§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
My Lords, I feel that any one who raises the licensing question in Parliament must be regarded as a disturber of the peace, for undoubtedly he stirs up a hornet's nest. Therefore, it is better that the subject should not be tackled by Governments, and that it should be done by a member with a past rather than by a member with a future. No one is satisfied with the present condition of the licensing system in Scotland; yet no one will allow anything to be done which does not aim at attaining some altogether impossible ideal. Never was the dictum that perfection is the enemy of improvement better illustrated than by the results of the temperance extremists' uncompromising attitude towards licensing reforms. Attempts to deal with the matter have usually been inspired by whole-hearted Prohibitionists, and the 1913 Government Act, which sought to temper their idealism with political expediency, has only created confusion in licensing administration.
My noble friend Lord Wemyss, whose absence I regret on this occasion, introduced an amending Bill in 1923, but the 1030 moment seemed premature, for at that time only one of the polls had been taken and it was not possible to foresee the total failure of this method to secure any amendment in existing conditions. The Bill was withdrawn and that which I have the honour to present to your Lordships differs in many respects from the Bill presented by Lord Wemyss. The noble Earl's Bill sought to give the community a fourth option in favour of licensing reform. The present Bill has a wider scope. Its main object is, while reducing licences, to encourage the establishment of types of public-houses that shall be more working men's restaurants than drinking bars, and shall, if possible, be conducted under disinterested management. Next, the object is to provide for the automatic extinction of one-fifth of the existing licences in over-licensed areas. The Bill also seeks to stimulate private enterprise by giving limited security for the money expended in improving or erecting premises, by postponing the next plebiscite for eleven years, and by making provision for creating a fund from trade profits to give compensation for suppressed licences.
Another reason for prolonging the period before the next plebiscite is taken is that this will restore to licensing bodies control over the liquor trade. Their authority has been seriously compromised by the provisions of the 1913 Act. Under that Act, as your Lordships know, a triennial poll was established on the widest franchise in licensing areas to decide between three options: first, whether there should be no change; scondly, whether there should be a reduction in licences; and thirdly, whether there should be no licence. It should be explained that a poll could only be taken if a tenth of the population in an area demanded it. The second poll has not yet been taken in counties, and the demand in the burghs was naturally only made in the areas within which the Temperance Party was strong. Therefore a large part of Scotland has not, so far, had the opportunity of expressing its more considered opinion on the question at issue.
The effect of the Act on the position of the licensing authority is obvious, for if, every three years, all licences may be abolished by popular vote, the authority will hardly think it worth while to with- 1031 draw any licence in the interval, and even in areas where, under normal conditions, they would be disposed to reduce the number within their jurisdiction, they would feel that they had scarcely the authority for doing so, as the decision had been delegated by Parliament to the people. Moreover, the power of the Court to enforce reconstruction of defective premises lapsed for seven years under the 1913 Act, which weakened a most necessary power enabling much good work to be accomplished. Under this Act one or two polls have already been taken in 511 areas, which, except in a few instances, were selected by the advocates of No-Licence. A most intensive campaign and an expenditure of much money by the No-Licence Party made it certain that all genuine advocates of Prohibition recorded their votes. On the first occasion, in twenty-four areas out of the 511 polled No-Licence won the day, while in twenty-two a limitation of licences was carried; but in the second plebiscite, held in 257 burgh areas, limitation was repealed in six areas, and No-Licence in four, these results being chiefly in residential areas where no licensing problem existed. It is a notable fact that in purely working-class areas the majorities against No-Licence were the largest, that very few of the supporters of the 1913 Act have been returned to the House of Commons, and that, though Dundee returned a Prohibition Member of Parliament, it also within a week or two voted against any change in every area, and by enormous majorities of two or three to one in the working-class areas.
It is therefore plain that the Prohibition campaign has failed, that the country is not going voluntarily "dry," and that the real problem can never be solved by Local Option, though many of us had hoped that it would be. In the fierce turmoil and struggle between contending factions the less drastic option—the reduction of licences—was lost sight of. In fact, under that Act reduction, which is the most tactical line of advance, has become a dead letter. Worse even is the fact that the control of the licensing authority over a dangerous trade has been weakened. The almost complete victory of the No-Change policy in the majority of districts has made it practically impossible for the authorities to refuse or to withdraw a licence. I need not point out 1032 the confusion created by the reversal, every three years, of previous decisions, and the difficulties in which a licensing authority is placed in an area which has either gone "dry" for three years and then has to be suddenly supplied once more with public-houses or, after voting the reduction, decides for the re-establishment of the old licences.
As an example of this I would cite what is happening in Clydebank, where a similar situation has arisen. In 1920 two areas at Clydebank went "dry." In 1923 the decision was reversed. It is proposed, therefore, to replace the abolished public-houses with municipal drink-shops, the profits to go to the Common Good, a fund at the disposal of the Town Council to use for any purpose which they may consider expedient. One can well foresee the pressure that will be put on the Town Council at every election to expend the money in many ways that may be most demoralising. Were the money spent on perfectly legitimate objects, it is obvious that if a local authority has to depend for revenue upon the drink traffic the municipality is given a very undesirable interest in the large consumption of alcohol. Even should the Court attempt to carry out a policy of reduction, it is an invidious one, because it has to distinguish between well-conducted licensees in order to deprive one of his livelihood without notice or compensation. In fact, the option of limitation was ignored at the poll mainly because there was no scheme of compensation, and the ordinary citizen shrinks from depriving any man of his livelihood.
No state of affairs can be less conducive to adequate control of the retail trade, which is the most difficult and delicate part of local administration, than that which exists at present in Scotland. Realising this, I felt it was incumbent on me, on a pressing request, to bring this Bill before your Lordships. We have to find the way out of our administrative impasse, which is so prejudicial to the public interests. The whole question of licensing reform is entangled with past controversies, prejudice has hardened into habit of mind and stale catch phrases, implying either that any form of reduction is an attack upon property, or that any attempt to secure a reduction of licences without committing injustice to individuals is to 1033 create a monopoly and to give fixity of tenure, and that it is a danger to the people. All these phrases so affect those who should be the best supporters of progressive reform that it is difficult to obtain a fair hearing for any scheme. There is, therefore, a tendency to abandon all attempts at finding a solution of the problem and a disposition to regard the situation as hopeless.
The purpose of this Bill, promoted by prominent citizens interested in the public welfare, in the administration of the Licensing Acts and in temperance, is not only to restore order in the administrative machinery for controlling the retail trade, but to promote the public interest by meeting public requirements. A noble Lord, who was lately on the Woolsack and is now on the Front Opposition Bench, invited me to join him in opposition to the first draft of an analogous Bill. I did so because it contained unworkable and inexpedient provisions. I commend to his attention the present Bill, from which those provisions have been expunged. The noble and learned Viscount has recently plumped for No-Change in the constitution of this House. He is, therefore, I am sure, alive to the instinctive conservatism of our countrymen, which will always lead the majority of the electorate to plump for a similar option. But the noble and learned Viscount's recently supergrafted political views will, on the other hand, incline him favourably towards a measure which seeks to give the working man and woman the equivalent of establishments which are so popular in other circles.
Perhaps the most remarkable change in the habits of the present generation is the growth of what may be called the restaurant habit, with a view, possibly, of reducing the scale of living and the domestic servant difficulty, which makes life a serious problem. The same conditions exist in an acuter form in smaller homes. Why, then, should it not be as easy in this country as it is for the less well-to-do all over Europe to get a change from home cares and the domestic rice pudding? Why should not the wife of a working man be able to have her day off from the eternal drudgery of family cooking? She could have that if respectable working-class restaurants, such as this Bill seeks to 1034 establish, existed. The fact is that temperance reformers have fixed their eyes on the drunkard, and have wished that all legislation should be directed to removing temptation from his path. They have forgotten the very much larger section of the community which is self-disciplined and reasonable and only asks for facilities to take a moderate amount of alcohol with their meals. Nowadays, the drunkard is becoming the exception and should not be allowed to prevent the great mass of respectable citizens from having legitimate opportunities for reasonable refreshment.
I have received a report from the Chief Constable of Edinburgh, which shows that the arrests for drunkenness in Edinburgh, in 1915, numbered 4,926, whereas in 1924 they had fallen to 3,460, which was 310 less than in 1923, out of a population of over 426,000. Many arrests were of habitual offenders. The percentage of "incapables" has fallen from 3.18 in 1854, the year before the Mackenzie Act, to 0.44 in 1924. The Scottish Temperance League attack this Bill as "a belated attempt," and so forth. Every reform is belated in the sense that it is an attempt to remedy past mistakes which ought never to have been made. If we could go back to the beginning of things I believe we should have never permitted drinking powers to exist. We should never have dissociated drink from food. The true fact is that the out-and-out temperance reformer is, despite his name, opposed to all and every reform. He believes only in Prohibition and, consequently, travels another road. He fears lest improvement in the control and use of alcohol should dim men's eyes to the evil of drink and therefore, from his point of view, a state of things so bad as to force the country to adopt Prohibition is to be preferred.
