§ Order for Second Heading read.
§ Mr. SIDNEY ROBINSON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Briefly, the Bill provides for local veto with regard to the control of the liquor trade in Wales and Monmouthshire, almost on the identical lines which this House granted a few years ago for Scotland. The principle is no new one here. The Bill has been passed on Second Heading twice for local veto for "Wales, and the question of Sunday closing has also been accepted by this House for Wales twice, and of course for Scotland very many years ago and Ireland too. The question is asked, What about compensation? The idea in this Bill is to give, as we think, a reasonable time for the trade to recoup itself, if indeed it has not done so already. The period stated is six years, but we ask that this should go to a Committee and that this point shall be there considered. If this is not a fair time to give, then the Committee should decide what is a fair time. Later in the Bill there is provision made for the taking of a poll of the inhabitants of Wales, and my attention has been called to Sub-Section (3) of Clause 2, where it is provided that at least 35 per cent. of the electors must vote in favour, and to get prohibition 55 per cent. of those voting must be in favour before it becomes operative. That seems on the face of it as if a very small minority could impose their will on the majority, but if it is very carefully examined it is found that that is not so, for if we proceed to take a ballot, and "no licence" has to be carried by 55 per cent. at least of those voting, and by not less than 35 per cent. of the electors in the area, and if a calculation is made allowing for the fact that 42 per cent. of the inhabitants of the district are under twenty years of age, it will be seen that somewhere about 20 or 25 per cent., and nearer 20 than 25 per cent., of the people who vote at these elections could absolutely stop this clause becoming operative. Surely that is reasonable protection for minorities. If these people will not turn up when there is a poll to vote as they think in their 778 interests, of course they must not blame the Act, which is carefully framed to protect them in that respect.
Then there is provision for a reduction, which could be carried on the same lines, only there 50 per cent. instead of 55 per cent. will be sufficient to vote. The Limitation Clause would mean reduction of the public houses and licensed places in Wales to 75 per cent. of their present or then number. There are thus three options before the electors—the first, total prohibition; scondly, reduction by 25 per cent.; and thirdly, leaving matters as they are. To prevent any unreasonably frequent taking of a poll, it is provided that three years must elapse after a poll has been taken before it can be taken again. It might be asked, What is to decide that a poll shall be taken I If ten per cent. of the electorate of the area under consideration ask for a poll, they have a right to demand it.
§ Then in Clauses 8 and 9, I am sorry to say, there are two small alterations that should be made owing to the War, because this Bill was introduced before the War, and those little faults remain in the Bill. The year 1915 on some occasions should obviously be 1920. I have made that explanation, because some Members have asked why that year is in. Clause 9 we regard as a very important Clause. It deals with the extension to Monmouth-shire, or the continuation, shall I say, in Monmouthshire, as it has at present the Sunday closing which Wales enjoys. I do not think there are any other special matters until we come to the question of area, and as the area prescribed in the Scottish Bill is largely followed, it may be said the area in some cases will not be large enough.
§ All these matters can be carefully considered. I am only too anxious that the Bill shall be improved in Committee upstairs, and I hope the House will give us the chance so to improve it in the public interest. Wales has long made a claim to special treatment in special matters. I stand in rather a peculiar position. For twenty-five years I have been closely mixed up with the public life of Wales, and I think I am able to take rather a more dispassionate view of these matters than possibly some of my Welsh Friends, because I cannot be said to be carried away with Celtic fire. But I have felt the pulse of the country fairly well in I those twenty-five years. I think I have 779 got to understand what the people of Wales require, and I remember very well the contest that went on during the discussions on the Sunday Closing Act for Wales and during its commencement in Wales. That Act was carried in 1888 at the instigation of Mr. John Roberts, whose son, Mr. Herbert Roberts, now in another place, has so loyally followed in the footsteps of his father in introducing a Bill dealing with this matter year after year in this House. On two occasions he got a Local Veto Bill accepted by the House on Second Reading. Wales has taken a special interest in this temperance question for a generation, and in the 1904 Bill, which was passed through this House, in spite of the fight the Welsh Members put up, they never had a fair chance of getting their Amendments considered owing to the Closure. Two years later Wales sent back an absolutely united party of thirty-six members, all of whom were pledged to local veto side by side with Sunday closing. In the 1908 Bill the position of Wales was specially recognised. Wales was put in an even better position, from the temperance point of view, than England.
