there were a number of Prohibitionist States, and one of the things which moved the people of the United States to ask for the Amendment which embodied the Prohibition system was that the States which did not have Prohibition were obviously at a disadvantage compared with the States which had it. The workmen in the latter States were better, the tone of the people was better, and it was decided that it was good for the United States as a whole to adopt Prohibition, however inconvenient it might be and however liable to inflict a certain amount of hardship.

But you do not need to go to Canada or to the United States to see the operation of differential legislation. It is a great mistake to imagine that the old doctrine of recognising that opinion in one part of this country may be in advance of opinion in another part is obsolete so far as practice is concerned. I am not talking of extreme public opinion, but of bringing the trade into such shape that it can be carried on in accordance with the best interests of the public. If you go north of the Tweed you will find in operation an Act of which Lord Long made no mention, but to which he might usefully have referred. It is not a new Act but an Act which is three generations old. Under that Act not a public-house in the country is licensed to sell drink on Sunday. That results in a certain amount of discom- fort, for if you take a long walk on Sunday you are unable to get any stimulant of any kind—I have myself experienced the discomfort—but it is a hardship which is willingly submitted to by the people of Scotland in the public interest. Well, there is differential legislation. You will find it also in Wales, and you will find people prepared to model it in their own fashion according to local sentiment.

The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, declared his dislike of the whole system of local control and devolution. He has no sympathy with the desire to regulate the liquor traffic in such a fashion that each part of the country, in accordance with the standard of public opinion, should be able to model its liquor traffic. Again, the noble Viscount, Lord Long, went even further. The noble Viscount not only declared devolution of this kind to be an evil thing, but he said he opposed it in the interests of the Church and of local government. I do not dispute his claim to knowledge of local government, but I should like to know by what title he spoke in the name of the Church. Then Lord Sumner delivered a speech of a somewhat different complexion. He, too, took exception to the principle, but he also submitted the details of the Bill to criticism which was formidable, and he went into the question of the adequacy of the compensation fund. That is well worthy of consideration by a Committee, but it is not a point which touches the general principle, and what I should have liked to have heard more about was a direct argument in the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the principle of the Bill, if he meant, as I suppose, to oppose the Bill.

Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the son of a father who was well known in this House, was against Prohibition, and was against experiments that were not carefully thought out, but he was for the principle of the Bill and was in favour of the great experiment carried out at Carlisle—that is to say, devolution in the shape of disinterested management. It was a speech to which we may well attach weight, because I have not the least hesitation in saying that there is not only a large, but a growing, public opinion in favour of the view that something must be done with the liquor traffic, if the state of Society is to have a fair chance of becoming better than it is. The position in which we stand to-day is that on the principle of the Bill we have to give a decision, and it is a decision which must be clear. The people will not be content to hear that the House of Lords found that certain details of the Bill were so open to criticism that they rejected the measure. They will want to know what was the attitude of this House towards the general principle of which I spoke.

The real controversy is as to whether there should be power of popular management of an adequate kind. When I say "popular management" I mean management in the interests of the people themselves, as shown by what the authority that they have set up desires. The principle of the Bill is to set up a State Department which is to work in accordance with local decision, ascertained in a certain way. It may be that certain matters of detail will be required to be examined more minutely, and that the question whether the compensation is adequate will have to be considered more closely. But these are essentially matters with which a Select Committee of this House is well fited to deal. It must be borne in mind that in this Bill there are certain features which distinguish it from previous attempts to deal with the subject. Reference has been made to the Scottish Act of 1913. I do not think that the Scottish Act has been an immense success, but it must be remembered that in the Scottish Act there was no option of disinterested management. It was purely a quesion of no-change or no-licence. The present Bill allows the sale of liquor under strict supervision. That provision was not in the Scottish Act, and therefore you cannot compare the Scottish Act with this measure.

Of course, this Bill will impose some sacrifice. Some people will find it a hardship that they will be unable to obtain liquor between certain hours. Other people will not mind that, but at the same time in these large matters it is essential that there shall be some sacrifice. The question is whether the majority is to be sacrificed to the interest of a minority. I think the decision which we have to take to-day is a very grave one. It is, as I have already suggested, whether we will bang and bolt the door on the broader principle that in the time in which we live some step forward shall be taken, as it has been taken in other countries, for reducing the volume of a very great evil. It is not necessary to go to extremes. The Bill does not call upon us to go to extremes, but it does call upon us to introduce better standards and more moderation.

It is no use making speeches like Lord Long's, which belong to a period of thirty years ago and are wholly inadequate for to-day. To let it go forth that this House speaks, and insists upon speaking, in that way on a great question of principle is really to invite your Lordships to dig your political graves. The sentiment of the country is against it, and I, for my part, think that it would be the most serious error if you were to reject the broad principle which is all the Lord Bishop of Oxford is contending for in this measure. For my part, it seems to me that the only wise course that we can take, not merely in the public interests but in our own interests, is to assent to the principle which underlies the Bill and then to see that there shall be a searching examination into its details.


My Lords, from the interesting speech which the. Lord Chancellor has just made I detect one surprising omission. I had, indeed, expected that he rose with the object of explaining to your Lordships what is the attitude towards this Bill of the Government of which he is an ornament. Now that his speech is concluded I am left completely in the dark. Is the Labour Government in favour of legislation that proceeds upon these lines? And will the Lord Chancellor inform the House at some convenient moment whether or not—I assume it to he so—the speech he has made represents the policy of the Labour Party? I should entertain no doubt upon this point except that he used the expression on several occasions "for my part." If the noble and learned Viscount was merely expressing his own opinion, while we should listen to him with the respect which is always accorded to that opinion, we should, of course, feel that we were a little unfairly deprived of the guidance which should be given by some spokesman on behalf of the Government addressing the House when vital and most widely ranging proposals are made upon an immensely important social problem.

I had the curiosity to count how often the noble and learned Viscount used the word "principle" in the course of his speech. I think, if he will find time tomorrow to check my figures, it will be seen that he used the word "principle" no fewer than seventeen times. And so prodigious is the gift of the noble and learned Viscount for using the most eloquent and nicely chosen language without contributing greatly to the clarity of the immediate discussion—unless, indeed, that is his purpose—that I do not know-even now what was the principle which has excited his enthusiasm. I am in honest doubt on the point. I listened to every word that he said, and the only principle I could extract from his mellifluous observations was that something must be done. I have always found that that expression, either in public or in private life, that "something must be done" is the hall mark of weak and undecided people who have not the slightest idea what ought to be done, or why it ought to be done.

The noble and learned Viscount said repeatedly that we might send this matter to a Select Committee and decide in this House upon the principle. It is the fault of this Bill—almost the most obscure Bill, almost the most badly drafted Bill that I have encountered in twenty years of Parliamentary life—that it contains at least twelve principles, all of them bad. It is absolutely impossible that any one could deal with these merely as if they were matters of unimportant detail about the pasture of which a Select Committee might be permitted to browse at large with the obscure indication that this House has approved of some principle imperfectly understood and not at all defined. Any legislative assembly which assented to this Bill, approving its broad principle upon the Second Reading, will be responsible for the most mischievous admissions, made at this moment of all others, for which this House has ever been responsible.

The noble and learned Viscount says the question cannot be left alone, that something must be done. A great thing was done in the year 1904. A Bill, bitterly and most unfairly opposed by the Liberal and the Labour Parties of that day, was passed, a Bill which, for the first time in the licensing history of this country, has effected a real and permanent reform. My noble and learned friend Lord Sumner, in a most incisive and powerful speech, made last Tuesday in this House, recalled the attention of your Lordships to the fact that 30,000 redundant licences had been swept away under the Act of 1904. I do not think I do the noble and learned Viscount any injustice when I recall the fact that of that Act he was a strong opponent. He and those with whom he was then co-operating assailed it with every bitter word which they could think of—and there were many—and this Act has removed 30,000 licences. It has been in operation for twenty years. Give it twenty years more. It should, by that time, have operated upon nearly 40,000 more redundant licences, and it will have operated without the slightest sense of injustice, and with an immense resultant gain to the moral health of the nation.

I could have understood it if the noble and learned Viscount had said: "We accept, though late in the day, the principle of the Act of 1904, but we do not think that the trade are paying quite enough by way of compensation." If he had said that the rate of reduction could be increased, accepting the broad principle of that Act, I am not authorised, of course, to make any observations as to what the view of the trade would be, but I can at least say what my view would have been. I should have considered any such proposal with the greatest possible degree of consideration and respect. It may be that, proceeding upon these non-revolutionary lines, honest lines, lines reconcilable with the methods by which we have always dealt with our social problems, we could have greatly accelerated the rate of reduction of those licences which must still be pronounced redundant.

I could not help thinking that the noble and learned Viscount had derived a somewhat odd and unaccountable impression from his visit to the United States and Canada, or from the conversations which he has doubtless held with persons competent to speak for both those great countries. I have visited them both more recently than the noble and learned Viscount. At the time when I visited Canada, of which he spoke first, and of which I will speak first, the materials for forming a judgment were somewhat more clearly defined than at the moment, I think, when the noble and learned Viscount may have formed his impressions. I travelled all over Canada from the West to the far East. I discussed this problem, as the noble and learned Viscount did, with lawyers, politicians, and statesmen, to borrow his own reminiscent phraseology, and I think I equipped myself with some information on the subject. The surprising circumstance—I think I am right in saying this—is that, every single Province but one has now reverted to the pre-Prohibition state of affairs. The noble and learned Viscount said it was only in some districts.

Surely the noble and learned Viscount is aware of this: that even in those districts, with the solitary exception of the one Province which is still Prohibitionist and where, I may warn the noble and learned Viscount, a poll is likely to be taken at an early date—with the single exception of that one Province and even in the districts which are under public control, wines and beer are served at the hotels under the law precisely as they are in London. The only difficulty in the matter of spirits is this. If you desire to obtain either whisky, or brandy, or any spirit you must either go yourself, or send your servant, to the Government shop and he or you can be accommodated with one bottle. But this not very severe disability has its own alleviation, because if you send your servant six times he can be accommodated on the same day with six bottles, and if your need is even greater, he has only to multiply the number of his visits. So that I cannot imagine that this particular reform will bring much comfort to those on whose behalf the Lord Chancellor spoke.