The points in the Bill selected for attack are:—first, the postponement of the triennial poll for eleven years. I have explained the reasons for this, but I would add that, to my mind, a triennial convulsion, with all the attendant evils of a hotly-contested election over the "to-be" or "not-to-be" of the liquor trade, is highly demoral sing and harmful. The cost of each contest is estimated at some hundreds of thousands of pounds, while the ratepayer shares about £52,000 for the expenses of polling the contested areas. I consider that the question of licensing 1035 is more or less a judicial matter, and should be left as much as possible to the authorities elected for that purpose on a purely democratic basis and to the sheriffs who so admirably administer the Licensed Clubs Act.
It may, however, be pointed out that the Bill merely postpones the plebiscite, and this is favourable to the Prohibitionist view in so far that the places which went "dry" at the last poll will continue so much longer than they might do if they had an earlier chance of reversing their decision. These areas will, therefore, provide us with an interesting experiment of how partial Prohibition works in this country—for, while hotels and contiguous public-houses provide the thirsty with opportunities for indulgence, no complete Prohibition is possible—just as the three areas put under Government control during the war are carrying on an effective experiment in disinterested management. The Temperance League object to every proposal of disinterested management. I fully agree with them that the character of this management needs careful scrutiny, and some amendment may be necessary in the Bill to ensure that the character of such bodies is such as to give confidence that their management will be absolutely disinterested and single-eyed to the public welfare. To my mind, village societies running the liquor trade for local benefits are a mistake. I believe that the area in which the disinterested company works should be a large one, and that the accounts of such company should be subject to public audit and should be submitted annually to the licensing authorities.
Great exception is also taken to the proposed compensation, but this principle has been accepted in England, has worked well and has resulted in the speedy and very large reduction of licences. It is practically the payment for the goodwill of an establishment such as is paid, as a matter of course, in the case of all shop and business premises. It in no way confers vested interest in the sale of liquor, as is contended by our opponents. It is more than a month since this Bill was published in the Press and, as yet, no constructive alternative has been offered from any quarter whatever; therefore, the Bill holds the field. It will undoubtedly be fought by the extreme Temperance Party, but there is a large body of moderate opinion which evidently 1036 desires, as we all do, to see the wasteful and harmful national expenditure on drink still further reduced. It is recognised, however, that the direct frontal attack through Prohibition is useless, and, even if successful, might lead to an even worse state of things than exists at present. But the fact is appreciated that increasing temperance can be secured by indirect methods, by providing an alternative to the public-house, often the sole refuge at present for the young man seeking the society of his "pals" or crowded out of his overflowing home. The cinema, despite some drawbacks, has probably done more for temperance than any other institution, just because it has provided a decent, respectable place for young people to consort together in the evening. The Service Clubs, which exist in most large centres and are run as licensed restaurants, have justified their existence and proved indisputably, by their popularity and by the absence of drunkenness, that well conducted restaurants of such types fill a want in the life of the community.
To my mind we must exploit every expedient for controlling and administering the liquor trade, which I recognise is one pregnant with danger to the community, and it will be on the results of such experiments that we may hope ultimately to build up a sound and progressive policy, tending to diminish excessive expenditure on liquor without depriving reasonable individuals of liberty to take such refreshment as they may require. Meanwhile, there is not the slightest indication that Prohibition has come, or is coming, within the range of practical politics. It is expedient, therefore, to turn our backs on unattainable ideals, face the facts as we see them, and do what we can to remove the dangers and difficulties that have become apparent in licensing administration. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Novar.)
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, when I came from the country to-day I did not anticipate that I should be the first to speak after the mover of the Second Beading of his Bill. I rather expected to find on the Paper a Motion for the rejection of the Bill by one of the noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench opposite and who were responsible for the 1037 1913 Scottish Act, which this Bill attempts to amend. My objections to this Bill are twofold. Firstly, so far as I understand it, what it proposes to do for temperance is very small, while the extent to which it will prejudice the cause of progress and of temperance reform is very great. I am sure we all agree that the noble Viscount, by his speech to-day, as by his speech two years ago, has indicated not only his appreciation of the gravity of the problem, but his disinterested desire to deal with it. This Bill was introduced in 1922, first of all into another place, by Mr. Kidd. Mr. Kidd, I understand, is a solicitor who was in the House of Commons and is secretary of the Scottish Brewers' Association. This Bill has now been taken up by an association calling itself the Scottish Public-House Reform League, of which Lord Salvesen is president.
Less than a year ago your Lordships spent four days discussing and examining the drink question. As the result of those debates two points arose. It was clear that there were two aspects with which the community had to deal—the social aspect, and the political aspect. The political aspect is that side of the drink problem which I think your Lordships are most reluctant to face and to tackle. By "political aspect" I mean the attempt of one trade, the drink trade, to get such power as will enable it to prevent Governments interfering with its financial interests, and to apply such pressure on candidates and Members of Parliament as will enable it to dictate to the Legislature. Only the other day I was reading a speech made at a conference of members of the licensing trade in this country. A prominent speaker stated quite clearly that in the industrial city in which the conference was being held the drink trade controlled no fewer than two thousand votes in each of the five constituencies. That agrees very much with such estimate as I have been able to arrive at as to their electoral power. If you have one industry in this country able to control two thousand votes in every constituency—and the prosperity and welfare of that trade must inevitably clash and come into conflict with the welfare and development of the nation—there is created a political situation which we shall have to face and deal with quite apart from the physiological or social aspect.
1038 The political side of the drink problem does not merely affect England, and this is indicated by the Report of the Committee which was set up in 1917 by the Government. Your Lordships will remember that in that year the Government set up three bodies to consider proposed licensing legislation, and in the establishment of these three bodies the very best men were selected. The noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack was responsible for the personnel of the English Committee. It was presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner. Equal care was taken in selecting the personnel of the Scottish Committee, which was presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shaw of Dunfermline. It was a representative Scottish Committee, and it reported, without any dissentient voice, to this effect:—The trade in Scotland is highly organised; it is amply equipped with means. … The work of the Trade organisations becomes a not unimportant factor in political and municipal contests. … These organisations tend to prevent a free and unbiassed expression of opinion by voters.I suggest that there could be nothing more undesirable than to have an industry which is able to prevent "a free and unbiassed expression of opinion by voters." This Committee went on to say:—In fact, under the present system the Trade undoubtedly wields great powers upon the voters and uses this power in its financial interests.That is to say, that the political aspect of the drink question is a very real aspect in Scotland as well as in England.
It is difficult for many of your Lordships to realise the strength, power and methods adopted by this political organisation, because a large number of your Lordships have not come out actively on what I may call the side of temperance; and by temperance I mean such individual and collective action as is recommended by disinterested persons like the most rev. Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and disinterested leaders of opinion who have an interest in the social and moral development and progress of the people of this country. All I say on this aspect is that this Bill does not touch the political side at all.
Then, as regards the social side, and by that I mean drunkenness and the effects 1039 of excessive drinking: the crime, poverty, ill-health, premature death, industrial inefficiency and demoralisation which follows an unwise and excessive consumption of alcohol. Let us see how far this Bill deals with this aspect. The position was stated quite clearly by Lord Dawson of Penn a year ago, when he said that he was of opinion that the consumption of alcohol in this country was excessive and that all disinterested persons were agreed that there should be a reduction in the consumption of intoxicants. Let us see how far this Bill proposes to carry out the object indicated by Lord Dawson of Penn—namely, a reduction in the consumption of intoxicants. As the noble Viscount pointed out in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, it is proposed to reduce a considerable number of redundant and unnecessary public-houses. That has already been done, but he proposes by the Bill to have it done on what he might call a scientific instead of an haphazard basis.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
I distinctly stated that the reduction was suspended by the operation of the previous Act.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
I am speaking of the reduction which follows from the 1913 Act as the result of a plebiscite.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
A certain number of houses, about three or four hundred, have been closed as the result of a popular vote. If there are four public-houses at four opposite street corners and one is closed as being redundant, it does not follow that there will be a twenty-five per cent. reduction of the drinking in that locality. Far too much is made of the beneficent results which follow from the closing of redundant houses. The position was stated quite clearly by Lord Salveson in an article he wrote to the Scotsman, in which he said:The reduction of licences ensures benefit to those that remain.That is to say, that a great deal of the custom which used to go to the house that has been closed will gravitate to those which remain, and there will not be a large reduction, or a considerable reduction, in drinking. The amount of help that is going to be given to reduc- 1040 tion of drink by this section of the Bill is very small.
