§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [28th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'this House declines to proceed further with a measure which, while failing to promote the cause of temperance, violates the principles of equity'"—(Mr. Cave)—instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
Before I approach the question which we have under discussion a pleasanter and an easier duty falls to my lot owing to the fact that yesterday during the course of our proceedings no Member sitting on this Bench had the opportunity to offer to the Prime Minister, on his first appearance in what I may call perhaps our practical, ordinary, everyday life here, our warm congratulations upon his accession to the most distinguished office in the State, and our conviction that he will fill it with credit to himself and with honour to the great country over whose destinies he is now called upon to preside. I am also glad and ready to bear testimony to the very admirable speech, if my hon. and learned friend will permit me to praise him and his words, delivered yesterday by the Member for the Kingston Division. I do not hesitate to say that as far as I am entitled to voice any of the opinions of the Opposition, and as far as I desire to see the case for the Opposition 1271 put before the House, everything that I could desire or ask for was done yesterday by my hon. and learned friend, and I believe, however strongly Members opposite may have differed from him either in his arguments or in his conclusions, nobody will deny that he put his case in very strong and clear terms, and put it to the House in a manner which made even his strongest opponents unable to differ from him with any feeling of bitterness. For my part, I wish with all my heart that the debate could end there, especially because it would relieve me of the duty which devolves on me of taking part in it, but also because it is very difficult for anybody who does not possess my hon. and learned friend's acute intellect and long training in judicial work to speak upon this question without running the risk of possibly spoiling the excellence of some of the points which he put so clearly. But I suppose it would be regarded as contrary to our Party system if we were to introduce so simple a procedure as a speech on each side and then a division, and I have no doubt that, while the Government of the day would accept such an innovation with delight, whenever that Government became an Opposition their views would be diametrically changed as to the advantages of the proposition. The Prime Minister, in his speech yesterday at the opening of our proceedings, called upon us on this side to formulate our case. He referred to the Act of 1904 for which we were responsible, and references were also made to it by succeeding speakers, including the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, and it was more than once asked "How can you justify the ground you have taken up having regard to the fact that you were responsible for and passed the Act of 1904?" I venture to say that there is to be found in the Act of 1904 no precedent whatever for the legislation which we are now called upon to consider. Further, I venture to say that this Bill proceeds upon lines exactly opposite to those which were pursued by the promoters of the Act of 1904. What was the main object of that measure? It was to provide an easy, and above all, an equitable machinery by which unnecessary and superfluous licences could be got rid of. That Bill when it was introduced brought about with a section of the licence-holders a distinct bargain, value 1272 being given for value. The Under-Secretary claimed as evidence of the force of the law that previous to the passing of the Act of 1904, and quite recently, there had been 700 or 800 licences suppressed without compensation. Nobody denies that fact; nobody on this side of the House denies that right to the exercise of their powers in what we regard as an arbitrary way by certain limited benches, which brought this question to the fore. And why was it that the use of these powers was limited to certain benches? It was because, in the case of the great majority of the magistrates of the country, their sense of justice revolted against the idea of exercising a power which, however long it might have existed, had certainly lain dormant for a long time, in order to take away without compensation the living of respectable people who had regarded their property as one which would be continuous if they took proper care of it and behaved themselves properly. That bargain was made, and what did those ante-1869 licence-holders surrender? They surrendered a right which nobody now disputed. It was not disputed that the ante-1869 licence-holders had a right different from those who followed. They surrendered it, and in return for what? In return for the right to full compensation for the business and property they were surrendering, that compensation to be provided out of a levy to which they were themselves to contribute. To claim the Act of 1904 as a precedent for this legislation is, I venture to say, a claim which cannot be sustained by anybody who remembers what took place when that Bill was in Parliament, or who realise what was the effect of that Act upon our licensing laws. It was claimed by the Under-Secretary last night that one of the great reforms the Government were effecting was one dealing with the new, licences. That was one of the reforms contained in the Act of 1904, for which we were responsible. The fact that that Act was claimed as a measure of temperance reform is undoubtedly true, but it was only based upon this ground, that where it is proved that unnecessary licences exist, there it is desirable to enable their removal to be effected without arousing bitter controversy and without doing a great injustice, and these results were arrived at by the passing of that Bill. Those results were effected by the Act of 1273 1904. Can anybody say that similar results will follow from the Bill we are now considering? We heard last night a speech from the Under-Secretary for the Home Office which did not want in ability. He certainly had official sources of information at his command, but there was not one statement controverting the case advanced by my hon. and learned friend the Member for Kingston, who showed that if this Bill passed in its present form or practically in any form and if its operation were to extend to the the country generally the gravest injustice would be inflicted upon a large number of innocent people. The only way in which the Government and their supporters have met that case is by falling back upon the fact, which was known to everybody and has no relation to this question of injustice, that at one period in the history of the licensing trade advantage was taken of what was believed to be a time of great prosperity and that some businesses were sold at greatly inflated prices. Nobody denies that at all. But the great brewers and the owners of these businesses are not the only people who have suffered by what has happened, and they are not the only people who ought to be considered. And what is more; surely it is bad enough that people should have suffered by bad finance and operations of that nature. In some cases these businesses have recovered. But there are many cases, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster stated last night, where the publichouses belong to small local brewers. There are no harder cases to be found than those. In a part of Wiltshire there are a large number of public-houses which are attached to small breweries and arc conducted by the men who own both. How are you going to deal with those cases? The only answer which has been given to that question is that they are trading on the results of the folly and bad finance of these people, or that they are making calculations in regard to the future upon some false basis. Of course, it is quite natural for those who are responsible for this measure, and who I hope believe in it, to wish to make the best case they can, but there has not been one statement made on the Government side which disposes of the facts and figures brought before the House by my hon. and learned friend. Those facts and figures are the results not of fancy calculations of laymen, 1274 not of persons interested in making out the best possible case, but of the best experts in the land, men who are intimately acquainted with all the pitfalls and difficulties of such estimates. I repeat that neither in its composition nor in its operation can the Act of 1904 be cited as a precedent for the Bill we are now considering. The Prime Minister has asked us two questions, and I will endeavour plainly and briefly to answer them. The right hon. Gentleman must realise what is sometimes not realised by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway—I do not blame them for it—that we are in a difficult position in the absence of the Leader of the Opposition, who was himself responsible for the Act of 1904, and who is the only man entitled to speak with a single voice on behalf of his Party. But I believe I shall not be misstating the position of my right hon. friend, although I cannot hope to express it in his terms, in answering those two questions. The first question was, Do you admit and approve of a time-limit? I confess I was rather surprised that the Prime Minister asked that question, and for this reason. That question was frequently raised by hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House during the debates on the Act of 1904, but it was raised in different circumstances and in a different form. My right hon. friend who was then Prime Minister stated distinctly, and I believe it is his opinion now, that a time limit is absolutely incompatible with a concurrent levy for insurance. That is our view now. The Act of 1904 involved a serious compact between Parliament and those with whom we were then dealing, and it gave most clearly power to dispose of licences on condition that fair and reasonable compensation was paid. The hon. Member for Appleby, who dealt with many of these questions in a very light-hearted fashion, talked about this insurance as a thing which could be easily done. I wonder on what authority he spoke! I heard him afterwards talking about the way in which beer was brewed, and when challenged with making an absurd statement he immediately confessed he knew nothing about it. I do not know whether he made the statement about insurance on the same foundation; but this I do know, that no one has yet produced a practical scheme of insurance which 1275 would enable the owners of a property like this to provide against the time limit if concurrently they had to provide the money necessary for their own insurance. That is a complete answer to the question of a time-limit. Now the second question which the Prime Minister asked us was: Are you in favour of the recovery of the monopoly value by the State? The Prime Minister said he he was entitled to an answer, and I think he is. I regard it very much from the point of view of the injury you would do to the owner of a particular class of property. I deny altogether that this question has any connection, however remote, with the question of temperance, and I believe that those who have studied this question longest hold the same view. If you take the grave step of transferring these licences from the individual to the State, a diminished consumption of alcoholic liquor is not likely to be the result. I am not sure that the Under-Secretary, in the inner recesses of his mind, does not hold the same view. He himself hardly became enthusiastic last night until he reached that part of his speech in which he told the House that a vast revenue would come to the State from this change. Therefore I deny that this question of the recovery of the monopoly to the State is a temperance question. It is not a temperance measure, but a fiscal measure pure and simple. The Under-Secretary seemed to say that we had confused what is meant by the monopoly value. We are grateful to him for that, and for attempting to give us fuller information; but I can assure him that we quite understand that all the State desires to become possessed of is the licence value. But before the Government come forward with a proposal of that kind—if the State decides that it is right in the interests of public morality and of the general community that that should be done—they must be prepared to accompany it with an undertaking that a fair and reasonable price will be paid for that which is to be taken away. The Prime Minister has said that he thought owners of property were ill-advised to fight this Bill, and that they were incurring risks to themselves. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that these statements as to the effect of this Bill upon the rights of property come not from us or from property owners, but from the leaders of the Socialist Party. 1276 The Prime Minister went on to say that he bad settled all these points to his own and his Government's satisfaction, and that now all that was necessary was to give the trade time to turn round and make provision for themselves. The trade must turn round uncommonly quickly if they are to make provision for themselves in the time allowed by this Bill. The Prime Minister told us that all the owners of this vast property had long been aware of the fact that the ownership was attended by risks, and that the fact that they bad made no provision showed them to be most imprudent in matters of finance. The hon. Member for Appleby whose language was not well chosen, talked of it as rotten finance.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES (Westmoreland, Appleby)
What I said was that if they had nut made provision it was rotten finance.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
That is exactly what I said. I was only referring to the elegant language of the hon. Member. The hon. Member is not responsible for this Bill. The Government are. I am informed that not an inconsiderable number of licensed houses have been owned by Government Departments. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether anyone of those Departments, whether under a Unionist or a Radical Administration, has ever made provision for the case that has arisen. We know that in most recent times they have not only not made provision by that prudent finance which the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Appleby warmly extol, but that they have sold public-houses at the highest market price, and left it to somebody else to indulge in prudent finance to protect the new owners of the property which has been depreciated by this proposed legislation I think that the owners of brewery property, large and small, may regard with complacency the charges of rotten finance when they find that the Government as owners of public-houses have made no provision of a similar kind themselves. The Prime Minister told us that he would welcome suggestions with regard to clubs. That is all very well, but the Prime Minister knows that this club question touches the people more closely than any other. To parade 1277 this Bill as an efficient measure of temperance reform because it deals with public-houses and not with clubs, and then to say to the Opposition, "We ask you what we are to do with clubs," is to act as a parent of this Bill in a very indifferent manner. The hon. Member for the Appleby Division made two statements which I venture directly to challenge. He made a statement about the personal honesty of all those who are opposing this Bill. That reminds me that I ought not, I suppose, to address the House, and shall come under his ban because I own £2,000 or £3,000 worth of shares in a brewery, and I suppose my position is vitiated by that fact.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES
My statement was that those from whom I have received protests were interested in the trade.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
If the hon. Member denies the accuracy of my recollection I at once withdraw the statement. But his statement was that he had been unable to meet anybody except those who are interested in the trade who were not in favour of the Bill.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES
What I intended to say and what I think I said was that the protests I had received were from persons interested, and I went on to mention letters which I had received.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Of course I will accept his explanation at once. If I have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, I at once withdraw. But he will not forget that in one of his perorations—I forget which—he made a magnificent statement. He said—Mr. Speaker, this is a case of good or evil.When he made that statement I ceased to wonder why the temperance party made such little progress. I was at a loss to know which to wonder at most—the arrogance of the claim which he advanced for himself as the representative of good, or the insolence in describing us as the representatives of evil. I beg to say that the cause of temperance reform will not be advanced by charges of that kind flung across the floor of the House. We are entitled to claim that we are actuated by motives as honest, and convictions as strong, as are those of Gentle- 1278 men opposite. [Cheers.] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to cheer those sentiments, but to allow your colleagues to describe us as evil against your good is a different thing. I bring no accusation of motives against hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe that the strongest advocates of the temperance movement are the men who are the real authors of this Bill, because their action in the country has led to its introduction, and they have never concealed their view that they look upon the drink traffic as an immoral traffic. Their object is to get rid of the traffic altogether. I do not blame Gentlemen who hold those views if they wish to destroy it altogether; but, holding those views, I object when they say that they are pleading here only for a moderate Bill. They believe that they have no cause to be ashamed of those views, and, holding them, they ought to demand that all those connected with the traffic should be suppressed, and the scantiest justice meted out to them. I complain that some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite come here, assume for themselves all the virtues in the world, and attribute to us all the evils, and say that all the opposition to this Bill is confined to those interested in the trade. How any man who goes about, who travels by train or 'bus, or walks, can make that statement, amazes me. He must go about with his eyes shut. I am not going to talk about by-elections, because I do not think one thing alone affects by-elections; but anybody who reads the reports of these by-elections knows how this Licensing Bill has aroused a great feeling amongst men. It is not a fair charge to say that those only who are interested in the trade are opposed to it. We have wondered why the Government think it necessary to bring in this Bill. The Under-Secretary said last night—You will not deny that intemperance is a great evil.No one on this side of the House denies that, and much is being done to make this nation sober. I agree that there is still room for amendment, but the Bill is far more likely to set back the hands of the clock. An hon. Gentleman said yesterday that he had never listened to a temperance debate in which Members did not say they agreed with temperance reform, but—there are always "buts." Is there not the biggest 1279 "but" to be found in this Bill? What is the "but"? You are seeking to advance temperance at the cost of fair dealing and justice. Is not that a fair justification for our opposition? We know that the Act of 1904 was working smoothly and well, and with increased rapidity. Though it might be necessary to make some amendment in it, I do not believe any radical alteration was necessary. It is claimed by the Government that the present Bill is better than the Act of 1904. Looking at the clauses, I cannot find that there is any certainty that any man who owns a public-house will get a penny more than under the Act of 1904, and I do not think his prospects are so sound as they were under the previous Act. If that falls to the ground, what becomes of the rest of the arguments which rest on the connection between the number of licensed houses in the country and temperance itself. It has been conceded by the Prime Minister that it is not held or claimed by the Government that this reduction of public-houses is in itself likely to result largely in temperance, but that it only contributes to that result. I think that is a fact that will be generally accepted. But I think you can carry it farther. The figures quoted by my hon. friend yesterday dealing with the number of licences in various counties and the number of convictions for drunkenness are very startling. But anyone who studies them carefully as I have done cannot but see that the relation between the number of houses and the number of convictions for drunkenness form very unreliable evidence in support of reduction as a means towards sobriety. I was amazed at the argument of the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs, based upon Home Office information, that these figures are not reliable because of the different methods among the police, who were more active in some places than in others. We are told that the Government lay down what the minimum reduction shall be, and they say that in proportion to the population per acre there shall be only a certain number of houses, and that this will contribute to temperance. I take the case of two villages I know myself, in one of which I live. The other is seven miles away. Both are under the same police force, and both are well policed by active and admirable men, who are changed from time to time, so that there 1280 may be no risk of collusion. These are the results. In one village you have a population of 459, you have two licensed houses, and there has been one conviction in five years for drunkenness. The reports from the police, who are very active, are thoroughly satisfactory. In the other village, where the class of people and the employment and general conditions are the same, the population is about 760. There are four licensed houses and one off-licence. There have been two convictions in ten years, and one in five years, and one of these persons did not belong to the place. What is going to be the operation of this Bill in such a case? How are you going to differentiate between the two villages? The number of convictions is the same; the sobriety of the villagers is the same; their general conduct is the same, and the police are the same. Are you going to reduce these licensed houses, and if so, what evidence is there that by their reduction you will do anything except to close a public-house which at present is well conducted, and which, from all we can tell, is desired by the people themselves? What advantage would there be in closing that public-house? It would be closed simply because hon. Members opposite said that whether it was necessary in the interests of the people or not it was to go, because it was a public-house. I come now to what I think is the most remarkable change under this Bill. This Government, this great strong Liberal Government, talking as they have done of trusting the people—what have they done to local government by this Bill? They have made the most startling change that has been made in our local government system for many a year. Ever since they came into office they have been doing their utmost to interfere with local government, first with regard to land, and now in a still more drastic and startling way with the local authorities in the counties. When we, in our 1904 Bill, gave an appeal against the local authority to the quarter sessions they denounced us for doing so, because they said the local authority would know the wants of the people better than quarter sessions. How have they followed their preaching by practice? They do not go to the quarter sessions. They appoint a Commission to sit in London, which, if the 1281 local authority say there is no change required, and that everything is satisfactory, come down and say, "You are to frame a scheme, whether you like it or not, which will result in so many houses being reduced. You can select the people who are to suffer under the scheme, but we order you to do this against your better opinion." Is that a democratic reform of local government? When this Government have done, if they live another year or two, I wonder what will be the result on our local governing bodies They will have practically no power left. Two or three Commissions in London will do all the work of local government. A more extraordinary change than this has never been made, I think, in local government, nor one that is more improper. We have heard a great deal about clubs, and some of the Government's own supporters have plaintively implored the Government to do something more in regard to this matter. On this question I desire only to speak for myself. I admit that in the club papers that have reached me quite a startling list of clubs is given in which the performances seem to be of rather a peculiar character. I do not know why, but they are all put down as Radical democratic clubs. I daresay there may be others. I have not selected them, but the fact remains that in these papers they are so described.
§ SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER (Yorkshire, W.R., Spen Valley)
The papers are circulated in Radical clubs, and therefore give information about the Radical clubs.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Obviously. They would not advertise Conservative clubs as that would spoil their takings. I have some knowledge of working men's clubs myself, and I do not think this House ought to jump to the conclusion that the majority of such clubs are conducted on the lines we have heard described. The majority, I believe, are conducted by men as honourable, as fond of sobriety and good conduct as any man in this House or out of it. But the Government say, "We must reduce the number of licences by a fixed and wholesale quantity." Why? "Because," as the hon Gentleman the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs said yesterday, "we do not want to offer this extra 1282 temptation to drinking." Now whether a club is well or badly conducted has nothing to do with the argument of the Government, whose ground is the reduction of places where drink can be obtained I hold that to bring in this Bill is to destroy a large portion of this trade, which proceeding, not only the trade, but thousands of other people regard as grossly unjust, and it will bring about the almost inevitable result of opening clubs which, however well-conducted, are not subject to any of the limitations imposed on public-houses. To introduce as a measure of temperance reform such a Bill is a sham and a farce. It is idle to ask us to frame clauses in regard to clubs. The Government are responsible for their own Bill, and they have no right to pretend that by police regulations they are really dealing with the temperance question. It has been said that we who are supposed to be for some reason the special defenders of the rights of property are unwise in allowing this class of property to be in any way associated with property such as freehold estates. We do not ourselves select the methods by which we are attacked. We have only to defend, and when we observe the easy steps by which Gentlemen opposite pass from the old paths of Liberalism into the paths of modern up-to-date Radicalism we are naturally apprehensive of suggestions of this kind, especially when we find how they are being used by some of the most thoughtful and capable of those who call themselves Socialists. Mr. Hyndman said—One part of this Bill he did like, and that was the fourteen years time-limit, for the expropriation of brewers and publicans. If the expropriation of public-houses and breweries could be done in fourteen years, why not cotton mills, coal mines, etc.? He thought it was an excellent proposal, and was much obliged to Mr. Asquith for telling him that fourteen years was the limit for the expropriation of property.Then there was the Member for Blackburn who said—The Labour group in Parliament do not think that the Government produced this Bill under the belief that it is a Socialist Bill, but we do believe that in principle it is a Socialist Bill, tending to leave in the hands of the people and restore to the people that which they ought never to have parted with.That is cheered. Then where does the blame arise for the part we took? We 1283 have heard exactly that language in this House—and not from Socialists—addressed to those who nave been possessors of agricultural land. The very language used here has been used by every speaker who has taken part in any of the land debates in this House; therefore, are we unwise in expressing our profound regret that the Government have introduced in this Bill a principle which we believe to be the thin end of the wedge which others will drive in for them as time goes on? It is quite unnecessary for me to add to the list of cases which have been produced in this House. A most remarkable list of figures was given by Mr. Peat, a recognised authority and expert, who is perfectly impartial in this matter, He gave a selection of breweries which he said were stable concerns, and not of the class described by those who talk about "bad finance," and he showed what would be the loss on those undertakings if this Bill passed. My hon. and learned friend the Member for Kingston gave a series of individual cases, and, if I had the time, I could give others of women who have been left money on sound mortgages of property of this kind, which provides them now with their only means of livelihood. These investments were the results of savings left them by their husbands. The greater part if not the whole, of that will go; and I say, if this money is to be sacrificed, those people are not the people who took advantage of the inflated prices; they did not take advantage of the boom bait; they lent their money on the sound security of individual houses in different places. Without compensation at the end of the time-limit—fourteen years—it is impossible for them to provide against what they will lose. The Government say under this Bill that the property is to be taken from them, and then they criticise us because we say that legislation of this kind is pure confiscation. It takes away the property of people who rightly own it, property which has been recognised by the State, which has been taxed by the State, which has been owned and sold by the State, and which has paid death duties to the State; and on what ground? From the beginning 1284 to the end upon the ground of the firm belief that it was a continuous and abiding possession. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Oh."] Most unquestionably. Does anybody really seriously believe that where a man buys an extensive property, where, on the demand of the justices, he spends a large sum in improving it and making it suitable for his trade requirements, he does that without the conviction in his mind that there is practically a continuous security so long as he behaves himself and so long as he conducts his business properly? I say it is against commonsense that these people who invested their money had any other idea in view. I say that if that money is taken and you give them nothing, or even a small fraction, in return you will be doing a gross wrong, which possibly will not be exaggerated if people describe it as pure robbery—robbery as pure and simple as it can be, if you take the possessions of these people which they have held on those terms and give them no compensation other than you give them in this Bill. But what about the people whom you hope will conduct this great business in the future? It has been suggested that these houses have been badly conducted. If you want the best, kind of men to occupy them, are you taking steps by this Bill which are likely to lead the best men either to buy or to occupy these premises? Are you giving any inducement to the class of men I have described to go into this business? I believe that this measure will not conduce to temperance, while it will do a gross injustice to a large number of people in this country. It will deteriorate those who have hitherto conducted the business, and it will lead a vast number of people in this country to think that injustice is being clone by the Government; they will be as shocked as we are about a proposal which we believe to be wrong, and which we believe will do nothing for the cause of temperance.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir SAMUEL EVANS,) Glamorganshire, Mid.
I think a great many Members of the House will agree with me that the latter portion of speech of the light hon. Gentleman was not the most forcible so far as argument is concerned. I am 1285 not to be deterred from discussing this Bill by these references and general attacks by people like Mr. Hyndman and others upon various classes of property; because we are here dealing with a particular trade, which has been under the control of the State for 500 years and which will continue to be under such control, not only in this country but in other countries as well. Now let us address ourselves to this particular Bill. I have listened with great care to the right hon. Gentleman in order to see whether or not he really agreed with us that there was still a gigantic evil arising out of the drink-traffic with which we ought to deal. He used some words, not very strong, in which he said there was a good deal still to be done. The Act of 1904 has been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and he was one of those who were responsible for that measure. He said that we had not followed the precedent of the Act of 1904 in any respect. I want to point out to him two or three matters dealt with by the Act of 1904—which was not an Act for confiscation, but an Act to produce temperance reform—which we have followed closely in the measure now before Parliament. The first principle of the Act of 1904, and the first respect in which we have adopted it as a precedent, is that the reduction of licences is not only a good thing but a necessary thing for the purpose of producing temperance. If there was one principle in the Act of 1904, that was the principle. When the right hon. Gentleman took part in framing that measure did he then think that his answer was enough to the allegation made by us, not only made but accepted by practically everybody, that there is a connection between the number of licences with reference to population and excess in the drink traffic, not necessarily always excess manifesting itself in drunkenness, but excess manifesting itself in the people spending a great deal more money than they ought to spend in justice to themselves and to their families by taking part in this drink traffic——
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
It is ascertained in this way, that the drink bill of 1286 this country amounts to the enormous sum of over £160,000,000.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to ask how he ascertains that the number of licences in any particular place has a connection with the amount spent in drink, apart from the amount of drunkenness? What are the statistics which he has got in his mind?
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
The right hon. Gentleman did not allow me to continue. I was pointing out what was done under the Act of 1904, and I was assuming that the reduction you intended under the Act of 1904, and of which you now boast as the result of the Act of 1904, had some connection with temperance reform, which was the object that you had in passing the Act. I was going on to say that it wants some better answer than that which was made by the right hon. Gentleman when he referred to two villages with a few hundreds of population, where there was one conviction for drunkenness in five years in one of the villages with four public-houses, and two convictions for drunkenness in ten years in the other village, with two public-houses, or something of that kind. It is idle to take individual instances of that kind as covering a great area of ground. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would not expect anybody to accept from that, as a result of the arguments used, that there is no connection between the number of public-houses and the extent of the drink traffic. As I understand, under the Act of 1904, that was the basis of the reduction in the number of public-houses, or why did you reduce the licences to the extent of 600 or 700 per annum? In respect of the reduction of licensed premises we have followed the precedent of the Act of 1904 and extended it. The extension we make is this. If it is a good thing it ought to be spread all over the country. If it is a good thing for one part of the country surely it ought to be a good thing to promote temperance in another part of the country. If it is a good thing for one set of justices who are keen for temperance on their own incentive and in their own discretion, it is a good thing for Parliament and other justices to 1287 follow the example of those justices. Another respect in which we have followed the Act of 1904 is that we grant compensation in respect of all licences which would be extinguished during the fourteen years, from let April, 1909. It is really a period of fifteen years from the present time. I am coming directly to the amount of compensation. Of course the amount of compensation is a very important matter in connection with this Bill. The basis of compensation is different in our Bill from that which it has been determined to be under the Act of 1904. Then another respect in which we have followed the Act of 1904 as a precedent, is that we say that after the reduction period, in respect not only of new licences but of all licences, the State has an interest in and claims the monopoly value. If the reduction is right, I have shown how we have extended the operation of the Act of 1904. Now I want to come to the question of the amount of compensation. We on this side have alleged, I believe with truth, and we have challenged the authors of the Act of 1904 to deny it, that it was the intention of that Act to give compensation not upon the basis of profits to the brewer but upon the basis of the difference in value of the premises with a licence and the value of premises to which no licence is attached. We know what the decision of Mr. Justice Kennedy was, and we know what it is. Of course the trade fastened upon that decision, and they desired to have compensation upon the profits, showing, as has been said, that they can have 125 years purchase of the value of premises as assessed for poor rate purposes. But was that the intention of the Government in the Bill they introduced in 1904? The right hon. Gentleman knows, and if he does not answer I cannot compel him to answer. We are satisfied that the intention of the framers of that Act was the same as that of the Government, namely, to compensate merely upon the basis not of the profits of the brewer but of the difference between the value of the premises licensed and the value of the premises without a licence.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Will the hon. Gentle 1288 man quote a single word in support of that argument?
