§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ * MR. BURT (Morpeth)
I move that this Bill be read a second time upon 779 this day six months. This is a bad Bill, it cannot be made into a good one, and that seems to me to be a sufficient reason for my Motion. The Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, stated that he believed it would put an end to controversies upon this subject, and that it would promote temperance. We shall see as to whether it will end controveries; my own belief is that it will open up now controversies without settling any of the old ones. If I could believe that it was a Bill which would promote temperance I certainly would not be here to move its rejection. The Prime Minister said a good deal in his speech on the introduction of the Bill about the intemperance of speech on the part of temperance advocates. I am not here to defend those speakers. I recognise, however, that many of them have shown very great disinterestedness in devoting themselves to a great and beneficent reform. Occasionally, no doubt, they may have shown themselves to be extravagant, fanatical, exaggerative, but there is one thing which they can never exaggerate. They cannot exaggerate the evils which spring from the traffic in intoxicating drink. I usually, when I wish to say anything about these evils, select phrases from well-known authorities who know the subject intimately. I shall quote from Mr. Charles Buxton who was once Member of Parliament for Weymouth, and I am glad that we still have a Buxton a Member of this House. Now, Mr. Buxton was a philanthropist, a lover of his fellow-men, a devout Christian, a good man, and a brewer. He once wrote an article on the subject of how to stop drunkenness, and in the first page of that article he said—If you add together all the evils generated in our time by war, pestilence, and famine—the three great scourges of mankind—they do not exceed those which spring from this on ecalamity of our national drunkenness.On the next page he said—The struggle of the school, the library, and the Church all united against the beer-house and the gin palace, is but one development of the war between heaven and hell.The evils are admitted; hundreds of Acts of Parliament have been passed to deal with them; and nobody in this House can say that the present condition of affairs is satisfactory. There is one thing upon which we 780 are all agreed, and that is that there are too many public-houses, and that it is desirable to diminish them. This Bill is professedly an attempt to diminish the number of public-houses. It may perhaps be a matter of opinion as to whether the lessening of the number of public-houses diminishes drunkenness. Some people say it does, others say that it does not. My own opinion is that it depends very much upon circumstances. There have been instances in which a lessening of the number of public-houses has diminished drunkenness and other instances in which it has not. In this connection I will quote Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, to whom, I think, the nation owes a deep debt of gratitude for the courage, public-spiritedness, and disinterestedness with which he his tackled the subject. In a speech Mr. Arthur Chamberlain delivered at Leeds a few months ago, he said—In Birmingham, where for many years we have reduced the number of licences by twenty or thirty each year out of a total of over 2,000, our action spread over the whole town had no effect in reducing drunkenness; it could not lie expected to have any effect in reducing drunkenness. Then we fixed our attention to a definite area with 115 licences and refused the renewal of fifty-four licences. We did this with I he consent of the brewers. It was before the day of Mr. Balfour's unhappy interference. The result of refusing fifty-four licences was a decrease in the arrests for drunkenness in that district by 30 per cent, and the improvement continues to this day.In the case of Liverpool, according to an answer of the Home Secretary in February last, the amount of indictable crime and intemperance in 1902 was only one-third of what it was in 1890, and during the period of twelve years ending 1902 the number of public-houses in Liverpool had been reduced by 493. On this point there is some very important information in the Judicial Statistics of 1899. It may be said that Birmingham and Liverpool are county boroughs and that the same process could go on under this Bill. Even in the case of county boroughs the powers of the magistrates are considerably weakened and it is quite certain to my mind that under this Bill it would be impossible for this process to have been carried on to anything like the same extent in Birmingham and Liverpool. The enormous compensation demanded and the comparative smallness of the amount 781 of money available would make it absolutely impossible to diminish to any considerable degree the number of public-houses under this Bill. I do not want to weary the House with extracts, but I will quote again from Mr. Arthur Chamberlain. He says—I have calculated the amount that would he raised in Birmingham by the proposed tax and I have checked the results by an independent estimate made by the Clerk to the City Justices. I find the maximum sum produced in Birmingham would be about £14,000. This would not allow a reduction of more than seven licences per annum.At the present time licences in Birmingham are being reduced at the rate of thirty per annum. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain proceeds —That would take 180 years to bring down the number of licences in Birmingham to the proportion recommended by the Royal Commission.This refers to the Royal Commission appointed by the present Government, and presided over by a nobleman for whom we all entertain the greatest admiration. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain goes on to say that this effect would follow throughout the whole country. I will not go into further detail because I think this in itself absolutely and completely condemns the present Bill.
The system upon which we have hitherto dealt with this licensing question has been by the licensing magistrates, and this Bill very considerably cripples, if it does not entirely destroy, the power of the magistrates to deal effectively with the diminution of the number of public-houses. You transfer the power from the local magistrates to the quarter sessions. I do not know that magistrates are in any case particularly amenable to public opinion, but quarter sessions are much less amenable to public opinion than the local justices. The local justices, at any rate, do understand local circumstances and the requirements of the district. I do not say that this is an appeal from Philip sober to Philip drunk, because the magistrate as Philip is always sober, but I do say it is an appeal from intimate and complete local knowledge, not perhaps to ignorance, but to less complete knowledge of local circumstances. Surely one of the requisites of sound judgment is knowledge. I know it is not the only one, because 782 you also want impartiality and a certain amount of intellect, but you do require knowledge; and I suppose the magistrates, as a rule, are not likely to be biased on a question of this kind, nor can I believe that quarter sessions are more likely to be judicial and fair in determining the question than are the local magistrates.
I find myself to-day in an unexpected position. I never dreamt in my wildest excursions of fancy that it would devolve upon me to stand up in defence of the magistrates against the attacks of a Tory Government. I am not astonished, because, after thirty years in this House, the poetry, the romance, and the surprises of life have vanished. The magistrates are not a revolutionary body. I suppose the great majority of them have been appointed by Conservative Governments and that they are nearly all Conservatives, if not in politics, in character and position. And yet the Government do not trust them. Well, I must do the Government the justice to say that they do not always treat their friends so scurvily. But I suppose there was a conflict of interests, and with their usual chivalry they have sacrificed the interests of the weaker to the stronger. What is the magistrates' offence? It is because they have been to some extent responsive to the enlightened public opinion of the country, and they have used their power to some small extent during the last few years in diminishing -the number of public-houses and the evils that spring from them.
Now I will say a word or two on the question of compensation. I myself have for many years been very strongly opposed in principle to any sort of compensation. There is no legal claim. That is admitted. The Home Secretary frankly admitted that there is no legal claim. I do not know that there is any moral claim. I do not think that there is any claim in equity. I admit it may be advisable on grounds of expediency and policy, as a sort of compassionate allowance, as somebody said, and for the sake of accomplishing a great public object to forego—and I would be one of the first to forego—our legal claims, and give compensation, even though we may consider that it is tinctured with a sort of 783 injustice. What public object is going to be gained by compensation in these circumstances? We gave compensation in the case of purchase in the Army. We said, and said very truly in that case, that there was no legal claim, and that the buying of commissions was illegal. But compensation was paid. I have no doubt that some other cases could be found, for this House never deals untenderly or unkindly with vested interests, especially if they are the vested interests of the well-to-do. I recall the case in which £20,000,000 were given to abolish slavery, and alter all we have less glorious pages in our history than that. But in both of these cases the evil was uprooted. It was ended altogether. But this does not end the evil. It establishes, it entrenches, it strengthens the position so far as the drink traffic is concerned. It may be said that the money is to be found by the trade. Is it? If it is I would say with my right hon friend behind me, why does not the trade manage the affair from beginning to end? It is powerful enough, it is combined, it is very capable of taking care of itself, or this Bill would not be under discussion here to-day. I read a speech a day or two ago delivered by the hon. Member for South Derbyshire who was presiding. I think, at the annual meeting of the Licensed Victuallers' Association. Speaking of this Bill, he said—He thought they would he wise in accepting the Bill.he did not seem to be very sure —It required amending, but in it they found the great principle that a licence-holder's property was Ids own, and that if it was to he taken away he was to he paid for it.I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets his law. I do not think the law says that the licence is his own. It is a privilege conferred by the State that the State may take away. It is admittedly given for a year, and for a year only. Then we have the enormously enhanced value of the licences that this Bill will confer. Licences, according to Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, have a capital value of £300,000,000, and he states that this Bill doubles their value, making it £000,000,000. I am not a Chancellor of the Exchequer, or an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am a very poor arithmetician. Fractions and millions 784 always perplex me. These are large amounts. The increased value is, I maintain, State created, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer when framing his next Budget should look out to see that he gets his share of this additional £300,000,000. I have no doubt it will help him very considerably. He is carrying a heavy load. I am not saying that he is staggering under it because he does not stagger, but it is a tremendous load. I have no doubt if he would consult his uncle he would tell him where he could get, and get honestly from public money or money that ought to belong to the public, a few millions that would greatly help him in his financial difficulties, and there always will be financial difficulties so long as this Government is in power. Napoleon said he found the vices much better taxpayers than the virtues. Well, if that great military genius, that evil genius, could come back again, which heaven forbid, I know somebody who could show him how to bleed the virtues and let the vices off, if not scot-free, certainly on the easiest possible terms.
This Bill, in my opinion, begins at the wrong end. It safeguards the interests of the trade, but absolutely leaves unprotected the greater interests of the public. In fact it makes new raids upon the public. The Prime Minister strongly deprecated the attacks of temperance advocates on the publicans. But I think the right hon. Gentleman must have been very unfortunate in his visits to temperance meetings, because t have attended a good many and have never yet heard a publican attacked. I am not going to attack the publicans. I have a good many friends among them. I have known many good ones and I never knew a thoroughly bad one. Many of them are my friends, and some of them have even voted for me. And considering that I am not one of their best customers, I think it was very disinterested of them to treat me so kindly. I do not think, however, that they need any particular defence. I think, like other good people, they are sometimes only too conscious of their virtues. I have it from the Archbishop of Canterbury that there is apparently a great rivalry between the Church and the trade as to which of them rear the most virtuous families. The Archbishop, 785 quoting from the "Licensed Victuallers' Annual," said that they actually declared, deliberately affirmed, that it is a matter of statistical proof, that the publicans' families turn out very much better than the clergymen's. Now, I would just warn my publican friends that it does not necessarily follow that the public-house is a better school of morals than the Church. There may be other circumstances. Look at the pains that we take in selecting the publican. No man of bad character has a shadow of a chance of getting a licence. I can speak very disinterestedly on this subject, because I have taken great care never to apply for anything that requires a very high standard of character. Now, all I can say is that we are all interested in this question, and I hope that this wholesome rivalry in the reading of virtuous families will go on with moderation and without acrimony.
