§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LIVERPOOL
My Lords, it is three years now since this Bill was first introduced by the late Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Burge. He was a man of firm and quiet convictions and he had the power of understanding other men's convictions. That made him quite an ideal leader of the temperance reformers. It is due greatly to his devoted and sympathetic labours that we are now able, as you will hear, to secure the support of the great bulk of temperance opinion in this country, including the whole of the temperance societies attached to the Churches. Dr. Burp's death was a very grievous loss, not to his friends only but to all who care for sane and reasonable social advance. During the debate in 1924 the view was expressed by several speakers that the Bill could be best improved, not in Committee but by making a fresh draft of it and presenting it again. That has been done and it is thanks largely to that debate in your Lordships' House that the Bill has assumed what I think we shall be able to show is a very greatly improved form.
The main principles remain as before. The first of these, which of course is not included in the text, is that there is a need and an opportunity for further legislation in this matter. I do not think it necessary to take much time in establishing that principle. I have read carefully the Report of the debate two years ago and I find that no single speaker who was opposed to the Bill expressed himself as content with the matter as it now stands. I could, of course, produce any number of statistics, but that is not a very satisfactory way of measuring progress, especially if one adopts the usual method of taking the figures of the two years, adding them up to get the number of convictions for drunkenness, common assault, aggravated assault, assault on the police, attempted suicides, and so on, 411 and then comparing it with the number of millions of gallons consumed in the respective periods. One can deduce opposite conclusions from the same sets of figures. I could do that myself.
Moreover, these figures do not go to the heart of the matter. There is in this country a vast amount of drinking doing a vast amount of harm but not amounting to what the police call drunkenness and not ending in the police courts. The progress that has been made during the last twenty years in this matter we willingly and thankfully acknowledge. There is a decrease of drunkenness that can be proved, I think, by figures; there is also something that cannot be proved by figures but must be a matter of opinion. My impression is that there is an increase of sobriety, which is a very different thing from a decrease of drunkenness. There are many causes for that progress and I should like to say a word or two about them. To my mind the people of this country generally are realising two things. The first is that an increase in sobriety—I do not mean a decrease in actual drunkenness—means an increase in efficiency, in national wealth and in public welfare; and the second is that there are powerful and quite artificial obstacles in the way of this progress. They are asking why these obstacles cannot be removed and the people of this country be made really free to drink as much or as little as they like.
There are two ways of meeting that appeal. In the first place you may impose upon the whole country a single solution to be applicable equally in every part. That, of course, means waiting until temperance reformers and other people are agreed as to what the solution will be, and that is not a very near prospect. The second method of meeting it is by conferring upon the inhabitants of local areas the right and responsibility of deciding how and to what extent liquor shall be manufactured and distributed in their area. That is the method of the Bill, which makes possible a series of experiments from the experience of which the country may ultimately be able to proceed to a single uniform solution for all areas. In the matter of these areas what we lay down is not an essential principle, but a number of Committee points. The areas are at present the 412 City of London and the electoral divisions or, in the provinces, the county boroughs, municipal boroughs with a population of 50,000 and more, the existing licensing districts and new housing districts which contain more than 1,500 houses. In the Memorandum to the Bill we describe these as "large areas." They are not very large—perhaps not quite so large as some of us would like—but they may be increased in size by an arrangement which permits two contiguous areas to coalesce if they choose into one for the purpose of voting. These areas are much larger than the Scottish areas and relatively they deserve to be called large, though I wish they deserved the name a little better. The franchise is the Parliamentary franchise and the arrangement is that there shall be a first preference and an alternative vote if the first preference is not carried. That is to prevent the decision being made by a real minority of the voters.
The third principle is this. This Bill is a true Local Option Bill and the question always arises in these cases of what options you are going to offer so that voters may take their choice between two or three or more. We have settled that there shall be three choices in this matter. The first is "No change." There will no doubt be a considerable number of areas which will prefer to be left as they are. If so, a bare majority will preserve the status quo. The next choice is what we have called "reorganisation." You may have a certain number of areas in which people will say something like this: "We want reasonable opportunities for drinking, but we do not want to minister to the private interest of any individual or any company by having the consumption of drink in this area as high as possible. We do not want to be continually reminded by expensive advertisements how thirsty we are, and we do want to be rid of the liquor influence in local politics." If that view prevails, a bare majority will turn the area into a reorganisation area, and that means that the whole of the manufacture and distribution of alcoholic liquor in that area will be managed by a central Board of Management, assisted by central and local advisory committees. They will get rid of redundant public houses, abolish grocers' licences, do away with advertisements of liquor, convert 413 some public houses, according to local demands, into places where food can be bought as well as drink, and secure that it is to nobody's interest that a large amount of drink shall be consumed. That is the second of the options; it means disinterested management and follows the lines now prevailing in the Carlisle area.
Now I come to the third option, which we call "No licence" There are in this country a certain number of people who believe that the only solution of our difficulties in regard to the liquor traffic is to abolish it altogether now. These people can claim, I think, the right to make their opinion heard under a Local Option Bill, and therefore we say that in any area where that view prevails—not, however, by a bare majority but by a majority consisting of 55 per cent. of the first preference votes—there shall be co more licences at all. Drink must not be sold or manufactured in that area and, if it is consumed in that area, it must be by those who get it outside. That is something very like prohibition, and here I quite recognise that we come up against one of the great difficulties of this Bill. If we exclude that option, we shall certainly obtain an amount of support in the country very much greater than the Bill has already secured. But, if we exclude that option, we shall also lose the support of many temperance societies and we should incur the active hostility of a few who would at once join the trade in opposing us. I desire to assure your Lordships that this is not to us a question of tactics. We say that if you are really going in for local option, that is to say, if you set out to bring a free movement of public opinion and responsibility to bear upon this question, you have no right to rule out an opinion that is firmly held, whether rightly or wrongly, by a very considerable number of people, just because other people happen to dislike it.
A point is frequently made against this third option in the. Bill. It is said that it means that in certain areas you will have the rich men, who have their own cellars and are independent of the public house, voting for no-licence against the poor men, whose cellar is the public house, and depriving them of their rights. But I want to ask if you can imagine an area in which the number of rich voters would outweigh the number of 414 poor voters: I cannot. I do not think that point arises at all. Anyhow, we include that option because we think it is fair and wise to include it. If it is excluded the Bill is wrecked. But I beg your Lordships to remember that in speaking like this I am not arguing for prohibition, and also to remember that arguments against prohibition are not arguments against this Bill.
I come now to the next essential principle on which the Bill is based, which has also come in for a certain amount of criticism. I spoke just now of the free movement of responsible opinion. The Bill provides that areas shall have a certain freedom in revising their decisions from time to time. It is laid down in the Bill that the first polls shall be taken three years after the Bill has been enacted and the other polls four years later. That is a doubtful point and I do not think we should lose very much if that requirement were dropped and it were enacted that a fresh poll should be taken on the requisition of a certain number of voters. However, the essential principle is that the polls a.c recurrent. It is possible under this Bill for an area which has already decided to have periods of reorganisation to go forward or, as some might say, backward to prohibition. On the other hand, an area which has had experience of a no-licence period might come upon reflection to desire that that should be modified. If so, either can make the change, but neither of such areas, having decided for reorganisation, can go back to private ownership. Once having abandoned the present system there can be no return to it in that area.
That is represented as an arbitrary restriction and it is said that we are weighting the scales against drink, but I think I can put forward good and practical reasons why that requirement should be made. In the first place, imagine the situation which would arise in an area from which private ownership has been excluded if all of a sudden it is brought back again. It would have to be decided what brewers should be allowed to supply liquor, what you are to do with the tied houses and, having got rid of redundant houses, which houses are to be continued; also what you are to do with those which have been turned into cafés, and so on. The thing would be a 415 matter of intolerable confusion. That is one good reason, and there is another, less obvious but I think no less real. We are dealing with areas in which private interests in this matter have been bought out. If those interests saw a chance of coming in again could you reasonably expect them to refrain from preparing and using such influences at the polls as would really not leave the voters free to decide according to their own will? The board of management would have no chance of meeting them in propaganda on their own ground. Therefore, we say in a Bill of this character there should be no return from reorganisation or no-licence to private ownership.
The last principle of the Bill is that during fifteen years after its passing there shall be compensation paid to all interested persons, from directors and shareholders who lose remuneration and profits down to employees who lose their jobs, but that after fifteen years the right to compensation lapses. As to compensation, it is obviously fair and I need say no more. As to the time limit of fifteen years, that point will be dealt with later in debate by a noble Lord who knows more about the history of time limits than I shall ever learn, but a great deal depends, anyhow, upon the method of computing that compensation. The new draft of the Bill offered to-day suggests a different method from that laid down in the 1924 draft. In the 1924 draft we followed the recommendation of Lord Sumner's Committee of 1917. Now we have devised an easier and simpler scheme of valuation which is based on Section 20 of the 1910 Licensing Consolidation Act and takes market values as the standard both for valuation of licences and also for the valuation of bricks and mortar.
The payment will be like this: The owner of a public house having an on-licence which passes on to public hands would receive in the first place the difference between the value of his house regarded as a licensed house and the value of that house regarded as an unlicensed house. That we hold to be the value of the licence. He would receive in addition the price of the house as if it were unlicensed. Obviously there would have to be rules as to how to compute the values in the first instance, and that we leave to the Home Secretary. It is sug- 416 gested that the Kennedy Judgment might be followed, which says twelve years' purchase is a fair amount. That part of the compensation would decrease as the time limit runs out. In the case of off-licences, the compensation would be based upon three years purchase of commercial profits. That is what would happen in a reorganisation area. In a no-licence area, of course, the compensation would be on a similar computation for the licence and for the trade fixtures,, but nothing would be given for the buildings which would have to be sold in the open market. The Bill also provides for loss of employment and other property rights which are to be assessed by agreement or, failing agreement, by arbitration.
Where is the money to come from to discharge those liabilities? The Bill sets up a Central Compensation Fund which; is to be at the disposal of the central Board of Management. Into that Fund come year by year the trade levies increased in this way: The licensees would continue to pay as now but the owners of tied houses (90 per cent, of the whole) would pay an equivalent amount and we therefore get double the present trade levy into the Compensation Fund every year and the compensation paid to owners of redundant houses under the Balfour Act of 1904 would cease. This would result in a working capital which would come into the Compensation Fund at the rate of about £2,000,000 a year; that is to say, that in the first year the Board of Management have to pay any compensation at all—namely, three years-after the Bill becomes law—they would have a working capital of £6,000,000. After that time there would come in the proceeds of the sale of redundant property in reorganised areas, and there would come in also profits upon the sale of alcoholic liquor in those areas. And, as Lord Banbury of Southam has very truly said, anybody can manage a business that is a monopoly with a certain amount of success.