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
Yes. The right hon. Gentleman was one of the authors of the Act. Will he deny that that was the intention? I have asked him, and he does not deny it.
§ SIR E. CARSON (Dublin University)
May I say that I had to do with that Bill in its conduct through the House, and I know that that never was the intention. The intention was that the market price should be taken, just as you take the market price for the death duties. What we always had in our mind was that, as the death duties were assessed so ought the compensation to be assessed.
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
That does not answer the question. The right hon. Gentleman has not yet said that it was the intention of the promoters of that Bill to compensate on the basis of profits to the brewer. The right hon. Gentleman referred in terms of praise, in which I join, to the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston yesterday, which was admirable in many respects, but it was not accurate in every particular, and it was not accurate upon this question of compensation. He referred to the argument of the Prime Minister and to the judgment of Mr. Justice Kennedy and said—The effect of the Kennedy judgment was that if under the present Act a licence was refused the owner was entitled to the market value of the licence. What the learned Judge said was that in order to get the market value you must consider what the licence would fetch by public auction.So far from that being accurate, the learned Judge based his calculations upon the profits which the brewer made.
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
Mr. Justice Kennedy, in regard to one of the houses called "The Crown," assessed the compensation in the following way. He took the barrelage which was agreed to be 169 barrels and the various figures given by the expert witnesses of the profit on the barrels to the brewer; 1289 then he adopted a middle figure, put ing the profit at 14s. 6d. per barrel, and this annual profit capitalised at ten years purchase made the total figure £1,412 10s. Therefore, the method adopted by the learned Judge was the number of barrels supplied by the brewers for consumption on the premises, and the profit to the brewer in respect of each barrel, and then he took the ten years purchase on that; yet the hon. Member said the learned Judge said they must not have regard to the profit of the brewer. With regard to compensation, I have admitted that it will not be anything like as much under our Bill so far as the brewer is concerned as it is now under the law declared by Mr. Justice Kennedy. So far as the fairness and justice of the case admits, we are giving compensation on a proper basis when we take into consideration the number of years purchase accorded by Mr. Justice Kennedy. Under the Act of 1904, it was never intended that this House should never adhere to the principle of a time-limit. The matter was left entirely open. What is the remedy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman and his Party now for the evil which he admits does still exist? He has a right, of course, in this debate to make a speech purely by way of criticism, but I did not hear a single suggestion of any sort of remedy to meet the gigantic evil which still exists in the carrying on of the drink traffic in this country. The 1904 reduction would not go on for a long time for many reasons. The justices when they were weeding out the worst houses would not use their discretion to shut up the larger houses, and there would be this difficulty in the way—that they would not have the means wherewithal to pay compensation for them; therefore, the time must come when the policy of the Act of 1904 would come to an end and must be supplemented by some measure such as the one we are now bringing in. This is a Second Reading debate. Many points have been made which are Committee points, although I admit they are important; points, for instance, as to the fourteen years being a sufficient reduction period, and the terms of the compensation basis, 1290 but there is nothing underlying this Bill except the principle of control of the licences by the nation and the principle of having a reduction period at all. I am prepared personally to adopt as my own the principle of the Bill, as stated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a speech he made yesterday. That is a clear issue upon which the House can divide upon the Second Reading. The Archbishop says—The main principle is that after all such processes as may be required to make it fair and considerate have been carried through the State, shall, and the people of England shall, for that is the same thing, regain and hold due control and power over a trade which stands in some respect apart from all other trades as to its possible effect upon national well-being in the lives of the men and women of England.That is a simple principle which is really the dividing issue between us apart from these other questions more fitly and properly and conveniently dealt with in Committee upon which the House will be asked to record its views. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to the Prime Minister, gave this rather qualified reply to the question as to whether or not he supported and approved the time-limit. He says—We do not approve of the time-limit because it is incompatible with the compulsory levy.That, of course, says that the time-limit in this Bill does not meet with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the Party which he now leads, as applied in this Bill. There still remains the question: Is he in favour of a time-limit for the purpose of being able to deal with this trade or not, because you will never deal effectually with the evil arising out of the drink traffic unless you have at some period or other—and this is not the time to discuss whether fourteen years is the right period—the full right of control by the State, which unfortunately it has lost since 1904, but which up to that time it had in the fullest measure except with regard at the pre-1869 beer-houses. I am not going into the long controversy with regard to that. The House is very familiar with the history of the subject, but I desire to protest—I think I did once before—against the suggestion that any bargain was made by this House with respect to buying the right of the State to control these licences. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the word bargain 1291 to-day. Between whom was the bargain made? Who are the agents on the one side and on the other? Who are the principals represented by those agents? A bargain was never made in this House, and this House, whatever bargain was made outside by other people of which we know nothing, cannot be tied to any such bargain as that. Brewers can tie their houses, but they cannot tie this House. I want to say one or two words with reference to the alleged injustice at the end of the fourteen years period. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not argue the question of the fourteen years. I have referred already to the Kennedy judgment, where the House will have observed in the one case ten years purchase and in the other eleven years was given as the basis of compensation. That in itself might be a short answer to the argument that fourteen years is too short. But, at any rate, now is not the time to discuss that question, or if anyone else wishes to discuss it, I do not. What is to happen at the end of fourteen years? The monopoly value is to be taken by the State, and the State is to have full control over all the licences, because all the licences will be put upon the same basis as a new licence is put upon now. Has the State any right to any monopoly value? Answer: "Yes. The Act of 1904." What is the difference so far as the State is concerned in its claim for a monopoly value in respect of this kind of traffic between a new licence in 1904, and that licence after the reduction period? After the reduction period that monopoly value will be siezed in respect of every licence, but the statements that have been made all over the country, and which have misled many people with regard to what will take place at the end of the reduction period, I think, are not well-founded. What will happen undoubtedly will be that the licences then in existence, 60,000 or 65,000 or whatever the number may be, more or less, will be held by respectable tenants, otherwise they would have been taken away before, and what will happen will be continuity of business in these houses until a further reduction takes place, either by the action of the public or by the action of the justices—a continuity of the business in the hands of the same tenants.
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
The Bill does not say what is to take place in every particular at the end of fourteen years, but does anybody suppose that the licensing justices in this country are going to turn out neck and crop the tenants of 60,000 licensed houses? What will happen will be this, that if there is a very profitable house the tenant will come and say: "I want a renewal of my licence." The justices will have a right to say: "Yes, your licence is required apparently in this locality. We will renew it, but the State is entitled to so much out of that licence." Why should it not? Let me give one or two illustrations. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston said yesterday that in the year 1907 three Glamorganshire licences were granted for lump sums, by way of monopoly value, amounting in the three cases to £13,500. The figures are to be seen in the Blue-book. They are £6,000 for one house, £4,500 for the second, and £3,000 for the third. We make it impossible under the provisions of the Bill now before Parliament to have a lump sum at all. It is necessary for the licensing justices to fix the monopoly value year by year, and they cannot go any further. What happens with regard to these houses? For the moment I will take the annual value instead of the lump sum. At £4,500 as the average monopoly value, at 4 percent., you get £180 a year. That is sufficiently accurate for the purpose of my illustration. Supposing the house had been licensed in 1903 no monopoly value is raised at all. Let us assume that that village with its two licensed houses increases in population and a third house is licensed there. The houses are practically of equal value. If these houses have been licensed in 1903 they will have saved during the fourteen years the sum of £3,600, and for twenty years they will enjoy the monopoly value of £180 a year, which the State does not take, and which it would take if the house was licensed in 1905. So that if there is a difference upon this hard line of demarcation of two years in the time the licence was granted, in the one case 1293 the licensee gets £3,000 odd, in the other case the brewers get the £3,000 odd. Under these circumstances is there any injustice in putting all these houses on the same footing? We cannot make the brewer disgorge that £3,000, but we can take from him the £180 monopoly value. It was never thought by the best leaders of the Conservative Party in 1904, that a final step had been taken in connection with temperance reform, for the matter was kept open specially. I will quote from two speeches made on this question. Lord Hugh Cecil, speaking on 6th June, 1904, said—The Bill did not say, it did not imply, that they were not to take away licences after a period with notice. The Bill did not deal with that question at all, but it dealt with what was to be the right of magistrates under the existing law as to refusing licences without compensation. It did not interfere in the least with the future right of Parliament to set up whatever time-limit it might think proper under which licences might cease altogether after due notice given.Speaking on 7th June, 1904, the Leader of the Opposition said—I believe that the anxiety about the time-limit due to a fear lest we are shutting the door on any kind of temperance reform in the future other than the present Bill. There is nothing in this Bill which is going to stand in the way of any future reform.That shows clearly that it was never intended that it should be finally decided in 1904 that no time-limit should be imposed. That is the main principle of this Bill, and the same principle is laid down in the two speeches I have quoted, and also by the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is the principle upon which we depend to carry out temperance reform. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked what connection has the time-limit with temperance reform? It has every connection, because you now tempt people into the trade by huge profits. I am talking about the people who have made such profits as £6,000 in one day. The connection between the time-hunt and temperance reform is that, when the State takes the monopoly value, there will be less temptation for people to embark upon such a trade, fewer beer-houses will exist, and fewer will be built. It is idle for anybody who has any knowledge of temperance reform to say that the consumption of drink 1294 does not depend upon the law of supply, but upon the law of demand. [OPPOSITION cries of "Hear, hear."] Have hon. Members opposite never heard of the temptation a man experiences when he sees a public-house? Has anybody ever heard of the provision made by Act of Parliament forbidding the payment of wages in public-houses? What is the meaning of that? The danger is not the demand for beer, but the temptation to a man to drink. You have by law forbidden the holding of election meetings on licensed premises because there would be a temptation to drink. I am afraid that that provision has had a coach and horses driven through it many a time, and practically every public-house and every tied house has been used in the interest of one Party. The Government have been asked: Is there any relationship between the number of public-houses and the temptation to drink? I have known applications made for the erection of a public-house in a convenient place intended to catch the workmen either on their way to their work or on their way from their work. I know this is a legitimate practice from the point of view of the trade, because it is well known that they want to plank their public-houses in the most tempting places. If any hon. Member opposite happened to be sitting as a licensing justice and an application were made for a licence for a gin palace just at the entrance to a colliery yard, so as to tempt workmen on their way to the colliery or from it, would he think that that was a convenient or an inconvenient place and would he grant the licence?
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
In the case I have mentioned the man sees a public-house in front of him and at once he has a thirst or somebody invites him into that licensed house. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me said he did not like hard words being used by one side of the House against the other, but nevertheless he said that we were robbers and confiscators. That was equivalent to saying that he would not call any hon. Member 1295 of this House a thief; all he means is that we are misguided, and that we are only doing something which is tantamount to robbery or confiscation. But we are not going to be intimidated by threats of that kind any more than the Church of England Temperance Society is going to be intimidated. We are quite willing to rest our claim for supporting this measure upon the justice of the Bill itself, and upon the amount of good which it is likely to do. Let me remind the House what was stated in a letter written by Lord Burton, which was read at a meeting convened by the Licensed Victuallers Central Protection Society of London at the Queen's Hall. He said—I trust there will be no talk of compromise—He at any rate does not desire any extension of the fourteen years time-limit. He goes on to say——no sign' of weakening in the slightest degree in the general opposition to this attempt to plunder and ruin all who are connected with the trade. The Bill is a political fraud. Temperance is the last thing it is intended to promote. Its real aim is to rob and crush who perforce are its political opponents.Then his Lordship goes on to say—They might smile at the crude suggestions of a private Member new to legislation but for this impossible and mischievous Bill the Statesmen who were at this time the advisers of the King in the management of the Empire were responsible. God save the King. The Bill was the first effort at Socialism, which meant the stamping out of individuality and the absolute negation of personal liberty. The Bill must be defeated or withdrawn. If it was not, if they and those whom they represented surrendered, the repetition of the words which declared that Britons would not be slaves, would be but lip service.Britons have to be slaves to the drink traffic, and in other respects. I will not refer further to the other portions of the speeches made in the Queen's Hall beyond quoting the words of a representative who spoke on behalf of the Liverpool branch of the Protection Society, who asked—Every man and woman in that hall during the next few months until the Bill was killed to pay not a farthing to any tradesman—he did not care who he was—who was favourable to the Bill.Would any hon. Member in this House get up and declare that he would himself, in sending his order to the grocer or the 1296 butcher, say: "I won't give you this order unless you promise to vote against this Bill"? That is the way in which the Bill is being fought by the brewers. The meeting at the Queen's Hall where those speeches were delivered did not consist of publicans in the ordinary sense, but they were the owners of tied houses, and they were not the creation of any Act of Parliament. The intention of Parliament was that the licence should be given to a particular individual, and as a matter of fact they were so held. The holders of those licences have been got hold of by the brewers, and the brewer now seeks to keep this property and requires to be compensated, not upon the value of the licence, but upon the basis of the profits he has been able to squeeze out of the wretched tenant he has pat into his house. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, I repeat that it is the intention of the Government to add a very large slice to the slices that have already been given by this House in favour of temperance reform. We believe that the only way in which we shall get any real temperance reform in this country is by reducing licences compulsorily, by establishing a time-limit, and by controlling the whole of the licences after fourteen years by the State. You will never get temperance reform unless you can abolish the tied-house system, and you will never get rid of tied houses without a time-limit. You will never be able to accomplish this unless at the end of fourteen years the justices can say to an applicant: "We decline to renew this licence unless the licensee is a free man in a free house." The work which we have set ourselves to do is no easy task. It is a task which demands courage by reason of the combined interests which are marshalled against us, but I am glad to say that it is evoking the enthusiasm of some of the best forces in the country. This particular Bill in itself is not perfect. It is certainly not complete. Other problems connected with the drink traffic will still have to be tackled, but, so far as this measure goes, we say in presenting and proceeding with it that our aims are honest and praiseworthy. We say further that the methods are not unfair, but that, on the contrary, they are fair 1297 and just, and we believe that the ultimate result of the measure will be for the lasting good of our people and our country.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has made at least one valuable contribution to our debate. Those who have admired at a respectful distance the strategy which has determined the policy of the Government in introducing this particular Bill have been not a little puzzled to determine what motives induced them to bring it forward and to persevere in it with such determination. We have now learned the reason in an illuminating sentence from the hon. and learned Gentleman when he informed us that every public-house is a committee-room for the Tory Party. This is really penetrating to the heart of their determination.