There is another matter still of a domestic kind which concerns me still more, and that is John Bull's family, and the effect that this Bill is likely to have upon that family. Now, John has a very big and heterogeneous family. Many of his children are in rags, living on the verge of starvation, and their poverty, their misery, and their crime is largely caused by the traffic in intoxicating liquor. John has a big income; and, if he would but spend it wisely instead of worse than wasting so much of it on fireworks and intoxicants, there would be enough and to spare for everyone. I do not think that we, on this side of the House, alone desire to remedy this evil. I do not think that the Government is indifferent to it. What is the cure? Is there a cure? Can nothing whatever be done? The Prime Minister seems to think —he says, and I am sure he thinks it— that we will never get rid of the public-house in this country. Well, Sir, the right lion. Gentleman is a logician; he is an expert dialectician. I admire him in that capacity, especially when he has a bad case. His reputation as a logician is assured and unassailable, but I beg him to have some regard for his reputation as a prophet. Is it not hazardous for him to lay down a universal negative proposition on a subject of this kind, with no 786 time limit? The public-house, as a house of resort for the public, is a necessity, and probably will remain a necessity; but the right lion. Gentleman uses the term in its usual acceptation as a place for drinking. He does not know. The Prime Minister knows what is; he does not know what may be. The time may come, hopeless as the outlook is, when the insatiable thirst of our countrymen may abate, or when they may go back to the less fiery and stimulating and simpler liquor such as I believe sufficed to meet the wants of our first parents. I admit that we have to deal, as practical men, with the subject as it is; but can anything be clone now? I think something can be done. We cannot go. I admit, in advance of public opinion; but do not let us lag behind public opinion; do not, above everything, let us try to throttle, thwart, and defeat enlightened public opinion. I myself have great faith in education. We have been watching His Majesty the King's visit to Ireland. I read a speech of His Majesty's which interested me very much. I thought it better than any King's speech I have ever seen introduced by any Government—in which His Majesty said: "In the better education of the people lies the one great hops for the future." Well, I believe that—not in the technical, conventional sense, not simply in the teaching of elementary knowledge or even in carrying it beyond the elements —but the development and perfection of the whole man, physical, moral, intellectual—spiritual, if you like—teaching men habits of gentleness, justice, and self-restraint. These things Governments cannot do. They cannot impart these qualities. "Therein the patient must minister to himself." But Governments can do something; they may do much. They may provide healthier and better surroundings, physical and moral. To use the language of a great statesman whose memory is dear to millions of his fellow-countrymen and to multitudes beyond the seas, it should be the business of Governments to make it easy for the people to do right and difficult for them to do wrong. Well, Sir, this Bill goes not a step in that direction. It carries us backward. It increases the difficulty. It tends to strengthen and perpetuate 787 our great national curse, and I move its rejection.
To have out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months."'—(Mr. Burt).
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH (Birmingham, S.)
said he wished to ask the indulgence of the House on the first occasion on which he had ventured to address it. On the occasion of the First Reading of the Bill, when the Prime Minister declared that this was a temperance Bill, he was met with laughter by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If it were not a temperance Bill a great many of his hon. friends would not, however, be supporting it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had no monopoly of the desire to promote temperance. If they had any such monopoly they had used it very badly for the last thirty years, because they had passed no temperance legislation, and had only been strong enough to throw out Bills which had been proposed, but not strong enough to carry Bills of their own. He did not intend to criticise what was called the temperance party. The drink question was a terrible question and a complicated question, and a question which undoubtedly entailed great evils on the people of this country. They all recognised that the temperance party, who had devoted themselves to the work of diminishing drunkenness, had accomplished a great work for which they could not possibly be criticised; but when he considered their political action and the course they had adopted in the House he did not think that their record was quite as satisfactory. They had opposed legislation, and they had said that the only settlement to which they would agree would be a settlement according to their own ideas. Teetotalers—he was a teetotaler himself—were in a vast minority in the country. The great majority of the people without being drunkards desired to drink, and it was impossible for the small minority of teetotalers to dictate to the majority. Water drinking had not, however, 788 diminished the natural combativeness of the temperance party in their incursion into the political domain as they had, to a certain extent, lost sight of their proper work, namely the reclamation of drunkards and the prevention of others from becoming drunkards. He maintained that from the point of view of temperance there was nothing to be gained and a great deal to be lost when the temperance party forgot their primary work and developed a Party spirit and a political agitation. No man was saved from temptation by that course; and the whole movement was turned into a wrong direction by it.
Thirty years ago there was an opportunity of passing a measure, which, had it been passed, would, ere now, have succeeded in bringing about a better condition of affairs. Mr. Bruce's Bill provided a ratio of population and a time limit of ten years which would have expired long ago if the Bill had been passed. A generation would not have been lost and a very material step forward in the direction of temperance would have been taken. Instead of that, the only measure proposed by Gentlemen mainly identified with the temperance party was a measure of local option. He did not intend to discuss the question of prohibition; and he thought it would be admitted that prohibition—whether State prohibition or local prohibition—had been a failure in the past, and had not cured the evil which it was intended to cure. Besides failing in its primary object it also caused the added evil of disobedience to the law. He remembered an unwilling supporter of local option saying he was in favour of it because he was convinced that there was not a single district in England where it could be put into force; and from the point of view of temperance it would be quite an illusory measure. He thought that greater advantage would be derived from a measure which was not so far-reaching or sweeping as local option, but which would reduce public-houses to a far greater extent. He knew there were some people who said that the need for a reduction in the number of public-houses had not been proved by statistics; but it was a matter of common sense and common knowledge 789 that if they reduced public-houses they would also reduce drunkenness and drinking. All experience was in that direction. When Parliament gave what almost amounted to free trade in public-houses it was followed by a great increase in drunkenness. Since 1830 public-houses had been reduced in number, and brought under more stringent control; and the result was that the amount of drunkenness in the country had diminished, at any rate, to a certain extent. Again, with fewer public-houses, not only in the towns but also in the country, police supervision would be immeasurably greater; and, more important still, there would not be that keen competition between the lower classes of public-houses which existed at present. Ho thought the House did not always realise how difficult it was, in a little country town where there was a congestion of public-houses with a very small business possessed by each, for a publican to make a living of even the most precarious character. A great many of the small houses hardly paid their way, and the publican was forced very often into the most disreputable and improper means of earning a living. He thought, therefore, that it would be agreed that a reduction was desirable.
He thought also they need not stay to argue the question of the discretion of the magistrates. He did not think that anyone would deny that the magistrates had full control. As to the question of compensation, which was the main point in the Bill, he did not think they need stop to argue regarding its merits at any great length. The necessity for compensation had been admitted by both the Majority and Minority Reports of the Licensing Commission. The Minority Report said that it was a question of expediency and a matter of grace, and the lion. Member for the Spen Valley used similar expressions in his Report. Since then a manifesto had been issued by a number of temperance reformers in which the expediency and justice of some kind of compensation was admitted. Therefore the question need not be argued on its merits; but they would require to ask three things—was the compensation proposed excessive? should there be a time limit? and would the 790 number of public-houses be sufficiently reduced? With regard to the question of the time limit, he knew that a great many temperance reformers were anxious to see a limit introduced, even if it were for such a lengthy period as twenty or thirty years. It was an attractive proposal that at the end of a certain period the country should not be liable for compensation of any sort to the trade; but he did not think that they would escape from their difficulties if a time limit were introduced as they would only be throwing the difficulty off their own shoulders on to the shoulders of those who would have to deal with the matter at another time. Under the Bill there would be a very material reduction in the number of public-houses; and it would be impossible to expect a man to invest capital in a public-house if he were to be dispossessed at the end of a year. If a time limit were to be introduced, it seemed to him it would be essential to change the yearly licensing system which now existed into a five years or seven years licence. It would be far better not to introduce a time limit, but to review the licences every year and compensate any licensee whose licence was taken away, from the fund to be raised by the trade. It was a condition put forward in the Reports of the Licensing Commission by the gentlemen who admitted the principle of compensation, that compensation should come from the trade and not from the public; but what they had given with one hand, they now seemed to be taking away with the other, because they slated that the money to be raised by the trade did not really belong to the trade but to the Government. That was an almost Oriental maxim of government.
Was the amount of compensation proposed by the Government sufficient for the reduction of public-houses? The hon. Member for Morpeth read a passage from an article written by Mr. Arthur Chamberlain giving the amount available for the reduction of public-houses in Birmingham, and he put the reduction down as seven public-houses per annum; but if the hon. Gentleman had consulted the Return which had been presented to the House he would find that Mr. Arthur Chamberlain had underestimated the amount by nearly one half, and that in 791 Birmingham double the number of public-houses estimated by him would be abolished every year. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain also pointed out that the diminution arising from the refusal of licences on the ground of misconduct or by reason of character or structure would continue. There were certain districts in the country in which no doubt little or nothing would be done; but there were many other districts in which the magistrates would be anxious and willing to make very material reductions. For that reason he should like to have the compensation fund increased if possible, and that might be done by increasing the amount to be paid by the larger houses. He could not see any reason for this falling oft. It was quite probable the houses shut up would be the small houses, but he could not see that that was a reason why the bigger houses should not help to par compensation, having regard to the trade they derived from the shutting up of the smaller houses. Another source of income, the tax upon clubs, was left out of the Bill. As public-houses were closed, and in proportion as they were closed by this drastic measure, so clubs would spring up, and it seemed to him only fair that, as those clubs would have their profits increased owing to the closing of public houses, they should pay something towards their extinction.
The hon. Member for Morpeth had suggested that the magistrates had been thrown over because they were the weaker of the two parties competing for the friendship of the Government. The magistrates were a very influential body and he did not think the features of this Bill had been influenced by any thoughts of that kind. Under this Bill the magistrates were not dispossessed; their functions had been readjusted and in some directions increased. Had it been possible he would have preferred to see something in the nature of a joint committee of magistrates and county councillors, and he would have liked to see the control under the county councils, under which bodies they would get an authority which they would not obtain from a plebiscite or under local veto. But that was a very strong step to take at the present time and therefore everybody would be glad that the discretion of the magistrates was retained. In the county boroughs 792 the powers of the magistrates had been increased instead of being diminished, and if they turned to the counties, and the administration of licences in the counties, the only ground for saying that the power of the magistrates was reduced was the transfer of the application from the petty to the quarter sessions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who had taken the magistrates under their protection had not extended their friendship to magistrates who sat in quarter sessions, yet the men who sat in quarter sessions were the same men who sat in petty sessions the only difference being that they were collected in some county town. Although the petty sessions was an excellent Court everybody would agree that it was by no means an ideal Court for dealing with these matters. Neither for that matter was the quarter sessions. He had seen at quarter sessions sixty or seventy magistrates come down who never by any chance attended on any other occasion, some of them keen temperance reformers and others on the other side, and he had seen such Courts sit for three days upon licensing questions. Such Courts could not deal with licensing in a judicial and proper spirit, and it would be of the greatest advantage for the power to be taken from such a Court and handed over to a small committee which would review the cases all over the country, and which would come to an impartial decision It was said by some that if a case was transferred to the quarter sessions it was taken away from the public Court, but the county town was not so far away; the persons who would form the Court were representative of the people sitting in the local Court, and what local knowledge they had not themselves they could easily obtain. They would be in exactly the same position as the highways committee which had charge of the roads throughout the county. It was a fact that it was perfectly easy for the chairman of quarter sessions sitting in the county town to review the whole affairs of the county. Instead of being flouted and dispossessed under this Bill, the magistrates on the contrary, had a greater control than they enjoyed in the past. The Bill would do away with the partiality which had been shown under the present system.