Is that enough? In other words, is the Bill likely to be solvent? Of course, that depends upon how many areas will go "dry" at first, second, or third poll. Unless the hopes of the prohibitionists in this matter are wildly exceeded I should have thought there was no chance at all of more areas going "dry" than can be comfortably managed by the 417 finance of the Bill. Moreover, the Home Secretary has the power to postpone the second or third poll for a year if he finds the funds are not likely to be able to sustain the charges that might possibly be thrown upon them. Further, the Board of Management would be able under this Bill to borrow, with leave el the Home Secretary, upon security of their Compensation Fund, backed, if necessary, by the receipts of Customs and Excise. That, incidentally, would enable them to burrow money more cheaply, and I do not think it need frighten anybody. The noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, very truly called it only a remote contingent liability upon public funds. There is no question about the financial success of reorganisation areas. Whatever else Carlisle has proved or disproved, it has proved that; for there, within twelve years, all their liabilities are discharged, and they are going next year to make profits on their own account. I find that some critics of this Bill, especially those who object to touching money which has been earned in this way, ask with some concern what is to happen to the accumulation which will remain in the hands of the Board of Management when all their debts are paid. I think we may leave that safely to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will soon find a use for it.
I have found that this Bill since its publication has created a very widespread and deep interest throughout the country, especially among those people who had hitherto not been very much interested in the question of temperance reform, partly because they have a sort of feeling that nothing could be done, partly because they are muddled by the foolish use of that half-truth that you cannot make a man sober by Act of Parliament, and partly because they have a vague and, I think, equally foolish idea that any advance in temperance reform means a step towards prohibition. We have found that a study of this Bill has convinced people that their fears are groundless, and it has also set them thinking about the question as a whole, which is exactly what we hoped it would do. It has also excited a very lively concern among the members and supporters of the trade. That is not surprising. What does surprise me is 418 the line of attack which the trade appears to be taking in opposing this Bill.
They are good enough to send me most of the publications they issue of that kind, and, as far as I can make out, they are concentrating upon two points In the first place they complain of the compensation clauses—not of the amount of compensation promised: they could hardly do that, because the amount is greater than has ever been offered in any Temperance Bill ever drafted, though they do not mention that. What they say is: "That is all very well, but you are using our own money with which to compensate us. You propose to buy us out, and you are spending our own money in doing so." It is quite true that part of the Compensation Fund comes from trade levies. Why not? What else are the trade levies for? They were imposed in 1904 as a sort of compulsory insurance. We have increased them naturally because the risks are increased, and it is quite true that compensation for licences only diminishes as the years of time limit elapse. The trade say: "Ah, that is confiscation; you are going to take a piece of our own property." That shows that the trade are still persisting in the error of regarding a licence as a piece of property which is bestowed upon a man to use until he chooses to dispose of it on his own terms. I do not think I need at this time of day argue against that view.
As long ago as 1908 Lord Balfour, in commenting upon some misinterpretations of his Act of 1904, said this:I have never supposed for a moment, nor did the other authors of the Act of 1904 suppose, that the owners of licensed property had a freehold in that particular property, and I can quite conceive that after a term of years during which there was no disturbance, you might say: 'You have had time to insure; you have had a security of tenure which is less than freehold; we gave you ample time in which to make provision for the moment at which the State will resume the licence.'Ample time! We offer fifteen years; they were offered eight in Scotland and took it. I think that the confiscation attack on this Bill is a very weak one.
But the other attack is still weaker. They attack the reorganisation clauses of this Bill and they say this amounts to a nationalisation of the drink trade— 419 nationalisation, of course, being one of those words, like "Socialism," which are used as missiles to fling at people with whom you do not agree. I submit that when you nationalise an industry you take the whole of that industry and set it under the control of a Minister of the Crown who is responsible to Parliament, whose policy may be criticised and debated in Parliament. Every detail of it may be raised at some time or other. That may be a very good system for the postal service. We should not be agreed, I think, as to whether it would be a good system for mines or for railways or for the liquor traffic. But whether it is good or bad, it is not what we propose for the drink trade in our reorganisation areas.
Remember that this Board of Management, while it is appointed, it is true, by the Home Secretary, is not responsible to the Home Secretary or to anybody for its policy. It is left alone. The Home Secretary chooses a group of men. He says: "For this salary we ask you to take over these interests and to administer them in the public interest. You cannot make any money out of them. We want you to arrange this business so that the general public shall get as much good out of it as possible and that it should do as little harm as possible. Take it over; you will be assisted by a central advisory committee in London and further by local advisory committees in the provinces which will keep you in touch with local taste and local requirements. I am not going to concern myself with what you do except that if you make a mess of it Parliament may dismiss any or all of you; but until then we trust you." Is that nationalisation?
There is a good deal to be said for that kind of control. We have had very successful experience of it in dock and harbour boards, in water boards, and in the British Broadcasting Corporation and we hope we shall have equal success with the Central Electricity Board. This is a particularly interesting development to me, because it shows that we in this country—as far as I can make out it is not being done in any other country—are feeling our way to a method of control which avoids many of the evils of State Socialism on the one hand and of unrestricted private competition on the other hand, and comprises many of the 420 advantages of both. I believe this kind of control has a great future before it, but whether that be so or not, and whether it be good or bad, it is not nationalisation. If the cries of confiscation and nationalisation are all that the trade has to urge against the Bill. I do not think it can be quite such a bad Bill as they describe it. If I may invert a common saying the trade have praised the Bill with faint damns.
I will only occupy about two minutes in saying what is in my mind about the trade itself. I am not one of those who regard it as a wicked trade, or who regard brewers and wine merchants and publicans as having bad consciences or no consciences at all. Nor do I condemn them because they believe themselves to be obliged to prepare and to use extensive propaganda and all manner of political action, direct and indirect, in order to be as free as possible to sell as much liquor as they can. That they do so is common knowledge. They admit it themselves. But that is not the real wrong. The real wrong is that the trade should be, and should be left, in a position which seems to impose upon it an obligation so unwholesome and so dangerous. Forty years ago Lord Rosebery said this: "If the State does not control the liquor traffic the liquor traffic will control the State. I see the danger coming nearer and nearer: that owing to the enormous influence wielded directly and indirectly by those who are concerned to uphold the liquor traffic, we are approaching a state of things perilously near the corruption of our political system." Sooner or later the country will have to tackle this question and I do not think it can be solved unless we take the trade clean out of private hands altogether. I want to say quite definitely that our Bill is designed to promote that among other purposes, if the people will have it so. We suggest that the only practicable way of fulfilling that purpose is by buying it up piecemeal as local authorities desire to do so. We do not expect to convince all your Lordships on all the clauses of this Bill or even perhaps on all its principles, but we do hope that upon a fair consideration of the Bill as a whole you will agree that it is an honest, reasonable and equitable attempt to help this country to be really sober by making it really free. If so, you will give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Bishop of Liverpool.)
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM, who had given Notice to move that the Bill be read 2a this day six months, said: My Lords, I am not a great authority on points of order in your Lordships' House, but it seems to me that this Bill, or at any rate a very material portion of it, is out of order. One of the main features of the Bill is a proposal [...] impose a charge or a tax upon [...]in members of the community. The right rev. Prelate has told us that that charge or tax will amount to somewhere about £2,000,000 a year. Now I do not believe that your Lordships have any power to impose a charge or tax upon any section of His Majesty's subjects. I have always understood that the only body that can do that is the House of Commons, and even in the House of Commons a tax cannot be imposed unless it is proposed by the Government.
§ The actual rule, as far as I know, is that a tax must be proposed by a Privy Councillor who has the assent of His Majesty the King, and as no one can get that unless he is a member of the Government what it amounts to is that no charge or tax can be imposed in the House of Commons upon any of His Majesty's subjects unless it is imposed by His Majesty's Government. It may be said: "Oh, well, but this is not a tax because it is merely a contribution by certain people to a fund and out of that fund they will be repaid certain monies." But if you look at the Bill you will see that the tax or the charge imposed upon licence holders is not to be entirely returned to them. Expenses are to be taken out of it, salaries and wages, and the loss, if then, is any, which I think is more than likely. Therefore, if I am right, if this Bill were unfortunately to obtain a Second Heading, first of all it would have no effect in law, or at any rate a large part of it would have no effect in law, and secondly, if it got to the House of Commons, I do not believe that unless it was taken up by the Government it would pass. It would be a question there for Mr. Speaker.
§ I observe that there is a similar Bill in the House of Commons; in fact, I believe it is absolutely identical. That Bill is introduced by a Socialist member. The names on the back of the Bill are 422 one Socialist, one Liberal and Viscountess Astor. I think there can be no doubt that this is the Bill of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, and I would ask him why he does not bring it in himself. Why does he hide behind a Bishop? I can see no advantage in that, and I do beg the noble Viscount if he brings in another Bill, which any again be overwhelmingly defeated, to bring it in himself. The right rev. Prelate told us in his speech that the Bill had been improved. That is a matter of opinion. Personally I do not think it has been improved, and I will tell your Lordships why later. Then he went on to say that the Bill made it free for people to drink as much or as little as they please. That is what they can do now. Why waste time in bringing in a Bill to do what can be done now? I venture to ask, if that is the object of the right rev. Prelate, if he really wants people to be free to drink, why bring in a Bill of this sort and include prohibition? He quoted a remark which I made in the last debate that it was easy for anyone to manage a monopoly successfully. I think he quoted that. Well, yes, it is easy if the monopoly works, but if prohibition comes in, if people do not drink, where is the profit? It seems to me there can be no profit at all.
The right rev. Prelate said there was a difference in this Bill compared with its predecessor. Certainly the Commissioners are different. I have a copy of the old Bill here—I carefully kept it after the debate of 1924—and I find that the manner of assessment is different and the levy is different. But I do not think there is any advantage or any improvement in any of these things and I will deal with them later. I will first take the Memorandum. The Memorandum this year is just as misleading as it was in 1924, and that in face of the fact that a very large number of your Lordships then pointed out how misleading the Memorandum was. The same misleading statements are repeated. For instance, the Memorandum says:—
The Bill gives to the inhabitants of large areas …. the right of deciding periodically whether they are to have no change from the present system of commercial competitive ownership of the liquor trade, or whether the trade is to be reorganised under a system of public control …. or whether the sale of intoxicants is to be abolished.
Anybody reading that would think that the Parliamentary electors would have an opportunity of deciding whether there was to be no change, reorganisation or no licence.
§ One would think that they would have this opportunity periodically. But it is not so. All they have the periodical opportunity of deciding is whether they will have reorganisation or whether they will have no-licence, provided, that is, that the no-change option is not adopted first. Can it be held by anybody outside a lunatic asylum that popular control is given when the control that is given is this: If a majority of five per cent. on one occasion—perhaps a majority of girls of twenty-one, if it should ever unfortunately become the law that they have votes—on a small poll decides against no change, then never again in the history of the country can that be altered. Yet it is stated here that it can be periodically reconsidered. That is one of the misstatements that was pointed out in 1924, but which appears again in the Memorandum.