Next we come to the proposal to establish a system of disinterested management, and I gather from the noble Viscount that he himself feels that this part of the Bill might be improved and strengthened. I entirely agree with him. By disinterested management we mean a system whereby not only the actual sellers of intoxicants over the counter, but the owners of houses themselves, have no financial interest in maintaining, or increasing, the sale of intoxicants, and that the trade is conducted by persons who want to carry out the object indicated by Lord Dawson of Penn—a reduction in the sale of intoxicants. Let us see how far this Bill carries out that object. One of the main features of disinterested management in Carlisle has been the abolition of external advertisements, advertisements which are intended to stimulate the popular demand. This Bill does not propose to do away with advertisements. They will still continue, and will still appear as invitations to the public to purchase the articles which are advertised. Secondly, this particular proposal deals only with new licences, of which I believe only a very small number are issued in Scotland every year. In the third place, it is proposed that the companies that are to deal with disinterested management are to consist of persons none of whom are to have a holding of more than £200 in value in the company.
The public-house under disinterested management will be in open competition not only with the improved or approved public-house, to which I am coming presently and which it is proposed to establish by this Bill, but also with the pure drink-shop and, indeed, with the badly-run drink-shop. I remember perfectly a brewer telling me of the difficulty which he experienced when he improved one of his premises because he was up against the unscrupulous competition of the pure drink-shop. This Bill does not touch that aspect of the question. What chance is there of the public subscribing the money necessary to run any large number of public-houses under disinterested management when these houses would be in open competition with the licensed trade and with the pure drink-shop? Lord Salvesen, in an article in the 1041 English Reveiw, admitted this. He said:—The necessary capital to run even a small proportion on disinterested lines would be extremely difficult to raise.Accordingly, so far as this contribution to sobriety is concerned, the results would be infinitesimal.
There is surely one lesson which we have learnt both from Carlisle and from what are called "trust houses" in this country, and that is that in order to achieve any real results there has to be disinterested management not in isolated houses in a locality but over the whole area. I rather gather from the speech of the noble Viscount that he would tend to agree that if there are to be real and solid results from disinterested management there must be monopoly over the whole area. This Bill might have made a real contribution to the solution of the very difficult situation which exists in Scotland to-day if it had proposed to deal with this point. There are some areas which, on a previous poll, went "dry" and which have now gone "wet." There would have been a real opportunity for an experiment there. This Bill might have made provisions whereby a disinterested trust could have taken over the drink trade in such areas and run them on disinterested lines. That would have been a real contribution.
I agree entirely with the noble Viscount's remarks as to its being undesirable that the profits from the drink trade should go in relief of rates. I agree that it would be undesirable to have licensed premises owned by municipalities. But I can conceive, that it would have been quite easy to put forward a proposal whereby some statutory body might have taken over the drink trade and whereby all profits made in the locality would have gone to national interests. Lord Salvesen, in a letter explaining this Bill, pointed out that so far as disinterested management was concerned the Bill was drafted to "avoid conflict with vested interests." I think it is a great pity that it labours under that limitation, because if a Licensing Bill does not attempt to conflict with existing vested interests it can do very little for the cause of temperance. So as regards the proposals for disinterested management, I do not believe that they would touch one per cent., or 1042 one-half or one-quarter of one per cent., of the problem in Scotland to-day.
We come next to the proposal for the establishment of improved or approved public-houses. At first sight this is a very attractive proposal, for it is suggested that all licensed premises should be converted from mere drinking places into restaurants or cafés. One of the difficulties is that licensed premises have a double value. There is not only the value of the bricks and mortar and of the land, but there is an added value attached to the building—namely, the value of the licence. In England, for instance, the value of the licence is twice or thrice the value of the bricks and mortar. If a caterer wants to run a catering business and to start a restaurant, he is not going to pay £3,000 for a building which is worth only £1,000, if his main object is to serve food and reduce the sale of drink in that building. It is quite obvious that the profits on food in that establishment would cover only one-third of the capital which he put into the business, and if he did not maintain the sale of intoxicants, he would get no return on the money which he had put into the building.
We have also learnt another lesson from Carlisle and that is that, owing to custom, habit or climate, there is a demand for food only in a limited number of licensed premises. The economic demand for food is restricted to a minority of the licensed premises in Carlisle. The other day I read a very interesting contribution to this side of the drink question in the form of a speech made by an eminent King's Counsel in Court. A proposal was before the Court that an existing trust house should be taken over by a firm of brewers, Messrs. Barclay and Perkins, and used by them as an approved or improved public-house. This eminent King's Counsel was representing the licensed victuallers, who were opposing the proposed transfer; that is to say, he was voicing the opinion of men eminently qualified to express an opinion as to the real object and aim of the improved public-house. This is what he is reported to have said—There was I considerable difference between trust houses and Messrs. Barclay, Perkins. The trust house was a sort of temperance movement in the hands of persons who were disinterested about the sale of intoxicants. Messrs. Barclay on the other hand were a firm of brewers who were astute enough to see that if brewers were to 1043 continue to sell their beer they must offer better facilities. Behind it all was the sale of beer, and that was the difference between the system practised by trust houses and Barclay's system"—of the improved or approved public house—a public house run by firms who are not disinterested about the sale of intoxicants. Nobody could have put the case against the improved public-house in the hands of brewers more clearly than this representative of the licensed victuallers. A majority of houses in Scotland, if this Bill were to pass, would still be drinking places and would not be, and could not be, restaurants or cafes. They would still be what Lord Salvesen has described as "temptations to insobriety."
One of the real failures of this Bill, so far as I am concerned, is the fact that it does not attempt to deal with the crux of the problem—namely, the conflict between the interests of the nation, which, as Lord Dawson said, are to check and reduce the consumption of intoxicants, and the interests of those who have invested their money in the Trade, which are in the direction of stimulating and increasing consumption. Is there any noble Lord who will get up to-day and say that in his opinion it would be in the interest of the nation largely to increase the consumption of brandy, rum, whisky and gin? A Trade agitation has been going on for a reduction in the Budget of the duties on spirits with the avowed object of increasing the consumption of brandy, spirits and gin. That indicates an irreconcilable conflict between those who have their money in the Trade and are forced to try to increase the consumption of intoxicants, and the interest of the community which must necessarily be to check, control and reduce it. So, as regards the temperance side, this Bill, I think, does not make any substantial contribution to the solution of the question, and, as I have indicated, I think it loads the scale against reform.
I have not the technical knowledge, particularly of licensing in Scotland, and I am not the person, to deal with the new vested interests which this Bill proposes to set up, but I would explain to your Lordships that this Bill proposes to impose upon Scotland a system which Scotland has never had, and refused to have some years ago, and that it proposes to give security of tenure to something like four-fifths of the licensed houses. The Bill, in substance and in fact, as I 1044 see it, would repeal the Act of 1913. After new vested interests have been created, and after there has been an interval of ten or eleven years, does any reasonable man imagine that the 1913 Act, or such clauses of it as are now proposed to be postponed, would be allowed to come automatically into operation? Of course not. Again I am indebted to Lord Salvesen, who said in an article published in the English Review:—Let us frankly confess that the plebiscite clauses of the 1913 Act must go as a condition precedent tosuch changes as are contemplated in this Bill. That is to say, the object of this Bill is to do away with the plebiscite clauses of the 1913 Act.
The noble Viscount, in introducing this Bill, referred to the failure of the 1913 Act in Scotland. I wonder what test he applies to the success or failure of that Act? Is the evidence of failure which satisfies him the fact that only something like thirty areas have adopted No-Licence resolutions under that Act? Frankly, I am amazed at the number of areas which have adopted No-Licence, because those polls took place in Scotland at a period when people at large were turning away from that control and restriction which had been imposed upon the country during the war. Those polls were taken at a time when, as the result of high taxation, all social and philanthropic bodies were short of money, when the temperance movement was very short of money, and when the licensed trade, on the other hand, was making larger profits than it had ever made before, and had much more money to spend. It would, indeed, be an odd remedy for the situation to say that because only a limited number had adopted this policy, therefore we should make it impossible for any others to adopt it,
Or is the test of failure that the worst areas have not adopted No-Licence? Communities are very like individuals, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me when I say that it is far easier for an individual who is not a confirmed drunkard to take the pledge than it is for a man who has lost all self-control as the result of drink. Communities which recognise the gravity of the drink problem, but which are not the worst communities in Scotland, have naturally been the first to adopt this policy. The fact that some of the worst 1045 have not done so yet is not an indication of failure.