He was fully conscious of the greatness of the evil with which they had to do, and 793 he recognised all that had been said by the hon. Member for Morpeth. Intemperance was injurious alike to the welfare and health of the community; it was a bar to all true progress, and in the towns and boroughs where the people lived what must be an unwholesome life, the evil became more injurious, and the difficulty of dealing with it greater. But because they were not prepared to say that prohibition was the way to deal with it, and because they believed that this Bill and later systematic changes would help temperance, hon. Gentlemen opposite had no right to assume that those in favour of this Bill were not in favour of temperance reform. He welcomed this measure of the Government's because it gave them a measure at once. It did not put them off as they had been put off for the past thirty years with the suggestion that they should wait until a more complete measure could be passed; it was a step, an instalment in the direction of reduction, and it would be for the benefit of the cause of temperance reform.
§ * SIR JAMES WOODHOUSE (Huddersfield)
, speaking as having been the chairman of licensing magistrates in one of the large cities of the country, said he was keenly disappointed that a Gentleman like the noble Lord, whose family had been so closely associated with temperance reform, was going to support this Bill. If the noble Lord had understood what would be the working of it he would have come to a very different conclusion. He was, no doubt, sincere in his belief that this Bill would conduce to the reduction of the number of public-houses and so to temperance reform, but a close study of the Bill ought to lead him to quite a different conclusion. The real object of the Bill was not to protect the public but to safeguard the trade. That was admitted by the Home Secretary in his introduction of the measure, and if it had been specially drawn by somebody connected with the trade it could not have better answered the purpose. Had the Government followed the recommendations of their own Royal Commission they would have done something to reduce the number of public-houses, but the process of this Bill was so cumbersome and slow, and so restricted and limited in its effect, that it 794 was impossible that it could be effectual in reducing licences to any great extent. It dealt with a traffic which, according to the Majority Report of the Commission, was productive of the greatest evil and national degradation, and under the circumstances the Government should have applied themselves to a Bill which would really have mitigated the evil and been in favour of temperance reform. This trade was a monopoly which brought to those who carried it on enormous wealth, influence, and political power; it was a monopoly for which they ought to pay because it produced serious and detrimental results to the community. It also entailed a large cost to the community in the provision and maintenance of the police, workhouses, and hospitals, and therefore it was only right that the trade should pay for the monopoly they held. This Bill would turn a temporary yearly interest into a permanent vested right, and a temporary lucrative privilege into a vested interest of enormous value. It would do that not only in the case of old licences, but, in the teeth of the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission, in the case of new licences also, so that the recipient of a new licence would practically be given a valuable present which could only be taken away by the State, in the public interests, after paying a large sum in excess of what was paid for it. But even more serious in its effect upon temperance reform was the fact that the Bill would turn a worthless licence also into a vested interest, and thus prevent a continuance of the voluntary reductions which had been taking place during the last few years. In the large cities and towns, in consequence of the changed character of certain neighbourhoods, many licences became worthless, and the owners were glad to give them up because of the impossibility of making the property pay. In Liverpool alone, since 1889, ten licences per year on an average had been voluntarily surrendered. The effect of this Bill would be to stop this surrender.
As to compensation, the contributions to the compensation fund were to be made on the basis of the rateable value. The rateable value of these houses, however, was 795 nothing like the real value. A public-house rated at £700 would sometimes fetch £30,000 in the market. But while the contributions were to be assessed according to the rateable value, compensation was to be paid on the basis of the real value, and he submitted that it was necessary that the basis of contribution should bear some relation to the basis of compensation if a proper fund was to be provided. The Bill fettered and limited the control and discretion of the magistrates in a number of ways. In fact, the anomalies in the Bill were most extraordinary. At present when a renewal was applied for the application was heard by the full bench of magistrates, and if the application were refused an appeal could be made to quarter sessions, but under the Bill there were two tribunals and two jurisdictions. A full bench of magistrates would be competent to deal with the question of whether a licence should be taken away on the ground of misconduct on the part of the holder or of unsuitability of premises, but the moment it came to the question of whether the licence was necessary for the neighbourhood they became quite incompetent to deal with it, and the determination of the point was left to a smaller body—a committee of themselves. An anomaly of that sort would not be appreciated by the great body of magistrates. Then in regard to an application for a new licence the proposal in the Bill was equally absurd. Under the present law an application for a new licence had to go before a licensing committee of seven. If granted, it was then taken before a confirming body—the full bench of magistrates—and if they refused there was no appeal. But under this Bill an application first went before this small body of seven, and then to another special committee of the same number, with the Recorder in the chair, for confirmation, which meant that the full bench of magistrates would be ignored altogether. A more anomalous and complex system of procedure could not be put into an Act of Parliament. Why had not the Government adopted the recommendation of their own Royal Commission, in which the representatives of the trade concurred, viz., that if a new authority was to be constituted it should be composed partly of magistrates and partly of 796 members elected by the town council? That, at any rate, would have been better than the present proposal and was adopted for Scotland last year. There was yet a further anomaly. The Acts from 1828 to 1902 would have to be read together; therefore as it was not taken away, there would still be an appeal to quarter sessions on the questions of misconduct, structural defects, or unsuitability of premises; but there would be no appeal on the quest ion of non-requirement by the neighbourhood. The Government did not seem to understand their own Bill or the effect of its own procedure. If they did understand it, it was difficult to conceive how they could place such an absurd proposal before the House of Commons and the country. The effect of the Bill would be to retard temperance reform, which all social reformers so greatly desired, and therefore he should support the Amendment.
§ * MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)
said the hon. Member for the Morpeth Division had not dealt with the difficulties of this question. All were keenly alive to the evils of intemperance, and were desirous of a fair measure of temperance reform. The problem was how to secure at the same time a fair measure of justice to the brewer and the publican and a fair measure of social reform from the temperance point of view. He believed the present Bill was a valuable measure of reform as regarded the licensing system of the country. The first question to be considered was the advisability of making the alteration proposed by the Bill in regard to the administrative action of the magistrates in refusing the renewal of licences which in their opinion were not required. Two conditions were necessary in any true administrative reform, viz, that a discretionary power should be given to the county authority, and that that county authority should be autonomous within its own area. In that respect the opponents of the Bill did not appear to appreciate the distinction which at present existed. In the county borough there was no autonomy, inasmuch as an appeal against a refusal to renew a licence lay from the county borough to the quarter sessions of the neighbouring county authority.
§ * MR. CRIPPS
was certain the lion. Member was mistaken. The object of the Bill was to make the county borough authority autonomous and independent within its own area. That was a measure of reform, though to refer to a matter of detail, he agreed it was a mistake in an administrative matter of this kind to introduce the Recorder, who was nothing more than a judicial authority. That, however, was a matter for discussion, and he hoped it would be put right in Committee. He sometimes wondered whether the various advocates of temperance reform were really cognisant of the result of granting discretionary power to magistrates in country districts. The petty sessional division was altogether too small an area to properly exercise discretion in regard to the refusal or renewal of existing licences, and so long as they retained the existing power within those areas so long would they have but little temperance reform They were having no real temperance reform at the present moment, although occasionally some particular bench took an extreme view; but if they took the country as a whole he challenged any advocate of temperance to prove that this discretionary power within petty sessional districts had in substance and in truth promoted temperance reform. This was not the fault of the magistrates. The fault was that they could not introduce any fair system either of shutting up public-houses, or compensating public-houses without they had got a sufficiently large administrative area and they could not get any such area in any less district than the county itself. As regarded the details of this Bill it was not necessary to discuss them now, but a great many changes were necessary. He wanted the county to have more power, and the fault of this Bill was the attempt it made to maintain the power of existing petty sessional areas. He thought the county authority ought to have power to draw-up a county scheme in order to readjust licences according to the ratio between public-houses and population in all parts of the county. He believed it would be found that the fault of this Bill was not that it gave the county authority too 798 great a power, but not sufficient power to get rid of any evils existing within its area. What was the present position as to the discretion in the petty sessional area? It could be overruled by quarter sessions. Most magistrates who had had great experience in quarter sessions would agree with him when he said that they required for the proper administration of this Bill within the county area more power than was proposed, and they must have power to act on their own initiative and declare that what they did might be applicable to the county at large. He did not believe that any lion. Member who had had any experience in this matter would deny that it was necessary to have a county authority and that it ought to be autonomous.
With regard to compensation the objection taken to it was that it was said to create for the first time a vested interest in licences which had been granted. That expression required analysis in order to see whether it was accurate or not. What did the Bill propose? He was not prepared to go beyond the recognised compensation principle, and if it could be shown that the Bill went further he hoped it would be altered in order to bring it in conformity with the general principle, whether applicable to licences or any other form of property. What was the principle put into force every day? They compensated a man when his licence was taken, not on the basis that he had a vested freehold interest —that was never done—buthe was compensated on the basis that the interest he had would probably not be interfered with. As he understood it that was exactly what the Bill proposed. The publican or the licence-holder was a new title to that which he held at present, and he was not to be given a greater interest. He was not to be compensated as though he had a greater interest than lie possessed at the present time, but lie was simply to be indemnified. At the present moment his interest was rated, it was assessed for the death duties and the income-tax, and considered in every compensation case when licensed bremises were taken away owing to the requirements of public or social policy. That was a proper principle, for whenever they 799 interfered with any individual either in regard to his property or his livelihood; whenever they interfered with the owner of property the principle of indemnity had always been adopted, and it ought to lie adopted in this case. The principle was that the person interfered with should not be in a worse condition because he was going to be interfered with on grounds of public policy. It was stated on the face of the Bill that no licenced holder or no licensee was to have a greater interest for the purposes of compensation than if this Bill had not been passed. He did not want to go into detail, but he would challenge any one on cither side of the House to show that that was not a proper principle which had been recognised in all other cases, and therefore he could not understand why it should be looked upon in this case as unfair and unjust or as giving to the publican or licensee anything which he was not entitled to. There was one other matter as regarded compensation to which he desired to allude. If temperance reformers in this country at all. However anxious they might be about temperance reform, the supporters of this Bill were just as anxious for the fair claim of justice, because if they disregarded it in one case it was very likely that it would be establishing a bad precedent. Whatever might be said as regarded intemperance, the Government was likely to suffer even more if it disregarded the ordinary and primary principles of justice which must be applied in this, as in all other cases.
