Mr. C. Culvert
presented a Petition, not from brewers or publicans, but from the Vicar, Curate, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish of Isleworth, against the Bill now brought in to allow the sale of Beer in houses without regard to the character of the occupier, the wants of the public, or the wishes of the neighbourhood, and without consideration for the ruin of those who had already invested their capital in public-houses. The petitioners stated, that they viewed the progress of this Bill with alarm, and were convinced, that if it became a law, it would be productive of much mischief. For his own part he believed that the House would soon regret the ruin it would be sure to occasion, and the country gentlemen who were now so anxious to support the measure, would, ere long, rue the day in which they gave it their assent. The same hon. Member, presented another petition from three hundred persons, Inhabitants of the Parish of Paddington, against the said Bill; and a third Petition from one Stanley Gainer, of Seacombe, in the county of Chester, who complained, that having laid out the sum of 3,000l. in building a house intended as a public-house, that he was now in danger of being ruined by a person who, in anticipation of the change to be occasioned by the Bill then in progress, had purchased a small house, where at the expense of 30l. a year he would be able to retail Beer to all the neighbourhood.
388 The three Petitions were laid on the Table.
presented a Petition, signed by 5,000 persons, occupiers and owners of public-houses in London, and its vicinity, against the Bill, and observed, that if it were passed into a law, it would decrease the ease and comfort of all gentlemen who lived in the country, and would be the ruin of many respectable men who had advanced their capital on speculations in public-houses.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
begged leave to support the prayer of the Petition, many of the petitioners being among his constituents. He regretted very much that it was the determination of the Government to persevere in promoting this Bill; and he hoped, even in that case, that the part which allowed Beer to be drunk on the premises where it was sold would be struck out. He was of opinion that that part of the Bill would have a most pernicious effect on the morals of the lower classes. He had no objection, neither had the petitioners, to Beer being sold by a greater number of persons than at present, but they objected to those persons, without a license or any guarantee for their character, being allowed to supply parties with accommodation for drinking it on their premises. He was of opinion, that a great deal of mischief would result from the change, and he therefore wished that it should be made gradually—for example, it would be better to wait and sec what would be the effect of abolishing the duty on Beer, before allowing every body who chose, to set up a public-house. For his part he could not give his assent to so great and sudden an alteration as was contemplated by that Bill. He was glad that the member for Reading meant to move an amendment to it, for if everybody were allowed to sell Beer, every gentleman might be subject to the annoyance of having a public-house at his door, where the most abominable characters might plan the commission of every species of crime. He believed that all the vigilance of the new police would be insufficient to counteract such temptations to disorder. Moreover, the Bill set aside a number of Acts of Parliament, which, whether for good or evil, had secured to certain parties a monopoly, and induced them to buy and sell under that restriction, which gave a fictitious value to property. Were the owners of property that might be depre- 389 ciated by the new measure to receive no compensation for their loss? He recollected, that when a bill was brought in for altering the system of County Courts, by the noble Lord, the member for Northampton shire, that it was not carried into effect on account of the expense of compensating the officers of those courts. It was considered that the expense would be greater than the benefit to be derived from the alteration; in that case, and in many others which he could quote, the House recognised the principle of compensation, and if the proposed alterations were made in the Beer-trade, those who would suffer by those alterations ought to receive some compensation. If that were to be the case, the legislature should adopt a less extensive measure, which would enable it to compensate those whom it might injure. Let the trade be opened—but let it be accompanied with a prohibition to consume Beer on the premises where it was sold, except in regular licensed houses.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
thought, the call for compensation was made too soon, nor could he sec the analogy between opening the trade in Beer, and regulating the County Courts. The existing system was very bad; the alteration of the law was intended for the public benefit, and he therefore was favourably disposed towards it. At the same time, as much property-had been embarked under the old system, he hoped that some provisions would be adopted in the committee to give, as far as possible, protection to that property, so that the owners of it should not, for the public advantage, suffer a grievous injury.
§ Mr. Benett
was in favour of the bill, conceiving that the monopoly of public-houses by common brewers was a great evil, which would be remedied by the present measure. He saw no other vested rights endangered by it but those of the brewers, which ought not to be protected. Every poor man who had no other home than the public-house, should be allowed to enjoy himself freely there, and should not be taxed to support opulent brewers and publicans. He wished he could prevail on the right hon. Gentleman opposite to abolish the Malt-tax as well as the Beer-tax; the article would then be made much cheaper and the poor be proportion-ably benefited.
§ Petition to be printed.