Or is the test of failure the result which has been achieved in those localities which have adopted No-Licence resolutions? I read the other day a speech by a magistrate in a locality which has adopted 6uch a, policy and confirmed its adoption at a subsequent election. The magistrate stated that whereas in that area, the police court had been required to sit always upon one day, and occasionally two days a week formerly, now it only sat upon one day a month and very frequently it did not sit oftener than once in six weeks. That is an enormous gain for that locality.
Take the convictions for drunkenness. I could quote to your Lordships figures from Dumbartonshire, or Fifeshire, or Orkney, giving you the convictions for drunkenness for the last three "wet" years and the first three "dry" years—not figures comparing post-war with prewar conditions, but both dealing with post-war periods. Those figures indicate, in an overwhelming number of cases, a reduction not by a half, not by a quarter, but to a twentieth; that is to say, if you take the convictions for drunkenness for the last three "wet" years and compare them with the first three "dry" years, you find they have been reduced by over 90 per cent. Think what that means to many a home in those localities, where there is now only one conviction and where previously there were twenty. We are bound to take cognisance of these facts when dealing with great social questions like that of temperance. I see no test which would warrant the practical repeal of the operation of the Scottish 1913 Act. I say frankly that if your test had been that the Act did not allow the electors of localities to choose an alternative to Prohibition or an alternative to the present system, I think that a very strong case might have been made out, but this Bill does not propose to remedy that defect, if defect it be.
Lastly, I am going to say that I see no indication of any general sentiment in Scotland either in favour of this Bill or against the 1913 Act. This Bill was introduced first in 1922. It is significant that of the twelve members of another place who backed it only two were returned at the next Election. That fact does not seem to indicate that their constituents rallied round them to 1046 return them to Parliament because they had been associated with this Bill. Since the Bill was first introduced to the Legislature there have been two Elections in Scotland, and I understand that the majority of the Scottish Members, taking them as a whole and including all Parties, are pledged to the existing Act. There is another indication of popular opinion which I propose to take. Your Lordships know that a candidate, when he comes before a constituency, states in his Election address those proposals which he will support and which he thinks will win him popular favour. He puts into it also the policy which he will oppose. I say that if there were any general feeling against the 1913 Act, a large number of the candidates at either the last Election or the previous one would have invited the support of the electors in their constituencies on the ground that they were out to disembowel or repeal the Act of 1913.
I once had a public debate with an eminent Scottish Member of Parliament, a K.C., who had always spoken against the side of what I call temperance, and I asked him—we were debating Local Option—whether, at the previous Election, he had in his Election Address advocated either the repeal or the serious amendment of the 1913 Act. He said, "No." I asked him whether, when he next came before his constituents, he proposed to do that He said, "No." The fact that the majority of the candidates did not advocate this Bill in their Election Addresses, and did not advocate either the repeal or the substantial disembowelment of the 1913 Act, indicates that in their view there was not any very large volume of opinion among the voters against the 1913 Act, or in favour of this Bill.
Before sitting down I want to quote the opinion of one who, I think, should carry great weight with your Lordships, and that is Mr. Kidd, who first introduced this Bill. He, after all, had an opportunity of seeing what his constituents felt about the proposal. He had been definitely associated with the measure, and your Lordships will agree with me that it was likely to be a live issue in his constituency. I have here the account in the West Lothian Courier for October 24, 1924, of a meeting which was addressed by Mr. Kidd. That report begins with 1047 an account of the arrival of the candidate; he was a Conservative, and it is quite evident that he was talking to his supporters. The newspaper describes the enthusiastic demonstration in support of him when he stepped on the platform. Mr. Kidd made a speech outlining his policy, and this is what he is reported to have said:—He gave an undertaking that he would neither by voice nor vote do anything to disturb the present position of the licensing law.A very significant fact is that Mr. Kidd, who gave that pledge, was addressing a largely Conservative gathering and this remark was received, according to the newspaper, with applause. His Conservative supporters in his constituency agreed with him, therefore, in that statement.
I will give only one other extract. There is in Scotland a system, which I think originated in that country, of heckling. In an account of another meeting, I notice that a gentleman in the audience, Bailie M'Kenzie, is reported to have asked Mr. Kidd whether he intended to reintroduce his Bill. What was Mr. Kidd's answer? He said:No, I do not want to discuss that Bill. Its death is complete.That is what the originator of this Bill said when asked at the last Election whether he intended to resurrect it. I say, with emphasis, that we should be unwise to try to put life into a dead Bill, and that it would be as politically suicidal for us as Conservatives to adopt a Bill which its originator himself refuses to discuss as it would be unconstitutional for us, as a branch of the Legislature, to try to impose upon Scotland a system to which the electors of Scotland and the elected representatives from Scotland have shown that they are so overwhelmingly opposed.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, it is at least presumptuous or, if I might use an ecclesiastical term, temerarious, for an Englisman, and a fortiori for an English Bishop, to thrust himself into the little known and vexed area of Scottish questions. And yet this question of temperance is not, of course, merely a Scottish question, although, when my steps are led to Glasgow on a Saturday evening, I can well appreciate the reasons which lead Scotsmen to claim a kind of 1048 primacy in the matter of temperance legislation. I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount in any detail over his very interesting speech, but I will allow myself two or three general observations on the things that he said.
He animadverted with some energy on what he called the political influence of the liquor interest. With great respect I would suggest to him that that malefic influence, respecting which he feels so strongly, is very largely the creation of himself and his friends. What I mean is this. If you ask why it is that there is a political influence attaching to this great industry which does not touch the other great organised industries, I think you will be led to two causes, one comparatively unimportant, the other very important indeed. One is that this particular industry is exceedingly ill-organised from the point of view of the nation, and the second;—and this is the more important—is that this interest, and this interest alone, is subjected to a continuing criticism and attack which, I must say, speaking for myself, seems to me to lack both candour and justice. Remove those causes, and there is no reason why this great industry, which ministers to a most important and legitimate need of the nation, should not take its place with other organised interests in the general sum of the national life, instead of provoking those extreme and strong moral repugnances which apparently it produces at present.
The other general observation which I want to make is this. The noble Viscount said that it was common ground that there is an excessive consumption of alcohol in this country. What is the, means by which you determine what is an excessive consumption of alcohol? I think we ought to be on our guard against what I will call the hypnotism of large statistics. It is a constant practice of the noble Viscount and his friends to parade the vast sums of money spent on alcoholic beverages. Before you can estimate what that means, whether it indicates an excessive expenditure or not, you must be able to see that expenditure in comparison with all the other items of normal human expenditure. Let us know what has been spent upon amusements, upon dress, upon butchers' meat, upon any other object which enters into the general expenditure of the citizen, and only then can we say whether or not 1049 the large expenditure on alcohol is or is not excessive. And remember this, when he asked us whether there is any one who desires that there should be an increase in the expenditure on whisky or brandy or any other alcoholic beverage, the answer is that we all know that there will be an increase if the people become more prosperous and have more to spend; and we desire that they should become more prosperous, and we know that, if they do, they will be relieved from the necessity of making many sacrifices which at present, under our commercial depression, they have to make.
I have always felt in these discussions that we are too much influenced by these general observations about excess. Of course, I do not wish to be supposed to deny that there are many and grave evils which come from excessive indulgence in alcoholic beverages. I believe doctors say that the physical ills which come from over-eating are even more widely distributed and hardly less grave than those which are due to excessive indulgence in alcohol. Be that as it may, we are required as good citizens and responsible legislators to do everything in our power to deal with the matter by legislation.
I am not going to follow the noble Viscount into a detailed criticism of his Bill. This is a Second Reading debate, and I apprehend that a Second Heading debate concerns itself with three things. First of all, it concerns iteslf with the question whether the objects which a measure proposes to effect are good objects and whether they are right; secondly, it concerns itself with the question whether the measure proceeds on sound principles or assumptions; and, thirdly, it asks whether it presents a scheme which has a reasonable prospect of working out successfully. Those three general questions must be in our minds, and our answers to them, I suppose, will determine the vote we cast when we are asked whether this Bill is to be read a second time or not.
I ask myself what are the objects of this Bill? I apprehend that they are four. It desires to establish in the place of the existing drink-shop an improved type of public-house which recent marked changes in English society have rendered extremely necessary. There are two 1050 great changes which have passed over English society and are telling upon the demand for a new kind of public-house. The first change is the new mobility of the people in vast numbers. The people are now passing freely over the country and are requiring some provision for their refreshment. The second is the great change in the relations of the sexes, which requires that that provision shall be such that both sexes can use it with equal comfort and propriety. I take it your Lordships will agree that this object of providing an improved type of public-house which shall match the new kind of demand which is now being made, is a good object.