Then the Memorandum says that there is to be a central body appointed with the approval of Parliament, and again it brings in the Port of London. I will not weary your Lordships by again telling you, as I did in 1924, how the Port of London Authority is appointed. It is not a popular body, or anything like it, nor is it appointed by the Government. There are a few people on it appointed by the Government, but they are only a small proportion. The Memorandum goes on to say:
The Bill extends to the members of the licensed trade the principle of contributory insurance against certain definite risks, which has been already applied compulsorily to large classes of the community in other schemes.
"Schemes" in the plural, your Lordships will note. But where else has it been applied? I have no doubt that I am not as conversant as the right rev. Prelate with all the affairs of the country, but I do not remember this, and I have been a great number of years in one House or the other. If the right rev. Prelate is alluding to the Bill of 1904, which I venture to say is a totally different thing, I will only refer him to the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, in 1924, which, I think, completely demolished that statement.
I do not know who drew up this Memorandum. He must be rather a curious sort of man, because he makes a statement at the beginning that the right of deciding periodically upon these three different questions is given, and then his last words are:
Areas can choose indefinitely between these two alternatives. They cannot, however, return to competitive, commercial ownership.
The wording of the last few lines contradicts that of the first few lines. I do not know why that was done.
Now we come to the Bill. Clause 1 is the same as that of the Bishop of Oxford's Bill, with the difference that in the former Bill the poll was to be taken every fourth year and in this Bill it is to be every third year. Clause 4 deals with "Voting at and effect of polls," and says:—
On a poll in any area in which three questions are submitted to the electors:—
As I read those provisions, this is what is going to happen. Suppose that in a large area like the City of London there are 100,000 electors who vote, and that 50,000 vote for no change, 30,000 for reorganisation and 20,001 for no-licence; what is going to happen? One would think that, as the majority was in favour of no change, 50,000 being larger than 30,000 and also than 20,001, there would be no change. But the right rev. Prelate adds together the 30,000 and the 20,001, making 50,001, and says that there is a majority for one of those two other options. It seems to me to be a very extraordinary idea to say that, because a man votes for reorganisation, he shall be deemed to be in favour of no-licence. Why should he be deemed to be in favour of no-licence merely in order to enable something to be done under the Bill? I do not call that popular control. I should call it—but one of the difficulties with which I am faced is that I should like to use some rather strong language, but that I do not like to use it, seeing that the
Bill has been introduced by a right rev. Prelate. If it had been introduced by the noble Lord below me I should say that it was a gerrymandering Bill.
§ Then we find that the electors are no longer those of the Bishop of Oxford's Bill. In the former Bill the electors were those who are entitled to vote in local government elections, but now they are to be changed to Parliamentary voters. Why is that? Is it because, if the new proposal to enfranchise girls of twenty-one comes into force, the women will be in a majority, and the right rev. Prelate thinks that women are more likely to do foolish things than men? I do not know if that is the reason, but I cannot think of any other. As regards the expenses of the poll, under the Bishop of Oxford's Bill they were to be paid by the local authorities, but under this Bill they are to be paid oat of the Central Fund. In other words, not only are the brewers and licence-holders to pay towards their own extinction, but they are also to pay the expenses of the poll that is going to extinguish them.
There is next the establishment of a Board of Management, which, I think, follows the terms of the Bishop of Oxford's Bill, but is nevertheless an interesting point. I do not know if the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, is here, but it touches the question of economy. The Bill says:—
There shall be paid to each member of the Board such salary or remuneration as the Secretary of State may determine.
The right rev. Prelate tells us that this is not nationalisation, but when I look at the clause I see that this body, which, if reorganisation is carried, is to manage the business, is appointed by the Secretary of State and paid by the Secretary of State and, I believe, is dismissible by Parliament. What is that but nationalisation? I cannot conceive that it can be anything else. The Bill also goes on to say that the Board shall be at liberty to grant superannuation allowances to managers and other employed by them.
Now we come to the Advisory Council. There is first of all the Secretary of State, and then there is a Board and then there is an advisory council, and the advisory council is to consist of people—
qualified to represent the views of associations or bodies interested in the trade in
intoxicating liquor, of temperance associations, of labour organisations, and of local authorities.
I am very glad that I shall not be a member of that council because it seems to me that the representatives of those four different associations will spend their time in quarrelling and doing nothing else. May I ask the right rev. Prelate to look at Clause 10, subsection (8)? He says that this is not nationalisation. The subsection says:—
The Secretary of State may, if he think fit, appoint a person already in the Government service to be secretary of the said Council.
There is a Government official to see what is going on, and to report everything that is going on to the Secretary of State. I should have thought that that was nationalisation.
As to reorganisation Clause 12 provides that:—
…. the Board shall have the sole control and management of the sale of intoxicating liquor in that area, and no person shall without the authority in writing of the Board or except in accordance with any conditions imposed by the Board …. sell or distribute any intoxicating liquor in the area…
Then, when you come to Clause 13, it says "except to a trader." What is he going to do with it when he has got it if he cannot sell it in his area. I confess I do not understand that. When I turn to Clause 15 I think it is a rather extraordinary clause, having regard to the observation of the right rev. Prelate. I have seen it said by temperance people that the public are not free now because they have to buy from particular brewers. If you look at subsection (5) of Clause 15, you will find that it says:—
The Board may make their authority to sell intoxicating liquor subject to such conditions as they think necessary or expedient for the purposes of their control and management of the sale of intoxicating liquor in the area, and such conditions may include all or any of the conditions mentioned in the last preceding subsection, and may also include conditions as to price, quality and strength, and, if they think fit, a condition that the person authorised to sell intoxicating liquors shall only purchase such liquor or specified kinds of liquor from the Board.
What sort of liquor is that? Will the noble Lord put much water in it, or not? It seems to me that it gives a very great opportunity to temperance in another way.
Now I come to the clubs. I do not know whether all your Lordships have read this Bill. Just see what might happen if, unfortunately, the County of London became a no-licence area or even a reorganisation area:—
The Board may impose any such conditions as are hereinbefore in this section referred to on the supply of intoxicating liquor in any club in the area which was registered at the date of the passing of the reorganisation resolution.
It also says, in the preceding subsection:—
No club which was not registered at the date of the passing of the reorganisation resolution shall after such date be registered in the area without the consent in writing of the Board, and the Board shall be entitled to make such consent subject to any such conditions as are hereinbefore in this section referred to.
So here we are going to appoint a dictator who will tell whether we may get anything except water in any club to which we may belong. The next thing I suppose will be that we shall be told that we must not smoke too much, because, so far as my experience goes, excessive smoking is nearly as bad as excessive drinking. Another extraordinary thing is that in a railway refreshment room you may get as much good liquor as you want. What is there in a railway refreshment room different from any other refreshment room, or from the Carlton and Reform Clubs? Yet in these clubs you may not drink without the consent of the Board, while in a London & North Eastern Railway refreshment room you can do as you like. I was once Chairman of a railway company and therefore it is not for me to dispute it, but I confess I cannot understand this Part of the Bill.
§ Then, under the Bishop of Oxford's Bill, the Board was to consist of ten Commissioners, of whom one was to be a barrister of not less than ten years standing. I had the temerity to remark when that Bill was before the House that perhaps a barrister of ten years standing might not know a great deal about the law, and Lord Buckmaster said that was a mistaken idea, because a barrister of ten years standing might know a great deal about the law and be a very fit person. In this Bill there are substituted the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. They consist of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and three Commissioners—excellent men I have no doubt, some K.C.B.'s and 428 others O.B.E.'s, but what do they know about the law? They are not a judicial body and surely they have enough to do without having fresh duties foisted upon them. If they have plenty of leisure and would like to do something else, let us reduce their number and so save money.
Another point is the acquisition of the breweries. The Board may either by agreement or compulsorily acquire them. When you come to compensation you will find nothing about compensation being given because the acquisition is compulsory. I will not go into that because I think your Lordships will all agree that it is a very excessive power to give to any body. Then you come to the financial arrangements for compensation in Clause 21. They are limited to fifteen years, and as far as I can make out it really is only twelve years, and may be considerably less. I am not quite certain whether that is right but. I think it is. After fifteen years there is no compensation at all, and the Act of 1904 is done away with. Now the most rev. Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said on the Second Beading of the Bishop of Oxford's Bill that some emphasis had been laid upon the fact that the Bill as it then stood would take away from the magistrates, by repealing the Act of 1904, powers which they at present possess. He added:
I understand that that is not the intention of the promoters of the Bill, and it is at least certain that they are perfectly ready to arrange for the measure to go to a Select Committee, and there recommend that the powers which magistrates now possess shall not in any way be impaired.
The most rev. Primate voted for the Second Reading of that Bill. As his advice has not been taken, and as the promoters of the Bill still insist upon repealing the Act of 1904, I count confidently upon his voting in the Lobby with me.
Subsection (4) of Clause 21 is new, and it breaks a covenant and bargain: I will read the subsection:—
In cases where the holder of an on-licence is bound by any covenant, agreement or undertaking, or is otherwise under any direct or indirect obligation of any kind, to obtain a supply of intoxicating liquor from any person such person shall on the first day of October in each year during the said period pay to the Board a sum equal to the amount charged upon the premises and payable by the holder of the
licence in pursuance of this section: and the amount so payable shall be deemed to be a debt due from such person to the Board and shall be recoverable by the Board accordingly.
That is to say, it breaks a contract, which apparently is not thought very much of.
Then subsection (10) of Clause 21 says:—
After the expiration of fifteen years from the passing of this Act, if at the end of any year the annual payments made or to be made under the provisions of this Act into the Central Fund during that year show a surplus over the annual payments made or provided or to be made or provided under the provisions of this Act out of the Central Fund during that year, such surplus shall be deemed to form part of the revenues of Customs and Excise derived from the duties on the sale of intoxicating liquors.
Well, this is all based on the assumption that drink is going to continue, because unless drink continues there can be no profit, When drink continues there will be a profit, which is to form part of the revenue of the Customs and Excise. I am quite sure that the right rev. Prelate does not want people to drink. Supposing people do not drink then there will not be a profit, there will be a loss; and who is going to pay the loss? I am sorry to quote the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I am cute he will excuse me. May I remind him that at a meeting at the Mansion House in 1923 he gave a pledge that the campaign of the Churches, then inaugurated, would not be directed towards prohibition and nationalisation? I hope he is still of that opinion.