§ I now come to the special question of Sunday closing for Monmouthshire. What made the great difficulty was the unfortunate line which was drawn right down between the counties of Monmouthshire and Glamorgan. I have had a very careful calculation made, which shows that within a three mile limit of that line there is no less a population than about 300,000. One side of the line was wet and the other dry, and one side of the road was wet and the other was dry. We are asking that that line should be moved back to the Wye. Owing to the new shipyards at Chepstow there is, or will be, a population approximately of 30,000, but that is only approximately one-tenth of what it is on the Western line. Time was when part of the county of Gloucester was part of the Welsh Marches, and we shall not complain if the people want to come back to join us in that area. This matter has greatly agitated the public thought of Wales, and Monmouthshire in particular, and the Monmouthshire County Council has on at least two occasions passed resolutions by an overwhelming majority in favour of Sunday closing for Monmouthshire. At one Petty Sessions, at which thirty-five magistrates were present, it was unanimously 780 decided to send a deputation, headed by the Member for the division, asking that Sunday closing for Monmouthshire should be continued, because of the good effect that it had had, and also asking for some other restrictions as well. Owing to border difficulties the Government of the day set up a Commission to see how this Act had been worked, and the Commission reported that, on the whole, the Act had worked well in the district. The Peel Licensing Commission recommended that Sunday closing in Monmouthshire should be included in any fresh licensing legislation, which was carried, but unfortunately it got no further.
§ It is said that you cannot make men sober by Act of Parliament. That is a fiction which has been rather exploded of late. The figures with regard to arrests for drunkenness show remarkably what effect the limitation of the amount of liquor sold has on the sobriety of the people. I will take the last quarter of each of the four years, 1916 to 1919. In 1916 the arrests for drunkenness from October to December numbered 19,999. The restrictions began then effectively, and in 1911 the arrests were reduced to half that number, namely, 9,756. They were further reduced in 1918 to 5,958. Directly, however, the restrictions came to an end, and the liquor began to circulate again more freely, the public consumption became larger again. The arrests for drunkenness went up at once, almost quadruple, to 20,614. These figures are for England and Wales. They show that directly the restrictions were removed the arrests for drunkenness went up by leaps and bounds. I have had the figures prepared for Wales and Monmouthshire, but I do not want to trouble the House with too many details. I may however, say that they show almost exactly the same relative increase directly the extra intoxicating liquor is provided.
§ That some restrictions should be placed upon the trade is most feasible. If you take the Stock Exchange list and look at the figures of the various breweries what do you find? I have some few figures here prepared some time ago by "Economist." They show that Allsopp's shares, which in 1915 stood at £2, in 1919 were as high as £86. The City of London in the same time went up from £12 10s. to £183. In the same period Guinness' 781 went up from £213 to £391. Watney, Coombe's went up from £10 to £169. Surely there is something wrong in a state of affairs, which, in the time of stress and horror through which we have been passing, allows a trade to be specially singled out to make these enormous dividends for their shareholders! Let we give a few more of the figures. Arnold, Perrett, which in 1915–16 made £14,427, in 1917–18 made £40,576. Bass's profits went up in the same period from £295,600 to £437,100. The Ind. Coope Company went up from £2,400 to £262,900. Allsopp's from £36,800 to £181,000. Threlfall's from £80,800 to £239,600. Watney, Coombe's from £206,000 to £472,900. In the case of fifteen firms the profits in two years had risen, after the payment of debenture interest and all administrative expenses, from £2,591,00C to £4,164,000, an aggregate increase of over £1,500,000.
§ Is it surprising that in some parts we have labour difficulties when labour sees the enormous profits made by some of these firms? They, and many people, believe this expenditure is not quite so much in the public interests as is the expenditure in other industries. One question the Welsh collier is asking himself at the present time. He is asked to go down into the earth and bring the coal up, to work harder at his hard and dangerous trade, which it is whatever we may think of some of the claims he is making now, to go down into the earth to rectify the exchanges by enabling us to send coal abroad that we may get the products of other countries and so get things cheaper as the exchanges are rectified. He does, however, resent it when he sees that the coal which he is helping to send abroad is used to allow imports of no less than £26,500,000 worth of wines and spirits. He does think that perhaps other commodities more useful than these might be brought into the country. There are other people who are asking, in view of the terrible high and rising prices, whether it would not be more beneficial that instead of barley being grown we should have wheat, and that the special attention which is being given at the present time to the hop industry is not for the good of the country. There are other people who think that the land might be better used than it is by growing wheat instead of barley and hops. In this matter we are proud to claim we are 782 enthusiastic supporters of the Prime Minister. Time after time he has spoken in this House, and outside of it, in support of temperance and general control of the Liquor traffic. Some time ago he was speaking on this matter, and he said that the trade was as great an enemy to this country as either Germany or Austria.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
May I correct the hon. Gentleman. I do not think the Prime Minister said any such thing. He said that drink was the great, cause, not the drink trade.
