§ 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. GEORGE FABER (York)
When the debate was interrupted last evening I was endeavouring to establish that there was no warranty for the two propositions at the root of this measure—first, the wholesale reduction of licences during the next fourteen years, and at the conclusion of those fourteen years the resumption by the State of the monopoly value of all the remaining licences. As regards the first of those two propositions, I venture to say that there is nothing to be found anywhere in the judgments in "Sharp v. Wakefield" to support it. An hon. Gentleman sitting below the gangway yesterday questioned this, but I have read the judgments many times, and can say with confidence to the House that the observation I made last night on that decision is fully warranted by the facts. "Sharp v. Wakefield" laid down that it was in the power of the licensing magistrates to suppress a licence at the end of any year on the 1419 ground of superfluity, but the Judges expressly said that each case must be decided on its own particular merits and upon nothing else, that the decision in fact must be based upon the particular circumstances surrounding the particular case. The present Bill does not proceed in any way on those lines, and no doubt it does not intend to. Do not then let any hon. Member quote "Sharp v. Wakefield" in support of this arbitrary reduction of licences. The time-limit proposed by this Bill seems to me, apart altogether from the question of the recovery of the monopoly value, to be a bad proposition, and I think that the course followed by the Act of 1904 was superior in every respect, because under that Act there is elasticity, whilst here there is a cast-iron system that cannot be departed from in any instance. So many licences have got to be suppressed in so many districts in so many years. In fact the Government are setting up a bed of Procrustes in which the licensed properties of the country are to be laid. It does not matter whether the limbs are good or bad; if they do not accommodate themselves to the procrustean bed they are to be lopped off independently of whatever virtues they may be possessed of. Thus I venture to give a categorical answer to the question asked by the Prime Minister as to our views with regard to the time-limit. My views are entirely opposed to any time-limit. As regards the second proposition, which is a much more difficult one, and contains within itself the very core and kernel of the whole measure, and that is the recovery of the monopoly value of all licences left at the end of fourteen years by the State, where do the Government find any warranty for such a proposition? It is not even in the Minority Report of the Licensing Commission, let alone the Majority Report. All through the arguments, whenever it has been possible to do so, the Government have quoted the Minority Report, and here is one of the fundamental findings on this matter by the Minority Report. I cannot find a word in it about the recovery of monopoly value. They say, on page 268 of the Report—We recommend the adoption of a term, say seven years, as the basis of a time for compensation arrangements under which the 1420 number of public-houses and beer-on-licences shall be everywhere reduced.They do not go on to lay down any views as to the recovery of monopoly value; they stop short at the statutory maximum. In March, 1903, years after this expression of opinion, I find, from a recent quotation in The Times newspaper, that the Archbishop of Canterbury presided at a conference where influential gentlemen of all shades of opinion, including Lord Peel, were present, as well as many members of the trade, when a resolution was passed to the effect thatIn order to facilitate the considerable reduction of licences, the conference was of opinion that provision should be made for compensation at interest for licensed property, dispossessed otherwise than for misconduct, from a fund raised by the trade, and that it was desirable that ante-1869 beerhouses should be placed on the same footing as other licensed houses.Even a time-limit was not mentioned. The recovery of the monopoly value was never mentioned from first to last, and therefore I think I am warranted in saying again that the Government, in establishing this cardinal proposition of the recovery of the monopoly value by the State, have no precedent on which to found such an action. It rather reminds me of another phrase greatly in vogue among forward politicians below the gangway, viz., the nationalisation of all the means of production. I think the recovery of monopoly values and the nationalisation of all the means of production are born of the same father, and are half-brothers. The father is confiscation, while the mother of the one is plain speech and of the other subterfuge. About the one there is no possibility of doubt as to what it means. The Socialist Members below the gangway never hide their meaning, but upon the other there rests a certain veneer of respectability which makes it extremely dangerous, at any rate for the unwary. The Prime Minister in his speech a few days ago, and other speakers who followed him on the other side, were rather cruel and hard upon the great brewery interests of this country. I see sitting opposite me a right hon. Gentleman, the son of a great statesman who has passed away, Sir William Harcourt. What did he say on one of the many Licensing Bills, one of the many 1421 Liquor Bills, brought forward by the other side, for the consideration of this House? In 1868 he said—There is nothing in the world so cruel as the tender mercies of a real philanthropist.When Sir William Harcourt was talking of the real philanthropist he was talking on a Liquor Bill, of temperance reformers; if he was alive to-day I think he would be able to go one better and say, "There is nothing in the world so cruel as the tender mercies of the real temperance reformer, coupled with the tender mercies of a Chancellor of the Exchequer looking out for money to provide for old-age pensions." Of course, we all know that there are brewery companies and brewery companies. Some have been inflated and some have not; some have had shares watered and some have not; but it does not go outside the bounds of comprehension that even an aerated water company should be brought for ward as a company upon inflated lines. In fact, I often think the chief merit of aerated water is that peculiar inflated quality. It was, I think, the hon. Member for the Appleby Division of Westmoreland either yesterday or the day before, who was pleased to divide the parties in this House into the just and the unjust. He did not say the sheep and the goats, and perhaps I may be allowed to add to his definition in that respect. Humanity, either in this House or out of it, falls into no simple category of that kind. There are sheep and goats on both sides of the House, and, Mr. Speaker, I venture to say that if that over-confident judgment of the hon. Member was appealed against, and came up before you, Sir, for decision, I am not at all sure you would not reverse the position of the sheep and the goats, and put the sheep on your left hand and the goats on your right. Bearing on my remarks that there are companies and companies, I have a case in my hand which is directly upon this point, the case of an inflated brewery company. The company was promoted in 1897, and floated during that year with a capital of £500,000, £250,000 being issued in debentures, and £250,000 ordinary shares being retained by the vendors. ["Name"] I will state the name before I have finished. The company was refloated later in the same year, at £750,000, of which £250,000 were de- 1422 bentures, £250,000 pre-prefence stock, £150,000 preference stock, and £100,000 ordinary stock. In 1904 what do we find? We get this ominous sentence in the seventh annual statement—The directors have for some time past been of opinion that it was necessary that some scheme of reconstruction of the company should be devised and carried through, having regard to the surrenders above referred to, and the high capitalisation of the company on former issue.What happened? The company's capital is written down by no less a sum than £100,000, and the people who had to pay for that disagreeable operation were the ordinary shareholders. They did not like it, and when the meeting came on there was some demur. One gentleman asked the following question: "If the scheme of writing down the value of the company was carried out would the auditors give us any assurance that the property of the company was worth the amount given in the balance-sheet?" The answer given by Mr. Grimshaw, one of the auditors, was that that was hardly a fair question to put to the auditors; it would puzzle an expert to say what was the worth of the property, but he would say that the amount would be nearer the mark after the reduction of £100,000. Now, who is the fortunate vendor? I am sure hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are burning to know. Well, his name is Mr. George Whiteley, M.P. Let me at once disabuse the mind of this House of the idea that I have any sinister intention in bringing a matter of this sort forward. I do not blame the Patronage Secretary, but how is he going to answer to the high canon of morality that is set up by the other side of the House, and what answer has he got to make to his own Prime Minister, who has expressed himself so strongly regarding inflated breweries? I must leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to determine. Mr. Speaker, assuming that you do not interfere with the allocation of the sheep and the goats made by the hon. Member for the Appleby Division, and that the sheep still rest on your right hand, I am afraid the shepherd of the flock is going to have rather a difficult task when a division is called on Monday night, and he has got to drive the immaculate flock into the division lobby. 1423 I do not forget that in those unregenerate days the right hon. Gentleman had not found salvation. Perhaps one of these days—who knows, it is a strange world—the right hon. Gentleman may find himself back among the goats. But seriously, does not this illustrate the folly of laying down any general proposition about inflated brewery companies and to found upon that the argument that if anybody is to blame for the hardships continued in this Bill it is not the State, but the brewery companies, and if money has been lost it is the wicked brewery companies, and not the State, which is responsible. I may be stupid, I often think that I must be, but I cannot for the life of me follow the logic of that argument. I agree that if a shareholder has been foolish enough to put his money into a watered brewery company or a watered any other company, he deserves what he gets. He has got to "stew in his own juice," a phrase used by Sir William Harcourt, but because the shareholder has to stew in his own juice there is no reason why he is to be again put into the pot and on the fire and stewed in the Government's juice. Why should he stew twice over? Surely it is sufficient for the unfortunate shareholder to suffer for his own initial folly, and not have to suffer the confiscation which must follow, as certainly as night follows day, the course of procedure laid down by the Government in this Bill. When you come to the compensation clauses, and there let me speak quite simply as a business man, is it not a farce to call it compensation? Is the State paying one single farthing either during the compensation period, or at its conclusion—is it paying a single farthing for the 30,000 odd licences which are to be suppressed, or for the 60,000 remaining licences that are to be pouched by the State upon the conclusion of the fourteen years? Not one single farthing. You call that compensation, and you think you are going to take in the bishops and the confiding British public, by leading them to believe that the State is giving compensation for this gigantic property which it is proposed to take away. I can imagine hon. Gentlemen opposite saying, "Very well, but the Act of 1904 also pro- 1424 vided that the trade, where licences were suppressed, should find the compensation." I agree, we did provide a precedent, but look how different the cases are. Under the Act of 1904, after providing for the suppression of licences, the monopoly was left to the trade, and you may fairly say that each suppression of a licence increased the monopoly, so that the trade which had paid for the suppression of licences were in a superior for position as regards the licences that were left. That is logical, and the Act of 1904 proceeded on that basis. It was because the monopoly value was left to the trade and was not passed over to the State that the trade provided the compensation. But what is done here? The analogy does not apply. How can you call upon the trade during fourteen years to find compensation, when on the conclusion of that period the State is going to take over the remaining licences? There is not one farthing of compensation paid by the State of any sort or in any way for the suppression of these licences. I will not linger over the monstrosity, but, speaking as a banker, for I am not a brewer, I do feel this matter to the very core of my heart, the injustice of it strikes me so forcibly. Thus then, the compensation is to be provided by the trade, but even so you do not allow it to be generous compensation; you have cut it down to the lowest possible limit. You are only allowing fourteen years for the suppression of 30,000 licences, and you have to make the compensation go as far as you can, and there is not sufficient of it. Instead of providing for the compensation which has been held proper in the Ashby Brewery case, against which the Inland Revenue authorities, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer behind them, did not appeal, and of which the Lord Chief Justice, by way of obiter dictum, the other day approved, your basis of compensation is unfair and unsound. Now, let me take this further point which may not have occurred to some hon. Members who are not, I hope, for their own sakes, conversant with company matters. Think what chaos there is going to be during the fourteen years, because the Prime Minister said, when introducing 1425 the Bill, that it will be the duty of every prudent brewery company to set up an insurance fund, so as to provide against the termination of the time-limit. But in very many, in most, cases it will be a matter of absolute pecuniary impossibility for brewery companies—I am not talking of the inflated brewery company, but the fair, honest brewery company, founded upon fair and honest lines—in addition to excise duties, rates, rent and taxes, and compensation levies, to provide these new insurance funds. I have no reason to doubt the many skilled auditors whose opinions have been quoted on that subject, and if they are wrong there has been an opportunity of having their findings corrected. No doubt they are right, and the House must feel with me that they are right when they say it is a matter of impossibility to get round in fourteen years and establish, in lieu of the licences that are taken away, a sinking fund that will correspond to their value. But the matter does not end there, because all shareholders do not stand in the same position. There are different kinds of shareholders in the same company. What is going to happen when you try to set up an insurance fund? It will suit one class of shareholders and not another. The debenture-holder has security. He has the bricks and mortar for what they are worth. He would have had the licences as well, but you are going to take them away. He has the bricks and mortar, but that in all probability will not be sufficient to cover him, and therefore he will want the insurance fund to make up the deficiency. But the other shareholders will say to the debenture-holder: "Not quite so fast, my friend. Although an insurance fund may suit you, it may not suit us. "The preference shareholder has no security, he only has his fixed interest, he is not in the comparatively happy position of the debenture-holder, and if the insurance fund does not reach him he will lose all his capital. He will want his interest and his capital, but he will probably try to balance the matter and say: "Shall I take my interest, or shall I forego my interest and depend on this fund for my capital?" The ordinary shareholder is 1426 in another position still. So long as the debenture-holder gets his interest and the preference shareholder his interest, they can do nothing, but the ordinary shareholder will say: "This insurance fund will not suit me, because it will never reach me. What I shall do is to get all the interest I can after the fixed interest is paid, and a fig for the insurance fund. I have to save my skin." That condition of things is certain to arise the moment you pass this Bill. All these questions must arise. Who is going to settle them? Mark me, you are going to have confusion worse confounded. And all this time the sword of Damocles is held over the head of the trade. Sir, it is bad enough for us to sit here, hour after hour, never knowing when we shall be fortunate, or in my own case, unfortunate enough to catch your eye. That takes all the life and gumption out of an ordinary man, but how about the life and gumption of the trade with this sword of execution suspended above its head all these fourteen years? The licensed houses will not be repaired. It will be to nobody's interest that they should be. It will be to the interest of the owners that they should be allowed to fall into disrepair, because they have to squeeze the orange to the greatest possible extent. The good men will be driven out of the trade, and the bad men will come in, and the last state will be worse than the first. Even brewers are mortal, and they have got to get out so far as they can. The character of the drink is going to suffer or prices are going to be raised. What is going to happen on the conclusion of the fourteen years (and here I hope the Government will be kind enough to enlighten me at some subsequent period of the debate, because I thought the Solicitor-General showed symptoms of weakening in this case)? What is going to happen when the 60,000 licences are handed in at the end of the fourteen years and the new heaven and the new earth are to begin? Is the State going to take the whole of the new licences and turn itself into a State publican? What will the temperance reformers say to that? I gather that that will not suit them; therefore, I suppose the State will not become a publican. Are the new 1427 licences, then, to be issued to the old holders as under the scheme put forward by Mr. Bruce in 1871? Mr. Bruce's scheme was a time-limit of ten years, during which period the trade,could look round, and at the end of the time there was to be a series of fresh certificates issued to the old licence-holders. What are the Government going to do? Are the old licences going to have the first call, and if they are not I suppose they are to be put up to auction, issued at a rack rental. Will that conduce to temperance? This is a broad proposition which I wish to examine broadly. It is not a majestic spectacle, to my mind, to see the State haggling for the highest sum it can get, seeking to get the highest price from the highest bidder. But then the bidder having paid a high price for the licence has to get all he can from the liquor trade. Naturally, he will try to get it out of somebody. Is the drink traffic going to be put on a more satisfactory basis by an operation of that kind? Then another consideration arises. The State is counting on getting an immense sum of money annually out of the licences, but how about Clause 2? That is a prohibition clause. Suppose a licensing district says, and the power is given to it by Clause 2: "No, we will not have the drink trade at all." The Bill gives power to them to prohibit licences. Where, in that event, is the great revenue to come from for the State? There, it seems to me, the State is on the horns of a dilemma. You cannot have it both ways. If you have sobriety von will have an empty exchequer. [Cries of "No."] That observation does not seem to commend itself to the intelligence of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but what I mean to convey is that the broader the principle of prohibition extends so much the less money will the State get out of the rack rent of the licences. That must be patent to everybody. I do not believe the Government have any idea where they are getting to. If one could only penetrate into the inner recesses of the Prime Minister's mind, and see what his real feelings are about this Bill, I wonder what we should find. That he has been pushed into it I feel sure. I do not blame the temperance reformers, but the right hon. Gentleman has been pushed into this 1428 matter by them, and when the House of Lords rejects this measure, as it will do, then I wish I could be present at the meeting between the right hon. Gentleman and the foremost protagonists of the temperance movement. If I were, I expect I should hear the right hon. Gentleman say: "What did I tell you? You have only yourselves to blame." The Government have made a mistake, and they know it. They have not sufficiently considered the real trend of public opinion—not public-house opinion—but real public opinion. They have not been able to see the wood on account of the trees. Public opinion is not with them, even though this were a temperance measure. We know that in the temperance councils there is the spectre of the clubs with which they do not dare to cope. Even if it is a temperance measure the ocuntry want justice first, and they will not have a measure, the honour of which, if any, stands rooted in dishonour. You are confiscating great interests, and legitimate interests, in this country. The licensed trade has been supported and approved for generations by the State. This country is still an honest and adjust country; it does not like injustice. Apart altogether from party politics, Englishmen, the citizens of these Islands, like to see justice, and they like to see it in high places. They make and unmake them. They expect the Government not to drag the honour of the State through the mud, and you are dragging it through the mud. The Government have made a mistake, and all Governments have to pay the penalty for mistakes, for Governments are only like individuals. You have put your money on the wrong horse. You are tampering with great principles, and whenever the country has the opportunity of making its voice known in this matter, the Government and the Party behind it will find out that its fall will be just as certain, and just as dramatic as its rise.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLADSTONE,) Leeds, W.