§ Next we come to Clause 23, on the method of commuting the money to be given as compensation, with which the Bishop of Liverpool dealt. This is what will happen. We will say that there is a house with a licence, valued now at £1,500; they say what the value of it would be if it had no licence, and they put the value without a licence at £500, and they say that the difference between these sums is the compensation which is to be got. That is to say, where a house is worth now £1,500 the proprietor will get £1,000. I call that confiscation. We are all conversant with the passage in the New Testament which begins: "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's." Let me commend that passage to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.430
As far as I can make out, if there is a dispute as to the amount of compensation an arbitrator or the Commissioners of Inland Revenue will decide. I presume it would probably be the Commissioners; I understand that they can be appointed if they like. There is to be no appeal. Why not? Why should not a Court of Law function in this as in any other case where property is concerned? I think I heard the remark that there was no freehold in a licence under the Act of 1904, but there is property. Let me quote an authority. Mr. Lloyd George, answering a deputation of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists which waited upon him respecting a similar scheme on October 22, 1020, said:—
Rightly or wrongly, a property has been conferred in England and Wales in respect of licences. You cannot go behind that, because, if you do, you may depend upon it, especially in the present atmosphere, there are people who will quote that as a precedent for other property. Yon may say that that property ought not to have been conferred. There are people who will say the same thing about all sorts of property, and therefore it is a very dangerous atmosphere in which to challenge, legal property.
And speaking at Walsall in October, 1924, Mr. Lloyd George said—
We do not believe in confiscation.
I commend that to noble Lords on the other side of the House. He went on—
If you commence confiscation you do not know where the end will be. You will convert this country into another Russia, and one Russia is quite enough in this world.
§ I have said enough to show your Lordships that the Bill is a bad one, that it is very doubtful whether it will stop drinking, that, if it does stop drinking, the Board will be bankrupt, and that therefore we had far better leave people free to drink as much or as little as they like, without interfering with them under this Bill. I thought that we should not hear anything about other countries in this debate, and we have not. I have here the statistics for 1925 of drunkenness in America, which is a prohition country, and where the drunkenness is far greater than it is here in England. I think you will find that practically every country which has been foolish enough to enact a law of this kind has either reversed it or is going to reverse it. I beg to move.431
Leave out ("now") and, at the end of the Motion, insert ("this day six months").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, speaking just now, accused me of being the father or the godfather or the putative father of this Bill, and rather suggested that I was lacking in courage and honesty because I do not own the paternity of the Measure. You may disagree entirely with my attitude on the temperance question, but I do not think that any of you can say that I have lacked courage in supporting my views; and, if I Were the real father and author and main supporter of this Bill, I should not be attempting to hide behind anybody else. I support this Bill to-day. A fortnight ago I voted for the Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, introduced. About ten years ago I advocated and supported a measure for public ownership. I would, in fact, support almost any measure for progress, or almost any temperance proposal except a Bill to impose prohibition upon the nation. I want to make that quite clear at the outset.
To-day I am supporting this Bill here because I think it provides a constructive proposal for dealing with the two aspects of the drink question. There is what I call the alcohol question, that is to say, the social evils which come from the unwise consumption of alcohol; and there is the question of the influence on our national life exercised by the trade. Those are two entirely different questions, and the Bill makes a real constructive proposal for dealing with both of them. Some few years ago I was invited to go and support a resolution on drink reform at one of the leading Universities. I was asked to draft it. I suggested the form: "That it is impossible to reconcile the interests of the drink trade with the interests of the nation." I waited a few days and weeks, and the President of that University society wrote to me and said: "Would you mind altering the terms of your resolution, because we cannot get a single public man to come and oppose it. We have tried the House of Commons; we have tried the people who support the licence interest in the House of Lords, but we cannot get a single public man to 432 come here before a neutral and impartial audience and oppose the resolution that 'it is impossible to reconcile the interests of the drink trade with the interests of the nation.'"
And, when you come to think of it, it is obvious. The commercial interest of the drink trade, organised as now on a competitive basis, is to stimulate the very maximum consumption of intoxicants. They exercise all the wiles of modern competitive business. The trade spend £2,000,000 a year trying to increase the consumption of gin, spirits, and all the other forms of intoxicants. Quite recently the Board of Trade stated that the principal element in the exceptional increase in cigarette smoking was the extension of advertising. That is an impartial statement—that advertising undoubtedly increases demand for a commodity.
Those of us who are interested in the temperance question welcome the fact that the nation is much more sober than before the War. The Southborough Committee indicated the other day that we were more sober now because Parliament has reduced the number of hours I during which drink may be sold and has increased the price which the public has to pay. That is to say, we are more sober now because of the action of the Legislature and not because of anything the drink trade has done. The various Acts which have increased our sobriety have all been opposed by the whole strength of the drink trade.
At the present moment the trade is doing all it can to try and abolish some of the Acts which have made us more sober. This Government is being asked at the present moment by the spirit merchants to reduce the taxation on spirits, the promise of the spirit merchants being that if they do so they will not lose any money because there will be such an increased consumption of spirits that the Revenue will not suffer. The Government are opposing this because they represent the interest of the nation, which is to keep down the consumption of spirits; the interest of the drink trade is to increase it. The Government recognise now that it is impossible, as it always is, to reconcile the true interest of the nation, which is to check and control the consumption of alcohol, with the interest of the trade so 433 long as it is organised on a competitive basis, which is to stimulate the consumption of alcohol.
I hope that nothing I say will be taken as an attack on individual members of the trade because where I have made the acquaintance of licensed victuallers I retain their personal friendship. It is only those who read of me in the news papers of the trade who think of me as a bogy or a robber. It is the system that we want to change. So long as you have people trading for profit they are bound to try to stimulate the consumption of the article which brings them profit and they are bound to take every step they can think of to prevent the Legislature diminishing the consumption of that which they produce. At the present moment they are working hard to try to change some of the laws which have by general consent increased our nationl sobriety. If they do so, they will succeed in diminishing our national sobriety. That is the indirect consequence of having the trade organised as it is now. Although the alcohol question is much better that it was there is still a problem. Drink is still a factor in the causation of most of our social evils. The extent of the social evils associated with intemperance rises and falls with the national consumption of intoxicants.
The world at the present moment is filled with difficult problems. We are trying to solve the questions of international relations, of capital and labour, of the position of women in the modern State. Where you have got those great problems it is almost impossible to see your way through unless you try to apply, broadly speaking, the principles of religion. Religion, as I see it, is not Sunday theology, vague philanthropy, or talking vaguely about doing good in all things. Religion, to be of any use, ought to give us guidance which will enable us to solve all these questions of international relations, of capital and labour, and incidentally this question. I often see noble Lords condemning the Bolshevist attack upon religion. Bolshevism is the challenging of law and order and of religion.
Feeling, as I have tried to indicate, that religion ought to give us some guidance to the solution of this problem, I for one welcomed the meeting which was held at the Mansion House in 1924, when the heads of all the Christian 434 Churches combined in making an appeal to the people of this country to support them on their policy of education and local option. That was the policy which was put before the nation by the heads of the Churches here in this country. We all realise that when they started out on that campaign they must have been fully cognisant of the fact that they were going to be misrepresented and abused. The heads of the Christian Churches, ever since they came into the arena, have been called liars, robbers, hypocrites and deceivers. The trade have been able to continue that attack upon the heads of the Churches very largely because the Party to which I belong has, I regret to say, stood by and allowed it. The question of local option is supported by the Liberal Party and Labour Party. The Party to which I belong has a fine past in many things, in Imperial development and in other matters, but at the moment we are the only Party opposing the appeal made by the heads of the Churches four or five years ago and the policy they indicated.
The trade have been kind enough to say that I ought to be kicked out of the Conservative Party because I support the heads of Churches in temperance reform. I hope that being on the side of the angels—if I may so describe it—will help me in the next world to get to heaven. The fact that one is on the side of the Archbishop is no reason why life in the Conservative Party should be made a hell for one. That is what happens to any Conservative who supports the Archbishop, the head of the Salvation Army, and the heads of the other Churches in attempting to solve this difficult question. I hope we shall change our attitude because, with our new electorate, with democracy as it is now and as it is going to be, our Party will find they are standing on a shakier platform than in the past if they rely whole-heartedly on the support, co-operation and direction of the licensed trade, since the nation is realising what we all recognise here to-day, that if is impossible to reconcile the interests of the drink trade with those of the nation.
The reorganisation proposal in the Bill which has been explained, does enable communities to have as much drink as they want, but at the same time it removes from public life the drink trade as it is now 435 organised. I do not know how many of your Lordships' House, before they came here, tried to win a constituency. I do not know how many noble Lords keep in touch with General Elections and all the movements and activities that precede an Election. In every constituency the drink trade is organised to keep out of Parliament anybody who dares to support the Christian leaders on temperance reform. I appeared before Lord Southborough's Committee some few months ago. Before going there I wanted to assist their deliberations and I enquired whether there was any research department or bureau in London that could assist me in getting information. Through business friends I was given the name of a reliable bureau. I asked them to try and estimate for me the amount the drink trade spent in secret political organisation and propaganda. Some two or three months afterwards they gave me these figures. I tried to cheek them myself and I satisfied myself that they were reasonably accurate. I submitted them to the Southborough Committee and they did not challenge any of the figures. The chairman of the bureau said he was prepared to go into any Court and substantiate them. These were the figures he gave me—I have quoted one of the figures before—£2,000,000 sterling every year in advertisement and £150,000 to £200,000 in secret political organisation and propaganda. That is to say, the trade spends practically as much on its political caucus as any political Party does. It amounts to this, that something like £300 in each constituency is spent yearly to try to keep out anybody who dares to challenge the special position which the trade have now got in the country.
Then there is another aspect. In a democracy such as ours it seems to me to be vital to have an independent Press. I think the Press of this country compares very favourably with the Press of most other countries. Before the War there was a Select Committee set up to look into the question of patent medicines, and that Select Committee reported to Parliament that the owners of patent medicines spent a great deal of money in advertising in newspapers and that the large sums received for advertisements led newspapers, either 436 from discretion or under compulsion, to exclude criticism or discussion of these patent medicines. The drink trade exercises the same policy of pressure upon a large number of newspapers. That is to say the editorial policy of newspapers—or of many newspapers, I will not say all—is directly influenced by drink trade advertisements. What we want is an independent Press that can tell us the truth either about prohibition in America or about temperance in this country in its columns. I could, if necessary, give to your Lordships conclusive evidence of the undesirable pressure brought to bear upon the clergy and upon public men of business, but I merely mention that. If the trade brings that form of pressure to bear upon these people, may it not well bring the same form of pressure to bear upon that section of frail humanity which is represented by the politician?
The influence of the drink trade in public life has been condemned not only by Lord Rosebery but by two other Prime Ministers. The late Lord Peel, an ex-Speaker of the House of Commons, after looking into the whole question as Chairman of the Peel Commission, said there was a struggle for mastery between the State and the trade. On which side are you going to be? On the side of the trade or on the side of the State? That was the considered opinion of Lord Peel after having full opportunity of investigating the influence and the activities of the trade in public life. The late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain also advocated public ownership because, he said, thereby we should exclude from our political life a powerful influence and a gigantic vested interest whose tyranny and whose insolence must be repugnant to all. These people I have quoted, the three Prime Ministers and the late Lord Peel and the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, were not "Pussyfoots"; they were not Prohibitionists; they merely stated the facts as they found them as the result of their public experience.