The second object of the Bill is disinterested management; that is a point to which many experienced temperance reformers attach great importance. I cannot be sure that they do not exaggerate the importance that belongs to it, but that it is desirable that those who sell alcoholic beverages should themselves be without any personal interest in the amount they sell—that is, the amount consumed by individual consumers—seems apparent, and I shall take leave to assume that this object is a good one.
The third object is to reduce the number of public-houses in areas where they are plainly too numerous. Any one who remembers the haphazard way in which the population has been gathered, and in which public-houses have been distributed, cannot dispute that there is a case for reducing the number of public-houses. We in this country have accepted that view and redundant public-houses have been removed in many districts, with very happy results. But I think there are a good many districts where we want more public-houses. I lived for some time in London, over the border, and I was enormously struck by the ills which resulted from the small number of public houses which existed to supply a vast end rapidly increasing population. There was a strong total abstinence prejudice there against any new licences and public-houses were set down in certain areas and not in others, with the worst possible result. If an intelligent survey could have been made of the district and some reasonable relation between provision and demand had been established, so that public-houses in sufficient numbers and of the 1051 right type could have been provided for the in-coming people, I am persuaded that temperance in the community would have been advanced and not prejudiced. I take it we shall all agree that the suppression of redundant public-houses is, in itself, a good thing.
The last object is fair compensation to those whose trade is destroyed, levied on those who, by virtue of that destruction, have their trade increased. I must confess that I do not like the idea of being good at the expense of other people, and I think it is most demoralising to everybody concerned that we should satisfy our own consciences thus cheaply. Therefore I had some doubts as to whether it was really equitable to raise compensation in this way, but after reflection and remembering how great is the addition to the trade of other houses by the suppression of those which are superfluous, I came to the conclusion that this also was a good object. I therefore accept this Bill in the first place as one the objects of which will bear examination.
I pass, then, to an examination of the assumptions or principles upon which the Bill is constructed and I distinguish two. The first is—and this is a very vital assumption which, as the noble Viscount reminded us, will ultimately have to be faced—that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is legitimate and, in moderation, salutary. The second assumption is that this consumption ought to proceed under wholesome conditions. In the long run the temperance legislation that we adopt will have to be determined by the objective which we have in our minds, and to which we are attempting to move. It is impossible any longer to conceal the fact that the so-called organised temperance movement is proceeding or the lines, and with the arrière pensée in the minds of its advocates, that the ideal to reach is Prohibition. That ideal is sometimes confessed and sometimes carefully concealed, but the great determining principle upon which their proposals are based is that it is a step towards the desirable object of universal Prohibition. I consider that that objective is not a sound one and, therefore, I separate myself wholly from all its consequences. Those who have in their minds the secret hope of ultimate Prohibition and who believe that that policy of violent restriction is legitimate will oppose this Bill, but other men will regard it with a certain benevolence.
1052 A clause in this Bill which will attract attention is that which suspends for eleven years the Act of 1913, and that will be very offensive naturally to the advocates of that measure; but it seems to me a very attractive feature of the Bill. Too frequent elections are the bane of modern democracy; they are one of its principal dangers and one of the chief reasons for the contempt into which it has fallen. Is it reasonable that a great self-governing and self-respecting community should be required every third year to go over again the question whether it will or will not permit the consumption of alcoholic beverages? That seems to me an insult to the intelligence of the community. It is not reasonable that it should be so, and here I speak professionally. It is my business to know how Acts operate in the life of parishes and there is nothing more unwholesome in a parish than the kind of agitation and excitement which this sort of election causes amongst the people. It is resented most strongly by some of them; it is urged with fanatical ardour by others. It breaks up the harmony of a parochial community, and creates mischief in many directions. But the clause is, I think, an integral part of the Bill, alike as to its policy and finance, and, as I have said, it seems to me to have considerable merits of its own.
I do not exaggerate the practical results which legislation can effect. I am one of those who believe that very little can really be effected in the reformation of public morals and the shaping of social habits by legislation, but this Bill is a substantial measure of reform which deprives no man of his natural liberty, prejudices no man in his lawful interests, imposes no fresh burden on the taxpayer, and sums up and expresses the lessons of experience. Discussion in Committee may, no doubt, disclose defects and those defects may be remedied in Committee. But in its broad lines I submit that this measure deserves your Lordships' support on Second Beading. It has the promise of a really useful measure which might bring about a general change for the better in Scottish life.
Temperance, which we all desire to promote, will gain by the improvement of social conditions, and by the rising standard of genuine self-respect. It stands to benefit by everything that strengthens individual responsibility, and it stands to suffer by everything that im- 1053 pinges upon lawful personal independence. Therefore it is that I am opposed to all legislation which can be said to come under the censure of that view. Temperance means ultimately an appreciation of the right exercise of moral liberty. You must accept the risk of that liberty; you must not adventure upon the unsound policy of attempting to restrain. This measure will assist, in some degree, the moral progress of the community, and will do something, I think, although only a little, to remedy the gross and scandalous outrage of Scottish life.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I always much admire the speeches of the right rev. Prelate, and to-day he has spoken with his customary eloquence upon his own familiar lines in this matter. But I cannot help thinking that in some of the speeches to which we have listened there has been a good deal of travelling away from the point. The point lies in a comparatively narrow compass, and it is a very simple one. In Scotland the position is quite different from that in England in this respect. For the last twelve years we, have had an Act which Parliament passed with general approval, the Temperance (Scotland) Act of 1913. That Act says that the people of the community may vote and may decide either that there are to be no licences, or that there is to be unrestricted power of licensing, or that there is to be a limitation of the power of licensing.
When that Act was passed—and I rather think that I belonged to the Government that passed it—there were some of us who thought that it was not an Act which would have any very direct effect. We did not expect to see the Scottish people go bald headed in favour of Prohibition. But then that was not the whole point that we had before us. What we thought was that if the Scottish public had this instrument of correction in their hands it would have a considerable effect, that public opinion would become more potent, and so far as my observations have gone, and I have had some opportunity of observation at fairly close quarters, that has been the result. Quite true, there has been very little absolute prohibition by local option. Quite true, in some cases the decision come to has been reversed, but when it has been reversed, so far as my inquiries inform me, it has always been reversed 1054 with consequences which have been inherited from the time when a more stringent view was taken.
Undoubtedly, progress has been made in temperance in Scotland, not as fast as some people would like nor as slow as other people would like, but that there is progress there is no manner of doubt. When you inquire into the number of convictions and note the information you get from those who have the best opportunity of observation, you find that is so. I put that down, a good deal at all events, to the fact that the public have got in their hands an instrument by which they can bring about a better state of things, and by which if in any locality, be it a town or country district, there is a sense that the public-house system is being abused, the inhabitants can control it. It is a weapon of considerable potency, although it is a weapon which very conservative people are very loth to put into operation. I am one of those who believe that when institutions have the power of moulding views, and when it is possible to mould them, and when there is a good public opinion behind, that that public opinion operates.
The noble Viscount who introduced this Bill referred to what he considered my rather conservative attitude about this House, and the absence of any necessity for making any drastic reform in its constitution. I am not conservative in that at all. I am one of those, who recognise that this House has responded excellently to public opinion, and what I am pointing out to your Lordships now is that public opinion has operated in Scotland. Scotland has been placed by the Act of 1913 in. such a position that it is able to assert its public opinion, and the consequence of that has told very well.
What is it that this Bill proposes to do? To begin with, it proposes to sweep away the Act of 1913. It proposes to suspend for eleven years the operation of the first five sections. That is, in effect, a repeal. It then proposes to set up another kind of public-house, a public-house which shall have statutory security of tenure, analogous to something set up in England under the noble Earl who sits opposite (the Earl of Balfour) when he was at the head of the Government which passed an Act in the year, I think, 1903. In Scotland nothing is known of any such tenure. It has never been unfamiliar in 1055 England, because when the late Lord Halsbury gave the judgment of this House in the great case of Sharp v. Wakefield he was only saying that you could not control the action of the magistrates in refusing to renew licences. He was not saying there was any custom, which afterwards received the recognition of law, that licences should be renewed when there was no reason why they should be forfeited. That has never been the practice in Scotland. That has not been the custom of the country. In Scotland the magistrates have the freest power of refusing any licence, and they do so whenever they think it is for the good of the community that a licence should be refused. But the noble Viscount with his Bill proposes to sweep that away, and to substitute for the principle we have now another principle which is unfamiliar to us in Scotland.