§ SIR SAMUEL EVANS
I did not say every public-house, I said every tied-house. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."]
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
I quite accept what the right hon. Gentleman states, but even putting it in the limited form that every tied public-house is a Tory committee-room, if the hon. and learned Gentleman is correct in saying that these houses are arrayed against him, it is quite sufficient to explain the zeal with which this Bill is being pressed forward. The motives of the moral reformers would appear to be not entirely unmixed. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked a question which those who speak on that side of the House are never tired of putting, and which they seem to think is in the nature of the case unanswerable. He asked: Are we on this side of the House under any circumstances in favour of the policy of a reduction? And then when we are confronted with some supposed answer which has not yet been forthcoming, when we are confronted with the dilemma that we are not in favour of that policy, we are asked—How do you justify your introduction and support of the 1904 Act? I should have thought that the answer to that is obvious. The answer is that under the 1904 Act you left the local justices who have a knowledge of each particular 1298 locality to judge for themselves and of their own unfettered discretion whether that particular locality did or did not suffer from a redundancy of licensed premises. Do you put forward that discretion as comparable in any degree with a proposal for the automatic reduction of licences by a triumvirate in London? If you do, it shows that you are utterly incapable of appreciating the principles on which the 1904 Act depends. When I spoke on the First Reading of this Bill I said that the country would never draw a distinction between railway investors and investors in licensed property who have bought their stock on the open market. I remember that when I ventured to make that observation on the First Reading it was treated as a most exquisite piece of humour. I do not know whether it appears to the supporters of the Government that the humour was much in evidence during the last few weeks, when opportunities have been given for presenting our views of the Bill to the country. Let me ask—What is the answer to the suggestion that, so far as the purchaser of brewery stock upon the market is concerned, he is entitled to the same protection on the part of the State as the purchaser of railway stock? Only one answer has been attempted in the whole course of the debates, and it is that in the case of the holder of licensed property you have a yearly licence. The moment you say that the annual value is not the measure of what such person possesses, you give away the whole case. One has only to look at the question. If it be true that one year is the measure of the interest, why do you give a fourteen years' time-limit? Why squander thirteen years of the nation's monopoly of which they have been too long deprived? Why postpone, the happy moment when the country will repossess itself of that which it ought never to have lost? [MINISTERIAL cheers.] There are many hon. Gentlemen opposite who think it ought to be done at once at the end of a year. Fortunately, for many reasons, they are not in the majority, and the majority are rather committed to the view that you cannot accept the principle that the interested persons having these interests are limited to a 1299 single year. If they are not limited to a single year, how are you going to determine them? Is it pretended that fourteen years time-limit is based upon any actuarial calculation which can be tested? And here let me point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman who said that there never was a statutory right, and who passed by very rapidly indeed the case of the ante-1869 beer-houses—let me point out that so far as the ante-1869 beer-houses are concerned they had that very statutory right on the absence of which you have again and again insisted as the only justification for any confiscation at all. When the question was asked how it was that these houses ever obtained this privilege the answer was that until the year 1870 these beer-houses were allowed to sell beer without obtaining a licence from the justices, and simply in virtue of the enjoyment of an excise licence. In that circumstance Parliament recognised a vested interest, and thought it expedient to deal with them in the 1870 Act. So far as the ante-1869 beer-houses were concerned, they provided that these licences ought never to be taken away but on one of four causes. I can summarise generally the character of these causes by saying that every one of them had something to do with bad character or bad conduct on the part of the licensee, so that until the 1904 Act was introduced it was the fact that no less than one-third of the licensed premises in the country had an absolute statutory right to renewal. What is really the relation of the Government to them? They say that in 1904 Parliament interfered with that statutory right of renewal. Is the suggestion brought forward that, having taken away in 1904 for good and valuable consideration this absolute statutory right of renewal, we are entitled in 1908 to say that we shall take them away still further on the basis of the illusory compensation which we now substitute? The hon. and learned Gentleman with a great show of indignation says that there never was a bargain made. I agree, but there was an implied undertaking based upon the honour of this House. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] If this is taken away which had statutory sanction at that time, four years ago, the privileges 1300 which were substituted should not also be taken away. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not appreciate this ethical suggestion. Does he seriously suggest that there is any distinction to be drawn between the case of a man who, before 1904, invested his money in a beer-house and the case of a man who invested his money in railway stock? Will anybody on that side of the House tell us how the investor in an 1869 beer-house could possibly suppose that he was investing in a precarious property when one-third of the licensed premises of the country were of that class? Where was the precariousness? Where was the unwisdom of speculating in it? What is your right four years afterwards to say: "We will give you a fourteen years time-limit?" That is the case as far as one-third of the licensed premises are concerned, and I wish to ask hon. Gentlemen to consider the case of the other two-thirds. When once the yearly argument is given up, as it has been for the purposes of this Bill, the only problem which presents itself for solution is—What is the tenure which the State encouraged the investor to accept? Let me remind the House that a very authoritative document exits on that point—very much more authoritative than many of those which are quoted with approval by hon. Gentlemen opposite. In 1890 the Commissioners for Inland Revenue were requested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to prepare a memorandum upon the death duties in dealing with licensed premises in order that many doubts might be set at rest. An official report was presented by the Commissioners for Inland Revenue, and I would venture to ask the attention of the House to that report. Dealing, first of all, with the case of the death of a lease-holder publican, they said that it is assumed always that the licence will continue indefinitely to be renewed. Then dealing with the death of a free-holder publican they say that the annual value of the House is treated in the succession duty account as permanently enhanced by the licence. They said that the annual values are capitalized for the whole life of the successor on the presumption that the licence will so long endure. We may have been wrong on 1301 this side of the House, licensed victuallers may have been wrong, and the unfortunate investors in brewery shares may have been wrong, but there can be no other explanation of the principle which the representatives of the State deliberately adopted in 1890 for this purpose, except that in their view these licenses would be indefinitely renewed. Can it be suggested that the ordinary investor was bound to take a sounder view? The only answer is that that doctrine was once and for all disposed of by the decision in the case of Sharpe v. Wakefield. That case has nothing whatever to do with the proposals brought forward by the Government and the provisions in this Bill. The Court in Sharpe v. Wakefield merely decided that the local justices should deal with a licence of a particular house upon particular local grounds and on the sworn evidence of witnesses as to fact. Is it suggested that that is analogous in principle to the wholesale dealing with licences by gentlemen in London who have no knowledge of the locality? You have only to read the judgment of Lord Halsbury to understand the real meaning of the Sharpe v. Wakefield decision. Lord Halsbury said—Magistrates must exercise judicial discretion and not by evasion attempt to repeal the law which permits public-houses to exist. Further, the justices would remember that a year before a licence had been granted.[HON. MEMBERS on the MINISTERIAL Benches: Go on; read the rest.] That is all I have here before me, but nothing which follows qualifies what I have read. I may remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that Lord Bramwell said in the same relation—The Legislature has most clearly showed that it contemplated that licences would usually be renewed; that the taking away of a man's livelihood would not be practised cruelly or wantonly.Is it suggested that on Sharpe v. Wakefield or on the dicta of Lord Halsbury and Lord Bramwell you can base the wholesale reduction of licences which is to take place under this Bill? This Bill may be right or wrong, but the less it is founded on the authority of Sharpe v. Wakefield the more likely it is to be successful among those who are familiar with that judgment. Ac- 1302 cepting that statement of the effect of Sharpe v. Wakefield, and the circumstances are not really disputed, this Bill, whether necessary or not, is a Bill which is going to cause great hardship. I did not gather that the Under-Secretary last night seriously disputes the position that the Bill is going to cause great hardship. The figures which have been given by Mr. Buxton and Mr. Peat show that, speaking generally, in the case of a large number of prudent and successful breweries, no dividends will be paid on either preference or ordinary shares, and in the payment of debenture interest there will be deficiencies ranging from £20,000 to £60,000. The Under-Secretary last night attempted to console brewers and investors by saying that at the conclusion of the fourteen years they would have the sum of £17,000,000 by which they could deal with the losses which are estimated by the hon. Member for Spen Valley at not less than £100,000,000. The Under-Secretary argued that they would be compensated by a sum of £27,000,000, £17,000,000 of which is to come from reserve stock—a large proportion of which is already invested in licensed property. The perfectly astounding suggestion was made that the result of the Government proposal would be that £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 which was to be paid by the Government for compensation would be available at the end of the fourteen years time-limit, as a further contribution to the money necessary to make up the shortage of £100,000,000. The Under-Secretary seems to be totally unaware that the greater part of this £11,000,000 will have been paid during the currency of the fourteen years time-limit.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL,) Yorkshire, Cleveland
I was not using that as a set-off against the 60,000 houses which will remain but against the loss on the whole 95,000.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
What the hon. Gentleman says comes to this, that in this sum of £27,000,000 which is to be available to meet the £100,000,000 at the expiration of the time-limit—[Ironical 1303 MINISTERIAL laughter.] We are constantly told that the number of houses which will remain is to be equal in value to the houses existing at the present time and that the brewers lose nothing.