Many of your Lordships have not seen that aspect of public life because you do not support the temperance movement, but I can assure you that any of you who care to come out on the side of temperance will realise that the opinion of these public men is true. I do not blame the brewers entirely; they are out to protect their privileged position. 437 What I want your Lordships to do is to face the fact that in public life there is this force and that whatever our views may be on the question of alcohol or of temperance, we have, as citizens, to take notice of this question of the influence of the trade on public life. This Bill would remove from the trade the influence which it now exercises. The Bill provides that in an area where private trade has been abolished the trade shall never go back to private ownership. If once this vested interest has been done away with it is not in the public interest that it should be re-established.
I should like to refer your Lordships to the Report of the Southborough Committee. The Southborough Committee looked into the question of the improved public-house in the hands of the brewers, and the Report of that Committee indicates that even if you give to that policy everything that its supporters claim for it you have only touched the fringe of the problem. The improved public-house in the hands of the brewers is going to be a very controversial policy, and I hope those who advocate it as the true solution Will realise that. Not only is the whole temperance movement against it, but the licensed victuallers are against it. The brewerS may be in favour of it but the licensed victuallers are against it and the owners of unlicensed eating-houses are against it. Imagine a candidate standing for a seat in the House of Commons in a large industrial centre where there are a large number of unlicensed eating-houses and telling the owners of those restaurants that he was going to support a policy which would put opposite them very formidable competitors in licensed eating-houses which they had to subsidise. All the Bills introduced on that subject, it must be remembered, including the Bill introduced by Lord Lamington, involve a subsidy, that is to say a reduction in the license duty.
Lord Banbury made certain observations in connection with the Bill and I must say that after he sat down I thought: "Well, the Bill is very much more watertight than I had hoped." The noble Lord dealt at considerable length with the Memorandum. I do not know whether he assumed that your Lordships had not read the Bill and had merely read the Memorandum. As a matter of fact, I am afraid that Lord Banbury had 438 not read, or certainly had not understood, all the clauses in the Bill. For instance, he said polls were to be held every three years. That is not so. He will find they are to be held in the third, seventh and eleventh years.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I did not say that. I said the first poll would be held at the end of the third year.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
Well, I withdraw that. I understood him to say the interval would be three years. A noble Lord behind me says Lord Banbury did say that, so both of us must be mistaken, but anyhow it is a trivial point.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
What I said was that in the Bishop of Oxford's Bill the first poll was to be in the fourth year and in this Bill in the third year. I said nothing further.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
Then may I deal with another misunderstanding? I understood the noble Lord to refer to railway refreshment rooms, but if he refers to Clause 37 of the Bill he will find it relates to refreshment cars, not refreshment rooms. A restaurant car will not remain stationary in a reorganisation area; it will move about. The promoters of the Bill thought it would be unfair that a restaurant ear should be acquired by the Board of Management in view of the fact that it would not remain in the reorganisation area even if it might be situated there occasionally. Then the noble Lord complained that the Memorandum was misleading. As far as I can understand, his grievance was that he thought it was not made clear in the Memorandum that if private trade was ever abolished you could not go back to it.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
In the first part of the Memorandum that was not made clear. It looked as if you could go back. I said the last few lines of the Memorandum contradicted the first part.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
The last two lines were put in on purpose so that there should be no misunderstanding. They were inserted in case anybody did not understand the first part of the Memorandum. If anybody did not take the trouble to read the clauses of the Bill it was thought desirable to put in a special sentence in order that there should be no obscurity about the pro- 439 posal. The noble Lord was very much perturbed lest there should not be a profit in reorganisation areas. It is inevitable that there should be a profit.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but he makes statements about what I have said. Let me point out that subsection (2) of Clause 16 says this:No interest in any licensed premises shall vest in the Board—(a) If such premises are refreshment rooms at a railway station;…
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
I am within the recollection of the House in saying that I assumed that the noble Lord was referring to Clause 37, and if the noble Lord will read that clause he will find that it deals with railway restaurant cars. I thought that this was his point.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
No, I said railway refreshment rooms; and railway refreshment rooms are exempted.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
Anyway, restaurant cars are not. The noble Lord was anxious lest there should not be an adequate profit, or in fact any profit, in reorganisation areas. A reorganisation area is a locality where the majority of the inhabitants have voted against the no-licence resolution. In other words, they have voted for drinking, and this means that there is an assured demand. Where you have an assured demand for a particular commodity and there is a monopoly right of supplying that commodity, it, is inevitable that there should be a profit. The noble Lord was quite right in indicating this on a previous occasion.
As regards the principle of the time limit, it does seem to me that we have to take into consideration not only our attitude on temperance but the whole constitutional issue. Is the State to have the right of regaining freedom of action in its licensing arrangements, or has it abandoned that right for ever? That is one of the, considerations that we have to decide. Is it right for the State, after giving due notice, to withdraw the special privileges that were unquestionably granted only for a term? These are not merely points concerning temperance, but constitutional issues, and I hope that during this debate we shall discuss the very substantial considerations that centre round them. Let me 440 remind your Lordships that on the last occasion the late Viscount Milner, whom nobody could describe as a fanatic and who was certainly a business man and a statesman conversant with the greater interests of the nation, had no hesitation whatever in supporting the principle of the time limit.
I have only one more word to say. So far I have dealt in the main with the option of reorganisation. As the right rev. Prelate has indicated, the Bill also gives an option of no-licence. It seems to me that the inhabitants of a locality have a perfect right, if they are in a substantial majority, to abolish the sale of intoxicants. The Bill provides that, if 10,000 people vote, no-licence can be carried only if there is a majority of 1,000. No one would say that this majority does not represent a substantial proportion of those voting, but there is nothing magical in the percentage of 55 and, if your Lordships think that 55 per cent. is not a reasonable proportion, I hope that other speakers will suggest what they consider a proper majority. Let us remember the fact that in practically all our Dominions the principle of a plebiscite on no-licence has been adopted—that is to say, the progressive members of the British Empire believe that a plebiscite on no-licence is consistent with the ideas of freedom and liberty associated with the Empire. At this late hour I am not going to discuss the merits or demerits of alcohol. A committee of experts appointed under the Privy Council has done this very fully and I think I can summarise what they say—not what I say, what they say—by indicating that in their opinion alcohol, broadly speaking, is the alternative to effective performance.
The noble Lord who sits opposite, Lord Dawson of Penn, indicated some of the value of alcohol as he saw it. As I remember, he said that where you had dull speakers at a public banquet and you wanted to keep people amused and interested, alcohol made them think that they were witty although they naturally did not possess wit; that where you had people who were not drinking alcohol they were dull, whereas at an adjoining table where people were drinking they thought they were witty and sparkling. I think he also indicated that in the stress of modern life, with all its rush and bustle, if people insist 441 on what is called burning the candle at both ends alcohol might be a help. How desirable it may be to enable people to go on burning the candle at both ends I do not know. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, told us the story of the man who got drunk and said that it was the quickest way out of Manchester. The man drank unwisely, but the noble Lord said that he would hesitate to deprive the inhabitants of the sort of slums which exist in our great industrial areas of this facility. I wonder how often we go into these slums and realise the conditions under which men, women and children are living in our great industrial centres. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that very often the father of the family goes and gets drunk and is reconciled to living in a slum. Not only so, but drink makes him reconciled to keeping his children, who do not drink, in the slum. I think that we should consider the rights of the children to get out of those slums just as much as the desirability of having some sort of intoxicant that will reconcile a man to living there and keeping his family there.
We are sometimes told that a man has a perfect right to eat and drink whatever he likes. But intoxicants differ from all other beverages. You do not have Judges saying that men commit crimes because they drink lemonade, you do not have girls going wrong because they drink milk, or good mothers and fathers becoming bad mothers and fathers because they drink water, or chauffeurs getting into the police court because they drink ginger ale. The physiological effect of alcohol is different from that of every other beverage and it ought to be dealt with differently. The community must inevitably exercise a different measure of control over the sale of intoxicants from that exercised over other commodities. When we approach the question of rights and liberties we are dealing with one of the most difficult aspects of this complex question, and it seems to me that we have to ask ourselves which is the more important, the right of the individual to self-indulgence—I do not mean excess—or the consideration of unselfish service to the community.
It seems to me that an increasing understanding of Christianity makes us, 442 or ought to make us, realise that we are all members one of another and that, just as at one time our predecessors thought that slavery was right, so a greater understanding of the message of Our Lord made our grandfathers decide to do away with it. On this, as on many other questions, public opinion is constantly changing. I have no doubt that when the early Christians tried to abolish the horrors of the gladiatorial contests where the public got enjoyment by seeing human beings torn to pieces, they were termed kill-joys, trying to deprive the honest Roman workman of a legitimate form of enjoyment. Those who oppose the no-licence proposal may be right or they may be wrong. Human opinion and wisdom constantly change: history shows that. The more I study the drink question, I say frankly, the less I am ready to dogmatise on what is the right solution for any locality, and it seems to me that this is one of those points on which you may follow the advice of Gamaliel, who said that if the doctrines of the Apostles were wrong they would come to nought but if they were right they could not be stopped. If the policy of no-licence be wrong it cannot win, but if it is right you cannot stop it. But whether it is right or wrong, at all events we know that, it is impossible to reconcile the interest of the trade, organised as it is now, with the interest of the nation. In my public life I have two great principles which help me through. One is an abiding faith in the common sense and patriotism of the British public, and the other is an increasing realisation that right must always overcome wrong. If your Lord ships have the same feeling as I have, then you can support this Bill with confidence and without any fear.
My Lords, I rise to attempt to express very briefly the views of the Government upon this measure. Before I do so I should like to say that the Government realise most fully the very great importance of this question, and also the fact that in this Bill, which is now proposed by the right rev. Prelate, a sincere attempt is being, made to deal with a very difficult subject. Before I go on to particular matters I should just like to allude to a rather diminished quotation made of what Archbishop Magee said some years ago on the 443 general question of temperance by vote. I should like to finish the quotation. Archbishop Magee said:—I should prefer England free to England compulsorily sober; for it England be free she will ultimately become sober; but if she be compulsorily sober she will have lost her freedom, and will not ultimately retain her sobriety.I agree with that. I believe in elevating the whole tone of the people, and that has been done in a most remarkable way for many years. Drunkenness in this country has gone out of fashion among all classes, and if you put down the improvement in that respect which has been made merely to certain Acts of Parliament which have been passed, or to certain systems of licence introduced since the War, I think you are overlooking the great and gratifying fact that it is really the feelings of the people which have introduced this very great improvement in the habits of the people.
I believe it is a wrong system to try to make people good by the votes of those with whom they do not agree. Not only do I think it is a wrong system, but it is a system doomed to failure, and one which always has failed. Compulsory temperance by vote has never succeeded. In the United States of America I believe the most ardent supporters of total prohibition are those who have made enormous fortunes by breaking the laws which they advocate, and we all of us see in the newspapers most startling details of the way in which they make those fortunes. I suppose of all the wars which have vexed the human race since its creation those conducted in the name of religion, and for the purpose of compulsorily saving other people's souls by inflicting very great torture upon their bodies, have been the worst. The right way is by reason and argument to educate public opinion.