I congratulate my hon. friend upon the life which he has thrown into his speech, despite all the disadvantages from which he said he was suffering. 1429 I observe the terror which he seems to express at the idea of a sober nation. If that terrible condition of things comes about, he gives us to understand that the Government of the country will be deprived of all sources of revenue. I am not going to attempt to make an exact quotation, but I will say this, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is faced with the spectacle of an altogether sober nation, he would not be so much hampered by expenditure, and he would not be at any disadvantage in collecting his revenue. One of the remarkable features of this debate has been its freedom from heat and from fiery language. I listened to my hon. friend, who entertains strong views which he put in a most good-tempered fashion. Yet this question in the country has given rise perhaps to fiercer passions and more formidable agitations than almost any other question of social reform. This debate, on the whole and from the first, has been quite dispassionate. Perhaps that is in no small measure due, if I may say so, to the admirable lead given us by the hon. and learned Member for Kingston in his most lucid speech, in which he practically stated the whole case for the Opposition. There was a brush between the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for South Dublin, and my hon. friend the Member for Appleby, and I think the right hon. Gentleman was rather unnecessarily severe. My hon. friend belongs to a band of men who have given their lives to this cause of temperance.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
It is a cause which appeals to every man in the country, irrespective of party, though I agree we differ as to the methods by which we seek to attain our object. I myself have been in somewhat violent collision with my hon. friend behind me on some of these questions of licensing reform. But apart from political methods which are opposed by one section or another, I say it is only right to acknowledge the splendid social work of temperance organisations, which have done and will do more effective work for 1430 temperance than even the best Acts of Parliament.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I grant that there is no difference of opinion on that question; we are all anxious to see the country as prosperous and sober as it possibly can be made. What has been the nature of this attack? The Prime Minister said that the Government had two main objects to achieve. For the purpose of my argument I will expand those two objects into three. Take, first of all, the recovery of the monopoly value by the State; secondly, the reduction of licences under compensation, to a fixed proportion; and thirdly, other regulations which will be applied for the diminution of drunkenness and the promotion of temperance. Now the attack, which was in the main on the first two pillars of the Bill, was based principally on financial grounds. With the exception perhaps of the speech of my hon. friend who has just sat down, there has been no objection in principle either to the recovery of the monopoly value or to the reduction under a time-limit. I do not say more than that at present, but that is what I gather, at any rate up to the present time, from the speeches which have been made in this debate. I make no complaint at all of the character of the attack on the Bill for the reason that it has been largely on the financial question. I agree that if the Opposition or if any hon. Members on this side of the House believe that injustice is caused either to persons or to the rights of property by anything we propose, it is their right, and it is their duty, to criticisms and, if necessary, to oppose. But the fact remains that the attack on this Bill up to the present is an attack on methods but not on the-main objects which we have at heart, Now, my argument is that the criticisms of this Bill which we have had from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not justify the Motion for the rejection, either taken by themselves or taken in conjunction with my third object—namely, that other part of the Bill 1431 which is calculated to alter the law or add to the law in the furtherance of the promotion, the direct promotion, of temperance. Now, I come to the monopoly value, and I think it best first of all to repeat the Prime Minister's definition of monopoly value. He said—The monopoly value, measured not as rent, but measured as a lump sum, means the capitalised value of the difference between the licensed and unlicensed rental of the premises.That is one way of defining it, but it is not necessary that the definition should be applied to a large lump sum. It can be defined by omitting certain words and saying: "The monopoly value is the difference between the licensed and unlicensed premises." We had two speeches delivered yesterday by hon. friends of mine on this side of the House, the Member for Coventry and the Member for Huntingdon, and both of my hon. friends seemed to be under great apprehension, or rather shared the apprehension expressed by Gentlemen opposite, as to the condition of things which would be brought about by this Bill. I think the calculations which my hon. friend for Coventry gave were based really on a misapprehension of the Bill. His calculations were made on the assumption that at the end of the statutory period the State is to absorb, as was suggested by my hon. friend, the whole of the profits of the trade, whether due to the protection against competition given by the licence or to the ordinary trading, the use of capital, and the application of individual labour and skill. That is not the case. It is not the intention of the Government, and it is not the purpose or effect of the Bill. I for my part agree with the suggestion thrown out by the Prime Minister that the insertion of a definition in the Bill will make matters clearer than perhaps they are at present. What will happen at the end of the period? I suppose at the end of the period we may assume that human intelligence will be much as it is now; that the ordinary methods of men in their private and public capacity, their sense of justice, of equity as to what is due to an individual or a company will be much the same in fourteen years time as they are at present. What will happen? At the present time, by the Act of 1904, the justices have to get at 1432 the monopoly value, under Section 4, in the case of new licences. How do they proceed? I will give a rough description; I cannot give more, because I am not supplied with the actual details of decisions and judgments, but I can give a rough description of what has happened in getting at the monopoly value. Frequently, no doubt, the monopoly value is arrived at in a more or less rough and ready manner. The applicant says what he is prepared to take. The justices try to screw him up, and finally they agree. If the thing is based on either side on anything like precise calculations they are no doubt on the following lines. The house in question is a house capable of entering on or being adapted to either the purposes of the licensed liquor trade or some other trade that does not require a licence. What would be the ordinary profit on the unlicensed trade? Say 6 per cent. What would be the profit on the licensed trade? That would have to be estimated in the first year and ascertained from the books in succeeding years. Say it was 15 or 20 per cent. Take the difference between the two, allow something for good management and other considerations as provided in Section 4 of the Act of 1904, and the result is the monopoly value, which may be either capitalised in a lump sum and paid as in some cases already, or it may be in the form of an annual payment as provided in Clause 24 of the Bill. That is, roughly, the procedure, and what is passing under the Act of 1904 is possible under the Bill which we are now considering. The statutory period will enable, at any rate, provision to be made for that loss, and the new licensee will be enabled to make a fair trading profit. There is no terrible spoliation in that. If the law is made clear I myself have sufficient confidence in public authorities to feel satisfied that they will administer it on principles of justice and common-sense. Now the State wishes to recover its full title, to control in its own interest the licensed liquor trade, unfettered by any claim founded on law and custom, and place itself once and for all in a free position to take such action as it pleases in the public interest, subject only to those equitable considerations which are essential in administrative action. Such 1433 considerations, I maintain, will weigh with the local justices and urban licensing authorities at the end of the period as they do now in the administration of the Act of 1904, and with an adequate statutory period there is no sufficient justification for the fears expressed. I pass to consider for a moment the reference by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin yesterday to the question of the time-limit. He said the time-limit was in his opinion absolutely incompatible with the concurrent levy for insurance, and that was a considered statement which represented the view of himself and his colleagues. He said that was their opinion in 1904 and was their opinion now. I gladly recognise the qualification in what the right hon. Gentleman said. I do not ask for any further explanation. I place my own inference upon it and do not ask him whether I am right or wrong. The inference I draw is that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do not object in principle to the time-limit. That being so, I say no more at present on this very important point, except that the issue appears to me to be narrowed down to a question of terms, and that view is strengthened by a passage which I will quote from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment—The time-limit in the sense in which the Bill imposed it he did not accept, whatever the period might be. A genuine proposal under which, after a certain time, the absolute freedom of the justices would be restored, he would gladly consider.For my part I am not dissatisfied with those considered statements which have been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I leave that point; it will be dealt with frequently by subsequent speakers, and at subsequent stages of the Bill, and I pass to my second point, which has regard to the reduction proposed under the Bill. I do not enter into the question now as to the precise degree to which the reduction of public-houses may reduce intemperance, but I note that it has been generally admitted that in fact a reduction of public-houses does contribute to sobriety, and so I argue it does in fact tend to diminish drunkenness. But I pass to other points. First of all with regard to the basis of 1434 compensation, I understand that the Opposition accept the Kennedy judgment and defend it—they roost in the Kennedy judgment. The interesting point is at what precise moment they made up their minds that the result achieved by the Kennedy judgment was a right one for assessing the value. When they drafted the Bill of 1904, was it their intention to base their compensation proposals on what we now know as the Kennedy judgment? The matter was described by my predecessor in introducing the Licensing Bill in 1904. He said—The next point we have to consider is the amount of compensation to be awarded to the licensee, and we have decided that the fair measure of compensation which ought to be afforded is the difference between the value of the licensed premises and the value of the premises without a licence. Of course, that would be calculated as if the Act had not been passed. This, again, is one of the recommendations made by the majority of the Royal Commission.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I will read on, but it is unnecessary to my argument. My point is that it seems to me that even if you add on the further words of the right hon. Gentleman it does not foreshadow in any way the principles and the intended effect which are embodied in the Kennedy judgment. Of course, the question of barrelage profits and things of that sort, so far as I know, never came under the consideration at all of the Royal Commission, and there is nothing in the Report of the majority of the Royal Commission to show that they took any cognisance of the principles which Mr. Justice Kennedy laid down in his famous judgment.
§ MR. AKERS-DOUGLAS
I asked the right hon. Gentleman to read on, simply for this reason, that if he had done so he would have seen I said—Should the sum awarded by quarter sessions be incapable of being settled on that basis, the amount will be fixed by the Inland Revenue Commissioners in the same manner as they would fix the value for estate duty.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
That is quite true, but the substantive basis which the 1435 Government had in their mind was that it should be the difference between the value of the licensed premises and the value of the premises without a licence, and then they left it to the Inland Revenue. Yesterday in an interruption, the right hon. and learned Gentlemen the Member for Dublin University explained the position further by saving it was the intention of the late Government to make the market value the basis. But that not the Kennedy judgment. I have read the Kennedy judgment as carefully as I can, and I have consulted all the information at my disposal, but I cannot make out that the market value is in fact the basis of the Kennedy judgment. The market value is what the house would fetch in the open market when sold to a man who expected to make a living out of it. I think that is a fair definition. Mr. Justice Kennedy gave the capitalised value of all the profits. Perhaps the late Chancellor will throw light on this point, because the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment, as I understood him, denied that the judgment did include these profits. I cannot understand how it failed to include them. Why is the barrelage profit not a profit? That is the thing that puzzles me when trying to explain the language of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I err quite aware that Mr. Justice Kennedy excluded the special profit accruing from the application of special skill and knowledge of a particular brewer, but does the right hon. Gentleman opposite say that Mr. Justice Kennedy in his judgment excluded the ordinary profits of the brewer? I maintain that he included them. Therefore the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingston was wrong. You cannot have it both ways, and perhaps when the right hon. Member for Dublin University speaks he will throw light on this point. So far as our information goes at present, we maintain that Mr. Justice Kennedy included all the brewer's ordinary profits and, as a matter of fact, the Member for South Hunts, representing a large and important brewery concern, in his speech yesterday admitted that the brewer's profits were included. I want to know, was it your intention to include them?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am quite ready for the right hon. Gentleman to cross-examine me, but I would remind him that he represents the Government who are legislating.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I quite agree, but then the contention of the Prime Minister is challenged as regards what he said about the basis of our proposal as to assessment. That statement is challenged by hon. Members opposite. I want to show that their basis in the Act of 1904, if not exactly the same, is not dissimilar from the basis proposed in the present Bill. The Kennedy judgment was given at the end of July, and consequently at that time the Act of 1904 had been in operation about a year and a half, and between 400 and 500 cases had been settled upon the basis on which the Board of Inland Revenue worked. Is it alleged that brewers did not know what market values were? In the past they have accepted these awards as representing the market value, and for a year and a half they did not appeal. So far as I am aware these awards caused no uneasiness to the late Government, and I am not aware that our predecessors in office consulted the law officers of the Crown as to whether the Board of Inland Revenue were right, or announced their intention of bringing in an amending Bill. The late Government remained silent, and these awards were accepted by the brewers. After the Kennedy judgment a number of the claims previously sent in were withdrawn because those who put them forward saw a chance of getting more money. As a matter of fact, taking houses of exactly the same class, after the Kennedy judgment awards were given which in some cases were no less than three times as much as the awards given before that judgment. I want to know from hon. Gentlemen opposite exactly what was the system they intended, because there is a very great difference between the awards made before and after the Kennedy judgment, and they cannot both be right. At any rate the late Government appeared to acquiesce in the principles laid down by the Board of Inland Revenue. I may safely say that if the Board of Inland 1437 Revenue had started their assessment upon the basis of the Kennedy judgment nobody would have been more surprised than the late Government. There are one or two other points upon which I should like to say a few words. Hon. Members opposite say that this reduction will create unemployment. Not a single individual who represents Labour in any direct sense or form has up to the present made this point against the Bill. The Labour representatives are not backward on the question of unemployment, and yet not one of them has made the charge as to unemployment put forward by hon. Members opposite. It has been said that 2,000,000 people in the country are employed in the licensed trade or in the trades necessary to the carrying on of the licensed trade. What does that mean? It means according to that statement that these people, with their families, would amount to one-fifth of the entire population. So throughout the population one person in five would be engaged in supplying liquor to the other four. I do not say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are responsible for that statement, but it has been seriously made outside. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin says that this Bill will create unemployment. I should like to know what provision he made on this point in his own Bill of 1904? You now say that this Bill will lead to unemployment and that our reduction of licences scheme will throw people out of employment.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I admit that the statement as to unemployment has been exaggerated, but there is also to be considered the general injury which will be done to those who derive their living from trade investments.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I do not agree that this Bill will bring ruin to the shareholders. I am now dealing with the allegation that the suppression of licences will throw out of employment many thousands of people. If that is the danger, what precaution did the late Government take against such a danger in connection with their Bill? Hon. Gentlemen opposite glory in the fact that their Bill has led to the suppression 1438 in a single year of as many as 2,000 licences. Let me assume for the sake of argument their figure that five people are employed in a house. This means that the loss, say, of 1,500 licences will throw 7,500 people out of employment. I do not blame the late Government for not taking any precautions in regard to this matter, but I cannot allow the supporters of the Act of 1901 to bring this particular charge against us. I agree that when licences are suppressed, necessarily distress may be caused to some individuals, but we have to consider the broad economic effect of the diminution of public-houses. That is the main issue. In the first place you get rid of what we maintain are redundant houses. If redundant they are uneconomic, a waste causing loss, and occupying labour which might be more profitably employed in other directions. By getting rid of the worst public-houses you give fuller opportunities to the police of supervising those that remain, and according to the law of the survival of the fittest the standard of public-houses which remain must be improved. The suppression of public-houses must increase the rateable value of the districts where they are suppressed. It is well known that the existence of inferior public-houses diminishes the value of property in their immediate neighbourhood, and, therefore, their suppression must increase the rateable value of the property around. Lastly, I contend that the suppression of licences will diminish crime. In the case of the worse crimes of violence nothing is more remarkable than the fact that not oily the criminal himself but a large number of those with whom he associates go from one low public-house to another before they are worked up to acts of violence. Therefore, for all these reasons, a reduction of these houses must be beneficial, and the argument as regards unemployment is met by the broad general improvement which must be effected by the diminution of redundant public-houses. I now pass to the clause dealing with schemes. We have endeavoured to provide elasticity in the first schedule of the Bill. Let it be remembered, in the first instance, that we restore to the justices the discretion which was removed from them under the Act of 1904, and these schemes 1439 will give them large scope for substantial and active work. They will be matters of great local interest to them. It has been alleged that these schemes will be made to undergo drastic revision by three Commissioners sitting in London. That is not so at all. I must, therefore, pass on to explain to the House why we thought it necessary to establish under the Bill a Commission consisting of three gentlemen. Of course, the primary object of the Commission is financial. The compensation fund, having been centralised, must be under the supervision of some authority. It is undesirable to saddle the Treasury with the work. There are strong objections t making some Government Department say the Home Office, responsible for it We thought it should be an independent or semi-independent authority, which could be trusted by the people of the country and we, therefore, propose to establish this Commission in order to administer the fund, and to see that a proper proportionate distribution of it is made t the various licensing authorities under the schemes. That will be the central object and purpose of the Commission but when once you establish a Commission you find that it may very usefully discharge other duties, and so it is in this case. It is desirable to establish reasonable co-ordination of the schemes. Questions might arise by variations in the schemes of contiguous licensing authorities. Let me take an example—the hotels and inns on the banks of the Thames. Between Oxford and London there are no less than twenty-nine different authorities. We contemplate that in such places as these on the bank of the Thames, familiar to many of us, it will be necessary to make free use c the exceptional treatment provided for by the Bill. They are places of pleasure resort, and the inns and hotels which have practically no business during the winter are necessary for the public during the summer months, and, therefore, special treatment is necessary for them. These different authorities sometimes face each other, and sometimes are contiguous to each other, and it is absolutely necessary that there should be some reasonable homogeneity between the schemes of the authorities who are responsible for the licensing areas bordering on the River 1440 Thames. The same consideration that applies very strongly to the Thames applies to the licensing areas all over the country. It is obvious that proposals with respect to the boundaries of a particular area ought to have some regard to the proposals for the contiguous area. It will not be possible on all occasions for two areas to come to a definite agreement, but I maintain that the licensing justices will welcome the establishment of this Commission which will help them to co-ordinate their schemes. I hope I have explained why the Commission is necessary. I wish to impress upon hon. Gentlemen opposite that that Commission is not established for the purpose of drastically reviewing all the schemes made by the local authorities. It is really with a view of making their schemes not only adequate, but in harmony with the schemes made for adjoining areas, and certainly it is our object and intention that the Commission should not be set up to sit in judgment on the local justices, but that it should work to help them to carry out the duties imposed upon them by the Bill. I have finished what I have to say in regard to these two main points in the Bill. Having regard to the expressed willingness of the Government to consider reasonable Amendments, I do not think that the criticism which has been made on these main pillars of the Bill really justify the unqualified opposition pronounced by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I now pass to a brief review of the third and fourth parts of the Bill, which deal with miscellaneous subjects and clubs. It has been frequently said that this Bill will do nothing for temperance. It has been already admitted that the reduction of licences made under the operation of the 1904 Act tends to diminish drunkenness. A portion of this Bill will be calculated to promote the cause of temperance. From the speeches of hon. Gentlemen one would think that there is nothing in the Bill at all, except some provisions with regard to the reduction of licences and the extinction of the monopoly value, but the more substantive and direct provisions of the Bill are hardly ever mentioned in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I shall deal with one question first of all, which 1441 is not in that category, because it has been mentioned. It is the question of clubs. I agree that the question of clubs is a very serious problem, and it is not to be dealt with in the humorous but swashbuckling and ineffective style of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool. Clubs are combined into a very powerful organisation with which any Government has to reckon. The Government of 1902 had to reckon with it, and perhaps they reckoned with it far too much, because, although the provisions in the 1902 Act as they stand are excellent provisions which have had some good effect, they have not had sufficient effect. My hon. friend the Member for Coventry seriously criticised the proposals in the Bill now before the House. So far as I am concerned I am well aware of the position of this question. In my own constituency there are something like 100,000 people, and there are numbers of clubs largely composed of working men. I am a member myself of many of them. I have been in them times without number during the last twenty-eight years, and I am quite familiar with their nature. In some of them there are, no doubt, Sunday entertainments. In considering that matter let the House remember what is the life of a working man during six days of the week. During these days he works, perhaps, long monotonous hours. He is expected to go to church on Sunday, and then to go home, or to take a walk in the park. That is a good ideal, but we know perfectly well that it is not practicable in this world. You know that these working men will take advantage of any reasonable recreations on Sunday that are open to them. These matters suggest more serious social problems—the hours and conditions of labour, housing problems, and so forth—and, so long as these questions are not settled, how can you blame the men, or their wives and children, when they go to these clubs and enjoy the entertainments which have been alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division? But what these entertainments have to do with the objects and purposes of this Bill, I have not yet discovered, and it seems to me that the occupations and the recreations of the members of these clubs 1442 which have been alluded to on Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon or evening are about as relevant to the discussion of this Bill as might be the Sabbatical habits of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division himself. I do not see what his habits have to do with the Bill, and I do not see what the habits on Sunday morning or evening of members of these clubs have to do with it. We can wish that the recreations should be of a higher order, but let us remember the enormous improvement which has taken place in the recreation and habits, certainly of the working classes, in the course of the last twenty or thirty years, and there is no reason to think that as improvement continues the character of these recreations will not be improved. There is, I am well aware, undue drinking in some of these clubs, but there is undue drinking in private houses and in rich men's clubs, though I personally do not believe from my own experience—I may be prejudiced in my judgment of the character of the clubs with which I am familiar—that there is undue drinking as a general rule. In regard to these London clubs to which attention has been drawn, I asked for special police reports as to whether the members of these clubs have, in fact, so behaved or misbehaved as to cause trouble and disturbance in the neighbourhood, or to people who live in adjoining houses, and in every case in which the police reported to me they said that they had had no trouble with any of these clubs, and that they had received no complaint with regard to them. These are the clubs which have been held up to scorn and derision in the humorous speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division. I pass from that to the question of clubs in relation to the proposals made in this Bill. I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government are not dependent upon them for Amendments to put this part of the Bill into the best possible shape. We shall ourselves be quite competent to strengthen our proposals, particularly with regard to new clubs. Here, again, it does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite who are responsible for the Act of 1904 to attack us for not making more effective provision with regard to 1443 clubs. You say that this is a new trouble, but it is a trouble which was apparent under your own Act. The number of clubs has considerably increased of late years. We are told that it has increased pari passu with the extinction of licences under the Act of 1904, yet you made no provision for that.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