The noble and learned Viscount used a phrase which astonished me. He said that Canada was feeling solid upon the point. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount has appreciated the astonishing reactions which the existence of American Prohibition has produced upon the financial situation in Canada. The noble and learned Viscount named Ottawa, and spoke of severe restrictions obtaining in the capital city of Canada, and the fact that by making a most agreeable excursion two miles out of the city, you might not only take part in any form of sport which appealed to you, but you might be entertained to any form of alcohol in assuaging the thirst which the particular sport had caused.

There is great solidity in Canada on the subject of sharing in the financial benefits which art accruing and will accrue to that great Dominion by the partial American abstention from alcohol. Great hotels are springing up all over the Dominion to accommodate the people from America who are not yet completely converted to the admirable system which they have put into force in the United States. On this the noble and learned Viscount's views were most interesting. When I say that I do not mean that others were not of interest. I have never, in any country, been brought face to face with such deliberate and general violation of the law as I have observed in the United States of America, and the startling circumstance about it is that it is not men in humble stations in society who are most conspicuously violating the law—as so many in all stations are doing—but men of the highest position, men who would never break any other law, men who have never broken any other law. Nevertheless, openly, without any disguise, they break this law because they feel that it is an intolerable usurpation of the domain of private conscience.

But the noble and learned Viscount says that you will meet many people in the United States of America who tell you that it is not in the least likely that this law will be repealed. The noble and learned Viscount upon this point is right, because no one knows better than one who is so great an authority upon Constitutional Law as he is that the reformers in the United States were ingenious enough to protect the change which they made, which would not have been possible except under the sentimental emotionalism which was produced at the period of their late entry into the war. They have carefully upheld the bulwarks of their Constitutional Law, and it can only be altered with all the formalities with which any change in the Constitution must be attended. Your Lordships need only read the proceedings of the Democratic Convention, as recorded in to-day's newspapers, to realise how largely the purely political issues enter into this question. The real truth, as I understand it, in the United States is that neither great Party is in the least likely to assume the burden of making any change in this law, because neither Party is quite sure how it is likely to operate politically. The noble and learned Viscount knows as well as I and other noble Lords how cautious and how sensitive are the great political organisations in the United States of America, and how slow they are to commit themselves to any change of policy which may produce unfavourable reactions at the time of the Elections.

There really is no particular reason, let me assure the noble and learned Viscount, why anybody in the United States of America should make unusual efforts in order to obtain a change in the law. He spoke most candidly to the House. He spoke of the hardships he had sustained, or might sustain, if he found it possible at some time to repeat his visit to the United States of America. He could very readily and swiftly compensate himself for any hardship he may have to suffer. Nothing could show more clearly how strong an influence political issues have on the great political Parties of the United States than the fact that they will not take up a question at all until they are sure that, in their own phrase, it is what they call "a winner." You have only to read the discussions which took place yesterday on the subject of the Ku Klux Klan. I do not propose to enter upon the constitution, the character, or the aims of that interesting body, but it is indeed a somewhat remarkable circumstance that the Democratic Party, roughly corresponding with the Liberal Party in this country, should have spent eight hours of heated debate in deliberations, in which the members were prevented from doing any violence to one another by at least a thousand policemen, and finally decided that, after all, it was a religious matter and, therefore, had nothing to do with politics.

The noble and learned Viscount further added that Scotland had, on the whole, gone back. I had hoped to hear a word from my noble and learned friend on the subject of that picturesque village which he honours by his residence, and to which a fugitive attention was directed by my noble friend Lord Banbury on the-occasion of our last discussion. I understand that what happened at Auehterarder was that Auchterarder was persuaded—I know not whether by my noble and learned friend or not—to "go dry." and accordingly it voted "no-licence." Thereupon the village proceeded to reap the harvest which it had sown. I most sincerely trust that my noble friend, whose generous hospitality has been gratefully appreciated by me over a long period of years, did not find his cellar understocked at that grave and critical moment. He gives me the reassurance for which I had hoped. But observe the singular position of the inhabitants of Auchterarder. I do not know how many they may be, but I am sure it is a considerable place. Let us suppose that there are five hundred inhabitants. They voted, in a moment of aberration, "no licence." I suspect my noble and learned friend, who, no doubt, is provided for for the rest of his days, gave a vote in the same sense, because nothing is more agreeable than to lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven by the inexpensive method of confiscating other people's treasure. My noble and learned friend could give such a vote with a very considerable degree of composure and indifference. The whole ballast and anchor of Auchterarder might be gone, but there remained the cellar of which my noble and learned friend is the proprietor.

Observe the still further consequence. Under the Scottish Act any Scottish village, or any voting area, which declared for no-licence was at least afforded the opportunity of changing its mind. Auchterarder has changed its mind, there is not the slightest doubt of that. Having contemplated with great envy the more sensible regimen of my noble and learned friend, they changed their mind. Under this Bill you do not allow the people to change their mind. What would Auchterarder be doing to-day? It would be "dry" if the Bill which the noble and learned Viscount desires to see given a Second Reading were the law of the land. The people of Auchterarder, whom we now know to be thirsty, would be driven by the right rev. Prelate and by the noble and learned Viscount to a course of drought which they have found to be unsatisfactory to their appetites, and incompatible with their interests. The noble and learned Viscount shakes his head.

We were told by somebody who was replying to the argument of my noble friend Lord Banbury, that the reversion of Auchterarder to what most of us consider to be a more rational scheme of life had produced unfavourable reactions upon their health. The noble Viscount nods his head to that. I am not much impressed by that, because think of the deprivations that they have been through. Think of the anxieties they must have suffered as to what would be the result of the poll. Furthermore, no sooner have they recovered from the first of these horrible trials than they are face to face with this new peril of which the right rev. Prelate is the author. Indeed, it would require men of great solidity and stability to support a series of trials so great.

My principal complaint against this Bill, if I may say so without imputing any criticism to any noble Lord or the right rev. Prelate who is responsible for it, is that it is from beginning to end, a most obscure and extremely disingenuous Bill. I am quite certain that the right rev. Prelate has not realised the circumstances which I hope to make abundantly plain. The truth is you cannot master the licensing system of this country in the cloisters of Oxford, and suddenly take up and deal with a most complex organism which has developed and grown up with centuries of our life. You can no more become an adequate and intelligent reformer in this respect than you can, at the age of fifty or fifty-five, go suddenly into the practice of law or medicine. The whole business, give me leave to tell the right rev. Prelate, is one of the most extraordinary nicety and complexity, and to attempt by measures of this general kind—I hope to make this more plain—to deal with it without the advantage of most careful preparation is to invite a sure and certain failure.

The Memorandum itself illustrates as clearly as any other part of this amazing Bill which I could select what I have called the disingenuousness of the proposal. The Title, to begin with, is extremely misleading. It is called the Liquor (Popular Control) Bill. There is no popular control in the Bill. It is not popular control. If there is any control at all it is the control of the Commissioners nominated by a bureaucratic Minister. If you use the words "popular control" with political accuracy or precision you must mean that this problem is to be removed henceforth from the hands of Parliament in London, and that control is to be given to localities. What does control mean? It means full control; it means that if they wish to have licences they are to have licences; it means that if they have decided to try the experiment and wish to revert they are to have the power of reverting. This is not a Bill to give popular control. It is a Bill of which every clause is the direct opposite of popular control.

Then the free use of the term "compensation" is disingenuous. To keep the illustration within a simple limit, take ten men living in one town. You say: "For moral reasons we are going to prevent one of you from carrying on his trade any more, but we are going to compensate you, because we are going to make the other nine who have not any particular wish to get lid of you compensate you." So we have the situation of a man unwillingly excluded and unwillingly compensated, and nine other men who are unwilling to compensate him forced to do so. The Memorandum deals with this aspect of it with the greatest enthusiasm, stating that not a penny of public funds will be touched. My noble and learned friend Lord Sumner showed, in a part of his speech which the noble and learned Viscount airily waved away as a detail, the strongest ground for supposing that the whole scheme would start bankrupt, that it would be bankrupt in the middle of its operation, and would be bankrupt equally at the end. If the scheme is bankrupt, who is going to finance it? From what source are subventions to be drawn? They can only be drawn from public sources. Not the slightest attempt has been made to justify the finance of this Bill.

Indeed, the truth is plain. No Bill of this' kind ought to be introduced except under Government authority and with the authority of Government figures, got out by public Departments accustomed to deal with these vast sums, and given to us with some actuarial reassurance as to the solvency and permanency of the scheme. We do not even know who has advised the right rev. Prelate in relation to this matter. Not one word of reassurance or argument has been vouchsafed to us of the solvency of the financial side upon which the whole Bill depends.

The next point to which I would call attention is a statement made in the Memorandum to which I take the greatest possible exception, particularly as this Memorandum was published in the Press for propaganda purposes before this debate took place. It says that "the Bill extends to the members of the licensed trade the principle of contributory insurance against certain definite risks." Anything more disingenuous than to suggest that the principle that exists at the present moment is being extended cannot be imagined. There is no such principle as this known to English law. When the Memorandum assumes that it is merely creating an extension of an existing principle it has not the slightest foundation in fact for such an assumption.

It then states that the basis of compensation recommended unanimously by the Government Committee in 1917 has been adopted. Lord Sumner has completely destroyed that contention, and that has been done with the incomparable authority which this House always accords to one who has been Chairman of a Government Committee. The real truth, of course, is that the only respect in which this Bill is founded upon the Report of the Committee relates to the scale of compensation. The Memorandum says that the basis of compensation is the same. No more ludicrous mis-statement was ever made. The basis of compensation recommended by the Sumner Committee was that the money was to be paid by the taxpayer. Is it not an astonishing circumstance that in a Bill of this kind, of which the outstanding feature is that the trade are themselves to be compelled to pay what is euphemistically called compensation, we should be told that the basis of compensation was taken from the Sumner Committee, when the basis of compensation adopted by the Sumner Committee was that those whose licences might be interfered with should be compensated by the State? I wish to make it perfectly plain that it is a matter of principle, and that I intend to vote upon the Second Reading according to that view.