He would now deal with objections which had been taken in the exaggerated pamphlet sent out by Mr. Arthur Chamberlain. He said that this Bill proposed to take property which otherwise might be taxed for Imperial purposes, or in other words, it anticipated something which might have under ordinary circumstances gone to the Exchequer. There was an absolute answer to any such suggestion. Of course it was true that all property in this country was capable of being taken for the purpose of national taxation. The real question always was whether that form of property could justly be taken, 800 having regard to existing conditions, for the purposes of the Imperial or National Exchequer. Let them apply that argument to the present Bill. If the licence-holders were not taxed fairly he admitted that the case would be made out as had been suggested on the other side of the House, but could such a case be made good for a moment? Were the brewers and the licence-holders not bearing their fair share of taxation now? Was it not certain that the additional charge now being put upon them was a charge that they could not be legitimately asked to bear for the purposes of the National Exchequer? It was a special charge which they would not have been under except to provide the compensation fund which was necessary under this Bill. Prejudice entered very largely in cases of this sort, but surely it was excess of prejudice to say that the funds which were being provided under this Bill were not being provided by the trade, but were being provided from a source which under other conditions would bring in illustration he would give. It was suggested in Mr. Arthur Chamberlains pamphlet that the amount of compensation was so small that they would not gain any real measure of temperance reform. That was arrived at by the suggestion that this Bill appreciated the value of existing licences from about £3,000,000 to £6,000,000. This was an absurd estimate. The pamphlet he had alluded to said there would only be a reduction in Birmingham of seven licences in a year if they took the average value. They should remember that it would be chiefly the poor miserable class of public-houses that would have to be compensated on the present Bill, and this class of public-house in Manchester was one of the primary sources of the evil of intemperance. Did anyone who had dealt with this matter practically in his own district, and who considered the claims of temperance on one side and the claims of justice on the other, imagine for a moment that the value of these public-houses, which ought to be suppressed, would be anything like the average value which had been stated, which included large hotels, which were 801 not likely to be affected by a Bill of this kind? The view of temperance reformers generally was that something like a quarter of the existing public-houses ought to be suppressed. He wished to point out that public-houses which would be suppressed would in the main be the quarter of the least value. They would consist of those houses which would be shut, up on account of structural unfitness. The 1869 beer-houses would be brought in. In the cases where they wanted this Bill most the value of these particular houses was infinitesimal compared with the better and larger houses which no one wished to interfere with at all. How could they take an average of them and apply that to the extent to which temperance reform might be carried under this Bill? It was a matter of statistics in each case. If this Bill was properly administered, and if the public-houses which really ought to be suppressed were suppressed, without prejudice, where they were too numerous, this Bill would be sufficient to initiate a true temperance reform which he himself desired as much as anyone on the other side of the House.
There was another matter on which he desired to say a word—the question of the time limit. It seemed to him that such a limit would be adverse to the true interests of temperance, and that it could only be introduced in order to prevent the fair working of the Bill itself. Suppose they had a time limit of ten, fifteen, or twenty years, which he understood was the proposal connected with the name of the hon. Member for the Spen Valley Division, and that after such period they were going to tax all existing public-houses up to the full value. The hon. Member's theory was that they should have no compensatory value left in the hands of the licensee at all. That, as he understood it, was the true meaning of the time limit in the opinion of temperance reformers. It would be grossly unjust. There was no more reason to tax public-houses up to their full value than if they went to Regent Street or Bond Street and taxed business premises there up to the full value.
§ * MR. CRIPPS
said no one had ever heard of goodwill being freehold. But a public-house had the value arising from the probability of continuance of trade. If there was a limit of ten, fifteen, or twenty years, without any such compensation as he had referred to then this whole question would be raised again at the end of the period. He did not wish to be a prophet, because he knew that prophets often failed, but he should like to say that he did not think anything could be introduced more likely to wreck the whole benefit of the Bill than a time limit. They would get two results from it. They would get people trying to hang on and wait until the end of the period, and on the other hand the moment they introduced a time limit they necessarily diminished the corresponding amount of the funds with which they had to deal in order to bring about a measure of temperance reform, and administrative authorities would be seriously crippled in carrying out their duties in decreasing the number of public-houses where they were not wanted. This might be a good or a bad Bill, but if it was a good Bill they should not introduce a crippling condition by applying a time limit. Let them give their weight and authority to having it passed in the best practical form and not in a maimed form which would do harm to the temperance cause. After all, this Bill was a simple one framed on business lines. It might, of course, be possible to say that the trade should insure its own business. He admitted that that was possible, but if they wanted to press forward the cause of temperance they wanted more than a system of that kind. They wanted a system which would reconcile justice with the cause of temperance reform. He hoped this Bill would receive the assent of the Members of the House, and that this question would not be for ever delayed because certain temperance reformers sought to go too far and give the go-by to principles which must be maintained.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
said the noble Lord the Member for South Birmingham did him the honour of referring to some statements he had made with reference to compensation, and challenged him to state whether he still adhered to them. The Prime Minister said the other day 803 that those who were not prepared to accept the compensation proposals of the Government desired to hunt the publicans like wild beasts. He was one of those who signed the Minority Report of the Royal Commission which recommended a scheme of compensation. It recommended a scheme of compensation not as a legal right, but as a matter of grace and expediency under well defined conditions, and to contend that because they made a recommendation of that kind they ought to accept a proposal for compensation of any kind, shape, or form, however ridiculous it might be, was an argument which did not seem worthy of this House. One of the conditions on which compensation was recommended in the Minority Report was that a large and immediate reduction in the number of public-houses should be secured; another was that it should be merely a temporary arrangement to overcome a temporary difficulty; another was that it should extend the discretion of the justices absolutely to every class of licence; another was that it should be carefully contrived so that it could create no vested interest whatever; and last of all it was to clear the way to effective measures of temperance reform. This Bill violated every one of these conditions. Talk about hunting the publicans like wild beasts! Temperance reformers had no hatred of the publican. They detested his trade. He would rather break stones on the high road than derive his income from that trade. They wanted to reduce the facilities for drinking and to diminish drinking in the land. He for one was willing to ease the way to that reform, but they must have the reform. He went further and said he would give much to get a settlement of this question, but this Bill would not settle it. The only thing properly clear about this Bill was that would settle nothing, and it would cause a clear and settled determination to reverse it.
The hon. and learned Member for the Stretford Division told them that the licence-holder should be indemnified. He was indemnified now by the monopoly he had enjoyed. He got a privilege which thousands of his fellow-citizens would like. He had a special privilege at the expense of the 804 rest of the community which were debarred from it. When he got that privilege granted to him he knew the conditions under which it was granted. He knew that he was liable to lose it at the end of any year, and knowing those conditions there could be no wrong or injustice when they were fulfilled, and it was taken from him. Every man in the trade knew that when he went into it, and he stayed in it with a full knowledge of the law and of the risk. A vast majority of them had gone into the trade since the law became notorious, and those who went in before had remained in it with the knowledge that they could be got out during the last sixteen years. They had deliberately stayed in, knowing the risk, and they had made enormous profits. If out of these profits they had not written down the value of a precarious security they ought to have done so. If they had not provided a depreciation and reserve fund they ought to have done so. If they had not done it they had put the money into their pockets. When they were considering the reductions made in licences in 1903, it should be remembered that throughout the country there were no brewster sessions in 1902, and therefore these reductions practically covered two years. That was his point If they took the average from that point of view the number of licences refused renewal in the first instance by brewster sessions before the Royal Commission was 331 per annum, and since the Royal Commission, for the years for which they had returns, the average was 221. Only two-thirds as many had been refused renewal in the first instance as before, and therefore there was no case whatever in the contention that the magistrates had acted in any way recklessly or harshly, or as a matter of surprise.
One of the conditions specified was that under any scheme of compensation there should be a large and immediate reduction in the number of public-houses. Under the scheme now proposed no reduction whatever was certain. None was assured. None was compulsory. The maximum levy was only to be about 1 per cent, on the capital value of the licences of the country, and the maximum levy could only be raised if every quarter sessions 805 every year raised the full amount. Did a single Member of the House believe that every quarter sessions every year could raise the full amount? No, nothing of the kind! If they excluded county boroughs and took county areas alone, there were 900 licensing areas or divisions. From the Government Returns he found that the amount available in those 900 districts would give £605 per year per licence. He was disposed to take the low value on the licence that would be taken away. He believed that it would be the smallest and least valuable of the licences that would be abolished; and it would give £605 per annum in each licensed area— a miserably small amount. He would give one or two more illustrations of what could be done in the county and licensing areas. Those who knew the city of Leeds were aware that it was not without an ample supply of public-houses: but under this Bill, assuming that in Sheffield the average value of the licences abolished was £1,000—and he thought that was an excessive value—he might state that under the reduction scheme at Birmingham, where the brewers bought up the licences under a scheme of their own—they valued them, on the average, at £1,000—the Licence Assurance Corporation had occasionally in their reports given particulars of the amount of licences lost and the amount assured, and they had worked it out at £10,000. Well now, it would take Sheffield twenty-seven years under this Bill to bring its licences down to the same proportion to the population as that which existed in Leeds, and it would take Sheffield thirty-two years to bring down their licences to the proportion which obtained in London. It would take Swansea to bring down the proportion of licences to the level of Cardiff twenty-five years. Brighton had at present 605 licences. If Brighton were licensed as London was, it would have 210 licences. He was aware that Brighton was a pleasure resort. So was London, to which people swarmed from all parts of the world. If Brighton abolished licences worth £1,000 it would take that town forty-two years to abolish the licences, and if the licences were worth £750 it would take thirty-two years. Norwich had 579 on-licences. If that city was as London, it would 806 have 186; and if these were worth £1,000, it would take more than ninety years to get down to the level of London. And this was said to be a great scheme of temperance reform! Again, take the county of Huntingdonshire. Under this scheme there would be £993 a year to deal with. That being a county, he would put the value of a licence at £500. He supposed that one licence for every 300 of the population was sufficient. There were plenty of counties in England and Wales where the proportion was less. But it would take that county 165 years to bring the licences down to the level of 300 of the population. And if the licences were worth only £250, which was a very modest figure, it would take eighty-two years to bring the county down to the level of London. The President of the Local Government Board was not in the House. Had the right hon. Gentlemen been there, ho might have been interested in the figure; for Wiltshire. In tint county £6,000 would bi available for division amongst nineteen licensing divisions. If the worth of each licence was £300 each, what prospect was there of getting rid of any number of licence? And it must be remembered that these figures depended upon the maximum power being used each year. The licences to he got rid of under the scheme of the Bill by compensation would not be additional to the number got rid of at the present time. A great many—one third—got rid of would come under the compensation scheme as "not required"; one third as "not required, and for other reasons"; and the remainder because the charge against them was flagrant and persistent misconduct. The tendency would always be to put even these under the compensation scheme. Therefore, unless the fund was very ample they would not get rid of any more licences than at the present time.