§ MR. F. E. SMITH
Then the hon. Gentleman should control his enthusiastic supporters in the country who have been saying that there will be no real loss to the brewers, that the increased value of the houses that remain will compensate for the loss of the monopoly value of £100,000,000. Even if it is not £100,000,000 but £80,000,000, what becomes of the prophecy made by the Lord Chancellor when the 1904 Bill was introduced, that the value of the licensed property would be increased by that Bill to £300,000,000? And now that the falsity of that prediction is exposed, hon. Gentleman say that the monopoly value of the licences is £100,000,000 or £80,000,000. And towards that monopoly value the only sum the Government suggest as available for the relief of the shareholders is £17,000,000 which comes from the reserve fund to-day. Why is the prudent trader to be specially mulcted? Who are hon. Gentlemen opposite to lay hands upon the business savings of their political opponents? Why is the prudent virgin to be worse treated than her negligent friends? Now, if it is undisputed that you are going to injure the shareholders to this extent, it is not uninteresting to discover who will be the people likely to suffer if we are going to allow it to be done. Take the case of a brewery which has published a full detailed list of its shareholders. Take the case of Meux's Brewery. [MINISTERIAL ironical laughter.] That is received with laughter, but this artificial merriment does not show much intelligence or discrimination on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If I were founding an argument on the way in which Meux had carried on their business there might have been some point in the laugh; but I am merely pointing out the social and business position of their shareholders. What is the capital of this company? Four per cent. first mortgage debenture 1304 stock, £600,000; 6 per cent. second mortgage debenture stock, £400,000; cumulative preference share capital, £500,000; and ordinary share capital, £500,000. The debenture stock and preference share capital, £1,500,000, were issued to and paid for by the public. I invite the House to consider how that £1,500,000 subscribed for by the public was contributed. [MINISTERIAL cries of "When."] It does not matter to the argument when. Of this £1,500,000 the members of the licensed trade contributed £8,861; business classes, banks, investment companies, £306,951; professional classes, £529,698; trustees under wills, spinsters, married women and widows, £654,490. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Shame."] Is it not more shameful to rob these people? [OPPOSITION cheers, and MINISTERIAL cries of "Who did it?"] They expressed no discontent till hon. Gentlemen appeared on the scene with this Bill. But at any rate I desire to say that hon. Gentlemen will agree that their particular grievance is against the Government and not against anybody else. Is the proposition that if you find an imprudent investor you may rob him. All I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite is, do they believe after all that has happened that the country at large will allow them to inflict this species of pecuniary wrong on these classes of investors? The Chancellor of the Exchequer goes to a public meeting in the Albert Hall, and says—If the Government goes down on this issue it win he with flags flying in a moral cause.The moral cause, I suppose, is that you reduce drunkenness by reducing drinking facilities. If there is any other principle in the Bill, I have failed to discover it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may be right or wrong in their view, but there is no difference of opinion that if they are going to embrace this moral cause and pin their colours to the mast of the Bill, it makes no difference at all whether this drinking which they are going to stop is carried on in licensed premises or in clubs. We all agree with that. It is then ex hypothesi obvious that it is essential to prevent the growth of fresh clubs or to reduce the number of those now existing. If your patent medicine is good it must be applied with impartiality to every 1305 class of patient. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite reconcile their own remedies and not come to us for an explanation of them. What did the hon. Member for Spen Valley say in 1907? He said—It is useless to reduce the number of public-houses, restrict the hours of sale, and to facilitate improved methods of management if clubs are allowed to spring up in all directions.And the hon. Gentleman, and a good many other Members of this House, still think so, but let me tell them that, accepting their principles, this Bill in the treatment of clubs is a fantastic imposture if it pretends to do anything of the sort so long as each coterie of individuals now meeting in a public-house is still at liberty when displaced under the Bill to form a club. I do not say that the increase of clubs is mischievous, nor do I express an opinion that England will tolerate their suppression. This is a problem to be solved not by us but by you. It is your case that it is mischievous, and what are the figures? In 1887 there were 1,982 clubs; in 1896 there were 3,655; in 1903 there were 6,371; in 1904 there were 6,468; in 1905 there were 6,589; in 1906 there were 6,721; in 1907 there were 6,907; and in 1908 the number was 7,110. The hon. Gentleman will see that in the last twenty years clubs in which drink is sold have increased from 1,982 to 7,110. But that does not exhaust the growth of clubs, because as the chairman of the Durham sessions pointed out the other day, there was an increase of 2,000 persons in the membership of the clubs in their area, although there was no increase in the clubs. The clientèle of the clubs is, therefore, gradually growing out of proportion to the total number of clubs, and I challenge any hon. Member who follows me to show one word or one line in the Bill which prevents the indiscriminate multiplication of clubs which are not mere drinking shops. We are not dealing with drinking clubs or public-houses that are mere drinking houses; we are dealing with public-houses many of which have a thirty years' good character, and we point out that your remedy will do nothing that will prevent clubs springing up. We are not talking of mere drinking shops but of the springing up of clubs, doubtless perfectly well-conducted, but in which drink can be 1306 obtained—the sort of club that the Solicitor-General would say the workingman could not pass without having a thirst. Let us hear no more of your provisions for dealing with badly conducted clubs. We must compare like with like. On your theory the provisions of the Bill are farcical. It is so important that this should be exposed and it goes so directly to the heart of the Bill that I make no excuse for asking the House to consider what is the existing law in regard to clubs. Under the Licensing Act of 1902 the clerk of every petty sessional division has to keep a register with details of the club. Under subsection 3, a return has to be made every January, and under subsection 4 the secretary of the new club has to furnish a return. Under Section 26, if drink is sold in an unregistered club, the penalty is a month's imprisonment or a £50 fine. Under Section 28 of that Act a club may be struck off the register on the complaint of any person: (a) That it has ceased to exist, or has less than twenty-five members; (b) that it is not conducted in good faith as a club,. or that it is kept for an unlawful purpose; (c) that there is frequently drunkenness there; (d) that there is illegal sale of intoxicating liquors; (e) that non-members habitually resort to it for the purpose of obtaining drink; and (f) that it occupies premises within twelve months of their being licensed premises. That is the state of the law when the Government introduce this Bill to deal with a great and growing evil and one the solution of which is essential to their moral panacea. What does this Bill do? By Section 36, registration is to be annual instead of a return, and under Section 37, any person may, as to new registration or renewal, lodge objection on the ground that the club is used mainly as a drinking club or on the grounds which I have already read as being included in the Act of 1902. In this Bill, registration has been substituted for the January return and the only new ground upon which objection can be taken to the registration of a new club or the re-registration of an existing club, is that it is a mere drinking shop. Where is the clause which prevents the springing up of new clubs or prevents the opening of a drinking club four doors lower 1307 down than the public-house whose licence you have taken away? On this club question my views are entirely independent, because I am proud to say that in Liverpool, the complexion of which has been Conservative for many years, there is no single working men's club where drink can be obtained to-day or has ever been obtained, but I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite who hold strong moral views on this subject what they think of the position of their colleagues who represent London constituencies. I do not hesitate to say that, sitting cheek by jowl with these moral reformers, are men who owe their seats in this House to the exertions of political clubs which, although they are not drinking clubs, are places where drink is supplied with the same facility with which it is supplied in public-houses, and where it can be obtained at hours when public-houses are closed and on Sundays as well. They deserve careful study. Take, for instance, the case of Walthamstow Liberal and Radical Club. I believe the hon. Member who represents Walthamstow is a convinced supporter of this Bill and he is satisfied with Sunday closing. How are his supporters generating their zeal on his behalf and amusing themselves on Sunday mornings at the Walthamstow Liberal and Radical Club, Buxton Road, High Street? Here is the programme of a Sunday morning variety entertainment: Young Smiler; Dora Dalby; The Campeons; Sam Williams; Daisy Reed; Chan C. Roberts. On Sunday evening there is George Elmer's Company in the up-to-date military comedy "The Major." Then what do we find in the constituency of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, who played a conspicuous, though hardly a successful, part in the Peckham election. At the North Camberwell Radical Club we find entertainments are going on in precisely the same way. The Parliamentary Secretary is the President of the Club, and I would suggest to the Government, that the President instead of the Secretary shall pay the fine of £20 for which the Bill provides, if drunkenness is proved on the premises and reasonable care is not shown. There will be much more chance of obtaining the money, 1308 and as a salutary example the effect will be much greater. What do we find in the Camberwell Club? That club advertised: "Sunday morning, lecture upon the Principles of Malthus. Sunday afternoon, musical comedy, "The Hypocrites." How does this champion, this convinced advocate of the cause of effective moral reform at the admitted injury of investors, deal with this matter when assailed in the Press? He wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph in which he said that if the parson could not compete for his patronage with "Iolanthe," so much the worse for the parson. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot afford to deal with the clubs. They dare not. Their political lives are not worth a moment's purchase if they do. The explanation is that in dealing with the English people you are dealing with a strong, virile race. The reason why you cannot compel them to reduce their clubs and why in this Bill you shrink from dealing with them is that you know that the people in a domocratic country will not allow you to do it, and when you admit that in connection with the clubs, you have driven the last nail into the coffin of the present Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer talks about going down with all the ship's flags flying. The ship, I would suggest, is the s.s. "The Whited Sepulchre," and has the "Jolly Roger" flying from the mast. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would rather lose fifty seats than win one by such means as those by which Peckham was won, and hon. Gentlemen shouted their agreement with that statement when a new Member, a teetotaller, entered this House, by shouting out, "The voice of beer." Where is the evidence of the drunkenness which it is said existed at Peckham? Where is the petition that ought to have followed? Are the party funds depleted? There were only two convictions of drunkenness on the day of the election at Peckham, and in one the gentleman charged explained that he was really developing a Free Trade argument, a defence which was unsuccessful; while in the other, the person, a lady, was a stranger to Peek-ham who had been the heroine of similar adventures elsewhere. That was the only drunkenness that took place at Peckham. Was Manchester won by 1309 improper measures? Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that I am not repeating these victories we have won to make in this House a cheap party score. I only refer to these elections in order to press on the right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether the experiences in these constituencies are not certain to be repeated all over the country as long as this Bill is persevered with. It is certain that it will be so, because the country is not convinced of the honesty and integrity of the Bill. You are under a great delusion when you think that you are great moral reformers and that that is the cause of these reverses. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will do well, if the Bill is to be persevered in, to play a losing game with more decency and self-respect, for they will be given an opportunity of exhibiting dignity in adversity in Opposition. The democratic party when successful at the polls praises the people as the supreme repositories of political wisdom. When defeated they point to the crapulous dupes of an odious trade. Hon. Members opposite should turn from this misconceived measure to the music-hall bonhomie and the unrestricted conviviality of those Radical clubs to which they owe their present opportunities for mischief. If they do that, history will not indeed say they were moral reformers, but at least it will not have to record of them that, looking in the clouds, they scornedThe base degrees By which they did ascend.
§ MR. A. E. W. MASON (Coventry)
The Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs yesterday evening devoted a considerable portion of their speeches to the question of the reduction of licences. I cannot hold, and I do not think the majority of the Members of this House can hold, that the present Bill can stand or fall upon the question of the reduction of licences. It must stand or fall on other questions. It must stand or fall upon the question of whether the reduction of licences is accompanied with the reduction of, and an erection of safeguards against, other institutions for the sale of drink already existing with fewer precautions, under fewer safe- 1310 guards, with longer hours, and with less supervision than licensed houses. It must go beyond that. It must stand or fall on the decision of this House as to whether it is just or not as a financial measure. The Prime Minister yesterday, as well as on the First Reading, stated his case with the greatest lucidity. The financial provision of this Bill is to recover for the State the monopoly value with which it has parted and the right hon. Gentleman asked the question yesterday, "Do you agree that the State has a right to resume the value with which it has once parted?" The word "resume" is the word upon which I should like to speak, because it has not yet been proved that the State has parted neglectfully or otherwise with a monopoly value. The State has stood idly by while the monopoly has been bought and sold, while millions have been invested in it on the strength of the indifference of the State to that monopoly, and besides all that it has levied a special taxation upon the licensed trade as a trade specially favoured of the State. Now, having seen that the monopoly value with which they have parted is a good thing, they propose to resume it. The State made a mistake. Most people when they make a mistake have to pay for it. The State made a mistake in parting with this monopoly value. It is not the brewers nor the publican nor those humble investors who have not received too much consideration who are to blame, but the State, first and last. It might have retained its monopoly value, but it parted with it on easy terms. I do not suggest that the State has not a right to resume the monopoly value if it chooses, but it is for the House to consider whether the State shall not do so with fairness to the community over which it rules, and which it is supposed to represent. I listened very carefully to the speech made by the Solicitor-General, and I think he repeated to-day what he certainly said on the First Reading when he discussed the question of the monopoly value, waving aside the question of where the millions of money paid for the monopoly value had gone to. I do not see the relevancy of his suggestion, unless he assumes that the money so paid at once goes back to the pockets of the people who pay it. I do not wish to 1311 refer to a particular public-house to raise a cheap laugh; but I think he could have found where some of the money went to by consulting his colleague the Secretary of State for War. This money has gone out of the licensed trade and the State is now going to compel those who have already paid for the licensed premises once to pay over again. The really relevant question is not who has got the money but who paid the money for these licences. I have not the slightest hesitation in believing that the persons who paid for them once will pay again. The hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, but I do not see how he is going to avoid it unless he proposes to ruin all the existing breweries and put up a new lot in their stead. I intended to ask the Prime Minister whether during these debates he would kindly lay upon the Table the figures that enabled him to arrive at the decision that fourteen years would be an effective limit of time, but it was with some consternation that I gathered there were no figures. The Solicitor-General this afternoon said that others might avoid this question but that he would not.
§ MR. A. E. W. MASON
I quite accept that, but I might point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that the whole question is the time-limit. I have some figures which I should like to read to the House. They present a startling summary of what is going to happen to nine brewery companies if this Bill as it stands becomes law. I have, chosen nine breweries, some of which are good and flourishing, and others of which are not in a flourshing condition. I have done so deliberately, because I think the system of selecting a certain number of good breweries and saying: "See how easily they can recoup themselves," or selecting certain languishing concerns and saying: "See how easily they can be ruined," is not a fair one. Of the nine breweries, the total capital at the present time is £28,230,391; the estimated value of the capital invested in freehold and leasehold licensed property where the licences are extinguished would be £5,269,000. The loss of capital to 1312 be provided for in fourteen years is £21,076,640. Therefore it is calculated that if the whole amount was capitalised at the end of fourteen years on the basis of all the profits being invested at 4 per cent. compound interest, with the exception of the payment on the debentures, the actual loss at the end of fourteen years will be £8,729,000—that, of course, is if the State resumes the monopoly value. That is the point of view that any accountant would have to take up. As I understand, the State does intend to resume the monopoly value. I quite admit that one of the dfficulties in this matter is that we have not had a proper definition of what is monopoly value. The Under-Secretary for Home Affairs did begin to tell us something with regard to that. He said it was not to include the profit of the publican or of the brewer, but that it was to include the goodwill. I should be glad if some member of the Government speaking with an authoritative voice, would take some concrete instance of the market value of particular licensed premises and tell us, on the assumption that the value of those premises remains the same at the end of fourteen years, what it is the intention of the Government that the licence - holder should be paid at the end of fourteen years. In discussing the monopoly value we are certainly hampered on that point.