Other matters which the Bill contains are equally matters of principle. There is the choice of three options which, the Memorandum lays down quite arbitrarily, has to be exercised under conditions which in my judgment are grossly unfair. As to the reorganisation resolution, I detect signs of that kind of insinuating attempt to do a thing without saying you are going to do it which is so extremely distasteful. Why is it called reorganisa- tion? Why do not the framers of this Bill take their courage in their hands and say that this is nationalisation of public houses, for that is what it really is. Reorganisation might mean that you are but obtaining the services of a new landlord or a new bar keeper. That would be reorganisation; but what this Bill means is, that you are going to nationalise the trade. Just as we are told that this is a Bill to obtain popular control when it is in reality a Bill to destroy popular control, so we are told that it is a Bill to reorganise the trade when its sole object is to nationalise it.

Further, the options have to be exercised under conditions which are grossly unfair. If a reorganisation resolution or a no-licence resolution is in force in an area, the voters in that area are not allowed to vote in favour of the restoration of the present system. Why not? Are we still a free country? I thought that under a Socialist Government we at least should have been even more active believers in democracy than we have been in the past; yet, if one of these areas or ten of these areas, should form a conclusion at one period of time, try it, and discover that they dislike it, then, in the name of democracy, or in the name of morality, they are to be told "You are stereotyped for all time; you have deprived yourselves of your freedom of choice." And this is popular control

Let me consider another point. The noble and learned Viscount spoke of the difficulties which are introduced when one district adopts either reorganisation or no-licence and the district immediately contiguous refuses to adopt it. Does the noble and learned Viscount and his friends really imagine that such a system, either in the name of sobriety, or decency or convenience, could be tolerated in this country for a moment? All that would happen is that the thirsty population of one district would spend all its holidays in the other, with very agreeable results for those who enjoy the catering conveniences in the other district. But whether the inhabitants of that district, who do not specially wish to become the attraction centre for the thirsty neighbours in the adjoining village, will regard such a system as admirable I do not know. It would be perfectly legal. There will be whole areas in which one district will vote no-licence and another district will vote in the opposite; direction. I should have thought that the illustration of the United States of America, and the problems which have arisen from the contiguity of Canada to the United States, would have shown us how unwise: and how impossible it is to attempt reform on these partial lines.

Here I must associate myself with the observations of a very general kind which were made by my noble and learned friend Lord Sumner last week—and this, too, I should have thought was a point of principle. My noble and learned friend made the claim boldly and generally that the very attempt, to place responsibilities like these upon small voting bodies in the provinces involve the repudiation, the cowardly refusal, on the part of Parliament to handle this problem as a national one, though we all know that it is, in fact, a national problem. I am not intending to cover all the ground which was so admirably covered by my noble and learned friend, because I desire to respond to the appeal made by the noble and learned Viscount, that those who are opposed to the proposal should attempt to indicate some broad grounds of principle upon which we refuse to accept the Bill, and which will induce us to go into the Lobby against it on the Second Reading.

Let me say that as a broad point of principle I, for one, repel absolutely the claim of the State to step in and confiscate—that is the true word; it is not the word used in this Bill, but it is the word I use—the property of law-abiding-citizens, nor is this the time of all others that we should select for this House to give an example and point a hand in the direction of that policy. Let me, in a few general sentences, state why this is a matter of principle. I may be told that in the Licensing Act of 1904 compensation was introduced in the same sense in which it is spoken of in this Bill. The claim would be ill-founded, but it presents an appearance, a plausible resemblance, which is enough to make it convenient that I should make some observations upon it.

In the first place, it was clearly recognised by those responsible for the beneficent Act of 1904 that, even in the conditions which prevailed then and having regard to the limited range of those proposals, it would not be a fair or reason- able thing that any Conservative Party should attempt to carry such a Bill without the most close and intimate discussions with those who were to lie affected. And such discussions took place. I do not maintain that those who represented this widely spread industry were completely satisfied with the arrangements which preceded the passing of that Act. But they took part in the discussions; they did not feel that they were being plundered; they felt that they gained some advantages at the cost of some disadvantages, and they had the feeling that they were making some contribution to the solution of a most perplexing social problem.

Furthermore, there was this prodigious distinction between the two cases. The argument which was used with great force in the days of 1904 was this. The Act is applied in cities and rural districts, but the funds are local in their origin, and, therefore, the probability is overwhelming that he who pays for the suppression of a redundant house would in the accession to his trade derive some advantage from that suppression. Here you have a national fund to be administered by nominees of the Home Secretary of the day, and you may take away a man's livelihood, you may give him, if your fund is not already bankrupt, such compensation as you can, but you make all contribute to a national fund without the slightest probability that any one of those who contribute will gain by the suppression of public houses around them. This distinction is fundamental and prodigious, and it is extraordinary that any one who advocates and supports this Bill should found himself upon the principles that were laid down in the Act of 1904.

When we are told that there is one other option besides that of no-change and no-licence, it is very proper to ask ourselves, has the experience of the last few years increased or diminished the prestige of the case for Nationalisation? We enjoyed a singular experience, in four crowded and agonising years, as to the capacity of public servants to manage great public enterprises. I should imagine that we have hardly yet forgotten the experience of those days. Has anyone, for instance, lost the memory of the handling of the railway companies when the Government had control of them? Is there anybody who seriously disputes the enormous improvement, both practical and financial, which has taken place in the running of the railways since the national management of them was abandoned? I should very much like to ask what reason there is to suppose that the Government will run public-houses better than anybody else. I know of absolutely none.

Your Lordships will observe, too, how illogical in motive is the substructure upon which this Bill depends. We are told that the taxpayer will not have to pay a farthing for compensation because he will be assisted by the contributions of the nationalised houses. May 1 ask what is the policy of the Bill? Is it the policy and the conception of the Bill—for we are dealing with this matter in the spirit of moral reformers—that these nationalised houses shall be conducted upon business lines?—though not, indeed, with the object of pushing alcoholic refreshment upon intoxicated men, for I can assure the right rev. Prelate that this is not a policy of any licensee who knows his business to-day. Is it to be a policy of making the house productive in a business-like way? I know the answer that is always given to this question. We are told that the management of these houses will not specially push the sale of alcohol, but will have ginger-beer and tea and coffee.

The right rev. Prelate may reassure himself upon this point: If he also provides beer, whether the house be nationalised or not nationalised, far smaller demands, however insidiously they may be pressed upon the purchaser, will be made for these delighful beverages than for one of which Englishmen for a long period of time have been traditionally fond. If, therefore, it is really the scheme and the idea of the Bill that, having nationalised these houses, you should by every conceivable means discourage the sale of alcohol, I, for one, venture to predict that, the scheme will fail, and, differing a little from what I understand to be the view upon this point of my noble and learned friend, I rather anticipate that, in this matter a very considerable contribution will be made from the nationalised houses, and a contribution which will only be smaller than that which would be made from the ordinary public-houses simply because the management would be at once less competent and less experienced.

I should like, if I may, to add a word upon another subject, and to make an attempt, perhaps a bold one, to reply to the question of the noble and learned Viscount when he said in effect: "Something must be done; what do you suggest?" I have already suggested that, possibly with some increase in the compensation fund, you could advantageously, under our old Act, accelerate even more the process of reduction, so that in twenty years more we should have suppressed since 1904, in a period of forty years, some 70,000 or 80,000 houses. But I would add that this is not the true and only road of temperance. The stupidity in this matter of benches of magistrates all over the country has always astounded me. They have always gone upon the principle that they are not doing their duty unless they make public-houses as squalid, as unattractive, as impossible for women as they can be. In the days when I used to practise at the Bar they did not even allow people to play draughts in a public-house. I have heard it solemnly brought up before the Liverpool bench as an objection to a licensee that he actually allowed people to play draughts upon his premises in the afternoon. I have heard an objection taken by the police, and warmly received by the bench, to a licensee who had actually been guilty of the enormity of establishing a telephone, in his house.

That is looking back, I suppose, about twenty years, but I question whether the policy has even changed. Certainly, it is true that there has never been an intelligent attempt to see that the true solution of this problem lies in making public-houses really respectable and agreeable clubs for working men. When a man has finished a harsh day's work and returns to a not particularly amusing home, not with resources for enjoyment and pleasure, but to a house whose scanty range is embarrassed, perhaps, by three or four children and a tired wife, it will be in the social interests of the whole of society that such a man—yes, and his wife, too, after her day's work—shall be able to go to some place where they can enjoy reasonable refreshment, a place the atmosphere of which degrades neither her nor him. That, and that alone, is the road of true temperance. This is a Bill which will close the door to that road indefinitely, and will do it upon lines which are an affront not only to the social sense but to the elementary conceptions of morality which many of the citizens of this country entertain.

One final word of criticism and of objection. I assert, plainly that if once we, the House of Lords, admit the principle that because some of you do not like a particular trade in which, with the encouragement of the Legislature and for a long period of years, the savings of citizens of every class in the community have been invested—if once you admit the principle that you may, for your own moral purposes, appropriate. their property, not giving them anything in compensation from public funds, as Lord Sumner proposed, but taking from the pockets of their competitors and their survivors the funds with which to pay them out, unwilling as they are—once you admit that principle in relation to this problem, then with what consistency, with what power, with what success is this House going to confront the proposals with which, believe me, we shall be called upon to deal within the next ten years? Let us stand firm now, and not be deluded by the talk of details and principles. Upon at least five points I have raised vital points of principle which, if this Bill is once sent to a Committee to be considered and discussed we shall never again be able on a similar subject to challenge, and each of these points is individually destructive, and the whole of them are completely destructive in their cumulative force, of principles upon which alike the House of Lords and the Party to which we belong have depended through the ages.