Certainly. There were thousands of clubs in existence—4,000 or 5,000—in 1904; and if there is any difficulty at all it was known in 1904. It, therefore, does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite to make any serious charge against us in this matter, having regard to the fact that they did not make any provision for the further restriction of clubs nor provide that extinguished public-houses should not blossom out subsequently as drinking clubs. We are going to make some provision to deal with clubs, and we intend to make it effective. I desire now to call attention to various excellent clauses in the Bill which seem to have escaped the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Clause 18 restricts the hours of opening on Sundays and, extends the Sunday closing to Monmouth, and alters the status of our old friend the bona fide traveller. If hon. Members refer to the Majority Report of the Peel Commission they will find that this provision is there recommended. Clause 19 deals with the exclusion of children from the bars of licensed premises, and that clause got the most emphatic praise from the hon. and learned Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. Then Clauses 28 and 29 increase the powers of the licensing justices for taking legal action and defending their decisions. Clause 32 proposes to suppress the growing practice due to a recent judicial decision of frequenting public-houses for the purposes of betting. In Schedule 6 we deal with the question of consolidation. One result of the passing of the measure will be to amend the whole of this complicated Licensing Law and to embody in one Statute the provisions of something like 128 Acts. Then there is the question of" off"-licences. We propose by Clause 21 that all retailers of liquor should 1444 require a justices' licence. At the present time off-licences are often established in opposition to the wishes of the justices. Clause 2 applies local option to the grant of new off-licences, and Clause 5 extends the provision in the Act of 1904, in regard to new on-licences to new off-licences. Then the subject of passenger boats dealt with in Clause 34 and Schedule V is a most important matter. I cannot help thinking that I have the sympathy of my hon. friends opposite in regard to it, because the licensing trade itself has has made a protest in regard to it. During the summer months hundreds of thousands of people get aboard river or coasting steamers which become literally floating public-houses under no restriction whatever. They merely have to get an excise licence to enable them to supply liquor to anybody they like during any hours, irrespective of whether the passengers have already had too much to drink. The condition of those steamers on the Thames, the Severn, the Mersey, the Tyne, and of many coastal steamers, is a public scandal and causes an untold nuisance to quiet people who are interfered with or annoyed by drunken people who land in quiet neighbourhoods. This is a difficult Dotter to deal with but we attempt to deal with it practically in this Bill as a real social evil. Clause 20 which gives powers to the justices to attach conditions to the renewal of licences we believe to be one of the most valuable clauses in the Bill, and that it will make largely for temperance. Now I thank the house for the patience with which they have listened to me. I am no good at perorations and I will only say that I believe honestly and whole-heartedly that if the financial clauses are unfair and unsatisfactory they can be adjusted to meet legitimate claims and rights, and that on the temperance side the Bill will remove many great evils and greatly strengthen, directly and indirectly, the forces which exist for the removal of a great stumbling block in the way of national prosperity.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the discussion of the details of the measure 1445 with which his speech concluded. Indeed I rather regret that he himself should have devoted so much of his time to matters which I think are essentially matters for Committee, rather than to answering the great questions of principle—those large features of the Bill which have formed the subject of criticism from this side of the House. The Prime Minister opened this debate by saying that he was still waiting for some reasoned answer to the main propositions he had advanced. Well, we are now on the third day of the debate and the position is reversed. It is we who are now waiting, and so far waiting in vain, for any attempt to meet the position which my hon. friends on these benches have assumed. They have not dealt in loose assertions, and, following the admirable example set by my hon. and learned friend who moved the Amendment, the speeches which have come from these benches, as was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman in the tribute which he paid to the spirit of the debate throughout the House, have been reasoned and argumentative. They have been illustrated by facts not one of which has been challenged although there have been two days for their examination, and although the Government have all the resources of the public offices at their command. The arguments based upon them have been not only not upset, but not even met. Three Members of the Government have spoken since my hon. and learned friend moved his Amendment, yet the case he made is absolutely unshaken by anything said by any Member of the Government. We all looked forward with special interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman because of the office he holds, but he has done nothing to sustain the case of the Government against the attack on the Bill. The time we have spent in debate has, however, not been altogether wasted, for it has defined and differentiated our respective positions. The difference between us is not in our desire to put down drunkenness or to promote temperance. There is, nevertheless, a difference between many Members opposite and my friends on this side and myself. The enemy of these hon. Gentlemen opposite is not drunken- 1446 ness, but any form of the traffic in alcoholic drink. These hon. Members are not only anxious to suppress excess but to stop any drinking at all. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] What is the good of hon. Members contradicting me when I see sitting beside them other hon. Members whose object is not merely to put down drunkenness, but to put down all indulgence in drinking, and who are proud to boast that these are their principles? But that is not the line taken by the Government. With the object expressed by the Government, which is to prevent immoderate drinking, as the right hon. Gentleman recognises, we are heartily in sympathy. In all quarters of the House can there be anything but disgust and loathing at the evil of excessive drinking and the excesses and bad effects to which it leads? But as regards the spread of temperance the difference between us is as to the methods employed and their justice. As to their efficiency I propose to say something later, but for the moment I am ready to assume for the purposes of my argument that the Bill would have all the results in promoting temperance which its most sanguine advocates expect, and I still assert that even if that were so, I should oppose this Bill because it is rooted in injustice and because you have not a right to purchase a great public benefit at the expense of a particular private individual. You call this a great moral reform, but let us be moral at our own expense. If you believe the thing is worth doing, if you believe that a great and sudden reduction of licenses will produce a great temperance effect, have the courage of your convictions and ask the country to vote the sum necessary to make that great and sudden reduction, but do not come here, and attend public meetings in the country, and arrogate to yourselves the exclusive possession of virtues when you are only prepared to practise them at other people's expense. I think I come to the root of the question which is at issue between ourselves and those who support the Government Bill, when I proceed to state the compensation which you are proposing to pay, and ask you what it is that you are taking away from the individual, and for which you ought to 1447 compensate him? I think there is a good deal of confusion in the minds of the Members of the Government as to what they are doing in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spent some little part of the earlier portion of his speech in defining the monopoly value of which possession was to be resumed for the benefit of the public at the end of the fourteen years period, or which can be taken under our Act from any recipient of a new licence. Does not the right hon. Gentleman see and cannot the House see that what you have to give in the name of monopoly value when you grant a new licence is something quite different and very much less than you would take away from a man when you deprive him of an existing licence? I agree with the definition of monopoly value as given by the Home Secretary when you apply it to a new licence, but I say that what you take away from the holder of an existing licence when you turn him out is something very much in excess of that. You take away from him the whole of his goodwill, but if you give a man a new licence there is no goodwill; you rightly charge him with the monopoly value. But when you stop his trade, when you put an end to his business, you have not merely to compensate him for the monopoly value, you have to compensate him for what he loses, you have to make good to him the loss which in the interests of the public you inflict upon him. It is on that point that I come into sharp conflict with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister asserted the other day that whatever the expectations involved in the possession of a licence might be they were not a form of property, and, in the second place, with equal emphasis, he asserted that the licensing authority had an absolute discretion as to renewal. I dispute both those propositions; I join issue directly with the Prime Minister about them, and although it may be bold or more than bold, rash, for a layman to dispute with a gentleman so learned in the law as the Prime Minister is, I do not undertake to interpret the law, but I read the judgments given in Court, and I say that they are such that any layman with common sense can try for himself to test these two statements of the Prime Minister. Let me take the 1448 statement that before our Bill the discretion of the magistrates was absolute. I do not know whether there is a particular legal meaning attached to "absolute discretion, "but I say that in any sense in which we ought to use the word the magistrate's discretion was not absolute. If I have an absolute discretion to do something it means I may do it or not when I like, how I like, for any reasons I like, or without reason at all. That is not the position of the magistrates. The Lord Chancellor, in that famous case of Sharpe v. Wakefield, in laying down what the discretion of the magistrates was, said that discretion means—That something is to be done according to the rules of reason and justice, not according to private opinion; according to law, not humour.Again he went on to say—The Legislature has given credit to the magistrate for exercising a judicial discretion.—not an absolute discretion—That they will fairly decide the questions submitted to them and not by evasion attempt to repeal the law which permits public-houses to exist.Lord Bramwell, in his judgment, said—The Legislature had most clearly shown that it supposed, contemplated, that licences would usually be renewed: that the taking away a man's livelihood would not be practised cruelly or wantonly.I say, Sir, then there was no absolute discretion, the discretion is carefully guarded and limited as declared in the judgment of these Judges. Therefore the judgments upon which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite rely would absolutely refute any such general principle as is contemplated by this Bill. Then I come to the right hon. Gentleman's other contention. He says that there is no property in a licence. I say that there is property; I say that there is property which has been guarded and protected by the decisions of the Courts again and again—property which finds not the faintest recognition in the Bill which we are now discussing. The contention of the Prime Minister was that no legal wrong would be done if you took away all these licences at the end of a single year or at the end of any year. How can he contend that putting aside equity, putting aside common justice and fair play—how can he contend that in the face of the repeated decisions 1449 of the Court as between public authorities and the holders of licensed premises and those interested in them, or as between citizen and citizen, where no public authority was concerned at all? I have half a dozen cases, but I will not weary the House by citing them all, as to many, especially to legal Members of the House, they will be familiar. But I will cite two. I take first the case of Belton v. the London County Council, and both of these cases have been decided since the case of Sharpe v. Wakefield. In Belton v. the London County Council the owner of a public-house let for an unexpired period of twenty-six years, claimed and received compensation from the County Council who desired to take possession of his premises for some public improvement. The County Council contended that there was no reversionary interest in the licence belonging to the owner who could only come into possession twenty-six years later. The Divisional Court declared that the owner of that reversionary interest was entitled to compensation and the Judge observed that—The Council's proposition seems to me to involve a grievous injustice.That injustice of the Council's proposition is the proposition of the Government, and that which the Judge condemned as grievous injustice is the foundation of the Government Bill. Another case I would cite was mentioned yesterday afternoon by the hon. Member for South Hants. It is the case of Lord Somer's trustees: "In re Earl Somers deceased—Cocks v. Lady Henry Somerset." In that case the defendant, a tenant for life of a certain property, sought to lease the White Hart, Reigate, with a covenant that the lessee should not sell intoxicating liquors. The trustees sought a declaration that she was not entitled to make any such stipulation and was bound to insert in all such leases provisions for the continuance of the renewal of the licence. Mr. Justice Chitty made this declaration—Is not that recognition of property in a licence existing not merely for a moment, but in expectation of those who come after the tenant for life and which the tenant for life is bound to protect to the best of his or her ability for the benefit of successors.1450 I say in the face of these decisions it is idle to contend that there was not something more than an expectation and that there was not actual property which has been recognised again and again in the Courts and for which the Courts have ordered public authorities to pay whenever they have acquired it compulsorily and prevented private people from dealing with it to the detriment of their successors and those who have to come after them. I say that the discretion of the justices was not absolute and that there is in a licence a property for which you must compensate the owners.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL,) Yorkshire, Cleveland
Why did you not do that under the Act of 1904?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Why did not we do that under the Act of 1904? I must say that I have never heard anything more disingenuous in the course of this debate than the attempt of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to found their present measure upon the precedent of our Act of 1904. I do not think that those hon. Members who sat in the House in 1901 will think that that is fair.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman refers to me. I have not done so, I said the compensation proposed by the Act of 1904 was not dissimilar.
§ MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
If the right hon. Gentleman says that there is an absolute right of property in the licence why did his Act make the owners of that property compensate themselves instead of taking the compensation out of public funds?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That is not the argument which the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were using in their speeches.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I will answer it in a moment. What they have both sought to show is that the measure of compensation which they propose is the measure of compensation which we intended to give.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir SAMUEL EVANS, Glamorganshire, Mid.)
Nobody ever said the compensation was the same.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Home Secretary has just said that it was not dissimilar. To please the Solicitor-General I will not say they are the same, but that they are not dissimilar as the Home Secretary said. The Home Secretary wished to cross-examine me as to the intentions of the late Government when they passed the Licensing Act of 1904. I should have thought those intentions were perfectly clear, but I will tell him that we intended to give to the man from whom you took the property the value of the property which we took from him, that is to say the market value of the property which we took from him. In order to do that we provided by Section 1 of the Act that the value of the licensed premises should be taken—that the sum to be paid should be a sum equal to the difference between the value of the licensed premises calculated as if the licence were subject to the same conditions of renewal as prevailed immediately before the passing of that Act, and the value which those premises would bear if they were not licensed premises. Then we went on to say in the next clause how that calculation was to be made, and it was provided that in case of any dispute between the parties and the licensing authority the amount to be paid should be determined by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue in like manner as the valuation of an estate for the purpose of estate duty.
§ *MR. GLADSTONE
I apologise for interrupting, but, as a matter of fact, the alternative of the appeal was not taken before the Kennedy judgment.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not understand what the right hon. Gentleman means, but I think he will see that his interruption is immaterial to my point. The hon. Gentleman asked what our intentions were. I say that the intentions of the Government then were that the property should be valued in the same way as it would be valued for estate duty—that is, on its market value. Then the right hon. Gentleman asks: Do we approve or reject the Kennedy judgment? Of course we accept the Kennedy judgment. The real effect of the Kennedy judgment is that you are to claim the market value of the house, and in ascertaining the market value you must take into account that among the possible purchasers are the brewers. You do not get the market value of a property if you exclude from the market all those most likely to pay the highest price. If you are selling a "Sir Joshua" at Christie's, and if you say men with an income of more than £5,000 a year must be excluded from the room, will you get the value of the "Sir Joshua"? If the brewers are willing to pay a higher price than the house is worth, then the price which they are willing to pay becomes the market value. Then the Under-Secretary asks me: Why, knowing this, did we levy compensation from the trade? My answer to that is twofold. In the first place we conferred a certain additional security on the holders of licences, and in respect of that additional security we might be entitled to levy some charge. My second reason is that we were proceeding by a gradual and moderate reduction of licences, especially directed to those places which were overcrowded. It is true to say in such cases that the licensed trade must recoup any other house, because all that was legitimate in the trade that was done in those taken away comes to those that remain; and under those circumstances it is a fair thing to impose on the trade this burden. In each case the fund is a local fund, and the charge is, therefore, placed directly upon those 1453 who are interested in the neighbouring houses, and in the profit, if any, that is drawn from the house suppressed. Now I say that our object was to give the market value, and that has been the result of the Kennedy judgment. What is going to be the result of this Bill? I have two or three cases here—my hon. and learned friend who moved the Amendment quoted some, let me give one or two more. They are cases decided under our Act, with the estimated figure of the compensation they would receive on the basis adopted by this Bill. In the first case the compensation given was £2,020. If you take the scale adopted by the present Government, there would be no compensation at all.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Because in this case the assessment of the house would be as great without the licence as with it. [MINISTERIAL laughter.] Yes; but what do you compensate for? Supposing a linen draper is carrying on a business in a house, and you want to take the house for the purposes of a public improvement, the house is worth just as much without the linen draper as with him. He is compensated for loss of profits and for the goodwill. When I see how little the hon. Gentleman who has interrupted me has considered the problem with which he is dealing, I do not wonder at all that he supports the Government; but I hope, as he is a constant attendant here, although he might not come and stand with me in this, he will at least say that the claim which we are urging is a claim for honest compensation and fair treatment. Now I take the case of the "Burton Arms," Holborn, W.C. The compensation awarded to the owners in that case was £4,652; under this Bill in the first year they would have got £577 10s. Those are only two cases. That is the property of which you are depriving men without compensation—£2,000 in the first case and £4,000 in the second —and that you take away in the name of morality from particular individuals without any regard to the loss and suffering that you are going to create by so doing. The right hon. Gentleman deprecated 1454 hard words, but it is difficult to describe a transaction of that kind by a name which is not a little hard—this conveyance of property from its owner to somebody else, this "resuming," to use the Prime Minister's own word, by the State of a property which it never possessed. ["Oh!"] Did the State ever possess the goodwill of a man's business? It is no answer to say that the licence is a privilege. It was a restriction, and it only became a privilege because of the comparative meagreness with which the State has allowed the licences to be given. That is the way the Government are treating property. Can they be surprised that there is a very considerable outcry when a responsible Government frame a Bill on these lines? The Prime Minister, the other day, spoke scornfully of financiers and magnates. It is all very well to come down to this House and sneer at them when they will not swallow a Bill of this sort, but that is not the language he used when he dined with the bankers at the Mansion House in July last. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not present. He then said—I speak for the moment as a Member of the Government, and I say that, believing as do, and as I believe my colleagues without exception do, that in the maintenance of private property, and in the continued reliance upon individual initiative is the mainspring of financial and commercial success; and regarding, as I also do, as necessary corollaries from these assumptions the maintenance of the sanctity of contract and the impossibility of expropriation, even for the best public purposes, without adequate compensation and adequate security, for every form either of public or private investment, I do not think anyone is justified in entertaining any real apprehension that those conditions of stability (on which has rested for so long the great fabric of credit in this city—the clearing-house of the whole world—the centre, still, of the trade of the world as long as it has been, and as I trust it will remain) are in any danger of being imperilled or undermined. I assert to you with the utmost confidence that not only will I not be, but so far as I know, not any one of my colleagues will be, parties to any form either of administration or of legislation which would threaten those essential foundations of our financial and commercial stability.[MINISTERIAL cheers.] Yes, but you take away from one man without a penny of compensation £4,000, and from another £2,000, and so on throughout the country, and yet you say you are giving adequate security for every form of public and private investment. I do not know 1455 whether the Prime Minister had in his mind the framework of this Bill when he spoke at that time. I would fain hope he had not, but I venture to say I fail to reconcile the statement he made to the bankers and merchants when he dined with them, with the action he has now taken. Great attempts have been made by the other side, and by the Prime Minister, to cast discredit on the claim to compensation on the ground that the prices at which many of these properties were bought were inflated and exorbitant. Nobody denies that. I think the managers of brewery companies are sometimes a little hardly dealt with in this matter. They made a bad speculation, and they and their shareholders have to bear the loss. But they are not altogether to blame. It was not they in many cases who voluntarily sought the system of turning free houses into tied houses. The movement was very much due to insurance companies. But what has that to do with the case, except to raise prejudice? You say that the public-house is bought at an exorbitant price; but if that was not its market value they would not pay the price. All we ask is that you should pay the fair market price, as between a willing seller and the best purchaser that he can find at the moment that the transaction takes place. But that is not what you are giving him. You are not giving him one-tenth of that price. An hon. Member near me calls my attention once again to the action of the Secretary of State for War. I must refer to that once more. Whatever may have been in the mind of the Prime Minister when he made that statement in the City, the Secretary of State for War must have known of this Bill when he sold the "Coach and Horses" at Portsmouth. He knew what the position was, but the purchaser had no access to those facts. I venture to say that if a private transaction had been carried out under such circumstances as those, no Court would have upheld the sale. I venture to say that the least the Secretary of State ought to do on behalf of the good credit of the nation is to give an opportunity to the purchaser to rescind his contract.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I have had no communication with the purchaser, and I have no right to say. But I have a right to say as a Member of Parliament, and as a citizen of this country, that conduct of this kind, which would not be permitted as between man and man, appears to me to be unworthy and unbecoming of the Government of this country. The Under-Secretary, in considering what compensation ought to be paid, proposed that we should deduct from any claims that were made the full amount of the reserve funds which companies had accumulated. He said that certain companies had £10,000,000 invested in public-houses, but that they had formed a reserve fund of £2,000,000 which was also invested in public-houses, and in taking away their licences, he would only consider the £10,000,000 and not the £2,000,000. I never heard a more amazing statement from any responsible person. What are reserves? They are undivided profits which prudent people set aside to equalise good and bad years, or to meet any of the accidents or falling off in trade to which in the ordinary course they might be liable. To say, because they have been prudent men, and done what business men ought to do in forming a good reserve fund, that, therefore, you are entitled to treat the reserve fund as if it were a gift from the State, as against what you take from them, appears to me to be a most preposterous doctrine to lay down.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
I cannot have made myself quite plain, for the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I did not say that the licences which represented the reserve fund were not to be compensated for exactly the same as other licences. Of course, those licences stand on the same footing. What I said was that if the brewery companies are called upon to put by a considerable sum of money to represent the monopoly values which they would lose to the State at the end of the time-limit, we must take into account the fact that they have already, like prudent and sensible business men, put by a considerable part of that sum needed, and therefore, the burden which will lie upon them will not 1457 be so great as it is sometimes represented to be.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It seems to me that is very much like saying that provided your victim has put by a reserve fund you are entitled to rob him to the extent of that reserve fund. I find it difficult to describe, I will not say the Members of the Government, but the effect of the Bill as anything but simple robbery of the property of individuals. When I heard the speech of the Solicitor-General yesterday, and noticed the animus he displayed, the obvious political hostility which he cherished against the trade for which he is legislating, I began to see how he reconciled himself to apply to this trade terms which he would resent in regard to any others carrying on lawful occupations in this country. I want to say a word or two on the question of how far this Bill is a temperance measure. It is common ground that a reduction of redundant houses by those who know the local circumstances tends to stop illicit practices, including drunkenness. But that is totally different from the scheme of this Bill. The Prime Minister claims that for a scheme which was sporadic and unequal he has substituted one which is compulsory and uniform. But it is the very essence of justice and efficiency in this matter that the incidence of the scheme should be unequal, because the circumstances of the different localities are unequal. To take an arbitrary line and say that so many public-houses must go without regard to the character of the people or the character of the licensed premises is surely the most absurd proposal ever submitted to reasonable men. Take small villages. Very often you will find a village with two or three small public-houses. No doubt one big house might do the whole trade of the village. But let hon. Members remember that these village public-houses are the clubs of the people. Each house has its own particular clientèle, and they do not want other clubs to mix with them. Sometimes there are political differences and sometimes small social differences. One man prefers one club and another man prefers another, and they would feel out of place and uncomfortable if they were all put 1458 into the same public-house. What would be said if members of the Athenaeum suddenly mixed with members of the Camberwell Radical Club, presided over by the Secretary to the Board of Admiralty, or vice versa, if the members of the Camberwell Radical Club went among the Bishops in the Athenæum? An old school friend of mine, though not a political ally, for he belongs to the Party opposite, sent me a paper the other day showing the effect of this Bill on several of the largest villages in Cambridgeshire. My hon. and learned friend has already pointed out that Cambridgeshire has very few convictions for drunkenness per 10,000 of her population. In the twelvelargest villages of Cambridgeshire, I am informed that, if this Bill is carried out, 132 public-houses out of 187 will have to be closed, or something over 70 per cent. That is not going to put down drunkenness, because there is little or no drunkenness in those villages now. I venture to say that that is not the way to promote temperance. And there I join direct issue with the great mass of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is never wise to legislate in advance of public opinion, and certainly you will fail to effect your object, for never is that more true than when you do so on matters which concern the life and conduct of individual citizens. The hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow, in dealing with a part of this Bill which has received much too little attention, the local option proposal, quoted the example of America. What is the case in America? No doubt in many cases they have complete prohibition. I do not know whether the hon. Member has travelled in States where there is prohibition in force. I have been in three of them. In one of the States the barman was selling a great deal of liquor in the cellar. I expressed my surprise to him that he had selected so uncomfortable a position, and he told me that if he sold liquor upstairs the police would drop on him at once; so the trade was carried on in the cellar of the hotel.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
At Newport, in the White Mountains. In the next State I had to sign a telegram 1459 form ordering the drink in New York. It was supplied at once, and the telegram was sent on by train. In the third State I went down to the station to meet a resident. It was a small township in the neighbourhood of Boston. He wanted some refreshment after his journey. I said: "You cannot have it; you have prohibition here." He said: "I guess we will get it." We walked into the hotel premises; the barman took a look at us, and walked straight into the bar and served us. I asked my friend what was the explanation of this. Here time after time they voted for prohibition, yet in a small town like that, where the inhabitants must know the things that were going on in the hotel which we had just left, we could be served with liquor. "Well," he said, "like the Irishmen, we are in favour of the law, but we are all agin its enforcement." I do not think that the administration in America is a very good example, because there is not the same attempt to enforce the law as there is here when we pass it. But I say that just as in America they find it impossible to enforce the law where circumstances are unfavourable, so should we find it impossible here. As the hon. Member for Walton said the other day, you are not only dealing with drunkenness, but the claim of the promoters of the Bill goes much further, and they shut up the houses in which drunkenness or misconduct is not alleged. Are you going to shut up clubs in which drunkenness or misconduct is not alleged? I venture to think that in this matter the House is on the wrong lines, and I think that the wrong lines are carried further in the Bill which is under discussion. You treat the trade as if it were an outcast trade. You habitually speak scornfully and uncharitably of the men who are engaged in carrying it on. You want to apply restriction in regard to those who may or may not serve within the houses. If that means anything, it means that the trade is not a fit one for honest men. You would prevent men from taking their wives and families with them when they go to the public-house. Are you really serving the cause of temperance when you do that? The Home Secretary spoke of clubs in his division, and boasted that the men 1460 brought their wives and families with them. That is new to me. I did not know that there were any clubs of that kind. ["Oh, plenty of them."]