The Prime Minister referred to the action of the temperance party, and not of the temperance party alone but of the majority of the people in this country, in 1888 and 1890. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if they had lost something by that action. He ventured to say that they had done a great deal better without those Bills of 1888 and 1890 than they could have done with 807 them. Any one who viewed the facts of the case could demonstrate that they had got rid, through the action of the justices, of vastly more licences than could have been accomplished under those Bills. Those measures would have stopped a large ratio of reduction which the magistrates had made; and, moreover, the Bills would not have supplied sufficient funds to have secured the reduction of a greater number. Ho maintained that the scale of levy on the trade for compensation under the present Bill was altogether inequitable. The levy bore no proportion to the compensation that was to be paid to the houses that were to be abolished. The lowest percentage was to be paid by the smallest and least reputable beershops and public-houses in the back slums and by the flaring gin-palaces. The largest percentage was to be paid by the medium houses. He thought that attention ought to be called to the fact that this was an alteration that had been largely made since the Bill was described to the House by the Home Secretary.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS,) Kent, St. Augustine's
said he would explain that presently. The hon. Member was entirely wrong.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
said that he was entirely right, and for this reason. The right hon. Gentleman then explained that the levy to be raised would be £1 for a house of £15 and £2 for a house of £20. Therefore the percentage was not now increased at the lower end. And the percentage had been reduced in the largest houses. As the total sum to be raised was to be the same, therefore it had to be made up on the medium houses. He would give an illustration of how the thing worked. One house valued at £50 was to pay £15, or 30 per cent, on the value. Four houses valued at £12 10s. each a year would pay £4 each, or 8 per cent. Ten houses of the value of £50 a year each would pay £150. One house of the value of £500 would pay £60. One hundred houses valued at £50 each £1,500 a year: one house worth £5,000 would pay £100. That showed that the medium house was to pay most. If there was a genuine publican—a man 808 trading in his own right, the medium man—he would have to pay most, and this was the Government which talked about hunting the publicans like wild beasts! They were protecting the big brewers, which meant the small beerhouses and the big licensed houses which had got the capital to enlarge their premises—and these were the houses which were to pay little. No, it was not the temperance party that was hunting the publicans like wild beasts! Further, the publican who was to contribute to this levy was not to get one farthing of compensation. This Bill did not provide farthing for the tenant. Under the most favourable considerations the tenant was to pay one-fourth of the levy, but he would have to pay the whole of it. In many cases he was to be allowed to deduct it from his landlord under contract; but the poor fellow would find he had contracted himself out of the possibility of making his living. Before the Royal Commission they were told by a man from Hull that some of them were tied to the brewers for everything but the sawdust. A man who had to enter into bargains of that kind was necessarily not in a position to defend himself against contracts with his superior. What, then, apart from the question of contract, was the money to be paid for? It was to be compensation for the difference of the value of the house with or without a licence. But that was the landlord's interest; the tenant was not in it at all. The amount that was available for compensation must, therefore, all go to the landlord; the tenant would not get a halfpenny. The tenant had no interest in the licensed premises in that sense at all; and unless he held a lease of a house which had increased in value he would not receive one half-penny. Hunting the publican like a wild beast indeed! Then the compensation was to be perpetual, whereas the recommendation in the Report of the Licensing Commission was that it should be a temporary expedient to meet a temporary difficulty. They had always contended that the levy should depend on the reduction, and not the reduction on the levy. The only way in which they could maintain the absolute freedom of the justices and uphold their discretion was to allow their 809 power to reduce licences to remain if they so desired; and if compensation was to be provided it should only be provided for such reduction as they determined. This Bill proceeded the other way. A maximum was given, and within that limit the reduction should be confined.
The Prime Minister stated that an unlimited reduction without an unlimited levy was against the laws of arithmetic. He ventured to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was not an authority on arithmetic. He and many others could suggest to the right hon. Gentleman a method by which that could be easily managed. Mr. Edward North Buxton, who was an eminent representative of the trade, was examined before the Commission, and when he was asked what the effect of additional taxation on the trade would be, he said that it would have to be, got out of the public one way or the other. A year ago the Morning Advertiser stated that no doubt there was more than one way of taxing a trade, but that it was obvious to anyone that it was the persons who consumed the commodity in which the taxed trade dealt that would ultimately have to pay. If, therefore, there was to be a tax on the trade, the Morning Advertiser added, the only question was, what would be the fairest way of apportioning it, and what would be the easiest way of levying it. That was all the trade cared about; and, therefore, they need not trouble about the trade not being in a position to afford to pay, because according to their own statement they did not mean to pay anything. But supposing the trade did pay they would save all they paid at present for insurance, and also the money they put aside for depreciation and sinking fund. Those were not small items. Many estimates as to the value of licences had been made; but he went carefully into what he regarded as a very moderate estimate. He estimated that the market value of the on-licences in England and Wales was £125,000,000. The insurance premium ranged from 5s. per cent, to 25s. per cent, and taking an average of 10s. per cent, that would amount to £625,000, and if an average of 15s. per cent, were taken that would amount to £937,500. He did not believe the levy would ever amount to 810 more than that. The total amount was to be £1,200,000; but the full amount would never be levied in any particular year; and, therefore, the maximum would probably be from £700,000 to £800,000, which would be about, equal to the cost of insurance which would be saved to the trade if they provided a compensation fund. Therefore, nothing would be taken out of the pocket of the trade.
His next point was that the remaining houses would be enormously increased in value. They would be more valuable because they would be more profitable. One of the contentions of the trade was that the amount of drinking did not depend on the number of houses; and that if the houses wore reduced in number the amount of drinking would not be correspondingly reduced. If that were so, the same trade would be done by a smaller number of houses at much less expense and with vastly greater profit. Indeed, this Bill would be forcing on the trade what would be a very profitable transaction. There was not the slightest doubt that in almost every town in the country the trade would willingly agree to r duce the number of houses it they could come to an equitable arrangement among themselves. That was the difficulty which confronted the trade, but the Bill would remove it for them and would add enormously to the value of the remaining houses. In any event, whether the reduction in the number of houses reduced drinking or not, and he believed it would, it would it not reduce drinking in proportion to the reduction. Comparing the period from 1883 to 1903, he found that the on-licences in England and Wales had in proportion to the population declined 30 per cent., but the amount of beer sold averaged 50 percent, more per house. The number of houses were reduced, but the average quantity of liquor sold had enormously increased; and the houses wer in consequence vastly more profitable. The Bill would save the trade their insurance money and also their depreciation fund. It would enormously increase the value of the remaining houses, and, according to the trade themselves, they were going to get the cost out of the people. Once or twice he had reminded 811 the House that the brewing trade of this country was now paying only a little more than a third of the taxation that beer paid in the first thirty years of the last century. During that period, the taxation on beer and malt averaged from 14s. to 20. per barrel. The 10s. duty on beer was dropped in 1830; and the tax was now only 7s. 9d. as compared with from 14s. to 20s.; and, moreover, the price of the grain used in making beer was vastly lower. The process of manufacture had been scientifically improved, so that the brewers now produced five barrels where they only previously produced four. The liquor cost enormously less to make, and it paid less duty, and in truth the trade could afford to pay anything put upon them. It was the enormous profits which resulted from the making of beer that enabled the brewers to pay the fabulous prices they did for public-houses.
The compensation part of the Bill was bad; but that part of it which interfered with the discretion of the justices was worse. It was intolerable and indefensible, and a gratuitous and ignominious surrender to the trade. The Bill seemed to proceed on the presumption that when a system of compensation was to be provided for the trade that the trade was making some concession to the nation. But the only justification there could be for compensation in any shape or form was that it should reduce licences, and accomplish a really substantial measure of temperance reform. But this Bill slammed the door against reform and locked it. It flouted and defied every phase of the temperance movement. The whole scheme smacked of the brewery. They would be told it would make no difference in the practicable administration of the law, but the quarter sessions were to be exalted and glorified while the local justices were to be humiliated. In 1894 sixteen licences were abolished in Sheffield, and in each case there was an appeal and in fourteen cases the licence was reinstated. After those appeals had been held Mr. Dearman, the chairman of the Licensing Bench, said—I have consulted a great many of my colleagues in the borough, and they all think it is really time to alter the law with regard to these appeals.812 The whole meaning of that observation was that an authority without local knowledge, local interest, and local information, was not a body to sit in appeal on local questions. In the Royal Commission the Court of quarter sessions was scarcely supported by a single witness outside the trade witnesses. Both the Majority and the Minority Reports recommended a very material modification of the licensing authority. The Majority Report proposed to popularise the local authority; they proposed that the local authorities of all boroughs and county divisions should consist of two-thirds nominated by the justices, and one-third nominated by the county council, and that the appeals should be to the county and borough justices. The borough justices were to be put in in case of appeal in the boroughs. It was their idea to increase the local interest. The Minority Report recommended that the licensing authority should consist half of justices and half of borough or county councillors, and that the appeals should be to similar bodies similarly constituted. Under this Bill neither quarter sessions nor any other body could move until the local authority recommended. The quarter sessions had been a greater millstone, a greater obstacle in the wav of licensing reform in the county divisions than in any other part. The Return presented the other day showed the reversal of decisions, reinstatements where the licences had been refused, and renewals by the county licensing divisions in vastly more cases than in the county and municipal boroughs. In the Scotch Act of last year the local justices of the peace were put on to the appeal body, and carefully put on to the licensing authority. Why had there been a change in this case? Why had there been this utter reversal of the policy last year pursued with regard to Scotland? It was one of the accidents of licensing legislation that we should get nearer to the local body. Why this change? It was in order that the local authority should be fettered and impeded in its decisions. In the case of the 250 municipal boroughs, there was no reason for it. In those 250 boroughs there were 20,643 licenees of all kinds, and of those fifty-nine were refused in eight years, on the ground that they were not required. Fifty-nine! 813 out of 20,643! One out of every 2,800 in each year! One in every thirty-four boroughs! What case was there for taking their authority out of the hands of those boroughs? On the contrary, they ought to be relieved altogether from the authority of quarter sessions and put in the same position only more thoroughly. Instead of that they had been lectured and intimidated, and almost bullied by the Prime Minister for having done that which, as honest men they were compelled to do, and now they were to be humiliated and degraded. There was not an atom of justification for this proceeding.