My Lords, no one is a greater admirer of the eloquence of the noble Earl than myself, and the speech to which we have just listened is indeed a lit subject for admiration. But the serious nature of his criticism was chequered, as it usually is in the speeches of the noble Earl, by the play of a. fancy which I do not possess, and with the exercise of which I do not intend to compete. But I would beg your Lordships not to let the influence of those passages remove from your minds the gravity of the subject which underlies this Bill. Indeed, I cannot help thinking that every speech that has been made on this occasion does lip service to the cause of temperance, however unwilling any one of the spokesmen who opposed the Bill may have been to accept the method by which that cause can be advanced.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, in a striking phrase, said that we should have faith in time, but if you accepted his view, if his hopes were realised, and if the pleas for sobriety of the right rev. Prelates upon the Bench opposite were to prevail, what would you have done? You would have ruined the whole of the drink trade of this country as effectively, and far more effectively, than would be done by the operation of this Bill, and I should like to know why, if it be accepted that the promotion of temperance and sobriety in this country is a great national aim which enlists the support of all members of every Party, you should refrain from attempting to help the efforts of those social reformers who seek to amend the habits of some of our people by the introduction of law? I am left entirely unmoved by the statements which have been made as to the probable effects of this Bill upon the pockets of the industry, because, after all, this industry stands by itself. There is no other industry you can think of whose prosperity must be measured in terms of national thriftlessness and may be measured in terms of national degradation. There is no other industry whose prosperity is dangerous to the State, and I doubt if any one, even the; noble Earl, could deny that the unchecked and unlimited prosperity of the brewing interest is so dangerous.

I approach the Bill from a point of view totally different from that of most previous speakers. I approach it from the point of view of a man who is anxious to see whether it does not afford some means by which we can further promote habits of temperance in this country. I am met at once with the criticism of Lord Banbury and Lord Long, which, I must admit, leaves me somewhat troubled. I cannot imagine how people who, I do not doubt, would be as glad as any one else to see England a sober nation, can approach the Bill in the spirit which is manifested by their speeches. Lord Banbury said, and Lord Birkenhead repeated, that we had an example of the fearful effect of any such Bill as this in the Prohibition Act in the United States. Indeed, Lord Banbury gave us to believe that the effect of Prohibition in the United States has been to increase the very evil which it set out to remove, and Lord Birkenhead, although he did not say so, certainly lent colour to the idea that that was his view.

I agree entirely that it is not easy to get trustworthy statistics to prove what has happened, but I will say that the mere figures of convictions for drunkenness are perfectly worthless. That is not the source to which you should look to see what has happened under Prohibition. I want to know whether the gaols are getting empty, whether the workhouses are closing down, whether the savings bank deposits are growing owing to increased savings by the working classes, whether industrial efficiency is increasing, and whether the working people are better cared for. Those are the statistics that we want to have. I do know that before Prohibition was introduced in the United States I was dining with a man who knew America as well as most men—he was a very eminent American—and he said that Prohibition would certainly come. We treated his observation with polite incredulity, but he repeated that it would come, and when I asked why, he said: "Because the example of the States which have gone 'dry' is so strong that it cannot be gainsaid, and the other States are bound to follow in their trail."

When we are told of hotels that are being built and of people in New York who are breaking the law—and, to their shame, it is the better-to-do who are breaking the law—those statements leave me entirely unmoved. The only evidence that that affords is evidence of the mischief that may result when you combine undisciplined liberty with unconscionable wealth. The danger does not come from such a Bill as this, as has been suggested, but it comes from the example set by people who ought to know better, and if not from the approval, from the abstention from public disapproval, of these methods of lawlessness. These examples are the things which will certainly quicken the impatient steps of those who seek to overthrow the whole social system.

Let us turn away from the example of America and see what it is that this Bill proposes, and why it is that those who support it ask that it should be read a second time. I agree that there are criticisms made against it by the noble Earl and by Lord Sumner which are deserving of the closest attention, and although I may be unable to answer those criticisms to their satisfaction, I will do my best. After having heard what was said by Lord Banbury and Lord Long about this Bill, your Lordships, I cannot help thinking, must have been given, not intentionally, of course, an extremely misleading idea as to its contents. Lord Banbury said that he had spent long evenings reading this Bill, and that it has been his habit so to read Bills year after year. I rather gathered that he thought this Bill was by far the worst Bill that he had ever read. That might have impressed me if I had not heard from him very much the same observation with regard to many other Bills, and of all the Bills that he has read during the last eighteen years I do not believe you can find three Bills which have received his support. I believe that during the last eighteen years he has been prepared to oppose nearly every Bill which has been introduced, and therefore I do not think the fact that he is opposed to this Bill is a matter which need cause us undue alarm.

If the Bill were anything like what he suggested it was, I can understand its being opposed. He pointed out that this Bill is a Bill in which you have what he called a Star Chamber Commission set up, appointed by people who apparently are selecting their instruments not for the purpose of exercising the power which the Bill gives them but of carrying out the wishes of the Minister who appoints them. Now the Commission which he called a Star Chamber—and I suppose that it was in order to give the matter an ecclesiastical flavour that he introduced the name of Archbishop Laud—is a Commission of which the Lord Chancellor appoints one member, who is to be a barrister of at least ten years' standing, the Home Secretary appoints another, who must have special qualifications in valuation, and the President of the Board of Trade appoints a third. Then the noble Lord says that he does not think a barrister will have learnt anything at all in ten years, and he regarded it as a matter of jest. Some of the finest work done in this country is done by County Court Judges, and the Statute under which they are appointed requires that they shall have seven years' standing at the bar. If seven years is sufficient qualification for a man who exercises the powers of a County Court Judge, I cannot help thinking that ten years' standing is a very adequate period as the qualification of a commissioner who is to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, who also appoints the Judges

Then the noble Lord said, in effect: "Oh, if there is a vacancy this is what will happen: The Minister may say, ' Here is a man who should not try this ease, because I do not think he is very sound. He is not going sufficiently strongly against the brewers, and I will appoint a Commissioner whom I know and who will decide as I would have him decide,' and he will appoint one of his own creatures who will do as he is told." If the Government of this country sinks down into such an abyss of corruption that it can find its ready tools and instruments to carry out judicial duties by doing what they are told, you need not trouble about Licensing Bills, because the whole structure and foundation of our social order will have disappeared. I do not believe such a thing has happened, and I do not believe it will happen in the future.

When the noble Lord said that this is a Star Chamber, he never told you that the whole duty and function of this Commission is to assess values. That is all that it has to do. And there is an appeal from that Commission to the Court of Appeal on any question that involves the construction of the Statute, the proper basis of compensation, and all the matters which are necessarily subjects of appeal; and from the Court of Appeal to your Lordships' House. To talk about Star Chambers in connection with a Commission such as that is, I think, to show that, notwithstanding the noble Lord's industry, he has either imperfectly understood the Bill or he has imperfectly read history.

The noble Viscount, Lord Long, appears to me to have floundered in the same morass. He seems to think that one of the worst features about this Bill is that it is going to destroy all the local authorities, that the burden that is going to be put on the borough councils, the county councils and the larger urban district councils is so great that they will collapse under the duties that are thrown upon them by this Bill, and what will happen when that collapse takes place is something that the noble Viscount is really-afraid to contemplate. Would you really believe that all that apprehension is founded on the fact that the local authority has power to nominate one half of the Advisory Committee, which is then to be appointed by the Secretary of State? That is the beginning and the end of their duties. If their shoulders are so frail that they are going to sink into ruin because that added burden is laid upon them. I cannot think that they are very well lifted to discharge the duties which at the present moment I believe they satisfactorily perform.

I should not have dealt in this detail with these speeches but for this reason. It shows you that when a Bill of this kind is brought forward there, are quite a number of people who are prepared at once to say: "Here is another of these Temperance Bills. Let us get rid of it at once. It must be a bad Bill. It deals with a subject which necessarily must make it a bad Bill, and therefore do not let us hear anything more about it." I do not think that is the way in which this Bill should be dealt with. There is a principle involved in the Bill, a principle on which your Lordships may very well take different views, and I realise that some of you may hold very strongly-indeed that that principle is one to which you cannot accede. But if that principle be accepted, the whole of the rest of the discussion is really a matter of criticism either by such a Committee as the right rev. Prelate suggests or on the floor of this House.

What is the principle? The principle is this: that the inhabitants of a district should be at liberty to say how the drink traffic within their area is to be controlled. Nobody imagines that this is anything new. It has been advocated on the political platform for twenty-five years at least, if not for longer. And when people hold up their hands in horror and suggest that this is the beginning of some general period of confiscation, for which we all may tremble, it should be remembered that during the sober days of their own Government, and of Governments now long passed, this very same principle was being urged upon the platform and accepted at the polls, and that a large number of people were returned to Parliament pledged to its support. Why is it wrong? Surely, if there is one thing that is undeniable it; is that there are areas whore the presence of public-houses tends to deteriorate the whole social value of the district. That is just as indisputable as it is to say that there are other areas where their presence does not. Who can best know which are those areas? It seems to me that it is the people in the locality who are best qualified to judge, and all that is necessary is to secure that the area within which the vote is taken should be properly defined, so that, this power can be fairly exercised.

Then it is said: "Oh yes, but what you are going to enable them to do is to confiscate the property of the brewer," and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, led astray a little, I think, by the inspiration of Lord Banbury and Lord Long, proceeded, first of all, to attack the Memorandum of the Bill and its provisions by saying that they are obscure and misleading. It is perfectly true that, if you take up a Bill which deals with a complicated matter, you will have to read it very patiently in order to find out what it means. But I have not found this Bill unusually obscure, though that may be because my mind is not sufficiently acute to apprehend the difficulties. Nor do I find the Title misleading. What is there misleading about saying that this is a "Liquor (Popular Control) Bill"? You cannot have the Title of your Bill an essay. A phrase must be chosen, and to say that this is a Popular Control Bill does not seem to me to matter in the least.

We are next told that there is no compensation, that all that happens is that money is taken out of the pockets of certain members of the trade and put into the pockets of those who lose their licences. The noble and learned Earl was acute enough to realise that such an argument would lend itself at once to the answer that that is precisely what happens at the present time, the only difference being that now it is the magistrate who has to say which licences are redundant, while under this Bill it is to be determined by the people of the area. And why the noble and learned Earl thinks there is any difference in kind between a levy made for the purpose of suppressing these licences under the present system, and suppressing them under this Bill, I cannot see, nor why "compensation" should be a fit description to use in speaking of the one and wholly misleading to use of the other. Without binding himself in any way—and I am certain that anybody who opposes this Bill will never bind himself as to how he is to effect the same object—he suggested that if we did not like the present compensation scheme we could enlarge it. But, supposing you did enlarge it, and on exactly the same scale as under this Bill, what is left then? There is nothing left except this question—which I have admitted freely throughout is a question which may well exercise men's minds—as to whether you should in those circumstances leave power unrestrained in the hands of the magistrates of the locality.