I said just now that in my belief compulsory temperance had failed. I remember years ago walking through a total prohibition State in North America up towards Canada. I was walking with a young man who had never touched a drop in his life and who never intended to do so. I asked him what had been the effect of total prohibition upon drunkenness in that particular State, and he said quite plainly that there had been more drunkenness since total prohibition than 444 before. That was an unbiased opinion from a teetotaller. Later that day I went into a wooden hotel and was kept awake the whole night by people tramping up and downstairs, and it was a Sunday night, too. I enquired the cause of the commotion and they said: "Oh, they went up there to drink." I said: "But isn't this a prohibition State?" and they said: "Of course we have no open bar, but liquor is sold upstairs. All they have to do is come in here and ask: 'Where is the baby?' They are told that the baby is upstairs." I assume that it was a very bad form of rye whisky. I said: "What happened after that Doesn't everybody know about it" and they replied: "Oh, of course they do. If the provider has an enemy he is informed against; he has to go up and is fined; then he comes back and it starts all over again." That was my personal experience of total prohibition. I was also talking to a noble friend a little while ago and he told me very much the same thing. He had been upon a Commission to South America, and went up to North America. In South America he said everybody could get drunk for a penny and he did not see a single drunken man, but when he got to the prohibition States the cost was at least £1 and people were not nearly so sober.
I should like to deal with three parts of this Bill and explain in one or two words the feelings of the Government about them. First, as to local prohibition. A fortnight ago I had an opportunity of stating the views of the Government on Lord Clwyd's Bill, and in the course of my remarks I gave details about the working of the Scottish Temperance Act. The results arrived at were certainly not conclusive in favour of the working of that scheme, which in a great many of its aspects is like the Bill we are now considering. This Bill promotes a system of local option for State or public management. On the occasion referred to I mentioned the Southborough Committee, the Report of which had just come out and was being considered, and I should like to quote to the House two portions of the Report. Lord Astor has made some quotations, but I should like to sum up that part of the Southborough Report which deals with public or State management.
445 They say in their Report:We are of opinion, therefore, that while the schemes of State management at Carlisle, Gretna and Cromarty Firth have already produced results which are of value, much still remains to be done for the purpose of ascertaining what system or type of public house provides for the legitimate needs of the people without encouraging or fostering excessive drinking. We are not satisfied that the case has been established for the extension of the schemes to any other particular area or place.As far as I can see, those remarks would equally apply to a system of public management, instead of what used to be called State management. They also added in reference to these schemes and I think this is of importance:We are of opinion that they should be continued, and that the work on which they are engaged should proceed until such time as it is possible to make a more final estimate of the results which have been achieved.That rather sums up the attitude of His Majesty's Government upon this portion of the Bill—namely, the provision for a vote on public or State management. The Southborough Report has only just been received by the Government, and they have not really had time to consider it or the many suggestions which have been made to them from all quarters. As regards this Bill, they say they are opposed to legislating for the purpose of establishing local option for public management.
The third point refers to compensation. The Bill is so drafted, apparently, as to try to find a via media between those who advocate the total extinction of licences, those who would compensate, and those who would absolutely deny all compensation. I will not go at any length into reasons, but the Government cannot, at the present time, without a great deal further inquiry, support any scheme of absolutely stopping licences with a time limit, as suggested in this Bill. And it ought to be borne in mind that those who are interested in reducing the number of licences might go further with this Bill and fare worse, because under the present system licences are being reduced, and if you have to wait till the people have voted, and they abolish them altogether or reduce their number, you may stop the process of reducing licences which is going on at the present time and producing very good results.
446 Apart from these three objections, which the Government have to the main provisions of the Bill, they would like to make this announcement, that they are, and have been, considering this very important and difficult question, but they are not at present in a position, and will not be until much further investigation is made, to draw up a Bill dealing with the matter, though they hope to review the whole subject at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile they cannot give their support to this Bill in its present form.
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I rise to speak on this Bill with complete impartiality. I am neither a "Pussyfoot" nor a four-bottle man. I am just as keen on temperance reform as the right rev. Prelate who moved the Second Reading, and, on the other hand, I am just as fond of a glass of wine as any noble Lord who hopes to kill it. But I do recognise that there is in this country an evil of intemperance, and that there is an agitation in the country to do something practical to remove that evil. The very fact that this Bill, or a Bill very similar to it, has been introduced into this House on five previous occasions is proof, if proof were needed, that there is a strong, agitation, and that the agitation is continuous and unsatisfied.
In Scotland, where I live, we have had experience of an Act in practical working for over seven years, and our Act embodies many of the principles in this Bill. One of the most striking features under our Act is that the agitation has grown with the enfranchisement of women. And why is that? I believe the reason is that the calamity of intemperance affects a woman rather differently in some ways from a man. When a man becomes intemperate his downfall is gradual and probably complete in the end, but a woman's ruin is certain and swift. A man when he becomes intemperate may shock a few friends, he may lose his employment; but to a woman an intemperate man means the breaking up of her home and all that she holds dear. You cannot make bricks without straw, and the woman cannot clothe and feed her children if the wages go in drink. We have many, many cases of homes broken up because of drink, misunderstandings between husbands and wives because of drink; 447 wives' lives are threatened on many occasions because of drink, women and children are driven out into the streets in poverty because of drink.
And so it is that in our plebiscites, when the time comes for a poll of the people to be taken, the men may come along shuffling to the booths, but the women, in their sympathy for their sex, come flocking to the poll and dominate it. It has been stated in another place that two million more women are to be added to the electorate. Your Lordships may rest assured that, if that is so, the agitation in favour of temperance legislation is not going to be suppressed here; it is not going to stop here, but it is going to go on and grow, and grow, and grow. And I think that we should be wise to favour in principle a measure such as this, which is based on experience and framed with moderation, rather than postpone things, and then in the end have to give way to something drastic like total prohibition.
I say that we have had this Act in force in Scotland for seven Years, and I think we are now united in the opinion that it is a good and wise thing that our temperance legislation should be settled by local determination rather than by compulsory powers for the whole of the country. Our idea is to educate the young as to the evils of intemperance and over indulgence, and then trust to their common sense to determine whether they wish to live under conditions of unlimited and unrestricted sale of liquor, or whether they wish to live under controlled conditions in the sale of liquor, or whether they wish that there should be no sale of alcohol. But if we are going to leave it to the common sense of the people, if we are going to trust the people, then concurrently we must give them the power to arrange things as they may determine. That is provided for in this Bill.
I think that in our Scottish Act the greatest error and misfortune has been that we have never provided for an option for disinterested management as in this Bill. We have now had examples of forty-two areas that have gone "dry," of twelve areas that have gone from "dry" to "wet" again, and, because we did not include any option of disinterested management., we had to hand back the trade there to private interests for their 448 unlimited gain. There are disadvantages in that. The first is that, when you have a "dry" area, it provides a very speculative venture for the trade. When a district goes "dry" a great depreciation follows in the licensed premises. It is quite obvious that a house, which has no bar trade, cannot possibly command the same value as a house where you can sell liquor unlimited and unrestricted. Great depreciation follows. The trade have a chance, provided the district goes "wet" again, of getting those licences renewed and getting into those premises at their depreciated value and conducting the trade there to their own profit. They get in at the depreciated value because they say that there is a risk of the district going "dry" again, which hangs over their head like the sword of Damocles, and that they cannot be expected to pay the old rents. But they have the same opportunity to make the old profits.
With that speculative venture in mind, the trade, when they see a district which may possibly go "wet" again, start a campaign and pour money into the area by posters, Press and speakers. That means that we have to take up defensive operations. We establish a barrage of oratory and printer's ink. That means an enormous waste of money, great turmoil is created among the people, and bad feeling is caused. It is all because we have not this option of disinterested management. When the trade come into these houses again they come into a valuable property and a valuable good will. In Scotland we do not charge for that. It is a free gift, a present to the trade. We ask why, when a "dry" area goes "wet" again, you should give it as a free present to the trade. Why not keep it in trust for the benefit of the community and the people as is provided in this Bill?
There is one other point in this Bill which is a very good point—namely, that the operations of a plebiscite shall be extended over a larger area. In my country the area in the small town is the burgh, in the big town it is the ward, and in the county it is the parish, so long as the population is over 4,000. That results in many anomalies. You have cases where one side of the street is "dry" and the other side is "wet." There are cases where one end of the village is "dry" and the other is "wet." That results in constant pettifogging 449 squabbles It is a wise thing to make the area big enough to synchronise, it possible, with the boundaries of the whole town or the county as in this Bill. The greatest handicap to disinterested management we have experienced is the fact that our Public House Trust houses are dotted about singly here and there among houses run by the trade. Our experience is that you will never make a success of disinterested management until you have a monopoly over a wide area. That is provided for in this Bill.
Near my home I know of two burghs which went "dry" and I would like to read to the house some figures. One is the burgh of Kirkintilloch, which went "dry" in 1922. In the last three years it was "wet" there were 21 arrests for drunkenness; in the last three years it was "dry" there was only one. The last year that it was "wet" the rates and taxes on a £10 rental were £3 5s. Now that the burgh is "dry" the rates and taxes are £2 0s. 7½ a reduction of £1 4s. 4½d. in three years. Infantile mortality, prior to the introduction of the Act, was 136 per thousand, while to-day it is 71 per thousand. If you take the Municipal Savings Bank, which is run by the municipality, You find that at the end of the "wet" period if had over £13,000 deposited by 251 people; at the end of the "dry" period there is to-day £28,000 deposited by 653 people, an increase of a 100 per cent. in cash and in depositors. The War Savings Certificates held at the end of the "wet" period numbered 7,285, while those held at the end of the last "dry" year numbered 25,949. In the burgh of Kilsyth, which went "dry" in 1926, there were in the last complete "wet" year 76 arrests for drunkenness and in the last "dry" year there were 12. The infantile mortality in the last "wet" year was 130 per thousand, and in the last "dry" year it was 88 per thousand. The investments in the Co-operative Society amounted to £71,000 at the end of the "wet" period and to £105,000 at the end of the last "dry" year, an increase of over £33,000. I do not pretend that these results are wholly due to the influence of the Temperance Act, but I do claim that they show that an area which goes so far along the road in temperance legislation as to go "dry," does not necessarily experience ruin, 450 despondency and strife, but can clearly get along just as well as if it had remained "wet."