Now, I want to say a few words on another question, the question of compensation, and here I agree with a good deal of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, that we are in a more difficult position, because the Bill is not quite a financial measure or quite a temperance reform measure. It is an unfortunate blend. I believe that if the Government had gone on the question of the reduction of licences alone, they would have got all the reductions they wanted, without much objection from anybody, so long as the monopoly value was retained. It depends very much on what is put first and foremost, the temperance side or the financial side. So long as you are going to resume the monopoly value, it is impossible that any loan could be floated in time to pay off the monopoly value 1313 in the same way as it could be done if the monopoly value remained the same. I am not going to argue the principle of compensation. It is accepted in the Bill, and that being so it should be fair. The Prime Minister referred to the practice of the United States and the Colonies, and told us that in those countries licences were wiped out without compensation. But it might be pointed out that there was a great deal of difference in the stringency of the laws of the United States and the Colonies and the laws of this country. I do not, however, think there is anything in that point, because there is only one precedent for us, and that is the law of this country and the principle which lies below it, which is that in the case of any compulsory expropriation compensation shall be given, and that the compensation shall be generous. Then in regard to compensation, the Government have taken Schedule A. as its basis. But it does not take Schedule A. when it has to make money for itself, because it will go back once more to the principle of the market value. That does not seem to me quite fair. I think that the same basis ought to be applied in each case. I think that where the State is going to provide compensation it ought to be as fair as though it was going to make money for itself. I have heard it put forward many times in this House, and it is universally admitted, that the State should be a model employer. But it is not only in matters of employment that the State should be a model. The State ought also to be a model arbitrator, especially when it is going to arbitrate for its own advantage. It is said that public-houses have been under-assessed. Very likely that is true. But I think that if you want them assessed at their proper value, a very much better way would be to adopt the principle of assessment with regard to death duties; then people will feel that the assessment is on a better scale. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool referred to the question of clubs, and I must say that I thoroughly agree with him in the view he expressed that the attitude taken in this Bill in regard to clubs is not satisfactory. I think that the evidence put before the country 1314 with regard to clubs demands more consideration and more stringent legislation. I know perfectly well that when one speaks about clubs one is on rather dangerous ground, and one has to speak very carefully. But none the less, I think that there is a great deal that ought to be said. I am not in the position of the hon. Member for the Walton Division, who can take a perfectly independent line, being a Member of the Conservative Party, which does not believe very strongly, if indeed at all, in the reduction of licences, or that the reduction of facilities will have much effect on drunkenness in the country. I am one of those who stand in a different position. I do believe that the growth of a certain kind of club is becoming a very great menace and danger to the State. I believe it is a perfectly well known fact that since this Bill was introduced nearly every brewing company in a populous city has been approached by people who wish to have clubs financed. It is clear, therefore, that in the estimation of a great many people the safeguards provided in this Bill are not sufficient. We have been told that Amendments will be welcomed. I think it is very regrettable that those extra safeguards were not inserted by the Government on its own authority. Certainly, I do not see clear enough provisions in this Bill to show that the entertainments which are held at clubs are going to be suppressed. Too much, to my mind, is left to the licensing magistrates. There are, of course, very good clubs. We have got some in my own constituency—some of them I know perfectly well—that are very well conducted. They do not have those entertainments which are becoming a subject of scandal. The whole problem of the danger which I wish to point out is connected with affiliation. If you look at the advertisements in the paper called Club Life, it is always the point of affiliation which is mentioned, and for my part, if you are a member of a well-conducted club, I cannot see why you should want to give the run of your rooms to 1,250 other clubs. I think that if the Government were to drop some of these minor precautions which are calculated to vex well-conducted clubs and would deal with 1315 the great problem of affiliation, which is the great danger, they would be doing very much more good in regard to clubs than by the present proposals. You have at some of these clubs what is practically a music hall entertainment; or, if a club is in proximity to the ground where there is a football match, the advertisement which appears in the papers is accompanied by the suggestion that "affiliated members will be welcome." From the frequency of that statement I cannot help feeling that this is an invitation to drink upon unlicensed premises. The Under-Secretary for the Home Department told us last night that every public-house was an advertisement of drink. I want to point out also that every ill-regulated club is a secret opportunity to drink, and if you are going to have drink you might just as well have it as much as possible on licensed premises under proper control. After all, those who live in small towns know that the man who goes too often to the public-house becomes a marked man in his community, but if he goes into a club many more times than into a public-house he is not noticed at all. For these reasons I hope that some more practical steps will be taken—steps which will not at all damage clubs which exist for social intercourse, but which will prevent the creation of unlicensed public-houses. I have spoken with very great plainness this afternoon; I stand in the unusual position that in this matter I do not see eye to eye with the rest of my party, with which I am very ardently in general sympathy. I regret the position which I have to take, but I think that it is best to state the facts. I recognise, we all do, of course, that there are great clauses in this Bill, but I rely upon the Government taking a little more upon its own shoulders and leaving less on the shoulders of the magistrates. I noticed a sign of that last night. The Under-Secretary, in reference to the barmaids, suggested that to prevent hardship there should be devised some form of certificate to be given to ante-1908 barmaids. I would do nothing to disparage a sex which I revere, but I fear that, ten years hence, the ante-1908 barmaids will not be very anxious to show their certificates. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will in- 1316 troduce some clauses into this Bill which will make it more just as a piece of finance, and more adequate as a measure of temperance reform.
§ MR. JAMES PARKER (Halifax)
I have been surprised by the amount of attention that has been paid to the financial aspect of the measure and by the small amount of attention which has been paid to the question of temperance reform. I give to the Bill in its general character whatever support is possible by my vote and voice both inside of this House and outside. I do not, however, take exactly the same point of view with regard to some of the clauses of the Bill which many Members take. I believe that the restriction of the number of licences does tend to reduce drunkenness, despite the recent statement of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division that there are no statistics to prove that fact. But we know that there are statistics which at least prove that the convictions for drunkenness have been materially reduced since the Act of 1904 was brought into operation. I want however this afternoon to deal with the other portion of the Bill, which I support right through to the end, though I trust that some arrangement will be made whereby it will be possible for those who hold a different position to be able to support the Bill right through the whole of the clauses. What are the facts with respect to the drinking clubs of this country? We have had a very graphic picture drawn of wicked Radical clubs. I know all kinds of working-men's clubs. I know working-men's clubs which are a disgrace to their name, and I know working-men's clubs which have been of real benefit to temperance. I should like briefly to quote from the balance-sheet of the largest working-men's club in England and possibly in the world. The town of which I am one of the representatives is probably one of the largest club towns in the United Kingdom, and I think it will be true to say that the statistics of drunkenness in that town would bear favourable comparison with those of any manufacturing town of similar size. Now in this one club to which I refer there are 10,986 members. It is not an ordinary working-men's club 1317 purely for social purposes—I want to be quite fair—but it is a club where drink is sold. I want to use it as an illustration to show how the clauses in this Bill relating to clubs will affect a club of the character of that to which I am referring. With a membership of 10,986, it has an average attendance of from 600 to 1,000 every night at various meetings. The total takings at the bar amount to £2,086 7s. 7½d., a year, and of that amount, the secretary informs me, one-third was for food and for temperance drinks, tobacco and cigars. Therefore, if you take the figures that are left, some £1,300, the average is 1¾d. a week taken over the whole membership of the institution. That is perhaps one of the best clubs. It is only open for six days a week and for fewer hours than the public-house. To that kind of club some of the clauses of this Bill will be somewhat irksome. There are possibly twenty or thirty, probably more, trade union branches meeting there night by night, and a large number of friendly societies and secret Orders such as the Oddfellows, Foresters, and Gardeners. As the Bill stands at present, a policeman can go into the lodge-room and inspect these men. That would be a real hardship. I, though not an abstainer, am willing to do all that lies in my power to promote temperance. I know what the evils of drunkenness are from past experience. I have been in the trade and know it from both sides. Let us for a moment note how this police inspection will affect clubs. By this measure obviously we want to prevent the bogus club, the purely drinking club, from continuing its existence. Are we going to do that by police inspection? The police have had every opportunity under the existing law to close scores of public-houses that certainly ought not to have existed. We want inspection of clubs, but inspection of another order entirely. We want inspection by some person who can look at the balance-sheet and see whether it is being conducted merely for the purpose of drinking. It is no advantage to send a policeman, who finds a drunken man on the premises and declares that the club should be closed. You want something more. I take it that those of us who are genuinely in support of the Bill want to prevent a club being established where a brewer 1318 has one of his houses closed. How far can we effect that by anything in the Bill? It would be possible, I submit, to introduce a provision that where any facility for drinking is taken away, within an area to be prescribed no further facilities should be laid down. That would be a distinct advantage as compared with the clauses of the Bill. Then there is the question of objection. As the Bill stands any man can object to the renewal of registration. If we had the right kind of inspecting officer—we suggest an Inland Revenue officer, a supervisor or exciseman who has undergone a Civil Service examination and would understand from the club accounts whether it was serving its purpose—he would be the person to object. But it is a wrong thing entirely to give power to any Tom, Dick or Harry to lay an objection gainst a club. It may be a man who has been turned out, and he may do it for spite. There is nothing to be gained by leaving that clause as it stands if we desire to assist the bona fide club and to put down the bogus club. The clause which deals with the question of the sale of liquor off, as it stands, is not in any way a temperance clause. Then, I think, the penalty is too high, and I have no doubt that in Committee that will be remedied. It may seem peculiar support of the Bill to criticise these clauses in relation to clubs, but I am prepared to vote for any measure which will do away with bogus clubs. We want a clause in this Bill which will absolutely prohibit a club which is tied to a brewery. That kind of club should go at once. Every member who desires to see the ideal club established will be prepared to vote against that kind of thing. I believe the working men's clubs will be the first to agree that the club that is tied to a brewer should go by the board. I say, as one who has served some portion of his life behind the bar of a public-house, and who has gone to public-houses right from boyhood, that it is high time this House, whatever may be the financial proposals, should tackle this question of the excessive drinking habits of the people. Go into the slums of our large cities where you see drunkenness at its worst, not always because of the quantity consumed, but 1319 because the people have no food in their stomachs, and buy drink with their last shillings and coppers, and are drunk almost before they start to take it. In addition to that, the Return issued by the Home Secretary a few days ago contains evidence as to women and children who have been watched to enter public-houses—thousands of children under five years of age. That should be sufficient to induce any man who desires the good of his country to vote for a Bill of this character. As to the justice of the time-limit I hope the Government will stand firm. Fourteen years is ample. That which the people have given through their representatives in this House to the big brewing companies or to the licensees, the people have a perfect right to take away. The brewer has never paid for it. The licence-holder has never paid for it. All that he has paid for has been the value of his licence. And as for the widow and orphan, since this Bill came in, I have heard of more widows than I knew lived. The poor widow, so-called, who has her investment in breweries was robbed long before this Bill was introduced. I had offered to me some time ago £1 brewery shares for 1s. 6d. a share. Where had the 18s. 6d. gone? Certainly this Licensing Bill had not robbed the poor widows who were shareholders. The Bill would lose much of its value if the Government compromised this question of a time-limit and extended it long above the fourteen years. I support the Bill because I believe it to be an equitable Bill to the brewery shareholders, and in the main to be a measure which will assist in promoting temperance. But I believe that before we can thoroughly deal with this traffic we shall have to do something more than improve our licensing laws. We shall have to go down to the root of the problem, and probably the State will have itself to assume the management and control in the days that are coming before we can deal with the traffic.