If the noble and learned Lord will look at Clause 31 he will see these words … as the Commissioners shall determine, and no appeal shall lie from such determination.


Yes, and you will find that that means the determination of the question of fact, and the noble Lord, who has no doubt pursued his investigations into this Bill since we last met, knows perfectly well that under this Bill there is an appeal from those Commissioners to the Court of Appeal and from the Court of Appeal to the House of Lords. I would call his attention to Clause 13, and I would beg your Lordships to follow this. That Clause states: No appeal shall lie from the Commissioners upon a question of fact. That is exactly what I said, and I do not see why the noble Lord thought fit to interrupt me. Then there comes a provision saying that, unless otherwise provided, an appeal shall lie to the High Court. In other words, the only thing that is excluded is the question of fact.

Let us turn, for a moment, to two other matters. First of all. it is said that the Bill is wrong because, once people have determined that there shall be no licences, they cannot go back. I agree that at first sight it appears as though you only enable them to move in one direction, and that is true so far as the provisions of the Bill are concerned. But have your Lordships ever thought what the result would be if you allowed the licences to be completely extinguished throughout a whole area, and the area remained in that condition, say, for ten years, and then you suddenly re-established the drink trade in it? How would you arrange matters? Are you going suddenly to have a bench who will grant licences indiscriminately over the whole area? Though I agree with what, is said about the difficulty of seeing that this Bill puts full popular control into the Lands of the people, I ask: When once you have excluded licences how are you to get over the difficulties of letting them come back? Those difficulties are so great that personally I should be prepared to support the Bill as it stands. But there would be no trouble in amending the Bill in Committee. Yon have only to add a very few words to one of the clauses.

Then we come to what is, no doubt, a very formidable part of the criticism against the Bill—namely, the criticism which was directed against it in the very able speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner. He apprehends that the compensation fund may be wholly inadequate and that, if it be wholly inadequate, the Bill makes no arrangements as to where the money is to come from. I agree with him to this extent: it is impossible to foretell in advance everything that is going to happen; but there certainly is no particular reason to think that this fund is going to be inadequate. In the first four years there will be a fund of £8,000,000 collected under this Bill, and when the noble and learned Lord suggests that in areas in which re-organisation is attempted the necessary-result may be that there will be a loss caused in those areas, I can hardly think that he has given full attention to the example which we have already of precisely this kind of management in Carlisle. The public-houses of Carlisle were taken over in 1916. The cash indebtedness to the Exchequer on account of these properties at the end of March, 1923, was less than £300,000, and the value of the assets was about £900,000. Fifty per cent. of the breweries and 40 per cent. of the retail premises have been shut down, and if they maintain their present rate of payment they will have paid off all the money advanced within a period of ten to twelve years. Surely, that is a very remarkable illustration of what may-happen when you have reorganised your trade under the provisions that this Bill sets out.

I certainly do not flinch from what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, said. He said that if this money cannot be provided out of the central fluid, supplemented by a hypothetical profit made by the Board of Management, the only resource is the Exchequer. I quite agree; but I cannot see any risk, any measurable risk that is, with which we nerd concern ourselves, of that happening. If it arose, it would arise when the sale of liquor would have so dwindled throughout a large part of this country that we should have done something in the country for which we ought to be willing to compensate by paying money out of the taxpayers" pockets.

It is also said that this Bill is a confiscatory measure, that it is a measure based on principles of Nationalisation, and, indeed, many even harder words were used against it. In its very essence it is a national measure. It is intended, so far as legislation can secure it, to redeem this country from a vice which has been its reproach for years past, a vice which impedes the efficiency of our industry, which renders barren and miserable the homes of many of the poor, stunts the children of many of our working classes and deprives them of that opportunity of further development in life which a little more money would readily provide. It is because I believe that the Bill aims at removing and relieving those conditions that I support the Motion for the Second Reading.


My Lords, I am moved to say a few words on the subject of this Bill because this discussion has made it abundantly clear that a vote which is unexplained is also a vote which is liable to be much misunderstood and misrepresented. I am very anxious indeed that it should not be supposed that I am one of those who, to use Lord Buckmaster's words, are inclined to say: This is a temperance Bill, therefore let us get rid of it. That is very far from being in my mind. I should be disposed, on the contrary, to say that this is a Bill which seeks to promote a great cause the importance of which I am the first to recognise, and which is recommended to us by men whose splendid efforts in the cause of temperance we should all of us be ready to admit with gratitude. Therefore I do not start with any feeling of hostility to the Bill because it is a Temperance Bill, and certainly there is nothing that would give me more pain than to be an instrument in bringing about a decision of this House which might be regarded as a rebuff to the right rev. Prelates opposite. But when they invite me to follow their banner I am obliged, as a prudent man, to ask where they are going to lead me. It is because when I look ahead I think I see that the path is one which is undermined by pitfalls and surrounded by quagmires and morasses, that I hesitate before I commit myself to a journey upon it.

I listened attentively to the speeches which were made by the right rev. Prelates last week. It seemed to me that the major premise in the argument of the Bishop of London was his statement that alcohol was a dangerous poison, a dangerous narcotic and that it did incalculable harm to the bodies and the minds of those who used it. He based himself largely upon the Report of the eight experts who had investigated the subject. I have the greatest respect for the experts. I am ready to be guided by them if we are to discuss questions of chemistry or hygiene; but if I am asked to accept their guidance in regard to matters concerning practical politics and the daily life of our people, I ask permission to examine rather carefully what it is they are asking us to do. Surely it is not too much to say that if this tremendous indictment of alcohol—an indictment which has been repeated by my noble and learned friend Lord Buckmaster—be sustained, we ought to make it our business to extirpate the evil, to give no quarter to the enemy, and at any cost to put an end to so pernicious an attack.

But that is not by any means what this Bill asks us to do. This Bill asks us to make terms with the enemy. It invites us to allow him to entrench himself as strongly as he pleases in those areas in which the conditions are favourable, and when once he is entrenched in those areas I do not exactly see how you are going to get him out of them. What seems to me the worst feature is that you divest yourselves of the responsibility which really ought to rest on the shoulders of the Government of the day, and shunt that responsibility on to the shoulders of bare majorities in these different areas—areas in which a majority of a very few people, perhaps very emotional, excitable, ill-informed people, may have a determining voice in the decision of the question so far as it affects their own particular district. These people may be advocates of sobriety, but what security have we that they will be sober in their own judgment; when they are dealing with these grave questions? I own that I have little confidence in them.

As has been very well pointed out, there is no choice given to the country in this matter. In every area, whether it wishes to do so or not, there must take place this triennial appeal—an appeal most unsettling and most fraught with dissension and recrimination. When the decision has been given, it cannot be denied that if it is in favour of no-licence the decision is irrevocable and becomes riveted for all time upon the area concerned. That is a tremendous power to give to a bare majority in an area which may perhaps be ill-informed and liable to great waves of excitement. I think my noble and learned friend pointed out that when a similar law was introduced into Scotland the prudent Scots took the precaution of leaving open a line of retreat, and I think we were told last week that in 1921 forty-one areas voted for no-licence, and that of those forty-one thirty-one have retraced their steps. "What kind of thing are we to look forward to if a locus penitentiæ is denied to an area which, under this Bill, may condemn itself for all time to the no-licence system? I shiver when I think of the kind of aftermath of recrimination, resentment and ill-feeling which is likely to follow in cases where, perhaps by a small majority, the no-licence system has been imposed upon a large and reluctant minority. These are the things which may happen when the no-licence decision has been arrived at.

But supposing the area accepts one of the other alternatives. Supposing it decides for what is called, in this Bill, reorganisation. The immediate result of that is the erection of a colossal piece of bureaucratic machinery unlike anything to which we have yet been accustomed in this country. It is a tremendous edifice. At the top of the pyramid you find the Secretary of State, who may be a man of very extreme views. Then you come to the Board of Management and the Central Advisory Committee, and below that again to the advisory councils, and, finally, to the Compensation Commission. The Board of Management is really the mainspring of the whole machine, and it is about the position of the Board of Management that I wish to say a few words. In the Preamble to the Bill we are told that its powers are limited, but I should like the House to consider for a moment what are the powers which, within those limits, are granted to the Board of Management.

They are, in the first place, limited to the "production and distribution of intoxicants." If those words have any meaning surely they mean that the Board of Management, or the members of it, may set to work to brew beer and distil whisky, I suppose in competition with the great firms which in the past have made themselves famous by the fortunes which they have earned in this industry. Some representatives of those firms are to be found in your Lordships' House. I see that under this Bill members of the Board of Management are ineligible for seats in the House of Commons so long as they are members of the Board. Is it too much to imagine that a turn of the wheel may perhaps find places for them on these Benches?

What is their second duty? It is to decide what public-houses are redundant in any particular area. That is a pretty stiff job. In the next place, they are to be entrusted with the task of making such structural alterations as may be necessary in order to turn public-houses into places for the supply of food and non-intoxicants. That may sound a simple matter, but it is clearly a work which the Board of Management could not undertake unless it had a competent and large staff of people used to structural work. Next, the Board of Management is to supervise hotels and clubs in the reorganised areas. I do not know whether it will give your Lordships any comfort to find, when you betake yourself to the club that you have perhaps frequented all your life, that you are under the paternal ægis of the Board. Finally, this Board of Management is, under the Bill, bound to keep in touch and work with the local authorities and the committees which are to be called into existence.

In a word, this Board of Management will be a sort of huge official octopus with its tentacles extending in every direction all over the country—perhaps not in every direction because the areas in which it is set up may adjoin other areas which have voted no-change, and you will have the absurd inconvenience of having two areas, separated only by a road or fence, one of which is under the paternal control of this bureaucratic machine and the other rubbing along as it has always done. That such a piece of machinery cannot fail to be enormously costly both in men and money seems to be a mere truism, and I will not pursue it.

Nor do I propose to examine in detail the financial provisions of the Bill. That was done with great completeness and success by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, and I notice, not without satisfaction, that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, in referring to his speech, did not put up a very energetic defence to the criticism which was made but rather took the line of saying that these were defects which might possibly be removed without difficulty. I think we may take it as certain that there is the possibility that very heavy expense will be involved, and that the taxpayers may become liable. But the main count in the indictment against this Bill is that it opens the way for what seems to be a very dangerous and far-reaching invasion of the rights of the British subject. It is an invasion which if it ever comes into practice will be tremendously resented by the people of this country.