With regard to those licences which were to be refused on the ground that they were not required, the local justices were to report, to recommend, to request. They were to be in the same position as an ordinary petitioner before the Court; they were only to ask. There was all the difference in the world between throwing on the Court of quarter sessions the responsibility for reversing the decision of the local authority, and the responsibility of acting on or ignoring a request. Under this Bill if the Court of quarter sessions was willing to refuse the licences they could not act without the money. What were they going to do in Huntingdon with a fund of £999 for the whole county, or in Wiltshire with £305 as the fund at the disposal of the authority. The limitations were all one way. There was no limit whatever to the power of both authorities to do nothing, but there was a very great limitation to their powers of doing anything. They were not stimulated; there was no compulsion, and they had full discretion to do nothing, but when it came to doing anything there were great limitations. The local authority was to recommend, and the Court of quarter sessions might ignore the recommendation and reverse the decision. But even if there were an energetic local authority and Court of quarter sessions, both might be unwilling to move because they had not sufficient money. Then a report was to go to the Court of quarter sessions, but apparently nobody else was to go. The Court of quarter sessions was not to see the witnesses or to hear the evidence, and to his mind when a licence had to be dealt with a very great deal depended not only on the 814 character of the evidence but the way in which it was given. But that was not to be so here. Special arrangements were to be made for the trade, but there was to be no counsel to cross-examine the trade witnesses, and no opportunity given for recalling re butting evidence. If the local authority and the witnesses disagreed, then this administrative body was to be made a Court. It seemed to him that the process ought to be reversed. The precise duty which was to be taken from the local authority—the refusal of licences on the ground that they were not required—was that which more particularly required local personal knowledge and ought to remain with them. When the Court came to deal with the question of compensation it would not know how much would be required; it would not know what the value was of the license it was going to refuse. He imagined the value of the licence would be ascertained after it was refused, and therefore the Court would not know how much money it was spending, and in its anxiety to keep within the mark it would refuse still fewer than it otherwise would. Was the full Court of quarter session; to fix the levy, and if so, were they to fix it before the local justices made their recommendations? If it was to be fixed afterwards the full Bench might so fix the levy that it would be impossible to get rid of the licences. Practically there were to be three tribunals, viz., the local body to recommend, the committee to hear, and the full body to decide whether the necessary money should be prodded, and every one would be a hindrance to the getting rid of a licence. In many cases local justices now refused renewals on the grounds of non-requirement, combined with some other reason. The cause of refusal would in future have to be separated, and, whereas the combined grounds made a strong case for refusal, those grounds taken separately would frequently result in the licence being renewed.
Again the tendency was to hinder the reduction of licences. The justices were to give reasons for their decisions. He submitted that the local licensing authority was an administrative body and, as such, was entitled to decide whether a licence was required, 815 not on the evidence alone, but on the evidence and its own judgment combined. There were many reasons justifying the refusal of a licence which could not be put into writing in such a form as would secure conviction in a Court of Law, and this provision would alter for the worse the administration of the licensing law. The importance of the power of the local justices to refuse renewals could not be over-estimated. Local just ices frequently granted licences on conditions which they had no means of enforcing other than the threat of non-renewal. Many things took place in connection with the conduct of licensed houses which could net be brought within the offences specified in the Statute, but it was absolutely essential for the good conduct of such houses that the magistrates should have the power of dealing with them. When it was known in a district that the worst managed public-house was likely to lose its licence, it created a competition amongst the houses to avoid being the victim. That stimulus to better management would be removed. The Bill was full of pit-falls, limitations, and restrictions, all of which were in the interests of the trade.
Reference had been made to the exclusion of temperance men from the bench. The House ought to recognise the distinction between opinions and interest. Brewers, publicans, and owners of public-houses were not, as such, prevented from sitting as licensing justices; the disqualification applied only to the area in which their property was situated, and in which, therefore, they had a direct financial interest. Their brewing opinions did not disqualify them from sitting elsewhere. Why, then, should men with views on the other side be disqualified? Every man on the bench who was worth his salt had opinions on this question; some declared they would not refuse licences unless they were enabled to grant compensation, others were in favour of free trade in liquor; all kinds of opinions were held, but no proposal was made to disqualify the holders from sitting on the bench. With regard to interest, there was a clear line of demarcation, but if they attempted to deal with opinions they would venture on treacherous 816 grounds. If temperance men were to be excluded from the bench what was to be said about brewers' solicitors acting as clerks to the magistrates or even sitting on the bench? Several cases of the kind were instanced before the Royal Commission. At a recent meeting of the Holt Brewery Company, as reported in the Birmingham Daily Post, after the usual business of moving the adoption of report, a shareholder asked—Why the auditor, who was also a magistrate, should take fees from the company and do nothing to help them?Another shareholder in concluding his remarks asked—Whether the auditor had sat as a magistrate at the licensing sessions, and whether he had voted in the interests of the company.In replying the chairman said—As to the auditor's attendances at the magistrates' meetings, lie had made inquiries and found that there were tour meetings which affected the trade—the auditor did not attend at three— [Cries of "Shame"]—and at the one he did attend the voting was by ballot.But the auditor was not without a friend, for his partner was at the meeting, and in pleading for his re-appointment said—His partner was strongly opposed to the principle of confiscation as laid down by Mr. Arthur Chamberlain.…He knew his partner canvassed people successfully.…His partner's sympathies were with them, and anything he could do for them, or in the interests of the trade generally he would certainly do.Was no objection to be taken to that sort of magistrate? Only last year a Member of this House sat illegally with other magistrates, and, although warned by the Lord Mayor, and the justices' clerk, persisted in taking part in the election of the licensing committee. The Attorney-General's attention was called to the matter, but, on the ground that he had received satisfactory assurance that it should not occur again, he declined to prosecute. In the face of these facts, to exclude temperance magistrates would be most unfair; and any such policy if pursued towards one side would have to be applied equally to the other.
The reduction of licences, though desirable, was not a great end in itself; but the power to deal with the licences was of vital importance. The locality ought to have power to issue licences 817 on entirely new conditions or to refuse them altogether at its discretion. This Bill would place an insuperable obstacle in the way of anything of that sort. Freedom should he given to localities to face the national scourge as best they could; until such freedom was given the evil would never begot rid of. Speaking in 1876, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said—The attempt to deal with this subject for people, and without the people, has been a conspicuous failure… But where statesmen have only made the matter worse, where Parliament has legislated to no purpose, I am still sanguine that the people themselves, if wholly trusted, would do something to mitigate the plague and stay its ravages,He was well aware that the problem was thorny and difficult; but it was also urgent, imperative, and vital. His objection to the Bill was that it was an altogether retrograde, obstructive, and deplorable measure, which stereotyped and intensified present difficulties, created new obstacles, entrenched the public-house, and endowed the brewer.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON,) Warwick and Leamington
It is a relief that in this matter, at any rate, unlike some others which have been recently before the House, Members on both sides have started from a certain common premiss. We all recognise the vast evils of drunkenness, we all regard the present system as unsatisfactory, and we all wish to do something to remedy the defects which admittedly exist at the present moment. The hon. Member for the Spen Valley, who devoted great care and acumen to the subject, has, like Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, endeavoured to impeach the figures upon which the scheme relies, and pronounced them totally inadequate. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain based his statement on an estimate of the total value of the licences, which he gave as £300,000,000, a sum which even the hon. Member has divided by nearly three. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain then took the amount that would be recoverable by this charge upon the Birmingham licensed premises at £14,000, and it turns out to be £29,000, so that he has multiplied the value of licences by nearly three, while on the other hand, in a city which he is supposed to know 818 he has divided the figure by which the compensation was to be made by two. That is not a very bad beginning for the figures which the hon. Member for Morpeth, with that charm and modesty that always characterises him, has put before us, and which he not unnaturally warns us against being committed to by this Bin, The hon. Member for the Spen Valley took the county of Huntingdon, and showed that the total fund available was only £900. But the hon. Member should not forget that this small sum recoverable by charge for the purposes of contribution showed that there must be very few public-houses in Huntingdon or that they are of small value.
§ * MR. LYTTELTON
The basis of the hon. Member's figures is £1,000 in the towns and £600 in the country. The hon. Member is quite wrong, and those figures are far too large. As my hon. friend the Member for Stretford told us in his very able and valuable speech, when you add the 32,000 1863 beer-houses which are brought in under this Bill, the figure of £1,000 in towns is preposterously large. I may say that I am now taking the value and not the number of public-houses. It is impossible for me to go into the figures at length at the present moment, and I can only give the figures which happen to come to my notice. For example, Liverpool estimates that the sum for this contribution will be £35,000 a year, and values the licences likely to be extinguished under the scheme at £500. At that rate they will be able to reduce licences in Liverpool at the rate of 70 per annum under the scheme, in addition to 25 a year which lapse at the present time. There is a report in this morning's newspaper which shows that the reduction which the county of London will be able to make under the scheme is 23 per cent. That is not a very bad result. The result of the present system, speaking broadly, over the length and breadth of the land, is that nothing is done in the way of reduction. I say that deliberately. Though there may be some 300 houses out of 100,000 reduced 819 at the present time, I say that the reduction is absolutely inappreciable in its effect upon the cause of temperance. On the other hand, as giving a general sense of instability and insecurity to the holders of licences whose trade might be ruined in a moment by the caprice of the bench, a serious damage is caused to licensed property, with a consequential effect on the character of the licence-holders.
Then there is the second point which was referred to by the hon. Member for Spen Valley and also by the hon. Member for Morpeth. Both stated that our proposal of a compensation fund hits the middleman, lets off the smallest men and also lets off comparatively the largest men. I do not like to traverse statements which the hon. Member opposite put forward, but I doubt whether the hon. Member is accurate in saying that to the middle class of licensees belong the greater number of tree houses. But the hon. Member will not deny that the peril of having their licences dealt with is infinitesimal in the case of large hotels like the Euston, the Paddington, or the Métropole. Those hotels are asked to contribute very largely to the fund for the mutual insurance of their weaker brethren. That is what the scheme comes to. This fund is a mutual insurance fund, and the large hotels pay some thousands a year in some cases to this fund by way of premium, though the risk run by them is infinitesimal. The hon. Member for Spen Valley devoted a very considerable portion of his speech to showing the greater amount of compensation which the licence-holders would get by reason of the undue appreciation which would result in regard to the value of the licence.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
What I said was that they would get an increased value to their premises, for they would have a much more profitable business by the reduction of licences and in that way they would get a return for what they paid.