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman says it is a common practice. I think it is an excellent practice, for a man is much less likely to get drunk if he has his wife and family with him, and in my opinion the greatest step that you could take in favour of moderate drinking, and in favour of temperance as distinguished from total abstinence, would be to make the public-house, not what you now seek to make it, bat a club in the truest sense of the term, a social hall, where a man could sit with his wife and family and talk politics or businses with his cronies, and play draughts, dominoes, or other games, all of which the may play now in a club, but which the licensing justices do their best to restrict in the case of public-houses. What you have got to do is to get rid of the drinking bar, and turn it into a beer hall, such as they have in Germany. The House will pardon me if I call attention to the brass-workers' deputation which went to Germany to investigate the case of the brass-workers there. It is well worthy of attention and consideration by everybody who cares about the cause of temperance. The deputation consisted of one of the manufacturers, Mr. Best, Mr. W. J. Davis, Secretary of the Brass Workers' Union, and of another gentleman, Mr. C. Perks, who connected with the Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund. They said—In disposition the workman is social and fond of company; he takes his wife out with him to the beer-house as an unwritten law; he would be regarded as unusual if he did not do so; remarks would be made if he left her at home. Total abstainers rarely exist but the men are temperate in the midst of opportunity. They refrain because it unfits them for work. They do not assume virtue with regard to temperance but regard temperance or moderation as the best from a general point of view."Temperate in the midst of opportunity." I call the attention of the House to those words. Is not that a better ideal to strive for than to bolster up a man's 1461 good conduct by putting all temptation beyond his reach? I turn a page or two further—The number of persons convicted of drunkenness in Birmingham was about thirty times greater than in Berlin in proportion to the respective numbers of its inhabitants. These statistics are what we should expect to find after our observations in the beer halls and the streets on bank holiday, and point to the conclusion that a greater number of licences with a fewer number of total abstainers does not tend to drunkenness.We wish to call attention to this different adjustment of the liberty in the two countries as this is an important question. We should be very sorry to treat with disrespect the many agencies for the promotion of temperance and the great number of high-minded workers in the cause.We have to consider that eight people out of nine above fifteen years of age are non-abstainers. In Berlin this section of the community is provided for—in Birmingham it is not. There a man is trusted to show up against excess; here he is not. We say drunkenness is the cause of ignorance; in Berlin they reverse it and say; ignorance or want of proper training in youth is the cause of drunkenness.' Here we allow our young people to grow up untrained and unskilled and offer them the pledge later on when they are down in the gutter; there compulsory training helps to keep then/ out of the gutter and the pledge is not relied on.On the lines indicated by these men after studying what was passing in Berlin you find matter for much thought, matter which, rightly understood and studied, may guide us to a wise conclusion in dealing with this question at home. One further quotation I would like to make. It refers to the character of the crowds they saw on Easter Monday—There was a distinct characteristic in these crowds which is absent in an English beer-house company of people, which we ascribe first to the light wholesome beer.—I am not at all sure there is not a good deal to be said for the suggestion which I have seen thrown out that just as we now use the taxes imposed on alcohol in order to limit their consumption you might favour the least injurious and most beneficial among them in the scale of that taxation. I do not commit myself to that. It is a big fiscal question as well as a big temperance question, but it is worth consideration.Secondly, to the presence of wives and families; and, thirdly, to the training and discipline to which every German child and youth is subjected.1462 Will you lessen temperance, will you improve the character of the public-house by introducing the uncertainty which this Bill introduces into the trade by making every man who invests money or industry in the trade uncertain as to what to-morrow will produce? Will you make a house more respectable by banning the presence of all women from it? Will you make a man more decent by teaching him that when he goes to a public-house his wife and child must not see what he is doing? I hold for these reasons that whilst, as I have said, the reduction of redundant licences carefully chosen because they are redundant has a distinct temperance effect, this Bill, in so far as it goes beyond that, will have no temperance effect at all, but will lead to the transfer of drinking from open houses, publicly recognised, constantly inspected, carefully watched over and prosecuted for the slightest infringement of the law, to clubs over which, whatever the Amendments you introduce, you cannot exercise one fraction of that control. And in order to secure this change you are going to disturb a great trade, you are going to unsettle that great fabric of credit of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in the City. You are going to threaten the central foundations of our financial and commercial stability, to use his words, to set an example which is eagerly grasped by the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway and which, if you are successful in carrying your measure, they will apply before long to deprive you of your property as you are using it to deprive others of theirs.
§ *SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER
I find it a little difficult to gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman what really is his view as to the prevalence of public-houses. I thought at one time by his quotations from the German Report that he regarded it as an ideal to be temperate in the midst of temptation. He seemed rather to imply that he regarded a multitude of temptation as desirable.
§ *SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER
Very similar. The right hon. Gentleman seems to regard a multitude of opportunity as a desirable thing. But I find that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have found it necessary to discriminate a good deal in their denunciation of the reduction of facilities as a remedy, and now they begin to tell us that they agree with a reduction in redundant houses. That is what is going to be done. The Bill fixes a maximum and not a very low one. There are populous industrial districts about the country far below the maximum of this Bill. This is not a low maximum, and where will the reduction be made? It will be made where there is a redundance. The majority Report of the Royal Commission on the Licensing Laws said—We regard a large suppression of licences as essential.And they recommended a reduction in Scotland. In England there are 50 per cent. more licences in proportion to population than in Scotland. Scotland is in the position that England will be in in fourteen years if this Bill is carried out. If reduction is not a temperance reform, how is it that the Act of 1904 was claimed as a temperance measure? Why are they taxing the trade? Why are they throwing people out of employment if it was not a temperance measure? One authority whom the right hon. Gentleman will respect, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in his evidence before the House of Lords Committee on Intemperance, said—The enormous number of public-houses, which is clearly out of all proportion to anything like the legitimate wants of the people, must tend to increase temptation.I quite agree that statistics are no evidence. They do not test the amount of drunkenness or the amount of drinking. There are other considerations. What is the use of comparing the London gin palace with half a dozen entrances with a little country inn on the roadside? The action of the police makes all the difference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, before the same Committee, made use of this expression—Just one turn of the screw will bring in ten times the number.1464 How can you have the same arrests for drunkenness in a scattered country district where the policeman has many miles to look after as in the towns where he has only a few streets? The policeman is not on the spot, and where there are a number of public-houses a drunken man could reel from the public-house to his home three doors away without being seen. That does not happen in London. You want to compare similar districts. Then a great deal depends on the opinion and policy of the bench. A bench that allows an exorbitant number of public-houses, a negligent bench that has neglected its duty in that respect, is just the bench that discourages the police from arrest for drunkenness. The one follows the other. Where you have an active vigilant bench that reduces the number, that is the bench which encourages the police. I quote the Majority Report again for that—There may he most drunkenness where there are the fewest prosecutions and convictions.And we know that is often the case. Good wholesome beer! The right hon. Gentleman is eighty years behind his time. If you go back to the beginning of last century, that was the teaching then. The agitation for facilities for obtaining good wholesome beer led to the Beer Act of 1830. And in three months after it came info operation there were 24,000 additional beer-houses. What did Sidney Smith say?—The new Beer Bill has begun its operations. Everybody is drunk; those who are not singing are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state.A Commission was appointed four years after this, and gave the strongest Report against that Act which has ever been given.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not in the least object to the hon. Member's speech until he says that that is my policy. That is not my policy, and it does not bear the slightest resemblance to it. I have not advocated any increase of licences. I have advocated a continued reduction.
§ *SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER
It seems to me that there they got the good 1465 wholesome beer and abundance of opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to favour and desire. In Scotland, Ireland, and Wales they have Sunday closing. The same things have been said with regard to that as were said in regard to this proposal. The same predictions were made and they have all been falsified, and Royal Commissions and Committees have re-ported that these statements and predictions were not correct and were not borne out. Since those Acts were placed on the Statute-book there has never been found a Member of this House from Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, who would move for their repeal. There is not to be found an elected representative of a local authority in Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, who would send a memorial to the House and ask for the repeal of those Acts. The people on the spot who know approve. Dudley has seven times the number of public-houses that West Ham has. Will it be said that there would be no more drunkenness in West Ham if you multiplied their public-houses seven times? A reduction is being made, but it is not being made where it is most required. It is not easy to compare statistics on this question I admit. Hon. Members will remember that when the Bill of 1904 was before the House we had a Blue-book giving the number of on-licences in every licensing district in England and Wales. By a comparison of these figures we should be able to ascertain the amount of the reduction which has been made. One difficulty is that these Government statistics are not always made up on the same lines, and I understand that there is some variation in them. One set of figures represent the number of certificates issued by the justices, and the other the number of licences issued by the Inland Revenue authorities. It is true that a certificate may be issued by the justices and the applicant may not get the licence, but those cases are very few indeed and do not affect the actual result. I have taken out statistics relating to the twelve counties where there are the most public-houses and most beer-houses in proportion to the population from 1904 to 1907, and I find that the Act of 1904 has operated only to the extent of one 1466 third of one per cent. per annum. In the twelve county boroughs that most needed the reduction, which have the highest proportion of houses, the reduction has been only at the rate of one per cent. per annum. Make whatever allowance you like for the difference between certificates got from the justices and the licences got from the Inland Revenue, the pace is very slow. It means that in those boroughs it would take eighty years at the same rate to bring them down to one per 800 of the population, and seventy years to bring them down to the position in which London now is. And nobody will suggest that it is difficult to get a glass of beer in London. Similarly in those counties it will take 165 years to get the licences down to one for 400 of the population. It will take them 165 years to get those twelve counties down to the position as to the number of houses in proportion to population already existing in Northumberland, Essex, Cornwall, Durham, Lancashire, Surrey, Yorkshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, excluding county boroughs. It will take the twelve worst counties in England 165 years to get down to the same level. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh, oh!"] I am quoting from Government statistics and those are the figures. It has been said that this Bill will promote clubs. I should be the last to say that drinking clubs are not an evil, and I think the system by which entertainments at clubs are thrown open to scores of people who are not members is a great abuse of the privilege given to clubs to distribute liquor. It was never intended that this should be done. In the London music-halls the policy of the County Council is to get rid of the drink from the entertainment. Licensing justices have also discouraged music and dancing licences in connection with public-houses. In the club you have the entertainment, the music, and the drinking. It is not desirable, and it is not fair to the licensed trade. I, personally, feel that the hours for the supply of liquor in clubs ought to be limited to those permitted for public-houses. The club could be open, but the bar should be closed. I think that we might make an appeal to the club members of Pall Mall and 1467 to members of working men's clubs to submit to a little personal inconvenience in the interests of the well being of the community as a whole. It is not for hon. Members opposite to denounce clubs. Who is it supplies the clubs? The brewers encourage them, and in some cases finance them. Does a small number of public-houses mean an increase in clubs? From 1887 to 1897 the clubs increased at the rate of 186 a year, and from 1900 to 1904 at the rate of 340. Since then there has been a great reduction in the number of public-houses, and that has not brought about an increased growth of clubs. Middlesbrough, Bootle, and West Ham have only one-fifth as many licensed houses as Dudley, Yarmouth clubs in proportion to the population. Again, in the ten county boroughs which have most public-houses in proportion to population there are more clubs in proportion to population than in the ten county boroughs with fewest public-houses in proportion to population. No, the number of public-houses is not the key to the problem of clubs, and the view which I strongly hold is that the way in which we shall have to meet much of the public-house difficulty and much of the club difficulty will be by providing counter attractions. The public will have to provide places where the people may assemble and enjoy their social intercourse on the same lines and for the same reasons as they supply public parks. But the Act of 1904 was brought in to reduce licences. Did it promote clubs? And again, there is not a line in the Act of 1904 about clubs. If it is wrong for this Government to reduce licences and not deal so efficiently with clubs as the Opposition would like, what about their own Act? ["Oh, oh."] There certainly is not a word in that Act about clubs, and those hon. Members opposite who say such a great deal about clubs now were dumb when their own Bill was under discussion.
§ *Six THOMAS WHITTAKER
Yes, and the experience is that clubs were 1468 growing more rapidly before that Act than since. An hon. Member opposite says the Bill does not apply to Ireland. Did the 1904 Act apply to Ireland, and did that hon. Member complain then? We cannot do everything at once. I am a Member of a Party which has been frequently told to take one step at a time. The moment we do so the very men who have been giving us that advice attack and denounce us because we do not insist upon everything at once. These complaints against the Bill are made by two classes of people—those who are looking for any reasons to avoid voting for the Bill, and those who desire to kill it. It is always "not thus, not now." As to the question of the time-limit, there is no legal right to the renewal of an ordinary public-house licence beyond a year. It is an expectation, and nothing more. It has been repeatedly declared to be so, and the brewers themselves in their manifesto at the beginning of this year say that all they claim is an expectation, and not a right. The law is perfectly clear, and the whole object of an annual licence is not to review the conduct only, but to revise the whole position. It has been said that it must be a judicial decision. What can be more judicial than a decision that the licence is not required in the public interest and that it should cease? That is a good and judicial reason. We have had in the course of this debate a great many quotations, but I would just like to quote what Lord Halsbury said in 1897 in the Boulter case. He said—You draw a distinction between the original granting of the licence and the renewal of the licence. One must clear one's mind and see what it is. It is a new licence for the new year. It is important to observe the accuracy of language. It is not a renewal of the licence, it is another licence for another year.That unquestionably is the strict law. What did that celebrated advocate, Mr. George Candy, say, who was known as the Attorney-General for brewerydom, and who appeared in nearly all their leading cases? Mr. Candy, in an interview in the Globe, immediately after the Sharpe, v. Wakefield case, said—The occupation of the most respectable publican has now been made one of the most precarious on the face of the earth; his licence can be taken away and his capital be confiscated 1469 on grounds over which he has not the slightest control. The question of compensation cannot arise. Compensation implies a solatium for a wrong done; but here the highest tribunal in the land has decided that no wrong is done when a publican's licence is withheld.That is the strict law. The right hon. Gentleman says that public authorities who take licensed premises have to pay compensation and that private individuals under similar circumstances have also to pay compensation. Just so; but the law does not give to the private individual the right to refuse to renew a licence, and let the hon. Member produce a case where compensation has had to be paid on behalf of the public when the licensing authority have refused to renew. But why, if this licence is the property of the publican, should he pay the compensation himself? We are told that under the Act of 1904 the compensation levy is a local fund and the local publican gets the benefit of the local reduction; but that will not do. It is a county fund, the money being collected all over the county, and in many a village and many a town there is payment made and no reduction of the licences—therefore, no local benefit. We have had a dissertation on the maintenance of contract. What is the contract for a licence? It is for one year "and no longer." It has been stated that licence renewal is customary. Just so. So is the renewal of the tenancy of an ordinary dwelling-house. Renewal is customary and you have no annual reminder. The tenant of an ordinary house has not to go to the landlord and apply for a renewal every year. The publican is reminded every year that he has to go to Brewster Sessions. It is only an expectation. An expectation means that it is a probability or a possibility, but it involves uncertainty and is nothing more than an expectation. The expectation in this case has a market value, but no expectation having a market value can as a matter of right deprive someone else of his rights, who in this case is the grantor. We all admit that the situation is a difficult one. We claim that all the legal right is absolutely on the one side, but we recognise that money has been invested, and we say that in the interest of the public well-being the nation must have full control over its own licences. There cannot be full control over them so long as someone 1470 else is recognised as having a financial interest in them beyond the time for which they are granted. It was this financial value which gave all the trouble before the introduction of the Act of 1904, and that Act was brought in because of the trouble as to the value. It must be but a temporary arrangement. We contend that it is unjust to the rest of the community to give this valuable privilege to a limited number of men unless they pay the full value for it. It is suggested that we should give fourteen years notice that at the end of that time we will charge the proper value. We are asked on what actuarial basis it is proposed to fix that period. It is not an actuarial question. What it means is this. A fourteen years run is equivalent to ten and a half years purchase. Take the two cases decided by Mr. Justice Kennedy. He gave ten years in one and eleven years in the other, and ten and a half is the average of the two. What will happen, it is asked, at the end of that time? We will start afresh, and charge a proper fee for the licence. It does not mean that we are going to close all the houses. It is not going to abolish drinking, brewing will not come to an end, but the nation will resume its dominion over licences, and the real issue raised by this Bill involves a struggle for mastery between the trade and the State. What does the financial arrangement involve to the owner of the houses? It involves that at the end of that time they must write off the monopoly value. There has been a good deal said about the monopoly value. My idea is that it is the additional value, the special value, which a licence gives to a property beyond what it would have if used for any other business. In the case of bakers, drapers, and others they make a profit, and if a man does a good business he makes a good profit. But if anyone could get a liquor licence for his shop, it would give him an immediate profit beyond what he could make in his ordinary business, and it is that additional value that the State ought to have. What is paid for should be the reasonable, normal, present value. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, agreed that we could not be expected to pay exorbitantly inflated values. The amount should 1471 not necessarily be what a licence cost. The hon. Member for Kingston cited twenty-one houses which cost £550,000, but they may not be worth half that sum to-day. It is not the value twelve years ago that we have to deal with. A great deal of that is already gone. The trade has speculated and gambled to an extraordinary extent. They have bid against each other most recklessly, formed companies and issued stock to the community for a large amount, got in a large amount of capital, and fallen over one another to give excessive prices for public-houses. They knew the risk when they got the public money and took tens and scores of millions of their own out in cash. It is a gigantic bubble, and it has been bursting for years. All the gas has been oozing out of it, and it is a very small one now. I have given in the Press quotations and prices, not one of which has been challenged, to show that the fall in the value of these brewery stocks took place at a time when the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Party were in office. The fall was due to reckless inflation in prices and diminution in the consumption of liquor, with which this Bill has nothing to do. The fall in prices since this Government came into power has been extremely small, and there has been practically no special fall in the value of brewery stocks as compared with other securities, on the Stock Exchange as a result of the introduction of this Bill.
§ *SIR. THOMAS WHITTAKER
People who are alarmed about investments do not take risks like that. The country has been flooded with circulars that the trade is to be ruined, and that the widow and the orphan will have to go to the workhouse together. Is there any other security which could have maintained its price under such a deliberate attempt to create a scare? The good men who have been bellowing out these heartrending yells might as well have been in Central Africa for all the effect they produced on the Stock Exchange. The people who hold the shares do not believe them. Only present reasonable values can be con- 1472 sidered. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston has made an extremely moderate and able statement; but it is of no use to tell the House what particular properties cost, or at what they stood in the books of the owners. The question is what they are worth now.
§ MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)
I happen to know that the properties which I mentioned as costing £550,000 are now bringing in more than 9 per cent.