The tide of temperance is, in my belief, flowing strongly in the direction which the right rev. Prelate desires. I refuse altogether to accept the gloomy pictures which are sometimes drawn of the state of the country in this respect. I agree with what the noble and learned Earl said as to the legislation of 1904, and I am sure that if you wish to go further on those lines, if you can make out a case for dealing more severely with drunkenness and with those who give improper facilities for the consumption of alcoholic liquors, public opinion will back you up. I have always felt great sympathy with the kind of legislation which I remember my noble friend the late Lord Grey used to advocate in and out of this House, and which the noble and learned Earl suggested might be pushed further. But I honestly believe that you could not do a greater disservice to the cause of temperance than to entangle it in the kind of network of inconsistencies, con- troversies and disputes which this Bill, if it were passed into law, would inevitably create. I shall give my vote against the Second Heading of the Bill.


My Lords, it is common ground that the consumption of alcohol in this country is too great, and the expenditure upon it too large. Perhaps there is no section of the community which has a closer and more intimate and, I might even say, a more tragic acquaintance with the results of an excessive consumption of alcohol than the section of the community to which I have the honour to belong. There is no section of the community that can in like measure see its evils, and we are the last persons to view those evils light-heartedly or place obstacles in the way of any remedy which would bring about a better state of things. But in searching for a cure we need to be watchful that our proposals do not replace one evil by another, and I should like to express doubts as to whether the proposals contained in this Bill are likely to produce the good effects which its proposers would fain believe. I am not enamoured of the constant quotation of America. I would point out that the conditions in America are different from the conditions here, and I do not like to think that we are so sterile in imagination that we cannot find remedies for our own social evils.

I am met at the threshold by this difficulty: If alcohol is wrong, if its effect on the health of the community is bad, then the only thing to do, the straightforward thing to do, is to admit it and let us have Prohibition brought in for the whole nation. I admit that if the necessity arises, if the needs of the State require it, then it is open to the State to take away or impair individual liberty, but the onus of proof lies on those who wish to impair that liberty, and they must hold out substantial grounds for believing that the result will be as they prophesy. Surely, the best remedy is that which is founded upon causes and conditions: and I hope to show your Lordships that this country is not only becoming temperate but is becoming temperate at an accelerating rate, and that if the conditions which are responsible for the improvement are only fostered and furthered, we can face the solution of this dire problem with greater ease of mind than in the past.

With regard to the effect of alcohol in moderation on the individual, I notice that there is no agreement amongst the supporters of this Bill as to whether alcohol is good or bad. The right rev. Prelate who introduced it gave one the impression that wine and beer in moderation were in no way harmful to the community, but later in the debate the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London, came forward with a "no-compromise" speech. To him alcohol was the accursed thing, a narcotic, which did no good to any one, though he would hesitatingly admit that in small doses it might do no harm. The right rev. Prelate claimed that expert opinion supported his view. With great respect I must say that this is a travesty of expert opinion on the matter. The word "narcotic" has crept in in a very curious way. Experts are accustomed to use a word which expresses the extreme effects of a substance, and a narcotic is a substance which produces stupor, sleep, coma and death. Next time, therefore, that you pass to your friends a glass of claret or a glass of beer, you must really say to them: "Will you take a little narcotic?" This word is used in a manner which is open to misapprehension, and it is the reverse of the truth to say that a glass of beer or of claret can be honestly and fairly described as a narcotic.

It may be taken that the opinion of the medical world, both in this country and abroad, is by a very large majority in favour of alcohol as a useful substance, a beneficent agent, when taken in proper quantities, at proper times and by the people whom it suits. Any argument based upon the contrary view is opposed to the facts. Perhaps I might add that the large majority of the medical profession themselves drink wine, though, as I need hardly add, in strict moderation. It is perfectly true that the action of alcohol is seldom useful to those who are occupied in physical or mental labour. That is admitted; and it is further admitted that, although it is a food, it is an unsuitable and wasteful food to those who are in health. But the action of alcohol upon the nervous system is beneficent and useful when taken in proper quantities and at the proper time. In these days of specialisation of labour, where the same part of the brain and the same muscles are used hour after hour, it will often happen at the end of the day that a man feels a weariness and a sense of bondage. There is then an inability on the part of the individual to get out of his groove and to gain that freedom of content which will enable him to rest and prepare himself for the work of the next day. It is almost a matter of common knowledge that a glass of alcoholic liquor at the end of the day will lighten the mental horizon, brighten the outlook, enable a man to drop those grey-coloured spectacles with which he views the world after the hardships of the day and give him content, case of mind and happiness. In that way he is able to prepare for the duties of the day that is to come.

I am sure your Lordships have only to call upon your own personal experience to seek confirmation of this obvious truth. At any social gathering consisting of tired people you can see how very dull and drab is their outlook, and how, after a. very small quantity of alcohol, the company will brighten and social intercourse will be helped. I would put it to your Lordships that we ought to do nothing which will diminish the cheerfulness and the measure of sociability which are so useful in helping us along our mortal road. This is equally true of the masses. You can see amongst the masses the effect of a moderaf.3 quantity of alcohol, just as you can witness those tragic effects which are produced by excess. If one turns to the realms of literature, can it be said that we should have had some of our finest literature, music and painting on a régime of ginger beer? I should doubt it. All I ask is that, in considering this question and in coming to a decision upon it, we should at any rate consider the debit and credit sides of the account. I do not think that we are helped forward by denunciations of alcohol as a narcotic. If alcohol is wrong, then the whole community ought to give it up. One of my difficulties in accepting this Bill is that it is class legislation, for it will never interfere with the man who is able, to have alcohol in his cellars, and one needs a very strong case, in my opinion, for an attempt to take away the opportunities of the masses to have alcohol if they think well.

The next point which I should like to bring before your Lordships—it is, I think, a matter of some interest and has not been touched upon in this debate—is the steady growth of temperance in our midst. Not only is that growth steady, but it is proceeding at a rate which perhaps very few of your Lordships realise. Watch the people on holiday to-day as compared with a few years ago. Take the Bank holidays, and the charges at our police courts that follow a public holiday. I speak from my own observation when I say that in all directions you may see an increase in temperance.

I will now refer, if I may, to the evidence afforded by disease. It is true that the figures which may be collected from hospitals are small in number, but they have two advantages. One is that their results are accurate, and the other that the hospital is a very fair mirror of the life of the community which it serves. I will take first the test of delirium tremens. If a man has been intemperate and by some ill-chance has an accident or is stricken by fever he is liable to develop delirium tremens. I take the figures of one large hospital, and I will be as brief as I can because I do not want to overload your Lordships with statistics. I am going to refer specially to three decades comprised between the years 1804 and 1923. If we take the figures relating to delirium tremens for these three decades in that large hospital, we, shall find that, beginning at 27.8 per year, they go down to 17.6 in 1904–13, and finally to 10. I may add that delirium tremens has diminished to such an extent and has become so very much lighter in its intensity, that the ward of that hospital devoted to it has been closed and is being used for another purpose.

I will next take another well-known disease which is produced by alcohol— namely, cirrhosis of the liver—and I will take the same three periods. The average admissions in the first of those decades numbered 61.4; in the second, 53.2; and in the third, 20. It is admitted, I may say, by all those who have to deal with these cases that the cases are materially fewer, and are steadily diminishing. I will take next a disease which is more common amongst women than amongst men—namely, alcoholic peripheral neuritis. The figure is 23.8 in the first decade, 14.1 in the second, and five in the third. If you put all those figures together they afford you very satisfactory cumulative evidence that the diseases due to alcohol are diminishing.

Now, side by side with those figures, I will put the statistics of the consumption of beer for the same years. In the first decade the consumption was 29.52 gallons per head of the population; in the next decade, 28.91; in the next 26.66; and when we come down to the last year the figure is 15.80. As to the consumption of spirits, if you take the first decade, the figure was .87 gallons per head of the population; for the second decade, .85; for the third, .59: and at present .31. I would like to point out to your Lordships that this improvement in the matter of spirits took place about the years 1909 to 1912. It took place before the war, and before the duty on spirits was raised. Therefore, the evidence to be derived from those figures is of greater value. I think those figures show what I contended a short while ago—namely, that not only is the consumption decreasing but the improvement is taking place at an accelerated rate.

I admit that we cannot draw inferences only from the diseased, and I would like to give your Lordships examples from healthy people. I will take a class of workers in a big insurance company. They represent people of small means, living in small houses. I investigated two hundred cases in order. The investigation was conducted carefully, no names were mentioned, and there was no difficulty in getting at the truth. In looking at the returns what impressed one most was the extreme moderation which almost invariably prevailed. If you take those two hundred you will see a striking difference between those over forty and those under forty years of age, and in judging of temperance in this country you have to pay attention chiefly to those under forty. Those who are over forty have contracted their habits and are of relatively little importance. Of those over forty, 21 per cent. took nothing at all in the way of alcohol. Of those under forty, 40 per cent. took no alcohol, and of those who did take alcohol only one-fourth took spirits. Although this is a small number, it corresponds to the evidence obtained from other quarters.

I will pass to an equally interesting class, and turn to the study of the young soldier. It is the experience of all observers that the young soldier drinks less and less, and in many cases nothing. It is the "dry canteen" which is crowded now. At a recent territorial training, during an "easy" time, there was a queue to the barrel for ginger-beer, and other non-alcoholic drinks, and only a scattered remnant made for the beer barrel. Let me quote from an officer who has had years of experience under varying conditions. He says this: Since the great war I have paid particular attention to this subject during all my inspections, and have made a point of visiting the regimental institutes between the hours of 11 and 12.30, and the largest number of men I have found in the beer bar of any institute has been eight, and the average about five, the majority, i.e., several hundreds, being in the other part of the institute, drinking tea and cocoa and eating sweet cakes. That last remark is in accordance with experience. Where there has been a reduction in the consumption of alcohol the consumption of sugar has increased. The officer in question continues:— The consumption of alcohol and drunkenness in the Army is now negligible. One cannot dogmatise on the cause, but in my opinion it is chiefly due to the very great interest now taken in the comfort and well-being of the soldier and in his education. I should like to supplement that by saying it is estimated that the consumption of beer in the canteens is less than half what it was before the war.