§ * MR. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member says they will get an increased value by reason of the extinction of other licences, and he declares that they would be in a position TO get better compensation by reason of that. The House should take note of the important clause in the Bill which provides that compensation payable 820 for the extinction of a licence is to be calculated as before the passing of the measure. It should not be forgotten that this moment of time is taken to deal with the principle of compensation, and, therefore, the undue appreciation which will result to the value of the licence feared by the hon. Member seems to me to be unfounded.
I will deal rapidly with the hon. Member's last point with regard to the alteration proposed in reference to the jurisdiction exercised by the local justices. The hon. Member said that it was an insult to the justices of petty sessions that quarter sessions should now decline that which the local magistrates asked, instead of reversing that which the local magistrates now decided. What an extraordinary complaint. If the hon. Member and four of his colleagues were to sit and adjudicate upon a matter and arrive at a decision and I were to reverse it, I think they would have very good reason to complain, and much more reason to feel hurt than if they had asked me for something and I had declined it. That is the exact situation. At present justices sit in brewster sessions, and quarter sessions may reverse their decisions. In future, quarter sessions are to have the benefit of the views of local justices, and they may in exceptional circumstances decline to follow what they say. As has already been pointed out, in only seven cases have decisions been reversed out of 250. If that is so on the much more important issues, and if they are allowed to decide whether a licence shall go without compensation or not, that is a serious matter. Their function in the future under this Bill will be merely to decide whether a certain house is unnecessary, and whether it shall be extinguished with compensation. The hon. Member for Stretford said that the aggregate of quarter sessions is a far better tribunal to decide these questions of refusal and compensation. Why? Because they are all human, and when they meet the village publican out shooting, at a cricket match, at a harvest home, or among other incidents of village life, it is a disagreeable thing for those who sit in petty sessions and know the man to take away his licence and seriously to damage him in his business. Nothing could be more disagreeable, and 821 justices constantly shrink from the duty. I But when it is necessary to undertake this work, is it not better that the point should be decided on facts presented to quarter sessions by the local justices, and after a separate and independent investigation on the part of quarter sessions instead of by the local justices? Is it not much better that they should decide that point than that local gentlemen should do so? I quite agree with the point that the knowledge of the local magistrates may be more intimate, but I venture to think that their natural human prejudices are more likely to operate than in the case of a remoter body. I might incidentally say that a large portion of British justice is founded on the desirability of taking jurisdiction away from a local district instead of having it actually resident. I ventured to say at the beginning of my observations that the present system is indefensible, that it gives no guarantee that the worst houses should go, or that the best should stay. Its effect is inappreciable on temperance, but damaging to the principles of natural equity and justice. And why is this? I beg hon. Gentlemen interested in temperance, who, perhaps, have not seen as much of this as I have, to think of the dilemna justices are in at the present moment. They have to say on their consciences that public-houses are or are not wanted. They can see perfectly well that a house is not wanted for the purposes of a district, but they have to ask themselves, "Shall we take it away without compensation?" That is the problem. Is it surprising for the moment that in hundreds and hundreds of cases where a licence ought to be extinguished because it is not required in a district, the magistrates, being kindly, honest, and just men, shrink from inflicting so grievous a wrong.
Just permit me for a moment to trace the thing back. The predecessors of the justices are responsible for the very excess which it is now desired to reduce. They themselves granted the licences that are now superfluous and which make areas ingested with public-houses. And against whose opposition have they granted them? First, always let it be said, against the opposition of temperance people, but next, and less vehemently expressed 822 against the opposition of the licence-holders at the time. Of course, they did not wish to be competed with. They opposed in every case. Who ever heard of a new licence being applied for which was not strenuously opposed by all the publicans in the neighbourhood? The old public-houses are just those which ought to be extinguished. These houses existed fifty or sixty years ago, and the owners are the very people who opposed the new licences that made the district congested. The congestion which the owners of these very public-houses resisted is now to be made the occasion of taking away the property to which they have a right, and which they have never forfeited by bad conduct. I ask any fair man if that argument alone were put to him sitting on a bench, and if he had not been committed by previously expressed views on the subject, whether he would nor think that sufficient to establish the hardship of the case. Hon. Gentlemen who have studied the subject are aware that the matter does not stop there. The State rates and taxes, licences, and assesses them for death duties. In other words, when it suits the pecuniary interest of the State it is assumed that the licence has a permanent value. The instructions issued by the Inland Revenue on the subject, and signed by Sir Algernon West, are as follows—Death of lease-holder publican. In each of these cases it is assumed that the licence will continue to be renewed.But when the question to be considered is whether the licence should be extinguished the State is, according to hon. Gentlemen, to say that the licence has no permanent value. I ask what view would humble ordinary folk take of a Government which said: "In assessing for taxation I treat you as a permanency, but for the purpose of abolishing you I treat you as a phantom?" The gross injustice of such a position would not be exhausted even then. Assume the case of a young man succeeding to a public-house that had been in his family for years, and paying death duties on the succession. Assume that the licence is then extinguished, and that in the same town a number of other public-houses are pulled down for some street improvement. 823 Those houses would be legally compensated on the basis of thirteen or fourteen years purchase; but the young man who had paid death duties and whose licence was taken away for the same reasons of public expediency would get nothing. I take one more illustration, because it is stronger still. There is the case of the unfortunate man who for many years has conducted his house well under the most rigorous licensing law with heavy penalties in every direction, and whose licence is suddenly taken away without compensation, while in the same neighbourhood public-houses demolished in the clearing of an insanitary area are awarded full compensation. I venture to think that the Government that permits such a state of things to continue, desolating to the cause of temperance, and still more desolating to the cause of justice, would be unworthy of itself. Yet all the strongest Governments of the last thirty years have failed in the endeavour to deal with this question, because they have not recognised what Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Bruce, Lord Derby, and the right hon. Member for Montrose have all recognised.I strongly oppose any legislation—the right hon. Member for Montrose has saidwhich would overlook the fact that immense capital has been embarked in your trade in the ordinary expectation that the trade would not be interfered with.That principle, admitted by all great Liberals of the last thirty years, a principle perfectly sound, is affirmed by the almost uniform practice of the tribunals dealing with the matter, by the law of compensation since 1845, and by the law of taxation on which the Inland Revenue authorities act, and is consonant with the ideas of every fair-minded man in the community.
I assert, on this very hastily outlined sketch of the subject, if anybody is not convinced by these arguments that compensation is a sound principle he is not capable of being convinced at all. Really the crucial point in the Bill is whether the method of awarding compensation prescribed in the Bill is the right method. It is not just or right to say that it creates a vested interest. For forty years this so-called creation 824 has existed. [Cries of "No."] The House of Lords described the interest as terminable in "Sharp against Wakefield," but that decision does not exhaust the law on the subject. Other branches of the law have affirmed over and over again that that which the House of Lords called a terminable interest is a valuable interest. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Yes, it has. I will not give cases in this House, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman, and I will satisfy him afterwards, that from the Master of the Rolls forty years ago to the present Master of the Rolls that principle has been affirmed, and those tribunals which have assessed compensation upon twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years purchase have been affirmed. It may well be that the law describes this as a terminable interest, but that is not really ad rem. The point is that the law says it is a valuable interest; the law has said it a dozen times. Before this Bill was brought forward, and indeed in the time of the First Reading, it became pretty obvious from the speeches directed, not against the Bill, but against something else, that everybody except extremists on temperance matters — I believe even the hon. Member for Spen Valley, in a public document, said that they were for compensation, but that the compensation should come out of the trade. Now, we have the authority of Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, apparently endorsed by the hon. Member for the Spen Valley, that they are not entitled to take this compensation out of the trade in order to compensate the trade, because what we get from the trade is wealth, and all wealth is taxable; and we must not use for compensation the trade wealth which is available for general taxation. If that means anything, it means that you cannot get any wealth from anyone for the purposes of compensation because all wealth is taxable, and the State must have everything.
§ * MR. LYTTELTON
I absolve the hon. Member. It is not his argument. I am afraid that I have identified him with a Birmingham authority.
825 There is another point which is advanced by people for whom I entertain the sincerest respect. It is that there ought to be a time limit in the Bill. It I understand the argument rightly, it is that you have now to deal with a property which has no permanent value, but that at the end of, say, twenty years, you would still have an excessive number of public-houses which by that time would have had a fair run, and ought then to take their chance, having been granted so considerable a delay. May I venture to say that that is contrary to the scheme of the whole Bill. The scheme of the Bill is that the trade itself should compensate for extinguished licences, and a fund is set up to achieve that object. Translated into insurance language, that means that all the trade compulsorily comes into a scheme of mutual insurance, and for that the members pay considerable premiums every year. Let me give an example. I take a licensed property, freehold, let on ninety-nine years lease to a lessee on a ground rent of, say, £250 a year with a premium of £2,000. This property would pay a considerable tax in order to contribute to the fund which extinguishes licences. Obviously a well-conducted and prosperous house would be unlikely to be interfered with during the twenty years, but after the lapse of that time, and after paying a heavy premium every year, the licence-holder would still run the risk of losing his licence. The only way in which the holder of a long lease in such a case as this could make provision for that risk would be to set up an insurance fund for himself in addition to contributing to the mutual insurance fund. I venture to think that that is not a business proposition. It is not good business, nor is it sound justice. No one who has really considered this subject really anticipates the greatest things from any legislation in the cause of temperance. Legislation can do something; this Bill, I believe, will do something considerable; but I believe myself that the real hope of temperance in this country lies rather in the removal, so far as we can, of the misery to which the hon. Member for Morpeth referred, the misery of the poorer classes, the insanitary condition 826 of their houses, and the too frequent overcrowding, which are the terrible sources of drunkenness. I am for legislation which mitigates those griefs, for administrative action such as that of the London County Council for providing more recreation for the people, more open spaces, and better and more airy houses. From those things which make for a change in the hearts of the people, much more is to be anticipated than from any legislation. But we must do what we can in the way of legislation, and this proposal, which I believe has the assent of all rational temperance reformers, does at least achieve the great object of doing something for temperance without doing it, the worst dis-service of identifying it with injustice.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said that the advice given by the hon. Member on the other side to temperance reformers was of such a nature as to make these latter exclaim "Save us from our friends." The noble Lord, in his maiden speech, said that those whom he termed extremists on this question had always been the obstacle to true temperance reform; but he was bound to say that history did not justify that remark. Some extremists regarded this Bill as retrograde. His opinion was that the Bill was unique in its character in the history of the Mother of Parliaments. They had had legislation for centuries in the House of Commons in regard to licensing questions, and that legislation had always treated this trade as a dangerous trade, which must, necessarily be curtailed in the interests of the people. Never before in history had a Bill been introduced solely in the interests of the trade; and he insisted that the Bill from beginning to end was a measure to conserve the interests of the trade. There was not a word in it about the needs of the people in regard to temperance reform. The Prime Minister had spoken of it as a temperance reform Bill, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had said that in the same sense as he had declared the Education Bill to be an education reform Bill. He ventured to say with all reverence that the Bill might fitly be described as doing those things that ought not to 827 be done, and leaving undone those things which ought to be done. It was a much worse Bill than that designed by the Majority Report of the Royal Commission. There were many defects in that Majority Report which were remedied by the Minority Report; but even a Bill framed on the lines of the Majority Report would have been better than this Bill, and more acceptable to those interested in social reform. It served the interests of the trade, which needed no protection whatever.