I do not wish to take up more of your Lordships' time. I only want to say that I think this is a Bill which will meet, as it goes on, with a great deal more opposition than it has received in the first instance. We are not discussing the question which the right rev. Prelate discussed. We are not discussing the general question of temperance in Scotland. We are discussing the question of whether we are to retain possession of this instrument given in 1913, which has proved a valuable instrument, not in the things it has done in the interest either of the extreme temperance people or of the brewers, but in forming the hand which public opinion has been able to exercise and which public opinion has exercised with good effect. It is not that there are many No-Licence resolutions passed, or that they are likely to be passed, but it is that the people know, and those who are responsible know, that if they do not conduct their business properly the local people will be very apt to pass, as they have sometimes done, a No-Licence resolution, with the result that a clean sweep will be made. That is something on which we set great store in Scotland.
I have had many representations in the last few days made to me about it. I do not know whether the noble Viscount is right in saying that a majority of Scottish members are pledged to maintain the Act of 1913, but I should be much surprised if they were not. At any rate, I am quite 1056 sure that the great body of public opinion in Scotland is very much averse to taking away the system we now have, and I shall listen with great interest to the statement which is to be made on behalf of the Government as to their attitude to this Bill. My own impression of the Bill is that it will perish of anæmia.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, there are two circumstances which combine to render our discussion on the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill to-day of a rather academic character. In the first place, the Session is already far advanced, and whatever may be the fate of this Bill here, even were your Lordships to pass it, there would be no prospect whatever of its making any progress in another place. The second point is that quite recently the Government have agreed to set up an Inquiry which will traverse at least part of the ground covered by this Bill, and in these circumstances these matters must be regarded as sub judice. It is obviously impossible for the Government to pronounce upon principles which will be involved in the Inquiry that has been promised.
Within the last year or two there has been more than one Bill before your Lordships of a similar character to this, and I think on two occasions—certainly on one occasion—your Lordships have gone so far as to express the opinion that you are at all events in favour of the principle that it is desirable that public-houses in this country should be improved. The description of the approved public-house which it is the object of this Bill to set up is of a character which will appeal to many of your Lordships as having a good deal to commend it. An approved public-house is to be a place where the provision of refreshments and non-alcoholic beverages is made obligatory, where the rooms are to be airy and commodious and equipped with tables, and where adequate sitting and sanitary accommodation is provided, so that the houses may be suitable for use as places of general refreshment and not merely as places for the consumption of intoxicating liquors. It is certainly the case that a great number of the public-houses in Scotland do not correspond to that description. The opposite type of public-house is all too common. I refer to the places which are mere drinking shops and where the seating 1057 accommodation is insufficient, where, indeed, the space available is no more than sufficient for customers who are actually drinking. In a place of that sort, when a man has finished drinking he has to go out and make room for the next customer, and under those conditions, if a man has nowhere else to go except, perhaps, a none too comfortable home, possibly overcrowded, or else the street corner, if he succumbs to the temptation and takes too much, it is perhaps only fair to lay a share of the responsibility on the conditions to which I have referred.
Apart from the approved public-house, to which I shall return in a moment, this Bill contains two provisions which are intended to contribute towards the promotion of temperance. The first is the principle of disinterested management, which is introduced under Clause 6. This clause, after providing that no new licence shall be given to any except an approved public-house, goes on to provide, in subsection (2), that in the event of there being competing applications for new licences the application for a licence under disinterested management shall receive the preference. In view of the Inquiry to which I have already referred, it would be highly improper on my part to enter on a discussion of the merits or demerits of disinterested management, and the only point I wish to make in this connection, so far as this Bill is concerned, is that, whatever its merits or demerits, the effect of this provision cannot be other than small. There are, to-day, in Scotland somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 licences in force. Of this number about 5,000 licences are public-house licences, which would be affected, but in any case the new licences which are granted are very small in number indeed. If I may take 1923 as a typical year, as I think it is, only fifteen new licences were granted. Even assuming that there was an application under disinterested management in every one of those cases—and it is not an assumption which it would be fair to make—the progress of disinterested management could not but be very minute.
The second provision to which I referred is that for reduction. The scheme for reduction is contained in Clause 17, which provides for a reduction of one- 1058 fifth in the total number of licensed premises over a period of eleven years, subject to the payment of compensation. But subsection (2) of this clause goes on to provide that the scheme is not to be obligatory in localities where the number of licensed premises does not exceed one per thousand of the population, or in sparsely populated areas where the number of licensed premises, though exceeding that proportion, is not in excess of the needs of the locality. The noble Lord, in introducing the Bill, made the point that the Ace of 1913 had resulted in greater difficulties so far as the decrease of licences was concerned. That must be largely a matter of opinion. It is difficult to form a definite conclusion from the figures. For the purposes of comparison I have here the figures for the last eleven years. It is clear from subsection (2) that the reduction would not be so large as one-fifth, on account of the qualifications. But during the last eleven years, that is from 1013 to 1923, the total number of licences has actually been reduced by wastage and other causes from 10,275 to 8,875—a reduction of 1,400. I mention these figures because they show that something comparable to the reduction which is proposed under the Bill has already been going on, and the proposed reduction would be made by virtue of setting up the compensation scheme, which is a very complicated and controversial part of this Bill.
In dealing with the question of compensation it is light to remind your Lordships that any scheme for compensation in Scotland would be on a very different footing from that which is actually in existence in England, and I may perhaps read to your Lordships a paragraph bearing upon this point from the Report of the Committee under Lord Shaw of Dunfermline which was set up in 1917 in regard to State purchase. The Report says:—The contrast between the two cases has been often publicly recognised, and in the House of Lords on August 9th, 1904, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the Secretary for Scotland from 1895 until 1903, stated, with, so far as the Committee is aware, the entire approval of all sections of the community in Scotland, the matter thus on the question of the provisions for the extinction of licences by way of compensation for the Trade: 'If anything in the nature of the English Bill were to apply to Scotland, we should be in an infinitely worse position than at the present time. I am apprehensive that an attempt may be made to extend 1059 the general principle of this Bill to Scotland. and I wish to take this opportunity of saying that there is such a difference in the circumstances of the two countries that it would be an act of gross injustice to apply the principle in this Bill to the country north of the Tweed.'I have to remind your Lordships that since those words were used in this House the Act of 1913, with its notice of seven years, has been passed and has, I think, had a further effect in differentiating the case for compensation in Scotland from that which exists in England.
At this point I should like to say that whatever your Lordships may see fit to do with this Bill, even assuming that you were to give it a Second Reading to-day, the Government must not be held to approve of the very big changes which it proposes. There are several very large principles involved. There is the question of compensation, there is the whole question of the suspension of the 1913 Act, and there-is the question of security of tenure. All those are matters of the greatest importance which can be changed only after full consideration and on the responsibility of the Government.
In view of the circumstances attending the two provisions of the Bill to which I have referred—namely, disinterested management and the reduction of licences—I think the case for the Bill as a temperance measure must stand or fall on the case which can be made for the approved public-house. The real test is whether or not the introduction of the approved public-house will tend to diminish over-indulgence in intoxicating liquors.
The description of the approved public-house is contained in Clause 2 of the Bill, and I am bound to point out to your Lordships that even cursory examination of those provisions reveals certain difficulties in the way. First of all, there is the question of food. I think we all sympathise with the noble Viscount's desire to escape from the drudgery of the domestic rice pudding—I think that was what he said—but we already have in existence in Scotland a good many places where licensing courts have by-laws which provide that the sale of food shall be carried on in the house. That, as your Lordships know, I think, from previous discussions in this House, often does not 1060 result in more than a plate of biscuits on the counter and perhaps the scrag end of a neck of mutton somewhere in the background. The fact is that unless an economic demand for food exists no number of by-laws will create it.
The question of by-laws, again, affords difficulties, I think, from an administrative point of view. It is stated in Clause 2 that the licensing court is to frame by-laws dealing with the structure of the building and the conditions under which the business is to be conducted. It is very difficult to visualise by-laws which will be more definite than the paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Clause 2. I think it would really be bound to come to this, that licensing courts would have to deal with each case on its merits, having regard to the plans and the alterations proposed. Again, paragraph (d) of Clause 2 stipulates that the by-laws shall be designed to secure that the public-houseis not managed or served by a person who is remunerated by a salary or commission the amount of which depends upon the profits made by the sale of exciseable liquors.That, I think, is a further tribute to the principle of disinterested management, but if that is so it hardly seems to me to go far enough, because it is quite clear that circumstances might very easily exist, in fact would often exist, in which the precise amount of the salary or commission of the manager or servant would not be of so much importance to him as the retention of his job, and in its turn the retention of his job would depend upon the satisfaction that he gave to his employer, and this would necessarily bear relation to the profit which he made in carrying on the business.