What are the reasons for this accelerated improvement in temperance? They are education, improvement in the young man's outlook on life, better homes, and, equally, the fact that the barracks are made into homes. What striking results are these! They tell us, I venture to say, the lines along which reform should go. I would say: Leave these restrictive measures alone, and proceed on the lines which these investigations indicate. Give people better houses, increase the number of recreation grounds, and they will do the rest. They are doing the rest.

I will trouble your Lordships with the result of one more investigation which I venture to hope will give a valuable indication from another point of view. There are becoming established in our great cities large popular restaurants where, every kind of meal can be obtained, and where people sit, enjoy good music, smoke, and talk to their friends. Some of these huge restaurants have full licences, and therefore afford us very useful indication of what the effect is of giving to a large restaurant a full licence. I have visited these places, and if your Lordships should visit them you will find there, a collection of every class of the people, with this one common distinction, that they are all people of moderate means. There you find artisans, professional men, business men of every kind. You can witness there the breaking down of old social divisions and the arising of a new social order. It! you watch these people you can see them enjoy their music and tobacco. You can see them enjoy their beer and their cider, but you cannot fail to be struck with their temperance and moderation in taking alcohol.

The number of those taking alcohol at all is relatively small, but I am not going to ask you to accept impressions. I will give a few figures, the result of investigations. I will take one of the largest of these popular restaurants with a full licence. Over 10,000 people a day are customers there. Taking the figures of all the consumers, it will be found that no less than 76 per cent. of the people take no alcohol at all. Of the 25 per cent. who take alcohol, no less than 80 per cent. partake of beer, cider, and light wine, and only 20 per cent. partake of spirits and heavier wines. Those are very striking figures. They show that temperance is growing among the people. I would willingly accompany the right rev. Prelate to witness this at any time-he chooses, perhaps in less formal garb than we are accustomed to adopt, and a most interesting investigation it would be.

Has any class in the whole community shown social progress comparable to that of the artisan class during the last two decades? I call to witness the wider sphere of their enjoyments. Look at their appreciation of the cinema and the drama: look at the way in which they utilise their holidays; recall their dress, its tidiness, its good taste. And all this has come about in the last two decades. I judge them by cleanliness and the cleanliness of their homes. In the year 1908 no fewer than 30.5 per cent. of the children in one town were not clean. In 1917 that had gone down to 7 per cent. I take another town, where the cleanliness of the children improved from 19.1 per cent. of children that were not clean to 1 per cent.

What, has done all this? Why, good homes, the extension of the means of recreation, and education. I would like to add one other cause, and that is the unpopular "dole." There is no doubt that the "dole" has improved the temperance of the people. Before the "dole" existed any workman who was out of work had the spectre of poverty before him, and that led him to pawn his tools and his belongings, and that again led to depleted and unhappy homes, and unhappy homes led to drink. Although the workman cannot now be said to be free from anxiety, Heaven knows! if he is out, of employment, he is. at any rate, free from that, anxiety; he no longer has the fear of destitution for himself and his family. Those are the measures which make for temperance, and those are the lines, upon which useful reform should go.

When the right rev. Prelate asks what are the practical proposals which the opponents of this Bill would put forward, I would say this. Whatever measures are proposed, let them be proposed by the existing central or local Governments. Let us have fair play all round. Do not let us have restrictive legislation, which would take away the right to alcohol from one class and not from another. I would restrict the hours of sale as at present, I would forbid alcohol to the young, and I would imitate the example and the experience of the large popular restaurants to which I have referred. Experience has amply shown that you can allow alcohol at a big popular restaurant, and that if those places are run on proper lines there is no fear of that excessive consumption of alcohol of which many people are afraid. I think the figures which I have given, taken together, produce a large body of cumulative evidence that such is the truth. In the country I would encourage the idea of the inn, which has been so successfully run by several Trusts in the Home Counties.

But, above all, I would depend upon education. Institute health lectures throughout the country. Do not, in those health lectures, specially refer to alcohol, but rather give lectures which concern the know-ledge of health—fresh air, proper food, and ventilation, and last, but not least, tobacco. If I might digress for a moment I should like to sound a warning against the dangers of tobacco, for the excessive smoking of tobacco is not confined to those who take wine, but is equally found among those who are total abstainers. Many of those who began to smoke in excess in their twenties are now in their fifties, and we are able to see the results, which are by no means to be lightly passed over. I would have those health lectures spread about the country, commending the virtues of moderation in alcohol, among other things, to the people. I think a substantial subsidy from the Government for the institution of such lectures would bring about better results than the cumbersome machinery of this Bill. At no time have the working classes been so receptive as they are now of anything in the nature of knowledge. There is a keen desire among the young men and women to be fit, and they would respond to appeals to their intelligence and their desire for knowledge, while they would never yield to any form of duress imposed by others. Such instruction would produce results, not by arbitrary decision imposed from without, but by bringing conviction to the heads and hearts of an intelligent people.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord into the interesting question of the physiological effect of alcohol. He is more qualified to speak on that aspect of the question than I am. I am sure he will agree with me, however, that the profession of which he is so distinguished a member is not entirely united upon this question. As regards his views on the social side of drink, they are very much what mine used to be before I was made a member of the Control Board. A noble Lord, speaking the other day, referred to me as a fanatic. If I had seen my mother suffering from the degradation which is caused when alcohol comes into the home, if I saw my children now going to bed hungry or suffering because of drunkenness in the home, I should then be a fanatic. But I have been spared this. I have never blamed anybody for being a fanatic because he had alcohol in the home, or prejudicing the welfare of a dear friend.

My interest in the drink question is entirely due to experiences which I had during the war as a member of the Con- troll Board. So far as I know, I was put on that Board because I had no particular knowledge of the drink problem, and no particular view as to how it was to be solved. I was, therefore, eminently qualified to deal with it from the evidence which was submitted to us. And I venture to say that any of your Lordships who had had the experience which I had during the war as a member of the Control Board would be on the same platform as I am to-day. After eighteen months of attempting to deal with the drink trade the Control Board reported unanimously to the Government that it was impossible, even with the drastic powers of D.O.R.A. which had been given to us, effectively to control the drink trade. It is impossible to reconcile private interests with national interests. The trade is so powerful that the Control Board, even with its enormous powers, was not able to give the maximum results for the prosecution of the war.

Then I had another interesting experience. Somewhere about 1917 I became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. It was the task of the Ministry of Food to fix the prices of all articles of consumption. They fixed the price of potatoes, of bacon, and of everything else after a careful examination of the accounts of the vendors of those particular commodities. Naturally, those who had potatoes, or bread, or bacon to sell did not particularly like a Government Department looking into their books, and it was only with the greatest reluctance that they submitted them to the searching inquiry that was necessary in order to fix prices. The point I want to put before your Lordships is that the only trade the prices of whose commodities we had to fix without access to its books was the drink trade. We had to fix the price of spirits and of beer without having access to the books and accounts of the industry. That made me realise how enormous was the influence exercised by this trade in our national life. I am not blaming the members of the trade for opposing measures of control or licensing legislation. I only ask your Lordships to face the fact that we have here an enormous organisation which is a serious factor in our public life.

The points of the Bill with which I want to deal in the main to-night relate to its financial aspect. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, in the very powerful and fair speech that he made the other day, said that what your Lordships had to consider was whether the compensation fund proposed by the Bill was fair and whether the people who were entitled to compensation were likely to get the money to which they were entitled. He very rightly pointed out that the success or failure of the Bill depended very largely upon the compensation fund. That fund has three sources of income including the sale of redundant premises and the levy. The levy which it is proposed to take and increase was not imposed by a desperate Radical or Socialist Government; it was established by a Conservative Government in 1904. Lord Banbury of Southam, in a very interesting speech which he delivered last week, seemed to imply that there was a large accumulated fund in existence which it was proposed to raid and take over. There is no such thing. The money which has been raised year by year by the premiums has been spent year by year. There may be small unexpended balances, but broadly spanking there is no accumulation of the levy which has been raised since 1904.

Let me make one other reference to that levy. If a person takes out a policy against the risk of fire and is lucky enough not. to have his property burnt, ho does not expect the return of the money he has contributed year by year. I think we should compare the premiums which are levied under this Bill with the premiums which are paid when one takes out a fire policy rather than the premiums which one pays when one takes out a life policy. The third source of income for the compensation fund is derived from the profits in re-organisation areas. The noble and learned Lord asked whether there was any likelihood of profits being made. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, said that when a monopoly was established anybody could manage it. The exact words used by the noble Lord were— Anybody can manage a company.... which is a monopoly.... with.... success. I entirely agree with him. When an area indicates that it desires to acquire, or to corsume, or to buy a particular commodity—intoxicants in this case—and a complete monopoly is given to a corpora- tion to meet that demand, I agree with the noble Lord that it is almost impossible to conceive of a loss being made. But, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buck-master, pointed out earlier in the debate, Carlisle has made profits not by increasing the sale of alcohol, not by stimulating its consumption, but by reducing enormously the cost of production and distribution. In Carlisle half the breweries have been closed down, over forty per cent. of the retail premises have been closed down, and no money is now spent on advertising. That is to say, the profits in Carlisle have been made not by increasing or stimulating consumption, but rather by enormously reducing the cost of production and distribution.

In reference to the liabilities of the compensation fund, that fund may be called upon to find money in two eases: first of all, if an area votes for the no-licence resolution, and, secondly, if an area votes for reorganisation. If an area votes for reorganisation before the expiration of the time limit money has to be found for two sorts of property—bricks and mortar and the licence values. It is essential to realise the fundamental difference between property in land, or in bricks and mortar, and property in a licence. Anybody may sell potatoes, or beef, or groceries; but the community only permits a limited number of selected individuals to sell intoxicants. For generations the community has recognised the fundamental difference between alcohol and other articles of consumption. It is possible for the Ministry of Health, in the national interest, to make such regulations that the retailers of milk would not be able to continue their business unless they came up to a particular standard. If they are not able to continue their business it is not proposed that they should receive compensation. If, after due notice—I entirely support the principle of due notice—the State is able to say to A, B or C that he is not to carry on business if he cannot come up to a particular standard but shall go out of business, then I say that the community has a perfect right to withdraw the monopoly right of selling intoxicants which it has given to a limited number of people.