§ *SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER
In that case they have ample means to provide a sinking fund. According to the hon. and learned Gentleman, of this £550,000 as much as £317,000 is borrowed on mortgage, and the compensation under this Bill would be £116,000. In other words the holders will lose the whole of their investment and the mortgagees nearly two-thirds of theirs. That implies that at the end of the period nothing will be available but the £116,000 compensation. But there will still be the premises. Public-houses are not worth nothing. No information is given as to their present value or assessment. But there cannot be the enormous loss calculated by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and since the owners are the licensees, they will get compensation for loss of business as well as the owners' compensation. If these properties are leasehold how long is it since they cost £550,000; and what have they been written down to now? The House was told of forty-three other houses in which the compensation actually paid was £104,000, and in respect of which under the Bill the owners would get only £18,000. That can only be because they are grossly under-assessed. The annual market value should be the assessment, and if it were, the compensation would work out as ample. It means that the public has been defrauded of rates and taxes and that these great values have been partially created by so defrauding the public. Now it is urged that because the public has been defrauded so long, it is not to exercise its legal rights. There can only be this inadequacy of compensation in cases 1473 where the assessment is grossly inadequate. The Bill gives twelve months to put this state of affairs right, and there will be a bonnie rush to get it right. I should like to come to the figures given by the hon. Member for Coventry; copies of which he has very courteously given me. He quoted six companies. Five of these companies published their balance-sheets; and one of them not, but the particulars were given to the hon. Member and therefore I shut that company off. I take the five companies whose balance sheets have been published and which I have in my possession. These companies were given as representative companies. In 1907 two of of them paid dividends of 3 per cent., one paid 2¾ per cent., another paid 1 per cent., and another paid nothing, and has not paid anything for years, and has not paid any interest for years on its preference shares. Are these companies to be accepted as simple cases? There is only one of them that has got a decent reserve fund. Three out of the other four ought not to have paid a dividend at all, the dividend which they declared should have gone to the reserve fund which was too small. One of them shows a deficiency of £800,000 in its own balance sheet, and we are asked to extend our deep sympathy towards this company on account of the loss which it will suffer under this Bill! The loss was got at by taking the amount at which the licensed premises stood in the balance sheets, and the amount they would be worth when the licence was gone. I find that in the premises are included the brewery, plant, stock, houses and goods in houses, loans on mortgage, the debts of the people to whom they sold their beer, interest and vents receivable, and goodwill. All that is included in the assets, and in order to ascertain what the licensed premises would be worth when the licences were taken away, only one-fifth was estimated as remaining, but the brewery, plant, stock, debts, and other things were all there, and the licence monopoly value was taken at four-fifths of that! The whole thing is preposterous. Take the case of one brewery. The property is said to be worth £2,371,800, and at the end of the 1474 time-limit what will be left? £474,360. But I find that the brewery alone is put down at £466,000, while there is in addition the whole of the houses, the mortgages, debts, interest and rent now due, and the stock in the houses. That is the kind of way in which the country is being misled. That is the sort of accountancy and expert evidence on which the companies were floated. It is a preposterous imposition on the credulity of the public, and to attempt to frighten widows and poor investors by a policy of this kind in order to defeat this Bill is discreditable. Expert evidence! I have looked into the market value of these five companies, and I find that their capital is £25,000,000, of which £22,000,000 is quoted on the London Stock Exchange. I want to know what was the value of it before this Bill was ever heard of. On 24th February, three days before the Bill was introduced, the price of the £22,000,000 quoted was £12,800,000, or a loss of £9,200,000, nearly 50 per cent.[An HON. MEMBER on the OPPOSITION Benches: The Bill was mentioned in the King's Speech.] If I were to go back in my argument I could show that the fall took place long before the King's Speech, indeed before the party opposite went out of office. There has been remarkably little fall in brewery stocks since the present Government came into power; and in the case of one of these companies, the stock was higher after the Bill was brought in than before. The hon. Member for Coventry estimated that the loss would be £18,548,000, but I have shown that £9,200,000 has gone already. What was the cause of that? It was not the King's Speech. I have the balance sheet of a London brewery company for 1907–8 in which it is stated that the receipts from rents, interest on loans, etc. as compared with 1906–7 have declined £5,300, because the tenants of the public houses have found it increasingly difficult to pay their way. Was that also because of the King's Speech? The only reason why they should find increasing difficulty to pay their way was because they sold less liquor and made less profit. But that was not the result of the King's Speech. The loss shown in the market value of the stocks of the five companies 1475 I have mentioned is £9,200,000, but that is not all. The ordinary shares stood at £7,700,000, but practically the ordinary shares as assets have gone and one-half of the preference capital has also gone, and they cannot replace that. What should be done? If these companies write down their capital to a fair amount they can face the future with equanimity. That is what some of the companies did. But we have companies which were floated on the public in the booming time where the debenture and preference stock represent the whole value of the assets. The promoters got in cash the real, reasonable, normal value of the whole concern, while there were no genuine assets against the watered stock of the ordinary shares, though they took their dividends upon them. And yet they talk to us about the poor investors! Others have drawn dividends ranging from 10 to 20 and 30 per cent. which ought never to have been taken to such an extent until ample revenues bad been built up. The "Coach and Horses" was bought by the Portsmouth United Breweries Company, which paid a dividend of 30 per cent. for four years, and they had a reserve of only £10,000, and during these four years apparently they had not added a penny to reserve. The right hon. Gentleman talked about prudent finance. That is not a prudent finance.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It is prudent finance if the policy of the Under-Secretary for the Home Office is carried out.
§ *SIR THOMAS WHITTAKER
Another company had a reserve of £170,000 and during the last twelve months they have taken £100,000 of that reserve and distributed it as a bonus in the form of free ordinary shares to the ordinary shareholders. That was watering their capital. There are three classes of brewery companies. One consists of good and sound, reasonably capitalised, and well managed concerns, paying dividend and building up a sound reserve fund. Next we have fair companies reasonably capitalised, paying too much dividend and setting aside too little for the reserve. There is another lot of companies of various grades altogether over-capitalised. What 1476 is a fair capital for an undertaking of this kind? I would venture to say that the capital should not be more than would make the annual net profit over the whole show at 7 per cent. It is a risky industrial investment depending on the personnel to some extent of the management, and 7 per cent. over the whole would pay a reasonable capitalisation. If they had done that with one-third debentures, one-third preference shares, and one-third ordinary shares, they could have paid a handsome dividend, keeping up a good reserve fund at the same time, and faced this Bill with equanimity. It may be said that this is ideal and fantastic, but I have gone into the accounts of 142 brewery companies, and have got them investigated, and have all the particulars by one of the best firms of chartered accountants in the City of London. I took, first of all, thirty good, sound companies, with a capital of £22,000,000. Their average net profit over the whole concern was 8 per cent. They paid an average dividend last year—one of the worst years for companies—of 12l per cent., and they put aside for reserve £319,000. The total reserve of these companies was £4,750,000–21 per cent. of their capital. If we take half of their premises—plant, Loans, stock, and goodwill—as representing the monopoly value of the licensed houses, these brewery companies during the next fifteen years, by doing nothing more than they have done during the past fifteen years, will pay their average 12½ per cent. dividend all along the line, and at the end wipe off the whole of their licence value. In making this calculation nothing is put down for an increase of trade that will accrue to the remaining houses for reduction of licences or for growth of population. They are good average brewery companies with a large number of tied houses, with an average capital of £750,000, and I do not include special concerns like Bass' or Guinness'. Then there are thirty companies that I will describe as "good to middling." Their capital is £13,000,000, and the average is £432,000. Their average profit is 7 per cent. over the whole, and the average dividend was 9½ per cent. last year. To reserve they put past £93,000, and the reserve fund is £1,428,000, or 11 per cent. of 1477 their capital. These companies can meet this Bill and wipe out the whole of their licence value, paying 6 to 7 per cent. every year from now up to the time of the limit expiry. Here is no ruin, no robbery. Then I have another batch of eighty-two which I describe as poor and weak. Their share capital is £75,000,000 and their average capital is £900,000 each. Four are in liquidation; thirty-three of them, with a capital of £27,500,000, not only pay nothing on their ordinary shares but are in arrears on their preference shares. Their debentures are £13,000,000 and their ordinary shares £4,000,000, while their reserve fund is only £357,000. Fourteen of them have no reserve at all, and the average of the lot is 1½ per cent. reserve. They have divided almost every penny they can lay their hands on. Then I come to twenty-four which pay no dividend upon their ordinary shares. Their capital is £13,000,000 and their reserve fund is £705,000, or 5½per cent., and some of them have no reserve fund at all. It is from these companies that there come the hard cases which have been circulated, and whenever a man writes to the papers and says he will take an actual case it is invariably one of these. Many of them had lost half their share capital before this present Government came into office. Then I will take twenty-one companies which pay dividends of from 1 to 3 per cent. Their capital is £32,500,000 and their reserve £1,450,000, or 4½per cent. They ought never to have paid their dividends in most cases. There you have 142 companies representing £110,000,000 of capital with reserves running down from 21 per cent. to 24½per cent. and some of them 1 per cent. Their average dividend runs from 12½per cent. to nil. There are 150 other companies, with a capital of £50,000,000, which do not issue public balance sheets, and you cannot get them, as they will not send them; but I have dealt with those representing a capital of £110,000,000, and those represent three-fourths of the brewery companies and licensed houses in England and Wales, and therefore I think you have a fair idea of what the position is. Good and sound companies, thoroughly good ones, can take this Bill in their stride and 1478 never turn a hair. A great many others can go along and pay 6 or 7 per cent., and a great many of the others cannot do it because they are over-capitalised and are not paying dividends on their ordinary shares to-day, and therefore obviously ought to be reconstructed and largely written down. May I take another view, and that is, What is the amount of capital in the trade at stake under this Bill? What is the monopoly value? I mentioned in the debates of 1904 that my estimate of the market value of the licences in England and Wales was £125,000,000. That is the result of rather a high estimate, and they have fallen, they have come down now, and they are not worth more than £100,000,000. I took the estimates of the Brewers' Almanac and the Brewers' Society of the capital of the trade, and if you deduct from their estimate a reasonable allowance for Scotland and Ireland you will find, extraordinarily, that both these estimates come out at something like £190,000,000 as the total capital value of all the breweries and licensed properties in England and Wales. Therefore, when people talk and write about £200,000,000 and £300,000,000 as being the value of the licences alone, they do not know what they are talking about and are altogether wide of the mark. Of that £190,000,000, how much represents monopoly value? About half, or £95,000,000 or close upon my £100,000,000. During the time-limit a number of these houses will be wiped out and paid for. They will get £12,000,000, and that leaves £83,000,000 to be provided by the trade at the end of the time-limit, and they have altogether got towards this in one way or another, £20,000,000 in the shape of reserve funds or amounts already written off. An hon. Gentleman smiles, but I am dealing with what the trade has got to do. I am not arguing the justice but the possibilities, and I say that going on these lines we have got the sum down to £83,000,000 which has to be met, and towards that they have got £20,000,000. That means that they have £63,000,000 to provide—call it roughly £70,000,000—which at 4 per cent. means £3,500,000 a year, and at 5 per cent. £3,250,000. That is what they have to deal with, 1479 and I say that every other trade in the country almost every year of its existence has to cope with greater variations of cost and prices than there are in this trade. What did you do with the sugar and confectionery trade? You called I upon them to deal with a tax of £6,000,000 in one year. Take the woollen trade, in which my constituency is interested; they will let you know something about variations in recent prices of wool. Every trade has its variations to deal with, and this can be done with ease, and the trade will be in a sounder position in the end than they are now, and we only compel what sound finance dictates. We are told that the compensation is inadequate; but it will only be inadequate if the assessment is under the mark. We were told by the hon. Member for Kingston that it is unjust that these people should pay the levy and get nothing, that they are put in the position of paying for an insurance, and they should get something in the end. He scoffed at the idea that people would ever pay for life insurance on this basis know something about life insurance, and he will find that there are thousands of policies issued every year to cover the contingency of death during a given period. If the death occurs during that period the insurers will get the money, but if the life survives they will get nothing, and if you want to insure something on death or at the end of the term of insurance as well as insurance during the time, you pay a higher premium. It is a matter of temporary and contingent insurance. If you insure your house against fire you do not expect to have the money at the end if you do not have a fire. This is a case of mutual insurance and the position is this: What it means is that the licence-holder has to have a fourteen years run or compensation, and he will have either the run or be compensated, but he does not have both the run and the compensation. It is either the one or the other, the run or the compensation. Then the hon. Gentleman says that at the end of the time the trade will go on but the State will take the profit. That is not so. The brewer will make his ordinary wholesale profit of the brewing trade, the retailer will make the ordinary profit on what he sells in his public- 1480 house. It is the monopoly profit which the State will take and nothing more. Someone says: "How would you like it?" Well, if I were the tenant of a shop, having bought the business carried on in the shop under an annual tenancy at a very low rent, and the landlord came to me and said: "You got that shop at too low a rent. Quite true, you bought the business with the shop at a low rent, and you perhaps expected it to go on, but I never said it would, and I really must have a proper rent for it; but you may have calculated at the time that it would go on, and I will give you fourteen years notice, and at the end of that time I will have a proper rent." What should I say? I should say: "I have got the most generous landlord in the country." Now something has been made of the ante-1869 beer-houses. Every one knows that the 1869 beer-house has a special and privileged position, but it is a mistake to think that the Act of 1869 gave it that position; it was in a much more privileged position before that Act, which took away some of its privileges but left it with some privileges. It did not create privileges, it left them with some, and the conditions on which licences were granted to ante-1869 beer-houses have been more than once altered by the State, and it was never implied that they would never be altered again. [A laugh.] The hon. Member scoffs at that, but let me give him an illustration. He will remember that the Act of 1869 also gave this special privilege to "off" beer licences, and "off" and "on" were in the same position, but Parliament took it away from the "off" under the Bill of 1882, and did it at the instigation of the trade. The liquor trade did not like these outside traders, and the late Lord Ritchie, as Captain Ritchie, promoted that Bill at the instigation of the trade and carried it through. The trade, when it suited their purpose, wiped out the special provision in the case of the "off" licences without any fourteen years notice. Moreover, they brought about the Over Darwen cases. It was the trade that opposed this renewal of licences at Over Darwen and got seven or eight-and-twenty of them wiped out without a moments' concern. What did they do for the unemployed? It is a very 1481 different thing if they do it, but why, if it is fair to deprive the "off" ante-1869 licence of its special position, as it unjust to do the same for the ante-1869 "on" licence? Mr. Candy, Q.C., on that occasion told the licensed victuallers that they were very 'unwise in acting as they did, and said they had been making whips for the hacks of others which would some day he used upon themselves. Something was said about "resuming property you had parted with." The State has not parted with it in any such sense as is thus implied, and we are not going to resume it in any such sense. If you let a house on an annual tenancy you part with the use and occupation of it for the time, and at the end of the year you may resume possession of it. It does not mean that you are taking property from the tenant. He has only had the use of it for a limited time on certain conditions, and you are only going to resume possession of your own. It was never his, in the sense of ownership. Nothing that the tenant may have presumed can possibly affect the owner's rights, and the State is in the same position. All this trouble has arisen because the brewers have departed from their legitimate business. They have ignored the intention of the law; they have ignored the public convenience. They have evaded what the law intended, and themselves caused the inflation of prices which is now going to hang them. They aimed at defeating the public interest, and at preventing free competition and supply. Then there is another thing. It is a policy of grasping greed. They were not satisfied with the wholesale profit, but must have half the retail profit as well, and what has been the result? During all these years they have squeezed half the profits of the publican's trade out of the publican. They have squeezed out half their profits, and having got that they make it a ground for claiming better treatment, and make it a reason for preventing us from exercising our rights. 'The tied houses have long been one of the curses of this country. A Committee in 1818 reported on this matter, and this is what they said—We view with apprehension the spread 9f proprietary public houses, regarding it as an abuse of the licensing system, and feel we 1482 cannot reprobate in too strong terms the disgraceful practice among brewers of supplying proprietary houses with inferior liquor to that which the retail part of the trade are supplied with.They also give a forecast of the provisions of this Bill, for in their Report to this House they suggest an enactment of "some prospective law which, at a given period," shall direct the magistrate to refuse licences to such houses as shall be shown to be in substance the property of a brewer. Sixty years later, another committee, a Select Committee of the House of Lords, reported on this question. A committee which had the Duke of Westminster for its Chairman, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr. Magee, the Bishop of Peterborough, LordKimberley, Lord Aberdare, and Lord Colleston, among its members. None of those were Socialists; none of them could be described as robbers and confiscators. What did they do? Having referred to the reduction in the number of licensed houses in proportion to population which had followed the legislation of 1869 and 1872, they said—The effect of this legislation has been largely to raise the value of this property, and it would seem but just that the public should receive a greater portion than hitherto of the profits of a monopoly thus artificially created.That comes from the other end of this building—The Committee recommend that a considerable increase should be made in the duty on excise licences.That was what the Lords thought of this at the end of forty years, and these tied-houses still continue to corrupt the ministration and evade the law. One of these committees reported that one of the, great brewing firms in London, a firm which still exists, engaged as its solicitor the clerk to the justices at Bow Street, and also the clerk to the licensing justices. It is shown that in those days you could not get a licence until you made an arrangement with the brewer to take, his beer and then through the clerk, to the justices, the brewers' solicitor you got a licence. The whole thing was manœuvred. Now let me give two precedents. We did away with the slave trade; we abolished it and we paid not a, farthing as compensation. When we gave compensation it was because we took the slaves who were the property of 1483 their owner and equivalent to his stock. We stopped the trade in which millions were invested without paying a penny in compensation. But when we took the slaves, the permanent property of their owners, did we pay their full value? No. We gave a time notice and commutation. But I have a better case than that, the case of the Church leases. For 200 years the Church authorities of this country granted leases of church property on such terms as the law allowed, but they always renewed them on payment of a fine. They either leased for lives or for three terms of seven years each, making twenty-one years in all, and they always renewed. The expectation of renewal became an exceedingly valuable property. The expectation was bought, sold, and bequeathed. Death duties were charged on it. The Court of Chancery in settling marriage settlements settled the expectation of renewal on grand children and great grand children. A great amount of property was built on land leased in this way, and when the matter had to be settled by the Court as it had in some cases, the Court of Chancery gave the tenants two-thirds and the Church one-third of the value. In 1860 everyone of these leases was put an end to. In 1860 they decided that after 1884 there should be no extension of any leases. These leases were in three terms of seven years each. As soon as one of these terms ran out, leaving fourteen years to run it had been the invariable custom to grant another term so as to keep three terms going. There was not a lease that had less than fourteen years to run. So that all they got was an addition of ten years. But those which were not so short as fourteen years got less. The average extension of lease was from five to ten years and these leases were terminated by a time-notice. I commend that to the notice of the lawyers of this House with due hope that they will look into it. We have no desire to do injustice, we have every desire not to do an injustice, to anyone. The suggestion that we are vindictive to the trade is absolutely untrue. We have no personal interest of any kind. We are doing our best to grapple with what admittedly is a gigantic evil. We have heard little of that evil from the other side. All the 1484 talk of hon. Gentlemen opposite has been about property of interest and of dividends. Property in what? In a right to debase, to degrade, and o destroy. We have heard a good deal of talk about Socialism. I am one of the last in the world who would be regarded a Socialist, and I agree with my right hon. friend the Prime Minister when he said the real friends of property were making a great mistake in associating with other classes of property annual licences. Temperance reform and the prosperity of the licensed trade are antagonistic, and therefore any attempt to bring about temperance reform, and also maintain the well-being and prosperity of the trade, is futile. All we can do is to make some arrangement, some compromise, by which the people who have invested money in the trade can with ordinary prudence and care get the reasonable value of these licences back during this period of time. And I venture to say I have brought facts to show that it is perfectly feasible to do so by all concerned. Therefore I ask the House to take this substantial step forward in a direction which will do much to promote the wellbeing and happiness of our nation.
§ *MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)
I rise for the purpose of renewing, in a humble sort of way, the opposition I felt constrained to offer to this Bill on its First Reading—an opposition based upon the ground that the Bill is founded upon a total misapprehension of the true character of the drink evil; that it is an unnecessary Bill, and that it is an unjust one. I confess in approaching it from that point of view, I felt for a little time in some difficulty as to how I was to follow the hon. Member to whose remarkable speech we have just listened. For a time I was reminded of the saying of a learned Judge who, after listening for several hours to an eminent counsel's technical argument, said—I cannot profess to have followed you through the whole of your arguments, but they are far too technical not to prevail.As regards much of the speech, I was beginning to believe that I was totally mistaken hitherto in my conception; that the whole licensing system was in the hands of certain heartless, wicked, and hopelessly improvident public companies, 1485 whose conduct has been immoral throughout, and whose system of finance is rotten to the core, and yet upon whom a compassionate Liberal Government proposes to confer some skilfully-disguised financial blessing which only the highly-technical knowledge of the hon. Member for Spen Valley could make clear to the House. But, after all, I remembered that there were some persons engaged in this trade who were unconnected with brewery companies, and on that point I thought we might be allowed to say a word or two. When, however, the hon. Member came down from the region of high finance in which he gave the House credit for greater intelligence and understanding than I profess to possess, and when he came to apply some of those high theories to practical tests, then I thought I should have no more difficulty in putting him right in his figures than I shall have in a few minutes' time in putting him right in his law. The difficulty one feels in dealing with the hon. Member and his friends is that their facts, figures, and arguments, like their faith in this matter, have become an obsession, and when a man has reached that fanatical stage anyone who seeks to question his views is put in the category of unrighteous sons of darkness. Still, I think I can show that these ardent exponents of temperance reform may be living in a fool's paradise in regard to their facts and figures. Now, Mr. Speaker, in pursuing my attitude of opposition to this measure, I am not deterred by the fact that an hon. Member said that my opposition was the hallmark of the real merits of this Bill—though it is very difficult to reconcile that observation with the frantic appeals which I have received from the society of which he is a distinguished officer to reconsider my position, nor am I to be deterred by the fact that the hon. and learned Solicitor-General, in one of those moments of inexpensive generosity which frequently accompany the sudden advent of great prosperity, even in the Celtic character, made a present of my support to the Party opposite. All I have to say on that subject is that however long I may be spared to be a Member of this House, my support may always be rather given away than bought or sold. And in pursuing this line, neither will I be deterred by the hon. Member for Appleby, 1486 who said in the course of his speech that this was a struggle between the forces of good and evil. I respectfully associate myself with what I may call the well-deserved castigation which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin administered to the Member for Appleby, for what he called the arrogance and insolence of that phrase. But if the right hon. Member for South Dublin had known what a Parliamentary refinement that was compared with what the hon. Member for Appleby has said elsewhere, he would doubtless have made the castigation even more severe, because the hon. Member for Appleby said on another occasion not that the struggle was between good and evil, but between Heaven and Hell.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES
I was referring to a quotation from Mr. Buxton, an eminent brewer, who wrote on this question.
§ *MR. BOTTOMLEY
Well, Sir, I have heard of a certain distinguished potentate quoting scripture to suit his purpose, but when it comes to a temperance reformer quoting an eminent brewer for the purpose of emphasising his views, then I feel that I must look upon his statement with some amount of suspicion. But the hon. Member will not deny that when he quoted the eminent brewer he wholly adopted him. I am not going to enter on any complicated theological question, as to how far the reverend prelates of Manchester and other places are the forces of Hell or the forces of Heaven; but I do protest generally against this class of argument on a purely political question. I should have thought that the meanest amenities of this House would have given credit to all parties in it for the fullest intention and desire to deal with this great evil.