§ *MR. WHITBREAD (Huntingdonshire, Huntingdon)
Almost at the close of the second day's debate on the Second Reading of this Bill, I think we have arrived at this position, that whatever 1320 gain this Bill may achieve for the cause of temperance is a matter largely of opinion, and, at all events, of uncertainty. It will depend upon the experience of years to come, and its value will be appraised by the verdict of persons other than those who are engaged in the debate to-night. Another thing that is certain is that this is a measure, not only for the purpose of promoting temperance, but one of a very drastic and far-reaching financial nature. It is a measure aimed and directed, I think, avowedly—after the speeches from the Front Bench yesterday—against not only a single trade but a single portion of that trade. The speech of the Prime Minister yesterday went very far in that direction, and the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, if I may venture to say so, like an Eastern Mullah raising recruits for a holy war, carried his operations into the enemy's camp, and assured the House that he had discovered that the rascals were actually laying by reserve funds. I should have thought that a brewing company who had had the forethought and the means—instead of distributing a large amount of profit by way of dividend—to lay a certain amount of their profit to a reserve fund, would have come rather within the category, indicated by the Prime Minister, of the trader who had conducted his business in a prudent manner, and would be such a man as would deserve the favourable consideration of the Government in considering his financial position as affected by this Bill. But, if I understood the Under-Secretary for the Home Office aright, he rather seemed to indicate that the possession of a reserve fund was an additional reason for dealing in a drastic manner with the trader in question. That was the impression that was conveyed to my mind. This Bill will affect a single trade which has been described by the Prime Minister as a lawful trade, a trade recognised by the Legislature, and a trade investors in which are entitled to the same amount of protection and security at the hands of Parliament as the investors in any other commercial undertaking. The Prime Minister's words were quoted yesterday, and I will not quote them again to their full extent, but he said, speaking to a 1321 deputation which approached him in November last—Speaking for my colleagues as well as for myself, so far as we are concerned we shall certainly bring forward no proposals which will have the tendency or the effect—of which the deputation complained. When those words were quoted the Prime Minister intervened and said he had added a further sentence. That is quite true. Having stated, with emphasis, that the Government would not bring forward legislation which would have a confiscatory effect on the trade, he went on to say—I say this, however, without prejudice to the question, where I have no doubt that a great; difference of opinion will exist, as to the precise point where interference ends and confiscatory action begins.It is precisely from that point of view that I wish to say a few words on this Bill to-night. Does it or does it not pass the point where legitimate interference ends and confiscatory action begins? What is the position at the present time? I take the case of a brewing company of which I have some information. The existing compensation levy exacted from that company represents an amount of money practically equal to 1 per cent. dividend on their ordinary share capital—it represents the difference between a 5 per cent. and a 4 per cent. dividend. During the three years of the operation of the existing Act that company has had some fifteen houses suppressed, with compensation. As a matter of fact the amount drawn from them by way of compensation levy has been about balanced by the amount they have received as compensation for the houses suppressed; so that their position to-day is this—a certain sum of money has been taken from one pocket and returned to the other, and they have lost the trade of these fifteen houses. That is not a position of which I am in any way desirous of complaining or protesting against. But the process of reduction under the present Act is, according to the advocates of this Bill, too slow and requires to be quickened up, and the process by which it is proposed to quicken it up is to unset and reverse what is known as the Kennedy judgment. I am not going to discuss the inherent 1322 vice which the Prime Minister has discovered in that judgment. I may have a partial affection for it myself, because it so happens that the County Licensing Committee, of which I am the chairman, had the very problem before them about a fortnight before the judgment was pronounced, and in the absence of any authoritative guide from the Divisional Court we had to do the best we could in the matter and the decision we came to was practically the same as was afterwards laid down by Mr. Justice Kennedy, so that I think it is a sound and fair one. I only want to point out what would be the effect on the firm I have mentioned under the operations of this Bill. If the Bill passes the same amount will be drawn annually from them in the form of compensation levy, and they will get in return in respect of each house suppressed in the future a sum equal to about one-fifth of the present compensation they would receive. That in itself seems to me to approach dangerously near the point where legitimate interference ends and confiscatory action begins. [OPPOSITION cheers]. Further, under the time-limit now proposed, this compensation—inadequate as it seems to me—will tend to diminish year by year. That is to say, the houses suppressed during the first of that series of fourteen years, and which, other things being equal, are presumed to be the worst houses, will receive a larger share of the compensation than the houses suppressed in the succeeding years. The compensation, therefore, to the worst class of houses will be much greater than the compensation for the better class of houses. That in itself does not seem to be a very admirable disposition of the modified fund for compensation which is going to exist under this Bill. The compensation will dwindle down from about one-fifth of the present compensation during the first of the fourteen years until it reaches almost vanishing point in the last of the fourteen years. As years go on the inadequacy of the compensation will increase, whilst the levy extracted from the pockets of the trade will remain the same as it is to-day. The Prime Minister yesterday asked those who are in the position of opposing this Bill to give a definite answer to the question whether they admitted 1323 the principle of the time-limit. I am sorry to say that, as a matter of principle, I am not at all enamoured of it, because to me it seems to be an attempt to mortgage the action of Parliament. It seems to me to be an attempt to bind the State fourteen or twenty-one years hence to do something which everyone knows it cannot and dare not do to-day. I think that is a bad principle, but as a matter of practice I am prepared to admit that a time-limit may be a convenient and practical means of getting out of a difficulty insuperable by any other means. I will, however, proceed with my argument as to the justice and equity of this Bill. At the end of fourteen years one-third of the existing houses will have been closed under this scheme, and the remaining two-thirds, numbering 60,000 odd houses in all, are to lose their licence value and goodwill with no compensation at all. That is to say, the unfortunate investor in brewery securities is to continue for fourteen years to pay to the State 1 per cent. dividend on his ordinary shares by way of insurance and in return for that he will receive from one-fifth of the present compensation down to a vanishing sum altogether. Therefore he will part with one-third of his property during those fourteen years for quite an inadequate return, and he will lose the remaining two-thirds of his property with no return at all. Then if he survivies that point, subject to local veto—a machinery of vague and doubtful application—he will then be invited to compete at auction if he is still alive in a financial sense to recover something of what was yesterday his property, but which has since been taken over by the State. According to this Bill I believe he will have to pay the cost of the Commission which will have to sit to decide this question. I understand, however, that the provision which provides that the cost of the Commission is to be saddled upon the trade is to he mercifully removed from the provisions of the Bill. As a matter of equity the whole process resembles the cutting off of a man's legs, and then punishing him on the ground that he has no visible means of support. I think this certainly passes the point where legitimate interference can be said to end and confiscatory action begins. We were told yesterday quite rightly 1324 that there is considerable doubt and misapprehension as to what is the meaning of the term "monopoly value." If I gathered correctly the words of the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, it is proposed to confine and restrict the monopoly value, which will have to be paid for after the fourteen years time-limit expires, to a a sum which will be represented by the difference between the rateable value of the house with a licence and the house without a licence. If that is so it is of course true that that will represent a smaller burden, although it will be a serious burden, than would be the case if the lines of the Kennedy judgment were adhered to and the goodwill and the wholesale profit were included in the monopoly value. But I am a little doubtful as to whether the Government will be able to secure that the restrictions will always hold good. Let us take the case of what will happen in the future when the monopoly value is restricted by some such limits as I have indicated. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be in want of money. Tariff reform will probably have been tried, and will have failed to come up to all that is expected of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will, in that case, if we may judge from experience, almost inevitably cast his eyes to that well-known beast of burden the licensed trade, and he will say: "Here is a trade paying only a small sum for a small consideration, an annual licence, which has to be applied for in order to be renewed each year," and almost inevitably it will occur to him that if the tenure of these licences were a lease of seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, it would become a valuable and more secure property, and it is quite possible for the State to claim a certain amount of that value from the licensee. They would immediately have conferred on them an added value, and competition to obtain them would inevitably be set up. The State would then find, as it has found in the past, that it has conferred a valuable right of property upon persons who have paid inadequately to the Exchequer in return for it. So the whole vicious circle would be repeated: there would be a rush of speculation, and another measure would be brought in 1325 for the purpose of extracting more from the coffers of the trade. That is an objection which I foresee to be brought against the proposal to define the monopoly value at the end of the time-limit. I agree with the remarks which fell this afternoon from the hon. Member for Coventry in his able and forcible speech. He could not understand the meaning of the word "resume" mentioned in connection with the monopoly value, and I do not see how the State can be said to "resume" a property or right which it has never secured for itself. The foreign anarchist, when he finds an inconvenient police officer in his path, never proposes to assassinate or murder him, but passes a resolution that the officer in question is condemned to be "removed"; and in the same way the promoters of this Bill are, I think, rather squeamish in their phraseology when they talk about resuming a property, a right, which the State has never in recent history proposed to arrogate to itself. The expectation of the renewal of a licence has over and over again in our Courts been treated as a property assessable, taxable—a property the owner of which has a right to be secured in the possession of it. Take the case of the trustees of the Somers estate. In that case the Divisional Court held that the expectation of the renewal of the licence was to such an extent a property which they ought to recognise that they granted an injunction on the application of the trustees for the remainderman to restrain the tenant for life from doing an act which would have the effect of reducing the value of the licence. Reference has been made more than once in the course of the debate to a much more practical recognition of the expectancy of renewal which existed in the shape of a Return which the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool has quoted—the instructions issued in 1890, signed by Sir Algernon West, who was at that time the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, indicating the manner in which licensed properties were to be assessed for the purpose of death duties. It goes through the whole category of every form of interest in licensed property, and a note is appended stating that the assump- 1326 tion is to be made—there is no permissive nature about it—the official is instructed that the whole property is to be valued upon the assumption that the licence will continue to be renewed during the lifetime of the successor, because without a licence there can be no goodwill in the valuation of the property. That is a very definite, distinct corroboration of my contention that the State, through its officials, has always and does to-day recognise the expectancy of the licence holder's renewal of his licence. The Prime Minister yesterday asked for the date of that document. The date is very remarkable. It is the year 1890. After the original issue of these instructions in 1891, there was pronounced the famous judgment in the case of Sharp v. Wakefield, which is supposed to have opened the eyes of the public for the first time to the great and indisputable fact that the licence is issued for one year, and one year only. If that judgment meant all that was claimed for it and was pronounced just one year after these instructions to the officials of the Inland Revenue Board, it was surely the duty of that board at once to cancel the instructions and instruct their officials that licences were only for one year and that property held under a licence of that kind was to be valued accordingly. But did they do so? These instructions were not withdrawn, and they continue in force to this day. In view of the long-continued consistent practice of the Inland Revenue authorities it is nothing less than a juggling with words to say that the expectation of the renewal of a licence is not a property which a man has a right to hold and in which he has a right to be confirmed and protected by the Legislature. Again, I say that in dealing with the expectation of the renewal of the licence in the manner in which this Bill proposes to deal with it, it is proposing to pass beyond the point where legitimate interference ends and confiscatory action begins. When this return was first alluded to the Prime Minister justified the proposal of the Bill by quoting as a simile the case of the owner of a racehorse, and said the value of a racehorse depends upon the probability of its winning large stakes in a race. That is an uncertain probability, and yet if it was a question of taxation 1327 the authorities would be justified in estimating its value at the highest sum it would fetch in the open market exactly in the same way as these instructions estimate the value of licensed property. But the simile is not altogether justifiable, because if the Prime Minister was dealing with a racehorse instead of licensed property I am afraid he would lie under the imputation of trying to nobble the animal—I think that is the phrase—in such a way as to prejudice his chance of winning the race or even acquiring the greater value which attaches to thoroughbred animals in their later and more luxurious years.
I now pass to another matter. What probability is there of this Bill effecting any great or material advantage in the cause of temperance? I at once freely admit that where there is a reasonable probability of any great public advantage then the rights of private individuals may be modified, and even in extreme cases disregarded. I now pass to the considerations which belong to the category of probability and conjecture. I think it is generally admitted—and it is a matter of congratulation—that during the last few years the people of this country have been advancing in sobriety. Every year the Chancellor of the Exchequer has almost reluctantly, from a financial point of view, pointed to the diminishing revenue from the sale of intoxicating liquors. From that it follows that if this Bill when it passes and becomes law is going to show any great gain for temperance, it will have to show a good deal. It will have to show that we are not only maintaining the present rate of progress in temperance but effecting a material acceleration of that rate of progress. Every speaker, and almost every writer, who has dealt with this question has been driven to admit that there is no real correspondence between the figures of the diminution of drunkenness in the country and the reduction of licences. It is quite easy to set up one set of figures which will show that the reduction of licences has produced a great and immediate gain to temperance, but immediately afterwards another set of figures, equally reliable, will show that in another part of the country exactly 1328 the reverse had followed. That is only another case where figures supply brilliant illustrations, but are quite brittle and unreliable when used as a matter of argument. I think that for the first time during the debate, attention has been called to the regulation of clubs. I do not want to quote any more or less comical advertisements which are issued by these clubs, although I have a copy of the journal referred to. It would be comical, if it were not rather pathetic, to notice the attractions which are almost universally held out to induce persons to visit these clubs, during the hours which ought to be devoted to divine service of some sort or another. I strongly support the hon. Members who have emphasised the fact that unless the unrestricted hours and opportunities for the consumption of alcoholic drink in these increasingly numerous clubs are much more drastically dealt with than at present under this Bill, it is a mere farce to pretend that you are going to achieve any great advance towards temperance by merely adding further burdens on carefully supervised public-houses. The Government have announced that they are open to consider Amendments upon the club clauses, but. I am afraid that they are likely to be pressed, and quite as strongly and effectively pressed, to consider Amendments from the point of view of those who wish to increase these clubs as from those who wish more drastic and firmer regulations. At any rate, I can find no solid ground in the provisions of this Bill to assure me that the gain which it will promote to the cause of temperance is in any way sufficient and sufficiently certain to warrant what I consider the unduly drastic provisions that it proposes to impose on the owners of licensed property. I have one other objection to the Bill, and that is the objection which has already been pointed out, viz., that this Bill is hailed from one quarter of the House, not for what it does or proposes to do in the direction of temperance reform, but as a first and important step in that Socialist policy of acquiring without compensation the means of production and distribution throughout the country. Hitherto, the advocacy of such a policy has been left to the less responsible Members of this House, 1329 but I cannot regard, with anything like confidence, a measure promoted by the Government of the day, which is so graphically characterised by an hon. Member who writes that—On the whole this Bill is one which Socialists may welcome, not so much for what it will do immediately, but as to the future possibilities it opens out in the direction of the policy which they advocate.Upon these grounds I regret—and seriously regret—to find myself unable to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. I am one of those who would be very glad—I would sacrifice a great deal to see placed on the Statute-book a measure which was just and equitable in its provisions and would tend to some permanent settlement of a question which has been too long unsettled. If in the course of its progress through Committee this Bill is remodelled and altered in the directions I have attempted to indicate, I should be very glad to be able to support it on the Third Reading. I am sure the Prime Minister will not refuse to believe me when I say that it is a matter of sincere regret to me not to be able to follow him through the Lobby on the first of what I trust will be many occasions when he will lead a majority of the House in a division during this Parliament. But holding as I do the view that this measure will inflict undeserved injustice on a large number of persons in this country without securing any adequate gain to the cause of temperance, I am reluctantly obliged to oppose its Second Reading.