I know another place, near where I live, in the Isle of Arran, where there are two parishes: one is "dry" and the other is "wet." in the "wet" parish one half of the licensed premises are under disinterested management, the other half are still in private hands. In that Island there are examples of all three systems, "dry," disinterested, and trade. All I know is that before our Temperance Act cattle show days, fair days, days when excursions visited the district, days when the Fleet came into the ports, were all regarded as red letter days when the trade could make hay in the shining sun. You could not go near the place without seeing numerous drunken men. To-day, so far as the sale of liquor is concerned, in the "dry" and disinterested areas these holidays are of little consequence. It is left entirely to other bodies, such as the British Women's Temperance Association and the Young Men's Christian Association, to run tea tents. You can go to these places on a red letter day and in a whole day you will not see a drunken man. I know that those days were days when ninny a young man made his first slip, when for the first time in his life he became drunk and, once having made the slip, he could not put up the same resistance again to the temptation. Having started to slip, he went down the slippery slope. Having realised the evil of intemperance, all I can say is, speaking from experience, that it is wise, practical and progressive to favour a measure in principle such as this which, while it preserves freedom of opinion for the community, allows us to do away with the undesirable temptation to push the sale of liquor for unlimited and unrestricted private gain.
§ VISCOUNT SUMNER
My Lords, the speeches made so far in support of the Bill appear, if I may be allowed to say so, to have displayed considerable caution in dealing with its essential features. The last speaker we have listened to has told us that the experiences of Scotland are not so rosy as they should have been because it was possible for an area to be sometimes "wet" and sometimes "dry," and I gather that, following the example of the barometer, many parishes 451 have tried first one and then the other plan. I gathered also, what needed no proof, that if you can ensure that nobody will be able to get intoxicating liquor nobody will be able to get drunk except upon oratory, and that if no one has the opportunity of spending money upon drink he will have the opportunity of saving money and putting it in the savings bank. That was said to be done North of the Tweed, no doubt with great satisfaction.
I am very much struck by the fact that it is not proposed that this Bill should extend to Wales. I presume, therefore, it is the sort of thing Wales will not look at. I also fail to observe that any one desires that this Bill should be substituted for the Act under which Scotland has had a somewhat chequered experience for some vents now. We have heard diatribes against the liquor trade; whether they are deserved or not I do not know, and for the purposes of this debate I am afraid I do not care. We have also heard the principles which guide Viscount Astor in his brilliant public career—principles of the most ideal character. We have had more quotations from the Scriptures than I have ever heard in any single debate in your Lordships' House, but I have not heard any real attempt to deal with what I believe to be the pivot upon which the whole Bill must turn.
The principle of this Bill is that there shall be compensation paid to the expropriated interests and much capital is made, quite justly, out of that somewhat late-born virtue. It is not desired, as I understand it, to make total and complete prohibition the policy of the country at large. All that is desired is to make it possible for limited areas by a majority of fifty-five per cent—that is, of those that go to the poll, if you please—to turn that area into a no-licence area, that is to say, a "dry" area. Your Lordships will be pleased to recollect that an area, having once voted for no-licence, can never go back to licences as they are at present. If they should get sick of no-licence they can try disinterested management, and if they get sick of disinterested management they may go back to no-licence, but the first time that fifty-five per cent. of the persons going to the poll vote for no-licence 452 there is an end of the present licence system in that area. That, of course, at once makes an opportunity for a most sweeping change in the system under which we have been brought up.
The compensation principle involves provision for the case of the no-licence area where everybody's licence will be put an end to, and therefore will have to be paid for, and also for the disinterested management areas in which nobody can come in except under the authority of the Central Board, where if the Central Board takes over the licensed houses, as is intended ultimately, the licences so taken and the premises so taken, will have to be paid for. There remains the third area which stays as before. Now how is that system of compensation to be worked and upon what does it depend? It depends upon the Central Compensation Fund, called by the Bill for short the Central Fund, which is under the control of the central authority consisting of a Chairman nominated by the Secretary of State and as many other members as the Secretary of State may think fit. It is a Board which is a whole-time Board, paid by salary, not allowed to be interested in the public-house trade, or in any other trade, or even to sit in Parliament. It is to have the advantage of a gratuitous advisory board consisting of warring enemies: that is to say, labour organisations, liquor trade associations and associations interested in temperance—a body, I am afraid, not likely therefore to give very unanimous advice to the Board.
One has to look at the debit side and credit side of this Central Fund. I am quite aware that in what I have to say about it I may make some mistakes, because the clauses of the Bill are not by any means easy to follow, and if I do I apologise in advance. I believe it to be correct that the Central Fund is to be built up by collecting from the licence holders certain annual subscriptions, shall I call them, which are based upon a scale previously enacted for what is called the compensation levy. The result will be that in addition to his rent and in addition to his licence fee each publican will have to pay a very substantial annual sum into the Central Fund. I think we were told, and I have seen it stated in a 453 letter in The Times from what appears to be the brewers' side, that it is expected that £2,000,000 per annum will be collected in these contributions from licence holders. They are to be levied not only upon the publican but, in the case of a tied house, there will be a further charge upon the owners of the tied house. The amount is said to be £2,000,000 per annum.
I do not know whether that is right or not—we have not been told, I think, upon what the estimate is based—but for the moment let me take it. For fifteen years from the passing of this Bill that £2,000,000 per annum will accumulate in the hands of the Board unless something happens to the contrary, and therefore at the end of fifteen years there is a sum of £30,000,000 in hand, together, of course, with any interest that they may have secured by putting money into gilt-edged securities in the meantime. They chive not do anything else, because this is a Fund of which they are trustees. On the other hand, for three years they are safe. There is to be no vote for three years, and between the third and fifteenth years there are to be four. If it so happens that no area goes no-licence, and if no area is captivated by disinterested management during that time, then at the end of the period things will be as before, except that the Board will have £30,000,000 and the interest, less what has been paid for the voting expenses and for the salaries of the Board, and there will be no more collected in that way for the Fund, for in future renewals of licences are to be refused without giving any right to further compensation.
There is, as your Lordships know, at present a compensation levy fund that has been built up in the course of twenty-three years under the Act of 1904. This is a fund built up from the money of the publicans themselves. A levy is made, on principles with which I need not trouble your Lordships, and out of the fund created, when houses are found to be redundant and are suppressed, the occupiers can get their compensation, and this compensation levy fund will gradually have a debit against a previous credit. That fund stands in credit now, as I understand, having done a great deal of good, but under this Bill its operations are to come to an end altogether. The sections in the Licensing Consolidation 454 Act of 1910 which deal with it are, I see, in the repeal schedule, and what is to become of the sums that stand to the credit of that fund I do not know. I have failed altogether to find what the Bill does with this money, but at any rate it is not applied to paying compensation to anybody in the future. In other words, the existing system of compensation is to be brought to an end and another system substituted for it.
Under the old system the trade that was taken away from the suppressed houses was, if it was worth doing, open to the houses that were not suppressed,' and accordingly the people who paid the compensation levy at any rate got a quid for their quo and had a chance of seeing a number of superfluous houses suppressed and doing a bigger and better trade themselves. Whether it was altogether fair I am sure I do not know, but I believe that the trade is not dissatisfied with it and that it has been enormously successful in reducing the number of public-houses. But, under this system, who is it that is to find the money for the compensation? I leave out of account the sum that I do not think will ever exist, though the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, thought that it would be quite inevitably a considerable fund—I mean the profits made by amateur dealers in beer, who add to the beer business a cocoa and sandwich business. Leaving out of account that speculative and very doubtful profit, it comes from the publicans and the tied-house owners, and substantially from nobody else. That is what is called at the Treasury, I believe, feeding a dog on his own tail.
It is an effort by which you strip Peter and then tell him to put on Paul's clothes; and then you make him take them off again, so that Paul may resume them. There is nothing in it by way of compensation except that you have transferred money from one publican's pocket to another publican's pocket, and this, in what I may call the prospectus of this Bill, is described as applying to the beer trade the principle of mutual insurance contributions. You insure against calamities that may happen from without, but if the law brings a crushing blow down on you and then you compensate one another it is a grave question whether 455 "mutual insurance" is quite the right expression and whether it would not be better to say quite frankly that the law takes, never having given, and that you must just make the best of it among yourselves.
Nobody knows or can possibly know, and no figures or estimates for the purpose of this Bill can be of any real statistical value in showing, at what rate and in what direction these local votes will take place. You are going to have many hundreds of constituencies which will have been increased three years hence by a large female vote. We were told just now, I am sure with perfect truth, that an increase in the female vote tends to promote "dryness" in regions which were "wet" before. You may perfectly well have a campaign appealing to such constituencies as these, which would result in 55 per cent of those who went to the polls voting for no-licence in a large number of districts and those districts will go "dry" and compensation become payable forthwith, in the case of the first poll after three years and in the case of the second poll after four more.
One must look at this question from the extremes to see what is the maximum effect that may arise in either of two contingencies. Suppose that there is a large movement in favour of disinterested management—a very attractive expression which holds out the prospect of improved public-houses carried on under the Bill along with any other business which is customarily associated with public-houses. A considerable number of districts may vote in favour of this system, and compensation will be forthwith payable. Who is going to pay into the Fund after those elections, after the three years, or the seven years, as the case may be? Why, the residue of no-change areas. It is only there that you have people on the present basis upon whom you can come down for the regular annual payments that are exacted from them under the Bill. It is no use guessing, because you can adopt any number of hypothetical figures to illustrate the working, but it is quite plain that there may be so many areas that are no longer no-change areas that there would be an immediate necessity for paying compensation to persons dispossessed 456 going beyond the amount already in the fund—the £6,000,000, or whatever it might happen to be.
That difficulty has been faced by the Bill, and it has been faced in this way. Compensation has been promised, and compensation must be paid. On the hypothesis that there is not money to pay it with, the Bill provides that there is to be a right to borrow from the public Revenue on the security of the Central Fund, and it is to be done, as I understand, by calling upon the Commissioners of Excise to provide by way of loan a sum upon that security—not for the purpose of setting up the disinterested managers with some working capital or anything of that kind, but simply for the purpose of paying compensation. I think that makes people who get compensation pretty safe of their money, because if they do not get it out of the Fund they will get it out of the borrowings of the Fund, but as the borrowings on the security of the Fund have got to be discharged before the Fund itself can be available, licensees who have not had the luck to go out of business early will find their chance of compensation become much less. I think ten years is the time allowed on the borrowings from the Customs Ditties upon beer and spirits in which to pay back to the Commissioner, of Customs the sum borrowed, so that sooner or later it is the machinery of this Bill which will have to find the money for the compensation, or else the loss will fall upon the taxpayers—the taxpayers, who are the only source to which you can apply.
Their money will have been lent and if their money is not paid back the revenue must be made up by additional taxation. The beer and spirits in the no-licence areas will not yield their usual fruit in Excise and Customs Duties to the Inland Revenue; people who were in business as publicans and doing well will be in some other business, or none at all, and Income Tax under certain Schedules will be down, and can only be made up by further taxation to restore the balance. I suppose the promoters of the Bill have considered this. I suppose their answer is that they do not think anything of the kind is likely to happen, but I say that a Bill which proceeds upon that plan is a Bill which ought not to be introduced in this House and cannot be introduced in any House except by the 457 Government of the day. I should say farther that, unless all our protestations about economy, and all our declarations, as good economists, that the more money you take out of traders' pockets the less trade they can do, are to come to naught, there ought to be an overwhelming outcry against any attempt to suppress the existing liquor trade at the expense of a further burden upon the taxpayer.