§ *MR. LEIF JONES
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to explain. I do not want to be constantly interrupting him. I made no charge against the character of those who are opposing the Bill at all. They are defending a bad cause, but good men have done that, many times before.
§ *MR. BOTTOMLEY
I accept the disclaimer of the hon. Member in so far 1487 as it applies to me, and I am to take it that, in a dialectical sense only, I am on the side of Hell against Heaven. But I would venture to say that the observation does occur to me that, whether or not it be true that righteousness exalteth a nation, self-righteousness does not exalt the dignity or character of debate in this House. I will endeavour to answer some of the arguments used by the Member for Spen Valley as I go along. Now, Sir, I listened to the Prime Minister on the First Reading, and I had a suspicion at the time of what I found to be the fact, and which reminded me of an event which has occurred in the lives of many of us, namely, when the family physician bursts into the room and conveys to us the tidings of a new offspring whose merits and charms he ends it impossible to exaggerate. But when we come to make personal examination of the new arrival, we invariably find it to be the ordinary commonplace sort of a squalling brat. I do not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman carelessly or intentionally misled the House, but there were one or two provisions in the Bill which, in his exposition of it, must have escaped his memory. He did not tell us, for instance, that whereas a wealthy gentleman at the West End is to remain at liberty to purchase wholesale quantities of wines and spirits at his club, the working-man is not to be permitted to take home half-a-pint of beer or a half-quarters of gin, perhaps for the mollification of his wife when he arrives home rather late, or for any other purpose. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us of the provision, to my mind an extraordinary provision, in this Bill, extending Sunday closing to passenger vessels. He said nothing about the conditions under which the captain of the vessel who has to navigate it is to take care that he is not running the risk of being fined £50 for any person being on board his vessel in a state of inebriation. Nor did the right hon. Gentleman tell us of another extraordinary provision which would affect overworked policemen and add to their duties. Not only has a policeman to take notes of street-corner lecturers, and make notes of any blasphemy, and of lost dogs and of itinerant bookmakers, but he is to have thrown upon him the further duty when- 1488 ever he sees a brewer's van delivering goods of inspecting the order-book to see that it correctly records the goods to be delivered. The officer has to take out his pencil, he has to examine the delivery book, and he has to do double entry and make a balance. No wonder with these additional duties put upon the police that the Camden Town murderer is still at large. We have also had an exposition of the Bill by various Ministers both in the House and out of it, and I am bound to say that I find that I have not the slightest reason to modify the attitude I took on the last occasion. On what does the Bill proceed? It proceeds, first of all, on the assumption that there is an immediate, definite, scientific connection between the extent of the facilities for obtaining alcoholic drink and the extent of the drink evil. That is the first hypothesis, because the whole operative force of the Bill, except in regard to such minor matters as I have just referred to, proceeds on this basis. I say in the presence of the hon. Member for Spen Valley and his temperance colleagues, and I say it with a knowledge of the statistics and history of this matter second only to his own, that there is not an atom of evidence anywhere in justification of that contention. You may pick out here and there two or three or four instances where the reduction in facilities has resulted in less drunkenness. On the other hand, you may pick out thousands of cases where the reverse has been the effect. It is not, however, a question of arrests for drunkenness. That, it has rightly been pointed out, may be a matter of the greater or lesser activity of the police. The test of the efficacy of this kind of legislation is this:—Do you get a less total consumption of alcoholic liquor? That is the test, and nothing else. I make myself responsible for the statement of the fact that whereas the drinking habits of the people have been steadily decreasing during the past fifteen or twenty years those decreases have taken place mainly where restrictive legislation has been least enforced. Wherever you have had restrictions you have had as a general rule, either stationary or increased consumption of alcoholic drink. One does not require to know more than a little of human 1489 nature to realise that that would be the case. Licensing statistics confirm my statement that licensing restrictions have never brought about a less consumption of alcoholic drink. The Report of the Royal Commission itself teems with opinions to that effect. Official statistics of countries which have restrictive legislation—Scotland, Wales, and Ireland—show that they are becoming every year more drunken. In Glasgow I find the authorities meeting, according to their agendas, to consider "the alarming increase in drunkenness." When I come to deal with Sunday closing, I will show that every Monday morning the charges of drunkenness in Glasgow are about equivalent to the charges we get in London after a Bank Holiday. I do not want to go over the same ground again and again, but to give one striking instance. I have investigated the figures for the nearest Continental places I can get. In France there is practically free trade in drink. Any respectable citizen of France may open what, for the purposes of this discussion, one must call a public-house. That public-house may, practically speaking, remain open always. Let me give the House what, to my mind, is a most startling fact—which absolutely disposes of the suggestion that restriction has any bearing upon the question of drunkenness. With free trade in France, and unlimited hours, what does the House think were the total charges of drunkenness throughout all France last year? Just to get a comparative idea I think the average in London alone is something like 400 a day, although on a Sunday it is very much less; whilst for the whole of England it is 200,000 a year. But the total number of charges of drunkenness in France during the whole of last year were 623 and for Paris, 270. The hon. Member for Spen Valley commented on the fact that we had 50 per cent. more licensed premises in proportion to population than Scotland had. We have 50 per cent. more licensed premises and much less drunkenness. I will not follow references to Sidney Smith or to the 17th century, but I will content myself with the reference to the official figures issued by the Home Office, that there is no evidence anywhere that restrictive licensing legis- 1490 lation has reduced the total consumption of drink. I am glad to say there has been a reduction, but you cannot associate that diminution with restrictive legislation. The next idea of the Government seems to be that Sunday must be chosen for special legislation. In the provinces the Sunday hours are reduced as compared with those in London, but nobody can tell us why. Does the Government mean that the provinces are less able to withstand temptation? The extraordinary power is given by this Bill to make the condition on a renewal of a licence of absolute or partial Sunday closing. If there is some special evil attaching to Sunday opening, why is it left to the justices and not to Parliament to deal with it? The Prime Minister said that this is one of the things recommended by the Royal Commission. Yes, but the Royal Commission said it was one of the things that ought not to be left to the justices. I ventured to say on the First Reading that it was not so much crowded public-houses as empty churches and chapels that were agitating the minds of the Government. The Home Office recently took a period of three months in a Return with regard to arrests for drunkenness in London. For Mondays the number was 3,966, for Saturdays 2,001, and for Sundays 946. I want to know why for Sundays there should be this special legislation and not for Saturdays or Mondays. If the Bill be a Sabbatarian measure, why not say so? Sunday closing has been a terrible failure everywhere. The licensing justices are saying in Scotland—and it is beyond dispute—that restrictive legislation on Sundays creates a greater evil than it cures. Why has Sunday been chosen for special legislation—the day of the week on which there is the least drunkenness? Why has it been chosen if not in regard to a question of some other character than temperance? Some people say, to protect the employees of the trade. There is a sort of protection which vultures give to lambs. I will leave the question of Sunday closing. And now I press the Under-Secretary for the Home Office for information with regard to complaints of drunkenness on passenger vessels. Why are passenger vessels plying on Sundays chosen for special legislation? Under this Bill the 1491 hours are to be shortened for Sunday refreshments. Everyone knows that the result will be that people will struggle to get their meals and refreshments in the limited period thus allowed. Or are the passengers to take their liquors on board with them? Then, the captain is to be fined £50 in the case of a person being discovered on board in a state of inebriation! Is he to look after the drinking of the passengers and thereby fail to look after the security of his craft? Again, why Sunday closing? There is another provision in the interests of temperance. Again, on Sunday a man is to walk six miles for a glass of beer, and back again six miles. If the public-house is only five and three-quarter miles away he will have to go further on. A thirsty traveller, with his parched tongue hanging out, is to walk there and back for a glass of ale, and you may imagine how he will bless the Liberal Government. I think if any poor fellow walks so far he deserves his glass of beer. But why should he be compelled to do it on a Sunday and not on a Saturday? Give powers to the justices to close on other days besides Sunday, and then you will soon see what the nation thinks. The justices are also to have the power to close public-houses on polling days. If there is any provision in the Bill for which there is no justification that is one. I have questioned the Home Secretary as to the arrests for drunkenness during the recent by-elections. He said he would make inquiries. Why close houses on polling days? What is the evil? What is the vice? What has happened? Where are the arrests? In the Hastings election there was not a single arrest—in the first election fought on this Licensing Bill. In Peckham one man only was arrested. And in Manchester the President of the Board of Trade, with a magnanimity and generosity which does credit to his character, admitted that the contest had been characterised by decorum and sobriety. These are facts or inventions. If facts, why close the houses on polling days? I want some hon. Member who understands the matter to tell me. At present I fail to see why there should be closing on Sundays and polling days. Then there is the delicate question of the barmaid. There is a great deal in that question, and behind that question, 1492 as far as the Government is concerned. I have here the report of a deputation which waited on the Home Secretary in February last year—one of those deputations the Government is so ready to lend an ear to—consisting of persons who seem to be regarded as experts in these great matters. The deputation was introduced by the Bishop of Southwark and Mrs. Ramsay Macdonald, and other ladies, including one from the Salvation Army, were there. These people spoke to the Home Secretary about the evils and dangers to barmaids, as though they were entitled to be treated as experts. According to the report the Home Secretary assured the deputation that, generally speaking, he was in agreement with the object and arguments they had advanced. He was convinced that the employment of girls and women in bars, was open to objection on grounds of temperance and morals, and he promised to deal with the matter in his forthcoming Bill. At that time, no doubt, it was assumed that the Home Secretary would be in charge of the Bill. Well, the barmaids became alive to the matter, and some months afterwards they had a deputation, and they were introduced to the Home Secretary by people who were barmaids, or were officials of women's trade associations, and having heard their arguments the Home Secretary, having explained that they must not take too literally what he said to the previous deputation, said—I can assure you of this, that any Government or any party will think twice or thrice before doing anything which would seriously interfere or generally interfere with the employment of women.That was the assurance given by the Home Secretary to the barmaids. Now what do we find here? We find that justices are to have an absolute discretion and power to prohibit the employment of barmaids. Is that a fulfilment of the promise that the Government would think twice and thrice before interfering with the employment of these women? Again, I respectfully ask the Home Secretary, why the exclusion of barmaids? Has there been one case before the Courts in the last twenty or thirty years justifying the contention that the trade of barmaid is 1493 conducive to immorality or intemperance? I have searched the reports, but I have found no case, and I want to know where I shall find one. On the other hand, the presence of barmaids has had a good influence on the trade, and that being so, why the abolition of the barmaids? Then there is the exclusion of children from public-houses. It sounds plausible to say: "Don't allow the child to go into the public-house." Let a buxom wench of eighteen years go in as much as you like. The drunkard will not look at her. It is on the little child that he will cast eyes and to whom he will address wrong observations. If you study licensing statistics you will find this extraordinary feature about them, that whilst intemperance is decreasing among the general community it is increasing among females. That means that now you do not allow the child to go to the public-house the mother goes there herself. The Child Messenger Act, splendid as it was in its object, has done more to add to increased intemperance among women in this country than anything else, and I ask again if the Government will not reconsider the question? And, in any case, do be a little more definite. Do not leave it to local authorities to define what is a child. The Government has not the courage to do that. I commend to the Under-Secretary my statement that the restriction as to sending children as messengers for their parents has had the alarming effect of creating a vast army of female drinkers. Then there is the provision about clubs. I will only ask why we are not taken into the confidence of the Government without waiting till after the Second Reading? Is it or is it not intended to withdraw the police inspection? I want to know. Have the Government, or have they not, made up their minds to withdraw that invidious and stupid provision? I am not in the Cabinet secrets, but somehow or other I will make myself responsible for the statement that the Government are going to withdraw it; but they dare not tell their temperance friends until they get their Second Reading. Everybody outside the Government knows, with regard to the time-limit, that it is going to be extended, but the Prime Minister dare not tell his temperance friends that they have to 1494 stomach another seven years. I only make that statement because the Government claim so much credit for its courage. The hon. Member for Spen Valley talked about not including in the 1904 Act any provision about clubs. I expected some hon. Gentleman opposite to get up and say that there was an Act passed in 1902 for the express purpose of governing clubs, and which Act is capable of dealing with every evil incidental to club life. How can you close public-houses and at the same time put no restriction upon clubs? If you take a census of membership of working men's clubs of London to-day it is common knowledge that it has gone up enormously during the past few years. It is not the number of clubs; it is the membership you have to consider, and the membership will go up every week, and will go up in proportion as you close the other places in which men can get refreshment. Mr. Speaker, what evidence is there that this Bill is needed? The best evidence on the point is the evidence of the hon. Member for Spen Valley. In the early days of this controversy, when the Bill was first being talked about, he criticised the fact that the depreciation of brewery securities was not due in any way to the Licensing Bill. I came across a letter which contained this extraordinary phraseThere must he a further reason for depreciation in brewery stocks. During the last three years public-houses have done on the average a much smaller trade than they did seven years ago. In the first place, there has been a falling-off in the consumption of the drink per head of the population. The result is, I assume, that the public-houses and beer-houses of England and Wales have during the last three years sold on an average fifteen millions sterling worth of drink per year less than seven years ago.I expect that is true. But was there ever in history a Government coming forward with a great comprehensive Bill to deal with a social evil which its own chief supporters have admitted is automatically curing itself and diminishing at an enormous rate? I ask the Under-Secretary again why this wonderful hurry to rush through this Bill for reducing the facilities of drinking? These reductions are going on under the 1901 Act. Of course, it is said that the 1904 Act is an Act which we are entitled to throw on one side. I have been thinking a 1495 good deal during this discussion about one aspect of the matter. Before the 1904 Act there was a general misconception as to the general state of the licensing law. The 1904 Act was introduced to put the matter on some surer basis. That Bill has been passed; it is working in the direction of a steady reduction in licences, but almost before it gets into its stride—to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Spen Valley—you propose to repeal it. I wonder if the House remembers that somewhere about the same time as the "Sharp v. Wakefield" decision the House of Lords gave another decision which upset the general idea with regard to another matter. I refer to the Taff Vale decision. Because that decision put a totally new conception on the law, the very first thing this Government did was to introduce the Trade Disputes Bill. It would be quite possible for the Opposition, when they come back to power, to at once introduce a measure saying: "We will not recognise your Trade Disputes Act. It put the law on a wrong basis. It was a compromise and we will alter it." I now come to what, after all, are the provisions of the Bill regarded as essential. I refer to the question of the time-limit. There are two phrases used by the Government. It is intended, first of all, to recover dominion over licensed premises—a dominion which the State has never lost, a dominion which it has to-day to the fullest extent. Secondly, it is to recover the ownership of the monopoly value—a thing which it never had. I ask the House what is the meaning of the words to recover a dominion or to recover an ownership which it never possessed. I listened with profound respect to the argument of the hon. Member for Spen Valley, and I confess I was startled when he told us that it would be quite an easy thing for two out of three classes of brewery companies to go on paying their handsome dividends of 5, or 6, or 12 per cent., and make full provision for the resumption by the State of the monopoly value. He said—They have only to go on putting so much to the reserve, and the thing is done.But I thought this Bill was to be a temperance measure, and that it was going to reduce the sale of drink. If you reduce the number of licences, the hon. 1496 Member assumes that the same amount of drink will be consumed, the same dividends are to be paid, and the reserve fund is to be continued. It was the argument of the hon. Member for Spen Valley that the brewery companies would automatically continue on exactly the same lines as they are to-day. They were to suffer nothing except to give up to the State that which belonged to themselves. I do not know whether it occurred to hon. Members who heard that argument how it cut both ways. But whatever may be the effect of the reduction in the ease of rich breweries, some of them that are poor and struggling would be wiped out of existence, involving ruin to thousands of innocent people. But, of course, they do not count. May I, however, remind the House that this is not a Bill to deal with the capitalisation of joint stock companies, it is to deal with the sale of drink. I do not think that the House has a right to inquire into the ownership of licensed premises. If brewery companies own them, they bought them. It is property legitimately acquired, and all this talk about brewery companies seems to me to be perfectly away from the point. We have been told that in fourteen years the Government will take over the licences or the monopoly value. I have struggled hard to know what the Government mean to take over. The hon. Member for Spen Valley says that the Government will charge a fair rent. A fair rent for what? It cannot mean a fair rent for the premises. What about the poor struggling men who have sixty years leases? It is all very well to talk of the rich brewery companies, but all licensed houses are not owned by rich companies. I have here a letter from the secretary of St. Thomas's Hospital—an institution which I suppose the hon. Member for Spen Valley would be desirous to protect. They have asked me as the representative of the constituency in which they happen to have four licensed premises with eighty years leases to do my very best to prevent those leases from falling into their hands under the proposals in this Bill. Why not take over the leases in such cases? Do you think that a man who has been lured and decoyed into putting capital into the trade should be left with his premises, which are fitted up for the liquor trade 1497 and for no other trade? It seems to me a just criticism on this Bill to say that it is a fiscal measure rather than a temperance measure. What a lot of nonsense is talked about the law on the subject. Even learned lawyers very much misunderstand the legal aspect of the question. From time immemorial it has been settled law that wherever any tribunal had the duty of exercising discretion that discretion must not be exercised at the caprice of the tribunal, but must be judicially exercised honestly between man and man, having regard to their livelihoods, their just expectations and their interests. That was settled in a case which was decided in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and is known to lawyers as Brookes' case. The hon. Member for Spen Valley has stated that there is no such thing as the renewal of a licence, and that it is always a new licence that is granted annually. Many Acts of Parliament dealing with the licensing question contain the express term that a licence shall be renewed. What I do want to say is that, relying on the compromise of the 1904 Act everybody has assumed that the state of the law will remain as settled by that Act. The State assumed it by valuing and rating licensed property as though it were going to be annually renewed. As to this talk about assessment, I never heard of such nonsense in my life. This Bill sets up a standard of its own that the monopoly value is the difference between the value of the premises with and without a licence and then complains because the premises in the past have not been assessed on a special basis. There is another aspect that I wish to refer to very briefly. I wish to know what evidence there is that anybody wants the Bill. I am told the Churches want it. I see no particular evidence that this Bill is demanded by the Churches. I know that a protest was signed by 350 members of the clergy in the diocese of Peterborough, protesting against the action of the Bishop in supporting the Bill, and I know that the Bishop of Manchester and other bishops are strongly opposed to it. My own view has always been that in mundane matters the views of the Bishops do not count; they have always been wrong—at any rate that was part of the political creed of the 1498 Liberal Party not so long ago. They had much better confine themselves to their legitimate sphere—dealing with the problem of another world, and if they happen to be wrong in that case too, they will never be found out. It is a strange thing for the Liberal Party to found its faith on the impregnable rock of the Episcopal Bench. There has been one great meeting in London in support of the Bill. It was presided over by the hon. Member for Appleby, who indulged in a hurricane of fanatical rhodomontade, and was addressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spoke in flamboyant language. He spoke about ascending to a brighter and a purer firmament and all that sort of thing, whilst, of course, the hon. Member for Spen Valley and others followed his example. The only practical, sensible observation was made by the hon. Member for Woolwich, who said that people were driven to the public-house by the smells of their rack-rented dens. But that is not the theory of this Bill. A disturbance was caused, according to one report, by a brewers' drayman, and the meeting broke out into a hymn, the second line of which was, "Let angels prostrate fall," at which stage, says the veracious reporter, the brewers' drayman was dropped into the street. I suppose this Bill will receive a Second Reading on Monday by the usual automatic majority—to be an obedient unit in which appears to be the apotheosis of the ambition of some of my hon. friends. It will be sent up to the Lords with no evidence that the country wants it, but that come what may, stand or fall, reckless of consequences, prepared, in the words of the Daily News, to sacrifice all, the Bill must pass as payment of a debt by the Government to its teetotal masters. Well, Sir, is the Government prepared to sacrifice one of its most brilliant Ministers? Old-age pensions, land and housing and taxation reform, may all go, seats may be lost, but you will have your Bill—you who a year ago said the will of the people must prevail. It sounds an anomaly, but the House of Lords must see that it does—and by rejecting this Bill, as I for one sincerely hope they will, they will place you in the humiliating position of having to bury it side by side with your three still-born 1499 education offspring. Or else you will have to go back to the country with the knowledge that in the space of three short years you have dissipated the greatest power ever placed in the hands of a political Party, and instead of indellibly impressing upon the early annals of this century the record of a great achievement you will have thrown your golden opportunities to the winds, and have shattered once more the long-delayed hopes of a too-confiding people.
§ *MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
The speech to which we have just listened was marvellously clever, but it was as cold-blooded as any I have ever heard. The hon. Member began by deriding the Ministerial Party for claiming the sympathy for this Bill of the Bishops, whom he has frequently calumniated, while he himself claimed the support of the Lords whom he is always denouncing. That is one of the things that makes one doubt the sincerity of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BOTTOMLEY
was understood to ask the hon. Gentleman to apologise for challenging his sincerity.