The question was asked why they shoud touch this subject at all; but the answer was found in the position the trade assumed after the legislation of 1902. That legislation did undoubtedly to a certain extent reduce drinking and it did a much more important thing, it quickened the magistrates throughout the country in regard to the evils of drinking, in the way of reducing drinking facilities. Then the trade came and set its foot down and declared that it would stand it no longer; and just as 120 free-trade Conservatives frightened the Prime Minister, on the occasion of a celebrated Amendment, so the trade had frightened him. This was really the genesis of the Bill. The Prime Minister then turned round and called the magistrates ill-names and determined to check their powers for restricting the number of licences, and for what? Simply for doing their duty; simply for taking steps in a limited way to restrict the number of licences because they felt that the results of the present licensing system were so deplorable. After having studied the Bill very carefully, he had come to the conclusion deliberately that it was one made by and for the brewing interest, just as the Education Bill was made by and for the Bishops. The same mistake had been made in framing this Bill as in framing the Education Bill. One side only had been taken into account. He noted the fact that the maximum rate of charge had been reduced, since the Home Secretary introduced the Bill, from £150 to £100, and he asked if this had been done in order to meet a still more pertinacious demand on the part of the brewers.
Reiterating his statement that the Bill was retrograde in character, he 828 maintained that its influence would be most disastrous upon the work of social reformers. He had never entirely rejected the idea of compensation. As a licensing magistrate he quite appreciated the difficulty with regard to the selection of the licences to be reduced, and he was quite free to admit that it would in certain cases facilitate reduction if some principle of compensation were adopted. He should, in fact, be greatly more pleased with the Bill if the fund placed at the disposal of the magistrates was something like adequate; and he proceeded to argue that inasmuch as the suppression of licences would enhance the value of those remaining, the trade could very well afford to pay a much larger sum for compensation. He maintained that the gigantic tied-house system was one of the questions that should be kept prominently before the House, and he described the rateable value as an unfair basis of payment. He argued that the tenant would not get compensation, and he illustrated this point by a reference to Norwich. There, he said, there were nearly 600 licences, and three-fourths of them were in the hands of three or four large brewers. Transfers were numerous and tenants were mostly under a fortnight's or a month's notice. What compensation could such a man claim under this Bill? He was afraid he would get practically none at all. The whole amount would go to the brewers, who, although deprived of one house, would have increased trade at another. The arrangements between the publican and brewer in the Bill were most defective; they invited the owner to press the publican to contract out of any right he might have of sending in a claim under the Bill. He argued that it should be compulsory upon licensing authorities to raise a compensation fund, and he again turned to Norwich to illustrate the effect of the Bill in checking the voluntary surrender of licences. It was admitted that there was a large excess of licences, and, although there had not been a single licence withheld because the needs of the neighbourhood did not require it, there had been a reduction of fifty effected during the last few years. That reduction could go on no longer, because an absolute property would be created in houses such as had been allowed to drop 829 because they were not profitable. By the limited fund proposed it would take from fifty to seventy five years to accomplish such a reduction as was desirable, and he believed this reduction might have been obtained without any compensation. At Norwich the brewers undertook to consider a scheme, and he had no doubt that in five years they would have been able to reduce the number by at least fifty without doing corresponding harm to the trade, but this was absolutely stopped as soon as the Prime Minister uttered the words he did to the deputation which waited upon him. Congested districts where there were excessive licences were being dealt with, and would have been dealt with, but now under this Bill licensed houses would become such valuable property that it would be impossible to do anything that would appreciably affect the drinking habits of the people.
The Bill was a reflection upon the conduct, the prudence, and the judicial character of the magistrates; and it destroyed the value of the personal acquaintance of the licensing magistrates with the needs of the neighbourhood. If they could reduce the drinking habits of their fellow countrymen to the average which now existed in the United States, they would be doing more to benefit the commercial and social life of the community than any tariff reform that could be proposed. He agreed with the Colonial Secretary that they could not rely upon legislation to make the great changes which needed to be brought about in the community; still the House was bound to take such measures as it could to remove the over-numerous temptations to drink, to help the weaker vessels and to give them a chance. If the Bill advanced in the slightest degree the great social reforms which they all desired he would support it, but instead of that it trifled with and hindered the great cause of temperance reform; its root principles were wrong, it aimed at protecting the trade instead of the people; and he should, therefore, feel bound to vote against its Second Reading.
§ MR. LLOYD WHARTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Ripon)
said he would heartily support the Bill, the result of which he believed would be that justice would be 830 done in future in many cases where it was impossible for justice to be done in the past. He wished to regard the Bill from two standpoints, viz., as a member of the Royal Licensing Commission, and also as a justice and chairman of quarter sessions. The, Royal Commission recommended a scheme of compensation very much akin to that proposed in the, Bill, but he was bound to admit that he preferred the scheme of the Government. Raising money would be a much easier matter under the Bill. The scheme of the Royal Commission was that every house should have a declared value, and should pay a percentage on that value to the county fund. That scheme would raise considerably less than would be raised by the Bill. It had been said that the sum raised by the Bill would be inadequate. He thought not. The sum required was £1,200,000 a year. If they wanted to sweep away all the public-houses in England of course it would be very inadequate, but what reasonable people wished to do was to sweep away those licences which were, unnecessary. The measure of necessity was the use of a house. Not so much in the towns but in the country there were plenty that might be got rid of at £100 a-piece. If they averaged the price of removal of these houses at £500 each they would be giving a very generous average. Reckoning on the basis of £1,200,000 a year to deal with, and with an average removal of £500, they would remove 2,400 public-houses a year, or at the end of twenty years 48,000 houses would be suppressed. As there were 112,000 public-houses in England he thought that the suppression of 48,000 of them in twenty years should satisfy the most greedy and extreme temperance reformer.
It was suggested there hould be a time limit of twenty years. The result of that would be to almost entirely frustrate and abolish the financial basis of the Bill. Take a man who had for twenty years been paying £100 a year, At the end of that time he had paid £2,000. Another man who had a public-house near by at the end of nineteen years lost his license and got full compensation. But the man who had been allowed to hold on for twenty years, and at the end of that period for some reason had his license 831 suppressed, did not get a brass farthing. He did not think the hon. Member would say there was any justice in that. It might be said that the Royal Commission suggested a time limit. That was true, but their proposal was that every seven years the compensation fund should be reviewed, not stopped, because financial considerations might require that a review should be made, and it might be necessary to have further or less borrowing powers.
He did not think they would pass a slur upon the justices by passing this Bill. They were asked to inquire locally, as they were now, and to send up a report to the Court of quarter sessions. The Court of quarter sessions would he should think, in almost every case be able to agree with them, and so suppress the house concerned. Why had they not done it in the past? From one of the large towns in the county of Durham two cases were sent up on appeal to him as chairman of quarter sessions. One case was that of a publican who was compelled by the justices to spend about £300 upon his premises, and immediately after, for some unknown reason, there being no complaint against the man, the local Bench decided to take away his licence. That decision was reversed on appeal, but had there been power to award compensation it would probably have been upheld. The other case was that of a widow who had had a licence granted to her. She had £1,000 of her own, and she borrowed £1,400, and with this money she set up in the house. Very soon after the house was gutted by fire. She patched up the place as well as she could, and spent all her profits in repairing the ravages of the fire. This went on for two years, and then, when the repairs were nearly finished, the local bench thought fit to refuse the renewal. That decision also was reversed, and he thought they did rightly, though had they had the power of compensation they might have supported the decision of the Court below. He believed the Bill, so far from creating injustice, would enable magistrates to do justice and to remove hardships, and for these reasons he should support the Second Reading.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said the cases quoted by the right hon. Gentleman were exceptional, and did not afford much assistance. The renewal in the latter of the two cases was refused on the ground of structural defects, and that was one of the conditions under which, even after the present Bill, the licence might be withdrawn without compensation. The Colonial Secretary had used some extra-ordinary arguments. In connection with the proposed time limit, he had pointed to the hardship that would be suffered by a man who paid to the compensation fund for twenty years, and then had his licence taken without being compensated. Was not the obvious answer that the man had had twenty years protection for his twenty years payments? He had really been insuring himself against accidents. The right hon. Gentleman had also argued that the House was merely following the "Sharp v. Wakefield" decision to its logical issue in declaring that the owner of a public-house was a mere licensee in the bare meaning of the word, whereas a Government Department had recognised him as possessing a vested interest by assessing compensation when the property was taken under compulsory powers. No more absurd proposition was ever put before the House. The Department had simply taken things as they found them. They had recognised that the man had, so to speak, a reasonable expectation of life for so many years, and had assessed compensation on that basis. As to the compensation fund, which was alleged to be ample, he had analysed the figures as far as they were available for various countries. In Durham there were about 2,000 public-houses, varying considerably in value, and the total amount available for compensation would be about £25,000 per annum. Such a sum was a mere bagatelle, and in the opinion of persons qualified to speak would do nothing to ameliorate the present state of things. Wales enjoyed an unfavourable preeminence in respect to the number of public-houses. In a division of Glamorganshire there were sixty-one public-houses to 6,000 inhabitants. In Prestatyn there was one public-house to every twelve adult persons, whereas in Manchester the proportion was one to 130 persons, and in West Ham one to 355. 833 Did the right hon. Gentleman really believe that the great evil of intemperance could be removed by such means as this Bill provided? It afforded no remedy by which the evil could be effectively grappled with. The people in the North of England, recognising the great evils which they suffered from the abuse of the public-house system, did not regard this Bill as offering a final solution of the difficulty, or even as going one step in the right direction.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.