Now take the other extreme, which I think is likely. Supposing in all the districts, notwithstanding the newly enfranchised female voters, that at the end of fifteen years four polls have taken Place and we are practically where we were before. There will be the Fund (because the payers of the Fund will not have been diminished to any substantial extent) of £12,000,000 a year for fifteen years. There will be no further right to the renewal of a licence, and therefore the amount to be paid in compensation for the loss of a licence in future will, as far as I can make out, be, trivial. If a case for compensation does arise it will either arise out of the fact that you are taking property which of course you may sell again after a time, or out of claims for depreciation of trade utensils which cannot be used in the new trade, or compensation for goodwill of a house to which there had been attached a licence, but with a residue of only one year to run. What is to become of this big Fund then? I do not see any explanation of that in the Bill.
Much less would be required at that stage for compensation to dispossessed licence holders, because by the operation of the Act, as the fifteen years have run off, so the compensation value of the licences has run off too. Is it to remain in the hands of trustees for the general purpose of philanthropic management in the management areas? One thing is certain, and that is that the money will have been taken out of the pockets of a trading body. They may be an iniquitous body, or they may not, but at any rate they have had to pay the money into this Fund and after fifteen years it is not likely that the people who have paid the money in will ever get any money out. Somebody else may get it out—their successors or assignees or somebody who started in the public-house business late—but the only satisfaction which the people who have 458 paid the money into the Fund are likely to have is that of trying to find a place in which they can get a glass of beer in a no-licence area. It is obvious that if this subject has been investigated at, all, and I wish to pay the proposers the compliment of supposing that it has been considered as carefully as it could be, then the basis of data could not be very accurate.
What are you going to assume, between the two extremes which I have alluded to, will be the actual working of the Bill? If your Bill is a great success so that the goose is killed early in the fifteen years, the Fund is imperilled. If your policy of promoting temperance in this way is not pushed with very much vigour, or does not meet with much success, then the amount of compensation at the other end will be less and those who go out of business late will be entitled to call for less compensation. I wish to give every credit to the good intentions of the promoters of this scheme, and of the persons to be appointed by the Secretary of State, but looking at it as a business proposition is it really hopeful? Of course there is Carlisle, but Carlisle is a subject which I think nobody has ever been able to place in any right position. Some say that Carlisle is better than it used to be, but others that there are plenty of places better. I really do not know what to say about Carlisle.
Under this Bill you are not allowed to push the sale of intoxicating liquor by the most obvious methods. You must not advertise. You must not hang up a picture of "Johnnie Walker" in a bar. I do not regret it. There must be no pictures, jocularly drawn, of the rush to a place where Worthington ales may be obtained. You are entitled to pay a man a commission for selling chocolates or ginger ale, and as far as I can see you can plaster the walls with advertisements of ginger ale and chocolate and so on. Is that likely to make a profit, and are the voters who have desired this system particularly likely to be content with prices that will compensate for the unbusinesslike want of energy of those who conduct the place? It may be theoretically true that, given an efficient demand and given a monopoly of the supply, the man who has the supply is sure to make a lot of money out of the people who demand. On 459 paper that sounds all right, but you must recollect that if there is anything in this idea of disinterested management you are always likely to have a great efflux of people from the drinking area. And we are told—and I am sure I do not wish to stand in the way—that very considerable numbers of people will find disinterested management and alternative drinks so satisfactory that they really will not want to resort to the public house side of the thing.
I am sorry not to have been able to speak about the Bill in terms which could be made to seem tolerable to the earnest idealists who support it. But in this House I think your Lordships ought not to be asked to give a Second Beading to a measure unless you are satisfied that the machinery will work. We are not, so far as I know, bibulous or profligate persons merely because we ask that a Bill like this should be scrutinised. I think we are all at one in desiring to see the great improvement in temperance that has taken place in our time continued to a greater and greater extent. But this steady political campaign against intoxicants seems to me to be one fraught with very great danger. I do not know—I have no personal experience of it—whether the gloomy picture that has been painted by at least two speakers of what the trade, as it is called, does in order to influence elections is well founded or not. I do feel sure of this, that the way in which prohibition came about in the United States was, first of all, the abominably inefficient licensing and police control system, which led to the saloons being not only drinking rooms of the worst kind, but the meeting places for all the baser classes of ward politicians, where they could always be brought up to the support of their "boss." That had a great deal to do in the first instance with spreading the case for prohibition; but there was another thing, which bears a considerable resemblance to what we have heard tonight, and that was the cry for efficiency.
I wonder how the people of this country would like to have no-licence advocated to them on the terms on which prohibition has been advocated, and largely supported, in the United States. Just before the Prohibition Amendment came into effect I remember speaking 460 about it to one of the most distinguished citizens of the United States at that time, a man whose experience qualified him in the very fullest way to express the opinion which he did express to me. I said to him: "What do you think about prohibition?" and he said: "I hate it, because it is an invasion of liberty. But, mark my words, if you intend to keep up competition with us you will have to adopt it in three years." And the reason was that from the employer's point of view total abstinence improved the working power of the workmen to such an extent that the employer was prepared, seeing great profits in it, to support the change. Is it upon that ground that the working classes of this country are to be invited to forgo their beer, to flock to the local veto polls, and to vote, fifty-five per cent. of those who go to the polls, in favour of no-licence, so that they may be more efficient workmen—machines turning out a greater number of articles in a given time, machines speeding over their course with a greater velocity for the same amount of wages? On paper, again, that sounds a very attractive proposition, but, little as my experience is of public life, I hardly seem to see that way of putting it achieving a very great success for the no-licence proposal.
Then there is organised management. The one thing that certainly does for you is to take your public refreshment system out of the hands of those who are accustomed to manage it, and put it into new hands which have still to learn their business. Of course, I know it is expected that the advisory bodies in the localities and in London will be glad to engage the public-house managers who are out of jobs, and the public-houses will not be suppressed, but will be reformed, or even left to go on as they are, and I give every credit to the assumption that, with trial and error and good sense, it may be possible to run the system of public management with a moderate amount of public satisfaction. But still, before that can be such a success as to be any substitute for the system which we have, many years must elapse; and I think those who are quite as earnest in the cause of temperance as the societies and the speakers, of whom we hear a good deal more, would all agree with me in saying that the wisest course 461 we can pursue is to attack this evil indirectly. It is to the spread of education, it is to the rise in wages, it is to the training which is to be got in the judicious use of leisure, it is to having the leisure to use that we must look for an extensive improvement in temperance. I do not think we are badly off at present, but it is along those lines and not along the lines of perpetual challenges to conflict, these triennial or quadrennial polls whether people like it or not, this system of new Bills which give expression to the kind-hearted and high-minded ambitions of popular societies, that any hope of real improvement must be found.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRADFORD
My Lords, there is one consideration I should like to lay before your Lordships which is, I am sorry to say, a novel consideration in legislative efforts for temperance reform. I represent here the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches, and some of your Lordships may know that that council consists of representatives of the chief Christian denominations in England and Wales, and it exists for the purpose of focussing organised Christian opinion upon this particular subject in order to find some solution of the great problem of the drink evil. The remarkable fact is this and it is novel, so far as I know, in the history of the temperance movement: every single one of the denominations has given its approval to this particular Bill, every one, that is to say, of the branches of the English Churches who belonged to this Temperance Council
They have given their approval to four fundamental principles of the Bill after careful consideration. The first of these is the right of the electors in local communities to determine by vote the method of dealing with the drink problem in their midst. The second is the submission to the local electorates of the three options of no-change, no-licence and reorganisation. The third is the appointment of a time limit, at the end of which period the nation would regain full power of control over the issue of liquor licences, compensation being payable during the time limit but not after for licenses acquired or extinguished by the popular vote. The fourth is the provision that, if the option of no-licence or reorganisation is once 462 carried in a locality, there shall be no return to the system of private ownership.
I believe it to be a fact of great significance that at last all the Christian Churches, as organised through their temperance societies, have come together and backed this particular Bill. Of course, the significance of this will vary in proportion as your Lordships attach importance to the influence of the Christian Churches on public opinion. It may be asked whether the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches represents the opinion of the rank and file. Some people will say that there is no real representation of the rank and file, but that it is only the opinion of the keen people of the temperance societies. To this I would say that in the case of three of the Churches—namely, the Society of Friends, the Presbyterians and the Baptists—not only have the temperance executive approved of this Pill but the governing body of the denomination have approved it too. I also have every reason to believe that in every other instance the governing body of the denomination is likely to give general approval to this Bill at their annual meeting, either this month or next. With regard to the Roman Catholics, I cannot speak, of course, with any assurance, but I can only say that their accredited representatives on the council have given their approval, with a caveat with regard to certain details.
As to the Anglican Church, if there be a doubt as to that great conglomeration of opinion, all I can say is that, so far as my experience goes in regard to this Bill in ruri-decanal conferences and in diocesan conferences and gatherings, in nearly every case, as far as I can remember, resolutions have been carried in favour of this Bill. When the Bill was before your Lordships' House on the last occasion every one of the Bishops who were present voted in support of the Bill, with the exception of the Bishop of Durham. I believe it to be true that at any rate—whatever may be our individual views with regard to the question of the no-licence option—we are practically unanimous in being willing to trust the people to vote in their own individual areas on the question of popular control. We are practically unanimous in being willing to try experiments. That is what this Bill will enable us to do; it 463 will enable us to try experiments in various areas and see what the real genius of the English race is likely to make of the suggested solutions of this very difficult problem.
Assuming, as I believe I have a right to assume, that the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches does really represent a very large proportion indeed of the considered opinion of the organised Christian bodies in this country, what is the precise significance to be attached to it? I believe it to lie in the fact that the vast majority of social workers in our country to-day are connected with the organised Churches and they have intimate daily contact with the evils which are connected with intemperance. They know at first hand, as alas! I am afraid many in your Lordships' House do not know at first hand, how many thousands of homes and how many thousands of souls are wrecked through over-indulgence in drink year by year. They know at first hand what vast sums are absolutely wasted in this traffic, sums that are needed for the feeding and clothing of children and for other necessaries of life, and they are determined, so far as they can, that they will either mend or end that condition of affairs.
464 Let me remind your Lordships of what a former Prime Minister said—I think it was in 1915—that, when the Churches are really agreed upon a common policy with regard to the temperance question, there will be no stopping them from bringing it into effect. I believe that to be the real significance of the unanimity which has at last been attained amongst the Christian Churches through the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches in support of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned till Tuesday, June 2l.
§ Moved, That the debate he now adjourned till Tuesday, June 21.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.