§ *MR. CROOKS
Apologise! Why should I apologise? One did expect from so eminent a person some better argument than the mere shilly-shallying backbiting which led to laughter. Any one can do that quite easily and waste the time of the House of Commons for an hour or two. We are face to face with a problem which is far more difficult than the hon. Member seems to suppose. He says that the nation is not behind us. I say that the nation is behind us. I only value the honour of a seat in the House of Commons in proportion to the opportunities it gives me of voicing the opinion of the people outside. A seat here has no other honour and glory to me except to be useful to the cause of the people. The hon. Member talks about representing the working-man and asks for evidence of their drunkenness, and he goes to the Courts for proof of it. Well, he may have an intimate knowledge of Courts, but I have an intimate knowledge of the courts and alleys of the East End in which the people dwell, and I look upon the hon. Member's statements with indifference. I well remember when the 1500 Act of 1904 was being forced through the House. I was one of the humble individuals who lost their heads over the iniquity of that Bill. I was foolish enough to defy the Chair and decline to vote, when the Speaker with that kindliness of heart so characteristic of him pointed out to me that I was not helping myself or my cause but insulting him. I then went into the lobby and said that the then Government were forcing their Bill through the House to create freeholds for the brewers. It was not a publicans' Bill but a brewers' Bill and it was robbing the publicans. The hon. Member for Spen Valley fully pointed out also that the publicans had rights, that the licences had been given to them, but that Parliament was doing nothing for them though it had given them a right to do certain things in certain places. Will hon. Gentlemen deny that the people of the country have a right to interfere with that right which they have given for nothing? When a company obtains a franchise for laying down tramways it is well known that in every Act there is provision that at the end of twenty-one years they are bound to sell it to the local authority for its mere value as it stands and that nothing is paid for goodwill. What is good enough for tramways should be good enough for public-house licences. The brewers bought the public-houses at boom prices—they were tumbling over one another to get premises in which they could compel people to take their stuff—some of it good and some bad. I have seen a man drinking a pot of sour beer and smacking his lips after with the remark, "Ah! there ain't no bad beer." I am going to give a few humble facts. I can assure the House that the brewers paid an abnormal price for many of these houses and then manipulated the books in order to keep down the local rates they would have to pay. I know of a free-house which cost £19,000.
§ *MR. CROOKS
I have neither the legal nor the financial training of the hon. Member, but I will give the name of the brewers, and of the house for which they paid £19,000. The brewers then came up to the Assessment Committee with 1501 two documents and said, "This house is let on a lease; it cost £7,000." But said the Committee, "You gave £19,000 for it." "Oh yes; that was so, but there is £11,000 for goodwill, and you cannot assess the goodwill," and then they brought another set of books. I said, "Of course, this is all very well, but who had £11,000 for the goodwill"? "Oh," they said, "the tenant who has gone out." I said, "May we have him present as a witness." They replied, "He has gone away, and we don't know where to find him." I said, "I will give you his address if you like," and the fact is the man had not 11,000 farthings. That is the way in which they get round the Assessment Committee when they want to pay less rates, but they add on the goodwill when they want compensation. I know a case where a poor man, a publican, gave £600 for the four years lease of a public-house, and the brewers who were the owners of the property said to him, "Now you must take up a twenty-one years lease." The man said, "I cannot very well, I have not the money." They said, "Look here, we will give you a twenty-one years lease of this house, and you pay us a premium of £2,000; at least you don't pay it to us you owe it to us." So it was put down on paper that he owed them £2,000 for a twenty-one years lease. Well, they robbed him of his £600 by bringing all the forces of law to bear upon the poor man. These people who are screaming out about confiscation have robbed more men and widows than ever the temperance party has done. I remember a case of a widow who had a "tied" house. She was in the habit of taking her strong ales from a Burton firm, but the London firm took to brewing their own Burton, and as she was "tied" to them they sent it to her. She had the courage to say she would not have it. They said, "You will take it or get out of the house." Ultimately she had to go on her knees to the manager to be allowed to earn her daily bread, but he said, "The house is let, you must get out." Can they bring such a charge against the temperance party? Take another case: a man goes to a firm and wants a public-house. He has saved £400. They say, "That is a ridiculous amount, but as you are a respectable man we may come to terms. What do you want?" He says, "I thought the 'Pig and Lion' was going," and, that being so, 1502 the poor man pays his money down to find out afterwards that he has been robbed by way of an imaginary loan to him of £5,000 at 5 per cent., although the rent is comparatively low. Of course, he goes in; he has no previous experience of such things, but he thinks it is Paradise to get a public-house, but in the end he finds out that he has got to the other shop. At the end of a few months he appeals to the Assessment Committee and says, "I cannot pay the amount." "Why," you ask, "what is the value of the house, what will it fetch?" Then you get to the bewildering mysteries in connection with the hypothetical tenant. They ask, "What did you pay?" and he says "£300; but it is the loan that is killing me, and the brewers say if I do not pay up I shall have to get out." Will hon. Members who know something about brewery shares tell me how it was that when "the boom" went down they never attempted to reduce the loan to the publican, but they said "We must keep the loan up, but we will take 2 per cent. or 1 per cent. interest on the capital amount remaining." That must he shown to the shareholders to demonstrate the value of the property, and therefore it is idle when, we say "Why don't you go to the brewers and get a reduction of the loan." The result is that in the end the tenant has to go out and another poor wretch has to go in, and that is how the people act you are asking us to have sympathy and pity for to-day. How do they act to others? The fact is that this sort of thing has gone too far. And when they talk about putting people out of employment, what is their record about putting men out of work? I say nothing about making them physical wrecks and putting them out of public-houses. To bear them argue about barmaids one would think they would rush off with their own daughters to get them a job in a public-house. It is said that the presence of barmaids has a refining influence upon the men, but I have seen the opposite when two fellows are quarrelling over the girls. Here in London is a brewery site for sale. That brewery site was bought because an Act of Parliament compelled the London County Council to re house certain people who had been thrown out of their houses by the Strand improvement. No less a sum than £200,000 was paid 1503 to that brewery for that site. The real value was £45,000. As soon as they got the £200,000 of course they looked after the men who were working for them because they are so anxious about the unemployed? No, they did not; they transferred their business to another firm. They went on selling just the same, but they did not increase the staff of the brewery which was doing two breweries' work. Whenever they are concentrating their efforts they pursue that policy. I will tell a story which I have told before about these wonderful people we are asked to pity. When they go to new licensing justices, they invariably play this game and play it very successfully. They say "We are prepared to surrender three licences if you will give us one other." I know cases where the brewers paid 10s. or 15s. a week to the caretakers who live in three houses, the "Waterman's Arms," the "Noah's Ark," and the "Black Horse." On these three licences they lost from £75 to £80 a year to keep them alive, and they went to the Middlesex justices, and said, "In the interests of temperance and the morality of this particular district we are prepared to surrender these three licences," and the licensing justices, sweet innocent men that they are, said "Here is a sacrifice," and they gave the brewers a blazing gin palace at the corner of a street in place of them. The persons who were turned out of these three houses got nothing at all. Not a bit of it. There was moreover a case in which compensation to the extent of £6,150 was paid, but the licence holder only got £100. And they say they are looking after the licence holder all the time. Do not you believe it. When in 1904 we moved from these benches an Amendment that the licence holder should have the first claim upon the compensation, and I said that if the Bill was to be a temperance Bill it would not hack up the brewers, they did not cheer, but they smiled, and when I asked a question about it the Solicitor-General said they were not arguing the point. As to clubs I want the club to be a useful place and not a place for drunkenness and debauchery. Why jeer us about that? An hon. Member who has left the House may be reminded that in his own division there is a great political club, and I have known a brilliant politician to be addressing a public meeting in that club, and while 1504 the bars were well filled, the audience consisted of twelve. If these men believe in their own clubs they will back this Government up and get this Bill through, and suppress with an iron hand any bogus clubs which may spring up in our midst. We are told that if we pass this Bill we shall never come back. What of it? It will be a glorious memory if we try to do something while we are here towards preventing drunkenness. There has been enough swindling over these loans, and it is time it was ended. I know another house near the place where I live which has always been a disreputable house. It has ruined about six men who put their money into it, and the last man had to keep it open. It was shut up the other day and they got £2,000 for it, someone having told some more lies about it. Now the building is let as a clothing factory. What the House does not seem to understand is this: that if you put licensed premises in a given district you deteriorate the whole of the district. Take the Earl of Sefton. I am told that he owns a considerable part of Liverpool. He would not be a teetotaller, but he finds it more profitable not to have licensed houses on his property and will not have them. I am told that the Peckham election was not won by beer but by coals, but they boasted that they had won it, and if they call that a victory let them. Let them have all the victories they like at that price. I want to ask the House whether it feels that it has any obligation to discharge for the morality and well-being not of the voters but those humble people who live in our courts and alleys, and who are not qualified to get on to the voters' lists. We are often asked, "What do the voters say?" But who helps these poor people who have no votes? When ever a public-house is put down in a working-class neighbourhood, it is argued that it is not fair to make a man go a mile or two to the next house for his drink. Mr. Speaker, they are not worried about the man going another mile, it is his twopence that they are after. They think that if he had to go another mile he would go without his beer—that he would give it up. Wise man. The hon. Member who has just addressed the House said that the Child Messenger Bill had caused much drunkenness amongst women. Are the little children now to be dragged in so that they may sip from 1505 mother's bottle and mother's jug going I home. There are two public-houses near where I live. I know of one where there is a lot of drunkenness, but nobody is ever locked up because they manage to prop each other up until they get home; but there is nothing against that house, because nobody is charged with drunkenness. There is another house near a marketing place, and in the morning the doors stand wide open and women go in, sometimes, perhaps, with the potatoes which they have bought in their aprons, and the publican lends them a knife in order that they may peel their potatoes while having their drink, so that they may stop a little longer. This they say is a question of the freedom of the subject. We are told you are interfering with the liberty of Englishmen, and now little children are to have no right to be protected. You are creating more drunkenness amongst women. To-day, as every day, we listen to the Lord's Prayer in this House. Think of it; while we here are praying, "Lead us not into temptation," we are leaving the temptation to our weaker brothers and sisters who are not able to withstand it. Think of the thousands of little children living their lives under conditions in which you would not keep your dogs, and simply because of the viciousness of their mothers and fathers. You men, who sit in this House and know the average workmen and his capacity and temptation, think what it means, and as it is given to you, so you must use your power to prevent temptation falling in the way of your weaker brothers and sisters, and save the little children. I know some rotten fœtid slums which it is a wonder are allowed to remain by the sanitary inspector, and which are absolutely unfit for people to live in; but so long as these people can get at the drink and get chloroformed for the night, they do not care under what conditions they live. So many of the social evils which this country has to face would vanish into thin air to-morrow if we were a sober nation. We are asked, Why do we want to close the public-houses on polling day? Well, we want to close them on polling day because we want to get level with the rich man. We cannot. We want to get men sober on polling day. We want to get them to vote with a sober mind. We want to prevent a man going into a public-house, 1506 putting down sixpence, and getting a pint of beer and change for a half-crown. There are incidents of that character in all elections, and the candidate, to whom I give every credit, knows nothing about it, because it is included sometimes in what is known as "personal expenses," of which it is no use asking for details, because they cannot be given. But if these houses were shut up on polling days you would have several hundreds of committee rooms doing nothing. I am not blaming either Party for doing all this, but we all know that the rich man or his agents will do it, and we want to remove them from the temptation. There is something to be said for municipal control as well as municipal supply, but I am one of those who think it is just as bad to get municipally drunk as drunk with private enterprise. But if we had municipal control we should shut up on polling days nearly 400 of these committee rooms in every district in the country. When a trade says "Our trade is our politics," then you have a committee room at once in every public-house in the country. People say to me, "I love your Bill, but I am going to vote against you," and I say "That is right, my friend, do not put up a bill in your windows, I shall lose two votes on the other side if you do." We want this Bill. It is an earnest contribution to the solution of a difficult problem. Of course there is a good deal of noise and enthusiasm against the Bill. I do not deny it. But when I think of the many pressing things we need upon which you cannot get up any enthusiasm, when I think of the need of better housing in the country, and the need for organising the unemployed, then I come back to the fact that because you can chloroform men day by day with drink they care not for the conditions under which they live. I hope we are going to strengthen this Bill and to give to all respectable clubs inspection. We do not always like to have the policeman as an inspector. He is a decent, respectable chap, no doubt, but whenever he retires from the force the publican always heads a subscription list to give him a testimonial, and that seems to create a bias in our minds somehow; so we do not want a policeman to be the inspector, but supervision there must be, because we cannot have these boozing clubs about the country. It is no use saying to me the thing does 1507 not exist, because it does. I am a teetotaller myself, but I was taken into a club the other day, and when I saw what was going on I came out. A man who was coming out behind me said, "This is all right, ain't it?" I said "What is the matter with it?" and he said, "Look what is going on, and I am a Tory, I am." I said "Then what do you belong to it for?" and he said, "Because I can get a drink of a Sunday morning, what oh!" They give them all respectable names. I can imagine "The Sir Gilbert Parker Institute and Club"—anything to give it a tone or air of respectability. I want the Bill amended. We have got to give the people less facilities for drink. The man out of work will frequently have a drink given to him long before he gets twopence to get a bit of bread and cheese. The whole of our public system seems to be permeated with drink, drink, drink. If you make a bargain, "Come and have a drink." If you sustain a loss, "Come and have a drink." If you fall out with a man, the first thing you do when you are reconciled to him is to have a drink. When I look at our lunatic asylums, when I look at our workhouses, where all the manhood has been crushed out of our citizens, when we want strong men and strong women to fight the battles of the future—then I say we want a strong Bill. The abolition of the public-houses in the working-class neighbourhoods would do that. I know what the life of some working-men is. Yet you wonder he does not live a better life. Give him a chance and remove the temptation from him. Remember, it was Cain who said "Am I my brother's keeper?" The House has been very kind to listen to me. I have not gone into the abstract questions of finance. They are not my forte. I know little of finance except the need of it. But the House must know this: tied houses have led to more drunkenness than any other conditions. When the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire gave us that little homily about the sobriety of the people of Germany, and said that they did not get drunk, the hon. Member for Haggerston said they could not. Yes, I knew a poor woman who followed her husband into a public-house down our way, and who said to those behind the bar, "Don't you keep my husband here drinking and making him drunk." "Lord bless you, mum," they replied, "he won't get drunk here; he may burst." If the 1508 Excise man had been there, there would have been some trouble. Do you doubt that some of these poor men have been robbed of the money which they have put into the public-houses? It was my duty to take the head out of a puncheon one day. In that puncheon, I found a lady's pink silk stocking half full of tobacco. I suppose that was to give it a flavour. I looked at the, district from which it came. I found it was a densely populated poor neighbourhood. Why adulterate it? They get drunk all the quicker. Yes, indeed there is need for this Bill. There is need to, give the publican a little more freedom and to make him less the slave of the brewer than he has been. The brewer has been a bad master except in one or two cases where he has lived up to his obligations. You ask me to pity him, when he has been so remorseless to people for whom he is responsible. I say "No, even banded justice if you like; no favouritism anywhere." In the interests of the poorest of the poor and that they may have an opportunity to live sober, clean lives, I ask the House and the Government to force this Bill through, though we may lose every seat we hold. The Labour Party are prepared to do it, any how, if we never see the inside of this House again.
§ *MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
I should not have presumed to intervene in this debate, because there are many Members who understand the intricacies of the question better than I do, if I did not wish briefly to bring before the notice of the House the case of those who will be deprived of their employment under this Bill. I refer to the women who will be turned out of their employment under Clause 20. Perhaps hon. Members imagine that the only people who can be turned out of their employment under the Bill are the barmaids. Even it that were so, I should not hesitate to raise my voice in protest against this measure, because there has not been put forward a title of evidence to prove that this honest, hardworking class of women deserve to be turned out into the street to starve or to take refuge in something still worse. There are at the present time 96,000 licensed holders in England and Wales, and it is computed—and I think it is a fair and modest computation—that notless 1509 than from 80,000 to 100,000 women are employed in and about those portions of licensed houses where liquor is sold. Nay, more; it applies to other large numbers of people, because the Bill says "any women employed on licensed premises." Not only does it give power to the licensing justices to prevent any women being employed in the bar of a public-house, but to prevent any woman acting as a cashier, as a clerk, as a waitress, and indeed as a chambermaid in any of our big hotels. I cannot imagine that this House fully realises what a gross injustice may be done to women, especially when we consider that women have no constitutional means in our political system of expressing their opinion with reference to this measure. What precedents are there for the House of Parliament interfering with the freedom of contract and labour of grown-up women? There are only two; one affected a very small class and was the case of women who are not allowed to take part in certain processes of white lead manufacture, which are undoubtedly dangerous and injurious to health. The other case in which large numbers of women were affected was that of the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842. It was brought in at the instance of my grandfather, Lord Ashley. There can be no possible analogy between the two cases. If hon. Members will read the debates in the house in 1842 they will see that the women were treated more like brute beasts than human beings. They worked practically naked, dragging heavy weights in mines where the police could not penetrate; and the Legislature rightly said that women and children must not be employed in them. These are the only two; precedents that can be quoted in support of this clause that women shall not be employed in licensed premises. What are the arguments brought forward in support of the Government's proposal? It is very hard to find any arguments. I have read very carefully the only book available which has been published by those who wish to carry out this prohibition; and, although there are many insinuations and suggestions that there are other employments preferable, yet there are no facts adduced which would induce this House to prevent women engaging if they so wish in this, what I call, lawful and honest occupation. On what grounds 1510 can we justify interference? We can intervene on moral and physical grounds. Let me take the physical ground. It is said that women engaged in licensed houses stand undue hours. I think that may be so and possibly legislation is needed. It is said that the atmosphere is not conducive to good health. Whose fault is that? Surely that is the fault of the licensing justices, whose duty it is to see that every house before it is licensed is in a sanitary and proper state. Do the Government in bringing forward this clause take the moral ground? If they do, let them come cut into the open and state what they know against the moral character of the women employed in licensed houses. Do not let us have insinuations without facts. Let us have some proof that this large and hard-working class, numbering from 150,000 to 200,000 women, are any less moral than the women employed in the factories or the large shops. What is the Government's attitude? I think the attitude taken up by the Home Secretary is really the strongest argument that I can adduce why the House should not pass the Second Reading of this Bill to-night without knowing what it is doing with reference to the employment of women. A deputation of barmaids interviewed the Home Secretary a month or two ago and expressed their views through the secretary of their union. What did the Home Secretary say in answer to these ladies? He said—I feel there would be a hardship if a licensing authority were to order in some big town that no barmaids were to be employed, but I think no licensing authority well, in fact, do that, but there is nothing in the Bill to prevent it.That is a most extraordinary attitude to take up. The right hon. Gentleman says there would be a great hardship if this clause were put in operation, but he hopes no licensing authority would do so, and he keeps it in the Bill. If that is the only argument you can bring forward in support of this most unjust proposal, then we ought not to pass the Second Reading of the Bill without having some statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to what the attitude of the Government is going to be. Why have these proposals really been put forward? There is on the part of many hon. Members in this House a curious and unreasoning hatred of anything 1511 to do with the licensing trade. They wish to strike at that trade in any way they can, and they know that by preventing the employment of women in licensed houses they will deal a blow at it. There are large bodies of people in this country who are extremely jealous of the introduction of female labour in competition with male labour. They wish to prevent women raising themselves in the social state, and getting into the skilled trades; and this is an attempt to replace female by male labour. It may be said, as the Home Secretary has said, that no bench of licensing justices will ever prevent women from gaining an honest livelihood in this way, but such a thing has been done in the past. It seems an extraordinary thing that no Minister is present while a very important measure is being discussed. The Glasgow magistrates issued an edict, which was withdrawn as it was beyond their powers, that no single woman should be employed in the bars of the public-houses in that city. That shows what will happen if you give power to those people who may have no knowledge of the circumstances of the trade, and if you pass the Bill with these clauses in it you will do it with your eyes open as to what the effects may be. But there has been some weakening in the attitude of the Government in reference to this measure, because the Under-Secretary for the Home Department stated that those at present employed in this industry would be allowed a certificate, and might continue to work in licensed premises as long as they wished. That is to say, these women are to be treated in the same way as the Chinese coolie who goes out of his compound in the afternoon. Really I think this is adding insult to injury. I would tell the right hon. Gentleman if he were present, and I speak for these women, that they will accept no compromise in this matter. What they claim is, and I most strongly support them, to have a free and unfettered right to gain their livelihood, if they so wish, on licensed premises which have been hall-marked by the licensing justices as being respectable. These same licensing justices are to have the power to prevent these women working on these 1512 premises, having themselves issued a licence to say that the house is respectable. If the house is respectable you have no right to prevent grown up women being employed there. If it is not respectable it ought not to be licensed.
§ MR. MACLEAN (Bath)
The whole incidence of this clause will apply to future employment and new women who are brought into the trade.