I wish to make it clear that I do not put forward these difficulties as being necessarily fatal to the principle of the approved public-house, but it is really no use discussing the matter unless we are prepared to face the facts. It is no use blinking the difficulties which do abound in this most difficult and controversial subject. I need hardly say that the Government is entirely in sympathy with the object which the noble Viscount has in view in introducing this Bill. That I understand to be the promotion of temperance and, generally speaking, the improvement of conditions, and I think the House is under an obligation to the noble Viscount for having brought the 1061 matter forward. The discussion of it cannot but be of benefit.
§ THF EARL OF OXFORD AND ASQUITH
My Lords, I have waited with some anxiety to hear what were the views of His Majesty's Government in regard to this measure, and I confess that it was with a sense of, I will not say profound, but considerable relief that I have listened to the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. It appears from what he has said that we are to regard this for all practical purposes as a purely academic discussion, for indeed it is obvious to anybody who is acquainted with the methods of Parliament that this Bill would have no chance whatsoever of reaching the Statute Book unless it were taken up by His Majesty's Government and pressed not only through this House but through the other House. That, we are assured, is not going to be the case, and therefore we must content ourselves with the satisfaction that we have had the expression of a number of pious opinions, as to which, I believe, there is very little difference of view, and a number of more or less fruitful, more or less destructive suggestions.
I have been associated during my political life with a good deal of what is called temperance legislation. I remember—I think it must be now seventeen years ago—piloting through the House of Commons, which devoted weeks and even months of its time to the purpose, an elaborate and comprehensive scheme based upon the principle of what is called Local Option or Local Control, subject, as we then thought, and as I still think, to generous and even tender terms as regards the Trade in the matter of a time limit. That Bill passed the House of Commons, but it was not fortunate enough to receive your Lordships' approbation. It suffered, I will not say a premature, or even untimely, but a summary end, when it came within these walls.
The next attempt, on a much more modest scale, for which I and my colleagues were responsible, was the Scottish Temperance Act of 1913, which this Bill proposes, in effect, to repeal. There is no use disguising it—to put off its operation, to suspend it, for eleven years is, in effect, to deal it a mortal blow. That was a measure confined to Scotland alone, and I think for good reasons. In 1062 the first place, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has reminded us, the distinguished Scottish statesman, his own relative, who knew, I suppose, as much of Scottish affairs and Scottish opinion as any one who has been in Parliament in my lifetime, pointed out when the Licensing Bill of 1904 was before the House—as the noble Lord has most appropriately quoted—that the law and condition of England and Scotland in this matter were wholly dissimilar one from another. Scottish opinion was, if I may say so, much more ripe for an attempt at the experiment of Local Option than opinion in England was, or at present is, so far as I can judge it, and we passed that measure, not without strenuous conflict and serious differences of opinion between the two Houses, but we passed it by agreement in a form which was a compromise between opposing views, and was assented to or acquiesced in by all Parties.
It was an experiment—avowedly an experiment—and comments have been made by the noble Viscount who opened the discussion, and by others, upon what they describe as its comparatively insignificant results. Insignificant judged by what test? If, indeed, it had been a measure which, under the guise of Local Option, was intended by its friends—and that seems to be the view which the right rev. Prelate takes—to bring about Prohibition, I agree that the results would not be striking in magnitude, but that was not the intention either of its friends or of either House of Parliament when giving assent to it. The intention was to enable people in Scotland, in different localities, to say whether or not they would have houses licensed for the sale of intoxicants at all, or whether they considered the present number to be redundant or only adequate, and whether, in fact, they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the existing condition of things. A measure of that kind would not have been possible unless it had sub stantial support from Scottish opinion and I here make my first criticism upon the present Bill.
I have a perfectly open mind in regard to what I may call the experimental treatment of the temperance question. I have always said, and I still hold that opinion, that we should have the widest possible latitude, or at any rate give facilities for the widest possible latitude, 1063 of experiment, consistent with public interest and public safety in regard to this most—I will not say dangerous trade, but this traffic which needs, above all others, to be rigorously supervised and controlled. If I thought the positive proposals of this Bill, in the form in which they are presented to us, would provide a new avenue for the increase of temperance, and a diminution of the excessive consumption of liquor, I should be disposed to regard the Bill not only with tolerance but with favour. I think, however, that the remarks just made by the noble Lord who sits upon the Government Bench are sufficient to show that, from a constructive point of view, it holds out the slenderest and most meagre hopes of reform, either in the shape of disinterested management or in the multiplication of those idealised or so-called improved public-houses.
Has it any backing in Scottish opinion? The right rev. Prelate said that he regarded with abhorrence, and at any rate repugnance, the multiplication of Elections. That may be an undemocratic sentiment, but I am not sure that I do not share it, and I will tell the House why. In the last five years, since the month of January, 1920, I have gone through four contested Elections, which I believe to be a unique experience, and all in Scotland. It is true that in the last resort I was getting wearied of Elections, and apparently my constituents were getting wearied of me, otherwise I should not now have the privilege of addressing this House; but this testimony I can bear, and I believe it will be corroborated by every Scottish candidate, whether successful or unsuccessful at the polls, that during the whole of those four Elections I never had a hint or suggestion from any elector—hardly, I think, from any of those outside organisations which interfere so mischievously with the conduct of Elections in these days—that there was any objection to the Act of 1913, or any suggestion from any of my own constituents, or from outside, that there was any opinion in Scotland in favour of such a measure as this.
I believe this measure to be without any real backing in Scotland, just as I believe that the Scottish Temperance Act. although on paper the result may not seem to be striking, is supported by a large body of opinion in Scotland, who would look upon its disappearance as a 1064 deliberate withholding from the people, and the abrogation, of the power which every candidate in Scotland believes the people ought to possess of keeping control over this most important and dangerous trade. So that you are dealing here with proposals, so far as I am aware, that are as academic in their origin as we know now that this debate and this Bill are in their legislative aspects.
But I cannot leave the matter there. The Bill, I believe, will be nugatory so far as it makes constructive proposals. All the same, it is a measure of a highly revolutionary character. It proposes, it is true, a compulsory reduction in the number of licences, but, to carry that into effect, it proposes to import into Scotland the machinery of compensation, totally unknown and uncongenial to the soil and to the atmosphere of Scotland, borrowed from one of the legislative experiments, of which I say nothing in the way of criticism, for it applied only to England, of my noble friend opposite, and of which, as we have been reminded, and as I have already repeated to you, Lord Balfour of Burleigh declared that it was wholly alien and foreign to anything in the Scottish character and practice. That is the first change of a revolutionary character.
What is the next? The next is the repeal of the power which Parliament in 1913 deliberately conferred upon the localities. I should like to quote, in regard to that matter, one passage which, I think, has not yet been cited in this debate from the Report of the Committee, presided over by Lord Shaw, which was appointed, as the Government have told us, some few years ago. This is the unanimous finding of that Committee:—The power of the communities in Scotland over the prohibition and restriction of licences has, in the Act of 1913. reached a clear and definite stage. What has been accomplished after a protracted struggle Cannot be surrendered. … What was agreed upon on all hands was that any measure"—such as State purchase, which was what they were specifically considering—which deprived the local authorities of the powers of local option won for them under the Act would be a public wrong.That is not merely the view of what are called fanatical temperance advocates, for the Committee—and they were unanimous—add:The Committee shares this opinion.1065 This Bill flies directly in the face of that solemn and deliberate finding by a thoroughly competent, impartial, independent body. I am satisfied that an attempt to take away that which, by general consent, was given to the localities of Scotland under the legislation of 1913 would, as the Committee there report, be regarded as surrendering a privilege which had been hardly won, and which the people desired vigilantly and jealously to maintain.
Those appear to me to be, in themselves, amply sufficient grounds why Parliament should not commit itself to legislation of this kind, on the constructive side shadowy, conjectural, contingent, in the highest degree doubtful, and, on the negative side, when it comes, to deal with the existing state of things, destructive and revolutionary. I should therefore, if the matter had not, from the declaration of the Government, been reduced to academic dimensions, have felt myself compelled to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ LORD CLWYD
My Lords, at this stage of the debate, after what has fallen from the noble Earl and what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, on behalf of the Government, it would be unwise of me to do what I had intended to do—namely, to state my objections to this Bill—but I may in a few sentences express my views on one or two of the essential points at issue. I feel, with other speakers who have not a direct connection with Scotland, that I am hardly qualified to intervene in this debate upon a Scottish Licensing Bill, but many years ago I sat upon the Royal Commission on Licensing which did survey the licensing conditions in Scotland, and which reported in the year 1899, and one of the recommendations, signed by myself, which appeared in the Report was that the people were to have a direct measure of popular control after five years' time. The House will realise that the Temperance (Scotland) Act, 1917, extended that time limit by three years, and I feel that the overwhelming feeling in Scotland would be, and is, opposed to that part of the Bill which seems to suspend, and virtually to repeal, the Local Option clauses in that Act.
The noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of this Bill has referred 1066 to extreme temperance reformers. I should be very glad if people would realise that at all events those with whom I am associated with regard to any temperance effort belong to that school of thought which desires to support any measure which can be proved to be of real advantage to the cause of general sobriety. I am not in favour of the proposal in this Bill of setting up a new type of approved public-house. I do not oppose that proposal because I am unconcerned in regard to the state of licensed premises, but because, in the first place, I think that those conditions in regard to a right state of the premises are already, or should be, enforced by the existing law, and, in the second place, I think that what is proposed in this Bill on that point would cause considerable difficulty and danger which would, I fear, more than counterbalance any advantage which would result from it. The line of cleavage between the two schools of thought on this point is not, on the one hand, of interest in the right conditions concerning licensed premises, and, on the other, of opposition to such conditions; the whole point is whether such legislation as is proposed in this Bill would bring about those improved conditions which are necessary from any standpoint of true citizenship. I do not know whether the noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of this Bill intends to go to a Division, but if he does I feel so strongly the objections to this measure that I shall vote against it.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for very long, but I find myself so unable to agree with many of the statements made by the right rev. Prelate who spoke earlier in the debate that I should like to take this opportunity of expressing a somewhat different point of view I am not speaking as a Prohibitionist. I do not believe in Prohibition. I do not believe that Prohibition would ever be practicable in this country. I believe in the reformed public-house, owned and managed by the State, and I welcome the measure which has been introduced by the noble Viscount in so far as it is intended to promote the reformed public-house.
But the measure is open to very grave objections. It is drastic in its methods in attempting to promote the reformed public-house. It sweeps away the Scot- 1067 tish Temperance Act of 1913 which has not been in operation for a sufficient time to have had a fair trial. Moreover, it introduces into the Scottish law a principle hitherto unknown to it by giving to the licensed house a statutory security of tenure. This principle is, and has been for some time, known to our English law, and many of us have felt that such legal security of tenure has been a serious hindrance in the way of temperance legislation. There is another difficulty in the way of this measure. Recently, the Government promised an Inquiry into the experiment which has been associated with the City of Carlisle, This Inquiry will give us further information about the success or failure of the disinterested management of public-houses, and it seems to me to be premature to pass a measure of the kind introduced by the noble Viscount until the results of the Carlisle experiment are fully known.
I differed, most of all, I think, from the right rev. Prelate in his whole-hearted advocacy of this measure when he spoke as if the evils that arise from intemperance are to be compared with those which arise from over-eating and other things of the kind. He ended his eloquent speech with the statement that he supported this measure because it would do something at any rate to remove the gross and scandalous outrage of Scottish drunkenness. I doubt whether he would be able to apply those remarks to Scottish gluttony. I hope this measure will not receive the assent of your Lordships' House, because it seems to me to be entirely premature to accept it until we know what are the results of the Inquiry which has been promised by the Government.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree with my noble friend who represents the Scottish Office in your Lordships' House that we are very much indebted to my noble friend Lord Novar for his speech, and for the discussion to which it has given rise. I thought that his speech was very moderately expressed and showed that, whatever may be thought of the provisions of his Bill, he shares the view which I believe is general in your Lordships' House as to the proper attitude to be adopted towards temperance questions. He was strongly in favour of some measure which would put an end to the 1068 rather hopeless position in which we stand in regard to the licensing question, whether in England or in Scotland, and he was anxious, if possible, to carry ail sections of opinion with him in his effort towards reform.
He had the tactical success of throwing the authors of the Act of 1913 upon their defence. The two distinguished members of your Lordships' House who were responsible for the passage of that Act were evidently rather sensitive to the somewhat severe handling which it received at the hands of my noble friend. They said it had not failed. The noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the Opposition was most anxious to prove that it had not failed. I have some recollection of the debates upon that Bill. I think we were always told that the voice of Scotland demanded the Bill, that the representation conveyed to your Lordships and to another place was that there was a sort of uprising in Scotland in favour of the Bill as submitted to Parliament, and that it was at your Lordships' peril that you opposed it. The Bill was ultimately passed, but it was not received with any enthusiasm in Scotland and has had very little operation. I will venture to say that, whatever face they may put upon it, the authors of that Bill are profoundly disappointed in their hearts at its operation. I think there is no doubt whatever that when it turned out that so far from the No-Licence option being generally availed of hardly anybody would look at it, the authors of the Bill were extremely sorry for themselves.
I observed that the noble Earl, Lord Oxford, said that he was all in favour of experiments in this licensing question. Not all in favour, my Lords—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Exactly. I did my very best, in company with more influential members of your Lordships' House, to persuade the Government of the day to make an experiment in disinterested management, and in company with my noble friend's most distinguished father, a complete scheme of disinterested management of a very tentative and moderate character, as becomes your Lordships' House, was produced in the form of Amendments. But the Government of the day, the 1069 Government of the noble Earl, would not hear of it, and that scheme was thrown out with contumely in another place.
§ THF EARL OF OXFORD AND ASQUITH
Forgive me; it was most carefully considered, but it was rejected, not on the principle of disinterested management but because we were advised that it was wholly unworkable in practice.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not recall the elaborate respect with which, apparently, it was treated by the Government of the day. I know that it was rejected; I mean, that no attempt was made to meet it by modification. No alternative proposal of disinterested management was suggested. On the contrary, it was thrown out. The Bill was sent back to your Lordship's House, and we were put in the position of having to choose whether we would throw it out altogether or whether we would accept the decision of another place. Your Lordships' House pursued a course which it has often pursued; it bowed to the decision of the House of Commons in that respect, and the whole question of disinterested management has been postponed from that day to this. I am not going to say anything more about disinterested management. I am, myself, responsible for having made an announcement to your Lordships only a very few weeks ago that an Inquiry into disinterested management would be set up, and that will be done as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. Therefore it would be most improper for us to express an opinion now upon a matter which is to be tried by a Committee.
My noble friend Lord Novar knows what sympathy I have with his object, but I know he will allow me to say that I regret that he should have made a legislative proposal involving disinterested management at a time when this Committee is about to be set up. It is quite clear that if this Bill were to go further than the Second Reading stage it would be absolutely necessary to cut out the disinterested management part of the proposal; otherwise we should have the verdict before the trial has taken place. We should have a decision on disinterested management at the very moment when the Inquiry into it was about to begin. This Inquiry, I can assure your Lordships, is intended to be 1070 a real one, and not a shelving Inquiry, and therefore I regret that at such a moment a proposal should be made to deal with the subject upon which that Inquiry is to take place.
There is also the other very important point, upon which I will not dwell, because it has already been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and by my noble friend opposite (Viscount Haldane). We cannot make ourselves responsible in any sense for so drastic a proposal as the suspension of the operation of the Act of 1913 without very much more careful consideration than it is possible to give to a Bill introduced at such a stage as this by a private member of your Lordships' House.
It may be asked what course it is proposed to take on this Bill? The Bill contains another proposal which stands upon a very different footing, and that is the proposal of what is called the system of approved public-houses. I never have entertained any doubt whatever that that is a principle which ought thoroughly to be approved. That principle has been under your Lordships' consideration in two previous Bills, brought in under the auspices of my noble friend Lord Lamington, and I think a Bill was passed through your Lordships' House, once if not twice, and sent to another place. Personally I should be very sorry to give a vote which would seem to imply that I receded from the point of view which I have always expressed in favour of the approved public-house.
I do not know what course my noble friend Lord Novar will take in respect of this Bill. To pass it through your Lordships' House would be of no avail, even if my noble friend succeeded in doing so, for if it reached the Committee stage it would be necessary, for the reasons I have explained, to ask your Lordships to amend it in very drastic particulars. My noble friend will see that we have no choice. We cannot allow a matter which is sub judice to be decided until the Inquiry is complete, and we cannot make ourselves responsible for suspending the Act of 1913 without proper and careful consideration. Therefore my noble friend will gain nothing by proceeding any further with his Bill. I do not know whether he will press it to a Division, but if he does personally I cannot vote 1071 against the approved public-house. I shall, therefore, vote for the Second Heading as a testimony to the value of that important principle, but I cannot give my noble friend any hope that the Government, or any member of the Government, can support him at any further stage of the Bill. I do not think, therefore, he will gain very much by having a Second Reading, but if he proceeds to a Division I shall support him.
§ VISCOUNT NOVAR
My Lords, in view of what the Leader of the House has said, I should, of course, consult my noble friends after the Second Reading of the Bill, if your Lordships are good enough
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Bill read 2a accordingly, and referred to a Committee of the Whole House.