§ MR. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
An hon. Member on the other side of the House objected to our bringing into this discussion any analogies from different parts of the world, as to the treatment of expectation of renewal. But it seems to me that we may get rid of a great many ambiguities if we review all analogies as to expectation of renewal from whatever quarter they come. In the United States we have it on the authority of the Blue-book that in no single case in any State has any compensation been granted for non-renewal of a licence, nor has any time-limit been given to the existence of the licence. In no province in the Dominion 1330 of Canada where licences have been legislated upon has any time-limit been given nor compensation awarded. In the European States the same policy has been followed. In Norway and Sweden, when a change was made in the licensing system to public control or local veto, there was no time-limit or compensation awarded to the then holders of licences. In France, in the time of Napoleon III., a great reduction was made in the number of licences without a time-limit or compensation. In Russia the system of licences was swept away in favour of the nationalisation of the liquor traffic, but there, too, there was no time-limit or compensation, the theory being that licences were granted for one year and one year only. The licensee got the benefit where renewal took place and the disadvantage when the licence was taken away. It is true that in certain Australian Colonies a time-notice was given, but in no part of the world has more generous consideration been shown for the expectation of renewal than the fourteen years time-limit given in this Bill. Attempts have been made to prove that this is unfair treatment; that you do not take away the property of the landlords at the end of fourteen years. But in the case of land the only expectation of renewal is the landlord's expectation, not the tenant's. I happen to have the happiest relations with the tenants on the Rowallan estate, where they and their families have been in occupancy of holdings for 400 years. But none of these tenants maintain that there is any right as against the landlord to a freehold interest in their farms because of an expectation of a renewal of their tenancy. I look to the possibilities of this measure from the temperance point of view. I say no word against those who are opposed to the Bill. I believe that they act as sincerely as I do in supporting it. All the agencies throughout the country, whether Church of England or Nonconformist, whether mainly Liberal or mainly Conservative, in favour of temperance, believe that this Bill will materially assist their efforts in that cause. Attempts have been made to show that legislative efforts would not materially assist the cause of temperance. Anybody who knows Scotland is aware that Sunday 1331 closing has largely diminished drunkenness. Attempts have been made in England to discredit Sunday closing, but they are not made in Scotland. In no part of Scotland is there any belief in that. English newspapers sometimes say that in Glasgow Sunday is the most drunken day of the week, but if the statistics are taken from eight o'clock on Sunday morning to eight o'clock on Monday morning so as to clear responsibility for the Saturday night drinking, it is found that drunkenness on Sunday is only one-sixtieth part of the drunkenness during the whole week, and instead of Sunday being the most drunken day in the week it has now only a tenth of the average drunkenness of any other day in the week. I wish to deal with what has been tried elsewhere. This measure, after the end of fourteen years, does open up splendid possibilities, and in the United States of America and our own Colonies wherever public control in the form of local veto has been tried the people increasingly believe in its effect. At the beginning of last year 33,000,000 people in the United States were under prohibition; at the beginning of this year the number had increased to 36,000,000. Then during this last month there have been fresh votes taken in the United States, and what has been the result? In five States 2,500 contests have resulted in 2,000,000 of additional population being brought under prohibition. Why is it that the people of the United States go on increasingly adding area to area under their prohibition law? I do not want to go into the matter fully to-night, but I have reports from the great majority of governors of the States where these experiments have been tried throughout the United States: I want to take the most difficult cases. We are constantly told that it is easy to carry out prohibition in country districts or among village populations, but that it is very hard to carry out the system in large populations. I have information as to four cities of the United States, with 100,000 population and over, which have tried this experiment. With reference to Atalanta, I was not able to get much official information, but all that I have is favourable. I sent a telegram to the Chief Constable, to which I received an 1332 answer yesterday, inquiring if prohibition, which had been introduced at the beginning of the year, had diminished crime, and the reply that I received was "Yes." With reference to Kansas City, we have more definite information. At the beginning of last year an interview with the Chief Constable of Kansas City was published in the newspapers, to the effect that crime had been reduced, by doing away with liquor-shops, by one-half. At Birmingham, Alabama, where prohibition has been in force since the beginning of this year, I wrote to the Chief Constable, and I have a letter from him, in which he says that crime has been reduced there by 50 per cent. I come to the other of the four cities, Cambridge. There the facts with regard to the reduction of crime are very much the same as in the other cases, but as it has had prohibition for over twenty years the Chief Constable deals more largely with the matter. What strikes him most, he says, is the increased expenditure on food, clothing,' and shoes, and he remarks that the change in the condition of the people is especially marked among the poorest classes of the community. Now, I would ask, does this system really interfere with the freedom of individuals? I maintain that it does not. I maintain that the freedom of the individual implies his freedom to do wrong as well as his freedom to do right, but that the freedom that you have to conceive is the freedom of the man's permanent purpose and fixed intention. If any man in a prohibition State wants to drink whisky or beer or wine he can do it. They perfectly well know how to manage it, but if that is their purpose they are resolved to do it. But, on the other hand, if a man wishes not to do this thing, if he is one of the men who have a difficulty in passing a public-house, and who would prefer to be an abstainer, that man's permanent freedom is also respected, and his permanent purpose is carried out, and it is just as much carried out because these restrictions tell against the individual. Where you have this prohibition you have a great reduction in the consumption of alcohol and a great reduction in criminality. I know we are told that in the United States the consumption of alcohol has gone on 1333 increasing, but our Returns as regards that are not very recent. I have, however, very recent information from the leading liquor papers in the United States, and they describe the loss which has been brought about by prohibition. They enumerate all the trades dealt with and all the industries connected with the production of alcohol, and everything connected with the trade, and they say, that the loss is almost incalculable, and if that almost incalculable loss falls upon those engaged in producing liquor, and in barrelling and bottling it, and in its transit, there must he a diminution in the amount of liquor consumed. I, for one, while I do not judge any of those who differ from me on this occasion, do feel that this is the most important issue with which this House has had to do for many a long day. We have to deal with the question of moral influence which touches most pressingly the interests of our people, and when we look back in days to come we shall look with satisfaction on everything that we did in helping to pass this Bill.
§ *MR. GEORGE FABER (York)
The speech of the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon might have marked a new departure. Since the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he was then, introduced this measure, much has happened, and we, at any rate on this side of the House, were waiting to know yesterday whether it was to be a case of return to the older and sounder policy or whether the Prime Minister intended to continue the course which, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he followed when he introduced this measure. I am only a humble Member of Parliament, and I am no master of tactics, but I do not know whether the tone adopted by the Prime Minister yesterday indicated what he felt about this measure, or whether he desired to put new heart into his supporters. One sentence that he let drop certainly indicated one or the other, because he said, towards the conclusion of his speech, in his eloquent peroration, that the trade would find that they were living in a fools' paradise if they thought they were going to conquer in this matter. Well, Sir, it is very unsafe for anyone to prophesy 1334 unless he knows, and whether upon the conclusion of this matter it will be the trade which will be in a fools' paradise, or whether it will be the Government, remains for the future and the future alone to judge. The Prime Minister may have forgotten the prophetic and ominous words of the late Sir William Harcourt upon his introduction of the Local Veto Bill in 1893. He said—The Government are not unaware that in navigating this sea they are navigating an ocean that is covered with many wrecks.And the right hon. Gentleman by his own measure added another wreck to the number. Members who were in the House at that time will recollect that that ship sank as soon as it was launched, and never reached the open sea at all; it never got beyond the First Reading. But what about this vessel in which the Prime Minister put out to sea yesterday afternoon? Almost as soon as it got there the hon. and learned Member for the Kingston Division fired a shot at it which struck it straight amidships in such a way that I do not imagine the vessel will ever recover from that drastic operation. Already it is drifting more or less waterlogged, and, as far as I can see, it looks as if it will go to pieces on the ruthless rocks of public opinion. The reason is because it is certainly not a just measure, and from my point of view it certainly is not a temperance measure. You are going to reduce the licences by 30,000 in the next fourteen years, but it has been proved over and over again in the course of the debate yesterday and to-day that if you do that you do not necessarily lessen the amount of drunkenness, because the conditions of the times have become so complex that there is no longer only one place to drink in, viz., the public-house, but there is the club and the home which is supplied through various channels. There are avenues of drink, everywhere, and if you reduce the number of public-houses you are only going to open the door in other directions. Hon. Members on the opposite side of the House are never tired of saying that the democracy must govern, and yet you propose to interfere with the social life of the democracy in a matter in which they have not been consulted, and which deeply touches its liberties. You intend 1335 to make a large reduction in the number of public-houses, but you do not propose in any way to deal with the question of clubs. You are of course entitled to think that the reduction of public-houses in this country will reduce the consumption of drink, but if you want to reduce the number of licences why do you not pay for those which you reduce? And here I have the authority of one of the greatest Parliamentarians who ever adorned this Chamber. I have the authority of no less a potent person than the late Mr. Gladstone What view did the late Mr. Gladstone take of this matter on the Liquor Bill brought forward in 1880? On the introduction of that Bill Mr. Gladstone said—We ought not to allow our prejudices with regard to this particular trade…to cause us to deviate by one hair's breadth from the principles on which Parliament has always acted in analogous circumstances, namely, that when a vested interest has been allowed to grow up the question of compensation should be considered when such vested interests were proposed to be interfered with by Parliament. What I am prepared to say is this, that the licensed victualler has the same right to fair consideration that is enjoyed by persons following every other trade or calling which is interfered with by Act of Parliament, and to whom compensation is awarded owing to such interference.… When Parliament enacted negro emancipation it was preceded by a preliminary Resolution in which the principle of compensation was recognised.Later Mr. Gladstone said—The withdrawal of the licence is the confiscation of the estate.Upon the next stage of the measure the right hon. Gentleman spoke in no less strong terms. He said—I should have been better pleased with the matter of the Resolution, if my hon. friend had included in it some reference to the principle of equitable compensation… I want a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans as a class the benefits of equal treatment.… Considering the legislative title they have acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings of this House for a long series of years, they ought nut to he placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impression we may entertain—in many eases too justly—in relation to the mischief connected with the present licensing system.Many years have passed since those words were spoken by that eminent gentleman. I do not know whether the Radical Party still sit at his feet.Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay, May stop a hole to keep the wind away.1336 But, if "he being dead yet speaketh," the whole ground of your so-called compensation falls from under your feet. Look at the whole course of the procedure that has been followed. Look at it as sensible men. The State for generations has not only recognised the trade, but patted it on the back. The drink bill of this country is something like £160,000,000 a year. Out of that the State is taking one-fourth. It is taking nearly £40,000,000 in excise alone, and if everything, including income-tax and death duties is taken into consideration, I should not be surprised to find the State takes between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 a year from the trade. The State is almost a partner in the business. It has put in no capital, but takes the greater part of the profit out. It is under the shadow, under the authority, of the State that this trade has attained the honourable position it holds to-day; an honourable trade conducted by honourable men. I speak without any interest in it. I am not a brewer—I should not be ashamed if I were—but as a barker I am able to see that this is the first step down that long lane which leads to ruin. This trade has grown up under the wing of the State. The State has taxed it, and the local authorities have rated it, as if it were an enduring property, not as if the licence lasted for one year. It is treated almost as a freehold. I think the instructions issued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day to the Inland Revenue authorities are absolutely conclusive evidence in themselves that the State considered the licences as an enduring property. It is absolutely impossible for the State now to turn round after all that has happened, and after all the money that has been put into the trade by individuals, and taken out of it by the State, and say that licences are not an enduring property; that they only last for a year, and can be taken away at the whim and pleasure of the State. The State, local authorities, the magistrates, and the Law Courts, have all treated them as an enduring property—liable, of course, to be taken away for bad behaviour, but, excepting in cases of proved superfluity, not otherwise. It was because Mr. Gladstone saw this so clearly that he 1337 took the view he did in 1880, because he saw the State had put itself into such a position in regard to licences by the course it had pursued, that it could not turn round and say there was no property in them. The State is not a petty-fogging attorney to take advantage of any quibble, of any hole, that it can find in the logic of the position. The position of the State ought to be a position of integrity and fair dealing. This is not a Bill to promote morals, it is a Bill to get money. The President of the Board of Education, it seems to me, let that out in a recent speech at Dewsbury. I doubt, however, if the Government have even concealed it from themselves. First and foremost this is a Bill for getting money. What did the President of the Board of Education say? He said this Bill would be very convenient for old-age pensions. Have we really come to the stake when we are going to rob Peter to pay Paul; to take money from tens of thousands of shareholders in brewery comparies and licensed victuallers, in order to promote old-age pensions? The Government, as a matter of fact, are out of elbows; they have made promises they have not the money to carry out, and in order to carry out those promises are endeavouring to seize the first Naboth's vineyard they car find, namely, the licensed trade of this country.
§ MR. LUPTON (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The hon. Member admits that the trade collects £160,000,000 from the people, and hands over £40,000,000 to the State. I would ask him, Would it not be better for the State to collect the £40,000,000 direct, and leave the remaining £120,000,000 in the pockets of the people?
§ *MR. GEORGE FABER
I do not quite follow the hon. Member. Does he suggest that there should be total prohibition?
§ MR. LUPTON
I suggest that the people would be better off if the trade did not collect this £120,000,000 from them.
§ *MR. GEORGE FABER
What I complain of is that at the end of fourteen years the State is going to appropriate 1338 all licenses without paying anything for them. It is not only going to collect the £40,000,000 in exciso,but is going to be the master of the licensed trade and perhaps take every farthing of the profit. [Cries of "No."] Hon. Members cry "No," but at the end of fourteen years the State will recover the monopoly value of the whole trade to do with the licences exactly what it pleases. The State may, and I think will, reap the entire profit of the trade. Nobody imagines there is going to be prohibition. This is simply a Money Bill, a money device. The Bill from that point of view is artfully drawn. It is drawn so as to meet the views of temperance reformers in this respect, that during the next fourteen years 30,000 licences are to be abolished. That is to catch the bishops and the temperance party. At the end of fourteen years the State is to recover the monopoly value. This Bill is to put money into the pockets of the Treasury. As regards the first part of the proposition, namely, a wholesale reduction of licences during the next fourteen years, where do the Government find any warrant for the proposition? Certainly it is not in Sharpe v. Wakefield. All that that case laid down was that the magistrates in a particular case, having considered all the circumstances of the case, might suppress a particular licence. Sharpe v. Wakefield never contemplated the wholesale reduction of licences. What Lord Hannen said was that each case must be considered on its merits, and Lord Halsbury said the matter must be decided according to law and not according to hull-mar. When you take away 30,000 licences in the next fourteen years, is that treating the matter judicially?
And, it being a quarter past Eight of the Clock, further proceeding was postponed without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.