§ *MR. ASHLEY
My point is that the hardship the women complain of is that you are going permanently to take away 200,000 situations from women and hand them over to men.
§ MR. MACLEAN
What women are making this outcry? The employment of existing women on licensed premises is going to be secured to them. Those to whom the hon. Member is referring must be future aspirants of whom he cannot possibly have any knowledge. Passing from that, which is purely a Committee point, to one or two of the main provisions which have been disputed in regard to this measure, one idea that has come from the benches opposite is that the Bill proposes to inflict hardships upon certain individuals in the community. The case which has been presented from this side of the House and from the Labour Benches is that while some hardships will be inflicted on certain individuals in the community, this measure stands for the good of the community as a whole. No answer has yet been given in any clear and definite terms to the question asked by the Prime Minister as to the attitude of the Party opposite with regard to the time-limit. There has been more or less an idea put forward that they are not altogether opposed to it, but the position that has been taken up clearly and definitely shows that their claim is a freehold claim and nothing less, because they require that such compensation as is paid shall be, not in regard to mere monopoly value, but for the whole undertaking of the licence holder and the brewery in connection with these premises. That position I suggest is absolutely untenable from the legal and from the equitable point of view. What is the idea which has always underlain a licence? The hon. Member 1513 for the Walton division would put a licence in the same position as a share in a railway company. That cannot be supported. The idea that lies at the basis of a licence is not property but protection for the public. That has been so from the earliest time. The first power which was given in 1495 was to suppress a licence. The way they used to suppress it in those days was that if anybody made a complaint the local justices ordered the constable to take down the sign and that was an end of the particular business. In the records of Derbyshire a gentleman occupying a very superior position in the county at that time, Sir Nathaniel Curzon, made such a complaint to the local justice, and there is a record that in accordance with his complaint the sign was taken down. In 1618 this method of dealing with the local supply and demand was found rather inconvenient, and so they established a yearly session by which those things should be dealt with, and from that time right up to the Act which was the foundation of the whole of our licensing system, the Act of 1828, the same idea has been preserved carefully, the idea that the basis of the licence is protection of the public and not the giving of any property to the man who has the licence. That position was, as has been most clearly stated, thoroughly upheld by all legal decisions which have been given with regard to this disputed point. The hon. Member for the Walton Division yesterday made some reference to the remarks of Lord Halsbury in the decision of Sharpe v. Wakefield and said he had qualified his use of the word "judicial." Such qualification as he mentions is most clearly set out in a subsequent case which he dealt with—the Boulter decision. The action of the justices when the Bill becomes law, as I certainly believe it will, will be in no sense other than judical in the full sense and meaning of Lord Halsbury when he dealt with it in that case. Three clear principles come out in all the study one makes of our licens- 1514 ing system. Protection of the public against national danger is the first point. The suggestion has been made from the front bench opposite, not by an irresponsible back bencher like myself on this side, that this measure contains frank recognition of the most vilely Socialistic propositions. I do not think anybody would dare to charge the supreme Federal Court in America with any leanings towards Socialism. That is a Court which has rejected the proposition of an income-tax as being against the Constitution of America. The 14th clause of the American Constitution reads as follows:—No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws.On that clause in the Constitution the action of the various States who have suppressed licences without any compensation was directly challenged. What was the decision of the Court? It was of course that when you take away private property so-called you must give adequate compensation. When you take away an unnecessary licence you do not take away private property, you abate a nuisance, and when you abate a nuisance no compensation under any existing system of laws with which I have even a nodding acquaintance gives any compensation. That is the basis on which this very high Court, composed of the most eminent legal intellects, has dealt with this question. I really think the suggestion as to the Socialistic propaganda that lies beneath the Bill can be easily and most readily disposed of. It is suggested with regard to reduction of licences that it does not mean any reduction of drinking or drunkenness. Experience is directly and definitely opposed to that proposition. Take the case of Liverpool. In Liverpool, owing largely, I do not say entirely, to the action of magistrates, not only in the reduction of redundant licences, but also in more effective police supervision, 1515 they have been able in recent years to reduce the police force at a saving of £8,000 a year. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, whom one recognises as an expert on this question in the very best sense, said—Taking the area which had been cleared of unnecessary licenses there has been an improvement of no less than 37 per cent. in the number of arrests for drunkenness.The Chief Constable of Cardiff, with which city I have a very close and intimate acquaintance, said—An excessive number of public-houses in any district makes it almost impossible for holders of licenses to live. Some of them told me if they were to exclude loose women they could not pay their pay. The excessive number of licences in certain districts should be reduced to the reasonable requirements of the neighbourhood. This would first relive the temptation to drinking, raise the status of the licensed houses, and be the means of suppressing crime.I am very much surprised to hear the point seriously pressed that a reasonable reduction of licences does not really reduce drunkenness and conduce eminently to the regulation of public order. We hear a great deal about investments in brewery securities, but who is it that has invested in those funds? If any trustee has invested in such securities on behalf of widows and orphans, he has, unless express directions have been given him, committed a gross breach of trust. Therefore, it is an argument which has been very largely exploded. I do not say that investors will not be to a large extent hit by this Bill, but it is impossible to deal with an individual interest for the good of the community as a whole without hurting somebody. [OPPOSITION cries of "Why?"] Because you cannot carry on the business of the country and compensate every interest you come into contact with. Somebody is hit as the result of every piece of legislation adopted by this House. The limited interests affected by this Bill will certainly bear a very small proportion to the hardships which are inflicted upon individual interests by many other mea- 1516 sures passed through this House. The question of unemployment has already been amply dealt with. With regard to the financial proposals, I feel sure that all sections of the House will agree that the statesmanlike and magnificent speech made by the hon. Member for Spen Valley is more than an ample answer to the able and clear statement put before the House by the hon. and learned Member for Kingston. I am satisfied to rest the financial case for this Bill upon the speech of the hon. Member for Spen Valley, and when the public judge between the two interesting speeches to which I have alluded I am confident they will say that the balance of advantage lies with the speech of the hon. Member for Spen Valley. With regard to the argument that this Bill does not make for temperance, I will call attention to what is done by Clause 20 in respect to restoring the power of the justices. Since the passing of the Act of 1904 the justices have been hampered and restricted in all sorts of ways in regard to any proper control of the licensee, and under this Bill that is to be altered. One other useful proposition is that there is to be a check on new licenses and the evils resulting from the present position of affairs. I know of a town where the population has increased by 35,000 during the past fifteen years. Street after street has been erected, and the workmen have invested their small savings in dwelling houses. This new district is the happy hunting ground of seekers for licenses, applied for mostly by the agents of brewery companies. I know applications which have been made year after year for the last ten years, and the workmen living in that district have been frequently driven into Court in order to defend their rights and oppose the granting of those licenses, and so far, I am glad to say, they have been successful. I may mention that in some of the new leases granted in that district a clause was inserted that the 1517 holders of those leases should undertake not to oppose the granting of licenses. To my mind that is a most disgraceful proceeding, because workmen have the right to keep their homes clear of the inconvenience of the public-house being open next door. Then there is Clause 19, which deals with young children going into public-houses. I think that clause is far too weak, and it ought to be made compulsory upon all magistrates to prevent children under fourteen years of age from frequenting the open bars of licensed premises. I think in saying that I carry with me the vast majority of hon. Members of this House, for this is a matter upon which the nation has made up its mind. The nation is not any longer going to allow young children to frequent the open bars of licensed premises. There are certain propositions contained in the Bill which, in my opinion, are of a very mild description with regard to Sunday closing. The hon. Member for South Hackney referred to the failure of Sunday closing in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. I wish to say that Sunday closing in those places has been a pronounced and emphatic success, and the balance of advantage is enormously on the side of the measures now in force there. If any hon. Member cares to appeal to the licensed trade of Scotland I am sure he will get an emphatic reply in favour of the retention of the measure as it at present stands. The recent Royal Commission had evidence given by licensees upon this question, and although one of them stated that he was in favour of some modification of the Scottish Sunday Closing Act he said he was speaking entirely for himself and that he believed the vast majority of the licensed trade in Scotland was in favour of entire Sunday closing. The same thing applies to Wales, and its undoubted success in 1518 Ireland is also embodied in the recent Report which has been presented to the House. One the greatest reasons for passing this measure into law is that it will do away with the social and political menace of the licensed trade. What is their declared position towards this House? The object of their main organisations is to secure by legal means, regardless of party politics, the return to the House of Commons of candidates favourable to trade interests. The Licensed Victuallers Central Protection Society has for its object the securing of such Parliamentary, municipal, and parochial representation as is necessary for the protection of its interests. At the end of the time-limit when the trade is lifted out of its present ruts and raised to the broad and sound national control the country as a whole will be all the better for it, and there will be a proper and reasonable adjustment of a reasonable supply to a reasonable demand. No doubt we shall, as a Party, lose seats in the contest upon which we have entered, but I do not think anyone will charge us with lack of courage. There is such a thing as the wastage of war in a campaign carried on for the upraising of the whole people. If some of us lose our seats, if our majorities are materially reduced, if at the end we have achieved a great work for the country and for the citizens, I am sure we shall have achieved the result we had in view.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)
We have had an interesting debate, but it is unfortunate that we have been left without a Minister on the front bench opposite during a great part of the discussion. It is a new feature of a debate on the principal Bill of the session that the Minister in charge of it should have been absent all day. There have been 1519 remarkable differences of opinion between two of the Ministers with regard to some of the provisions and some of the effects of this measure, and there is a wide divergence of opinion among hon. Members opposite. As the real effects of the Bill become better known in this House that divergence of opinion is likely to increase. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is under a misapprehension when he says that my right hon. friend the Member for South Dublin has not explained the policy of the Opposition in regard to the time-limit. My right hon. friend has explained that the Leader of the Opposition declared in 1904 that, in his opinion, a time-limit is absolutely inconsistent with a levy on the trade. The hon. Member complained—I do not know to what districts he was referring—that working men were subjected in some parts of the country to great hardships because they were compelled to sign leases by which they undertook not to oppose the granting of a new licence, or the renewal of an existing licence, if I understood him aright. I have always recognised this myself, and I have considerable sympathy with the view of the hon. Member. On the other hand it is perfectly easy for a man in a wealthy position to take measures to ensure that he shall not be subjected to the nuisance of having a public-house in his neighbourhood. It ought to be possible for working men to occupy a similarly favourable position. I agree that that is a hardship, but it is one which can be remedied whenever Parliament thinks fit to undertake the work, without the introduction of a sweeping measure like this which, in that particular respect, as far as I can see, would not place them in a better position than they are in at the present moment.
1520 I pass to what I desire to say with regard to some of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. At the commencement of this debate he referred again to what he described as the fundamental objects of the Bill which he has now put before the House and the country on three different occasions. The first was on the introduction of this Bill just about two months ago; the second was at a banquet given in London on 1st April last; and the third was on the opening of this debate. On the introduction of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman said that its first great object was an immediate and progressive reduction of the facilities for drinking in this country. On Tuesday last he said that it was to improve, by reduction of licences and other means, the conditions under which the liquor traffic is carried on; but at the banquet on 1st April it was no longer to be an immediate reduction. Then it was to be a reduction in a reasonable time, and I was pleased to think that there was some modification already in his opinions. I began to entertain very considerable hopes that he was going to meet the Opposition in regard to this Bill in a fair and conciliatory spirit. I am bound to say that, as far as I am concerned, if a reasonable reduction of licences in a reasonable time was all the Bill provided, I do not think I should have any great quarrel with the Prime Minister. I hope hon. Members opposite will forgive me for saying this, but they always seem to me from their speeches, at least, to give the impression that they claim to have a monopoly in the Radical Party of the desire to promote temperance and to diminish drunkenness in this country. If that is the view which they entertain, I can assure them that they are 1521 entirely mistaken. We have differed no doubt, and differed very widely indeed, as to the methods by which they propose to accomplish that end. It is permitted to us so to differ, but we are no less anxious than they are to see the promotion of temperance and the diminution of drunkenness largely carried out in this country, and it is because I entertain those opinions myself, as strongly, I dare say, as any man in this House, that it was with proportionate disappointment I heard the right hon. Gentleman, when he came to the close of his speech, which my hon. and learned friend who moved the Amendment described as a wild whirligig of words, make what seemed to me, I confess, was like an open declaration of war on the opponents of this measure.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
A challenge to war.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
No, I think it was a declaration of war, but we must all form have our own opinions as to that. In view of the fact that my hon. and learned friend who moved the Amendment dissected the Bill with so much completeness and skill that left nothing to be desired, and very little more to be said, I propose in the few observations I desire to address to the House to-night to confine myself entirely to stating the general objections on which I am wholly opposed to your Bill in the form in which it is before us at present. My first and main objection is this, that you cannot get away from the fact that the Bill deprives a vast number of the people of this country of properties or possessions, or by whatever name you may be pleased to call them, to which they have a right now, and that it does this, moreover, without making them that fair compensa- 1522 tion to which, in my opinion, they have a perfectly equitable claim. But the Prime Minister met this by saying that the Bill does no legal wrong, and, what is, more, that those who object to it have no legal claim, and will have no right or title to claim a renewal of a licence which may or may not be affected by this Bill. It is not for me to argue with the right hon. Gentleman on ground like that, but I heard all that was said by my hon. friend, and I think he gave very good reasons which at least may cause some doubts as to whether the Prime Minister is absolutely right in law. I think the question when we get into Committee will be more thoroughly thrashed out. But to-night I am not concerned to go into that, and with all respect in the world to the Prime Minister I say that that is not the question which is at issue at present between us. What we have to decide in the first place, in my opinion, in connection with this Bill in this: Have they or they not an equitable title to the undisturbed enjoyment of their possessions? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative, then the next question we have to decide is: Do they get under your Bill that fair and full compensation to which, as I contend myself, they are entitled, and which Parliament up to the present time, at all events, has always awarded to those who are deprived of their property for any great national purpose? As a matter of fact those are the two main questions which possess an interest for me in connection with this Bill, and upon which fight will have to be fought out. The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is and must be in the affirmative, and it is supported by a number of witnesses of great weight and authority whose opinions I will quote 1523 directly. As to the second question, for the answer to that you have only to glance at the figures given to the House on the opening night of the debate by my hon. and learned friend, which no one in any part of the House has ever attempted to answer, and which I venture to say will never he answered throughout the whole of this debate. Then the Prime Minister says: "That is all very well, but what you call a title, what you call a claim, is what I call an expectation" —an expectation, moreover, as my right hon. friend pointed out this afternoon, which the Prime Minister declared is not and never can be called any form of property whatever. It is upon this point that I am going to call one or two witnesses against him, and the first shall be one of greater authority, as I am sure he himself will be the first to admit, than the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House, because it is the authority of a man who was the cherished Leader and idol of the Liberal Party for a vast number of years, namely, the late Mr. Gladstone I remember the statement which he made, a great many years ago it is true, but that does not diminish its value in the slightest degree, because it was on a matter of great principle, and principles hold good throughout any length of time. I am sure that hon. Members on bothsides of the House will receive his opinions, although they may be distasteful, with all the respect to which his memory entitles him. In the Midlothian campaign, speaking at Dalkeith, on 26th November, 1879, Mr. Gladstone said—I have promised, gentlemen, to say a word during this course of addresses on a subject of very great importance—namely, the subject of the liquor laws of this country.…. Everyone admits the seriousness of the case. 1524 But we come to great differences of opinion as to the mode of dealing with it.That is an experience which the present Ministers must admit.My opinion is this, that the three principles which ought to guide the consideration of this difficult question are as follows: (1) Serious efforts ought to be made to abate this terrible mischief.We all agree with that.(2) They should be made with a due and a careful regard for the state of public opinion.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear." I am inclined to observe from some recent manifestations that the Government in introducing this Bill have not had quite due regard to all classes of public opinion.(3) I must also add that I think that if it be necessary, if Parliament shall think it wise to introduce radical change into the working of the liquor law in such a way as to break down the fair expectations of persons which have grown up—whether rightly or wrongly is not the question, it is not their fault, it is our fault—under the shadow of these laws, their fair claim to compensation ought, if they can make good their case, to be considered, as all such claims have been considered, by the wisdom and the liberality of the British Parliament.In the following year Mr. Gladstone returned to the charge. In the House of Commons on 18th June, 1880, Mr. Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister, in the course of a debate on a Resolution proposed by Sir Wilfred Lawson, said—I should have been better pleased with the matter of the resolution if my hon. friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had included in it some reference to the principle of equitable compensation. I do not want my hon. friend to commit himself upon the point, but I want a frank recognition 1525 of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans, as a class, the benefits of equal treatment, because we think their trade is at so many points in contact with, and even sometimes productive of, great public mischief.I beg the attention of the House to the following words, because the expression is very remarkable.Considering the legislative title they have acquired "—I am not lawyer enough to be able to draw a distinction between a statutory and a legislative title. I should say it is a distinction without a difference; but that is a point which will have to be settled by the present Prime Minister who denies altogether that there is a legal title to renewal—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 not to be placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impression we may entertain, in many cases but too justly, in relation to the mischiefs connected with the present licensing system and the consumption of strong liquors as it is now carried on.That is the statement of the late Mr. Gladstone, and I have brought the attention of the House to the point which, to my mind, is the most vital of all in considering this Bill. To my mind it is perfectly clear that the present Prime Minister and the man who was Prime Minister in 1880 are of two different opinions altogether. So far as I am concerned, I am quite content to take my stand on the statement made by the late Mr. Gladstone in support of the contention which I and my right hon. friend beside me have made to-night. That contention from the first has been that these people have an equitable title—what Mr. Gladstone called a legislative title—to the property, to the possessions 1526 with which the Government are going to deal. Therefore, they have an equitable claim to the full and fair compensation which is their due. And when I say "fair," I mean by that expression, that the measure of compensation should be the value of the possession, of the property or whatever you call it, which is taken away from the man to whom it belongs. I do not think anyone will deny the justice and soundness of that principle or the force of it. You do not propose, and I think it would be impossible under the terms of this Bill, to give anything approaching the full market value of the property of which you are going to deprive these men by the non-renewal of their licences, and above all by the fourteen years time-limit. In my opinion there is no political principle more universally accepted than this, that whenever the State, for any great public purpose, thinks it right and feels it its duty to take away property from individuals—the State, of course, is within its full right in doing this—nobody denies that—it has always given to the man the full and fair pecuniary equivalent of the value of his property of which he is deprived. That is a doctrine which I have heard laid down in the House over and over again by men of the greatest possible authority, and by nobody more so than Mr. Gladstone. I want to say a word more of what the Prime Minister said about expectation of renewal, and what we call an equitable title and an equitable claim. The right hon. Gentleman says that an expectation of renewal cannot be considered at all a form of property. Why not? I differ from the Prime Minister in toto. I absolutely deny his contention. And I say on the other hand that it has been regarded and treated 1527 as such over and over again by Parliament, by the law of prescription, and up to the last moment before the introduction of this Bill by the Government itself. I can give absolute proof of that by referring to the well-known case which my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin and other hon. Government have quoted [MINISTERIAL ironical laughter.] HON. Gentlemen opposite seem to be pretty well tired of that case already, and I am not in the least surprised at it. I cannot help that. It is upon the quotation of this concrete case that I rely as a proof of my contention. It is the case of the "Coach and Horses" public-house. [Renewed MINISTERIAL ironical laughter.] I know it is a very disagreeable subject to hon. Gentlemen opposite. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] It is in support of my contention that these things have been treated as property and as possessions, and have to be taken into account in reply to the statement of the Prime Minister. The facts are simply these: This public-house was sold recently for £10,000. The conveyance was dated October, 1907. The deed was stamped and passed by the Treasury Solicitor in November—the last transaction being dated 14th November, 1907—just at the time when the Cabinet sat to settle the measures to be submitted to Parliament this year. This house has been valued since without a licence at £2,150 and the average valuation was made by no less than three different experts of the highest possible reputation. Supposing under this Bill that the renewal of the licence of this house were refused, I have been told that which you call an "expectation," and Mr. Gladstone calls a "legislative title," does not give the purchaser an equitable claim to full 1528 compensation under the particular circumstances. How could any purchaser believe that any English Government could sell a valuable property of this kind to a purchaser, and then, the moment his back was turned, by their own deed, could diminish its value without securing to the purchase full compensation? And yet, with your time-limit, as has been pointed out over and over again, it is impossible to do so in such a case as that without ruin to all concerned. I want to ask this question: "Was renewal a just expectation or not?" I want to put this question to this Government. There is a very prominent leading Cabinet Minister sitting opposite me now. I want to put this question to him and to the Prime Minister, and I hope that we shall receive an answer to it before the close of the debate. "Was the expectation of renewal on the part of the purchaser of the 'coach and Horses' from the Government a property or not?" There are many other matters on which I would have liked to say something, but it is impossible for me at this hour of the night. But the second point of my objection to the second point of my objection to the Bill is that the Government have nothing to show us which gives the least probability that they are likely to accomplish their end by the particular methods they have proposed. All the facts and figures—all the statistics on which they ought to have relied—proves that their particular methods will not succeed.
§ And, it being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.
§ Adjourned at four minutes after Eleven o'clock.