On what principle do we estimate the capital value of the properties which either have to be taken over or to be com- pensated for in the case of a no-licence vote? The capital value of the undertaking is arrived at under the Bill so far as possible upon the lines which were recommended by the Committee of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, was Chairman. That Committee advised that the pre-war profits of an undertaking should be taken, and that the capital value should be arrived at by giving a definite number of years' purchase. The Committee recommended that fifteen years' purchase scaled down to post-war conditions would represent a fair capital value of a normal undertaking. I was refreshing my memory the other day by re-reading the Report which was issued by the Committee. That Report says that "an income which, on the pre-war basis of capitalisation, was worth fifteen years' purchase is at present worth a much smaller one." So that it is not unfair to take twelve years' purchase as an adaptation of the recommendations of the Committee over which the noble and learned Lord presided.

Then we have to consider whether it is fair to take the basis which was recommended, because the profits taken by the noble and learned Lord's Committee were pre-war profits. The brewers certainly cannot complain of the datum period recommended in this Bill. The noble, and learned Lord's Committee recommended giving something like twelve years' purchase of pre-war profits. This Bill proposes to give twelve years' purchase of post-war profits at the first vote, and post-war profits are enormously greater than pre-war profits. I, therefore, suggest to your Lordships that the brewers have no legitimate complaint when we take the number of years' purchase which was recommended by the noble and learned Lord's Committee, and apply that to post-war instead of prewar profits. The Bill attempts to adapt fairly the recommendations laid down by the noble and learned Lord's Committee.

As regards the bricks and mortar, the Bill proposes to give what I call a hundred per cent. compensation whenever those are taken over, whether it is after the first, or second, or third appeal, or after the expiration of the time limit The fact that the noble and learned Lord's Committee recommended twelve years' purchase of the income of the property indicates that his Committee recog- nised the fundamental difference between land or houses and licence values. I am quite convinced that if the noble and learned Lord's Committee had been trying to estimate what would be a fair number of years' purchase at which to acquire land that they would not have put it at fifteen, fourteen or twelve years' purchase, but would have given something like twenty years' purchase. The fact that they gave a maximum of fifteen years, with a strong recommendation that it should be reduced, indicates that in their opinion the property in licence values is fundamentally different from, and cannot be compared with, property in land, or bricks and mortar. The Bill proposes to give a hundred per cent. compensation of the value of the bricks and mortar.

With regard to licence values, the Bill proposes to give full value for licences which are closed down or taken over at the first appeal, because no notice has been given to the existing owners. The Bill also, however, recognises that it is fair to apply the principle of the time limit after the expiration of which no compensation should be given for licence values. Then it is only a question of adaptation and arrangement. It is fair to give a hundred per cent. before any notice has been given, and it is fair and right that no compensation should be given to the trade after full notice has been given and after the time limit has run out. Whether the time limit is twelve, or fifteen, or twenty years, I do not at the moment want to discuss, but I say it is perfectly right and fair that compensation for licence values should be given on a descending scale while the time limit is running out, and that is what the Bill proposes to do. At every poll the amount of compensation due for licence values will diminish. One hundred per cent. will be given at the first poll, the amount being reduced after subsequent polls to seventy-five per cent., fifty per cent., and so on. If your Lordships, at a subsequent stage, do not think it is fair to scale down this compensation from twelve years' purchase to nine, or from nine to six, we can consider whether it should be scaled down from twelve to ten, or from eight to six. After all, that is, I suggest, a Committee point.

I want to look next at the crux of the question. The noble and learned Lord asked, and was entitled to ask, whether the scheme would work; whether enough money was provided by the Bill; more particularly, whether working capital would be available when and as required; and, finally, whether there were due safeguards for the solvency of the compensation fund. Luckily, Carlisle provides us with the answer to many of those questions. I was a member of the Control Board when they bought Carlisle, and I can say from my own recollection that the compensation paid for Carlisle was at least as generous to the late owners of the licence trade as would have been their compensation under the Sumner Committee's Report. That is to say, the money given for Carlisle is, broadly speaking, the same amount of money as would be provided at the first appeal if Carlisle voted for reorganisation under this Bill.

What do we find? We find that Carlisle will have paid for itself, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, said earlier this afternoon, in from ten to twelve years' time. If Carlisle can pay back the whole of the purchase money in from ten to twelve years when twelve years' purchase is given for licence values, is it not obvious to your Lordships that if only nine years' purchase, or only six years' purchase is given for licence values the money required to meet the obligations of the compensation fund are ample.' If Carlisle can pay off in from ten to twelve years what is equivalent to twelve years' purchase paid for licence values, it is obvious that when nine or six years' purchase is given for two-thirds of net profits—that is to say, for the proportion which represents licence values—the scheme is solvent. Where you have a monopoly you cannot help making profits. I agree entirely in that with the noble Lord. Lord Banbury. As this Bill proposes after the first poll to give compensation on a lower scale than was given at Carlisle, I am entitled to claim that our experience at Carlisle proves absolutely that the central fund is solvent.

We propose under the Bill to repay owners who have to be compensated. If the amount of money which they are entitled to is less than £500, it is proposed to pay them in cash. If, however, the amount is more than £500 it is proposed to pay them in terminable annuities. It is proposed to give them annuities terminable in a maximum period of fifteen years, and terminable in not less than twelve years if the interests are acquired at the first appeal. As has been pointed out early this afternoon, when the first vote is taken there will be an accumulation of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 or, it may be, even £10,000,000, in the compensation fund. That means that it would be possible for fifteen Carlisles to go "dry" at the first vote, and to be compensated immediately if it is proposed to give them cash. But it is not proposed to give them cash: it is proposed to pay them off gradually. It means that it would be possible for something like eighty Carlisles to be taken over under a reorganisation vote, and to be paid off gradually out of the compensation fund. Nobody has imagined that, at the first vote, fifteen areas like Carlisle would go "dry." I have never heard anybody suggest that eighty areas of the size of Carlisle would vote for reorganisation. We are far too conservative, to go in for change on such a large scale. I am convinced that if any areas vote for change if will be a limited number of enterprising areas. It is only as a result of the experience gained in those areas that, at subsequent votes, a larger number will vote for reorganisation or no-licence.

I hope I have proved that there is enough income or capital to meet all possible and reasonable contingencies, and that we are able to base that assumption upon the actual experience of Carlisle. The Bill provides other safeguards. Borrowing powers are given to those who manage the compensation fund. In addition to that, by Clause 3, the Home Secretary is able to postpone the coming into operation of the second or third vote, thereby getting for the compensation fund the product of one more year's levies and profits from the reorganisation areas, and, in addition, reducing the liabilities of the fund by one year's purchase. I hope I have shown your Lordships that the annuities are a perfectly good security, that there is enough money provided by the levy to start tie scheme, and that the income we may expect from profits, the sale of redundant property, and a continuance of the premiums, is sufficient to meet all reasonable and fair calls which may be made on the compensation fund. I only wish that someone else had been called upon to explain the, very difficult, intricate, and complicated financial proposals of this Bill. I realise fully my own limitations, but I hope I have made the financial proposals reasonably clear and proved to your Lordships that this Bill cannot be lightly dismissed as unpractical, unsound, unfair, or unworkable. You may disagree with the details, but I suggest that it does contain a reasonable, workmanlike and defensible scheme.

I have only one word more to say. The noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, who spoke just now, referred to the improvement, which we are all glad to recognise, in the condition of the country now compared with what it was before the war. We must not forget, however, that there has been a serious loss since the war. We have to compare ourselves not with what we were at our worst but with what we were at our best. The right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London, indicated the nature and extent of those losses. He indicated that twice as many women were convicted of drunkenness after the war, and are convicted now of drunkenness, if you compare the figures to-day, or in 1920 and 1921, with what they were at the time of the Armistice. We cannot lightly accept such a loss to social welfare as is represented by those figures. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, in his lucid speech the other day, indicated another aspect of the problem, the political aspect. You have there a problem with which we are not now dealing but which we cannot shirk or avoid.

I am entirely against trying to commit the country to any drastic change as a whole. I recognise that to the present system there are two alternative remedies which are supported by large numbers of people in this country. Some people look for a solution to shutting down altogether; others think that the right solution is disinterested management. I suggest that the only possible way to find out which is the right solution is by allowing experiments in these various alternatives to be made and tested side by side. The only way you can convince a Prohibitionist that he is wrong is by letting him try the experiment, and if the fears of the opponents of Prohibition are justified then it means that other areas will not adopt this particular remedy. This Bill does not commit a locality which votes for no-licence to no-licence in perpetuity. An area can become "wet" again, as I am perfectly certain the noble and learned Earl will realise if he reads Clause 2 of the Bill. It is necessary that we should face realities. I have spent a great deal of time explaining to Prohibitionists that the country does not want Prohibition now, but I suggest with all humility that the country is anxious for an improvement and that there is an increasing volume of support for legislation, broadly speaking, on the lines contained in this Bill.

Reference has been made to the experiments conducted on the other side of the Atlantic. I have been in Canada. I was there two years ago, and I took an opportunity of discussing the matter with leading representatives of the different political Parties. I found that people there were not agreed as to whether Prohibition or disinterested management was the right solution, but all were agreed that they were determined not to go back to private ownership. It is important that we should recognise what has been done in Canada. I realise fully that in all Parties there are people of good will who are anxious to solve this difficult question. Cannot we see whether we can co-operate in order to try to get a national rather than a Party solution for this vexed and complicated question? I suggest that this is a serious, fair and moderate attempt to deal with the question. Therefore I hope that your Lordships, when it comes to voting, will give this Bill a Second Reading and refer it to a Select Committee with the deliberate intention that that Committee shall, if possible, make the financial provisions even fairer than they already are to the interests concerned, but at the same time make the Bill consistent with the aspirations and the interests of the nation.


My Lords, I understand that it is impossible to conclude this debate this evening and that this would be a convenient stage to move the adjournment. I therefore beg to move that the debate be adjourned until tomorrow week, Tuesday, July 8.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned accordingly till Tuesday, July 8.

House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.