§ Mr. ROBINSON
You cannot very well dissociate the two, but if the hon. Gentleman wants it so, we will say the drink, and that the Premier said it was a greater evil than Germany or Austria. Then we are agreed! The right hon. Gentleman said one other pregnant thing. He said:What we could afford before the War we certainly cannot afford after the War, and one of the things we cannot afford is a drink bill of £160,000,000 per year.But the figure now is round about £400,000,000—rather over than under, I am afraid. If we could not afford £160,000,000 a year before the War, I am pretty certain we cannot afford £400,000,000 a year now. I know what we want in Wales. I know what we shall be very disagreeable about if we do not get it. The people have made up their minds. They are clear, resolute, determined. I am sure from what we have heard, they are going to have this Bill for Wales. It must, I should imagine, be very dear to the hearts of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House, for in their joint Manifesto in November, 1918, they advocated:A proper adaption to peace conditions of the experience which during the War we have gained in regard to the traffic in drink.What we are asking, then, would appear to be one of the objects for which the Coalition Government was formed. I do not want to take up more of the time of the House, but I make this last appeal; that this House should give Wales the 783 opportunity of expressing her opinion by a direct vote upon a matter so vital to the moral and material welfare of the people.
§ Mr. HINDS
I beg to second the Motion. I support this Bill for two or three special reasons. My hon. Friend has explained the provisions of this measure so thoroughly that I will not take up time going into the same figures. I support these proposals, in the first place, because Wales has been calling for local option consistently and persistently for upwards of 30 years. In the past it has always been urged that the temperance reformers in Wales have not been united as to a policy, and I think there is a good deal of truth in that argument, and we should have got much further if there had been more unity amongst temperance reformers with regard to this question in the past. There is, however, to-day absolute unanimity with regard to this Bill. We propose that local option shall include the right of the inhabitants to vote upon no change in the number of licences; secondly a reduction, and thirdly no licences. This is not a new principle which is being urged upon Parliament, but it is an old, well-tried and natural privilege, and it is the natural corollary of local governments extended to the people of this country 30 years ago.
The work of controlling education, the police, roads, prisons, asylums and other things is done locally by the directly appointed representatives of the people, and there is no reason why the issuing of licences should be withheld from the people. The basic principle of local option in licensing matters is merely trusting the people on the spot, who are naturally the most interested and the best informed. They are to be allowed to decide for themselves the number of licences they desire in their own districts. At the present time the landowner has the power to allow or prohibit licences, and surely the community should be entrusted with the same power. At the present moment the onus of granting or refusing is placed upon the shoulders of a few. I think it is of the utmost importance that the people who own the King's commission of the peace should be kept free from all contentious matter; but in the granting of licences they are invariably involved 784 on one side or the other. The granting of local option will place the onus on the shoulders of the people, and will relieve the magistrates and give more dignity to the bench. Mr. McKinnon Wood said on the Scottish Bill that its object was to relieve the pressure of the trade on the licensing courts, and that this matter should be placed in the hands of the people in order that the magistrates can devote themselves to the administration of justice. The opinion of Sir William Harcourt was that if the people are to be reformed they must be the authors of their own reformation, and the late Sir Thomas Whit-taker was of the opinion that if the people are given direct local option they will use it, and it would be the most efficient remedy against intemperance which has yet been conceived or devised. It cannot be said that the present Bill is biassed against the trade. There are two or three points in the Bill to which objection may be raised, and we are quite prepared to meet them. It may be said that these areas arc; unfair to the trade and I agree that they are too small, but that is a question for the Committee to thrash out. What we are urging to-day is the passing of the principle of this Bill to secure the right of the people to decide for themselves whether they want to turn on the tap in their own district. It is our duty to meet the difficulties as they arise.
In the Debate on the Scottish Bill one of the Members for Edinburgh who has now attained a great position on the Judicial Bench in Scotland, said that one of the difficulties was that the people of Scotland were not united upon this question. The same thing was said when the Irish Bill was before the House. On this measure to-day, however, we have come here practically united for Wales in asking for this measure. In London, Liverpool, Grimsby and a number of large towns there are now large and populous areas with no licences and others where there is a redundancy. In the case of Wales the granting of local option will not add in the least to the difficulties. Local option has been adopted already in Canada, South Africa, Cape Colony, the Transvaal, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and this Parliament has granted the same principle to Scotland. Wales on this matter is, I believe, even more advanced than Scotland, and is even 785 more full of temperance sentiment. Our representatives come here to-day and ask the House to adopt the same principle because Wales is nor right and ready for it.
With regard to Monmouthshire we ask that the Welsh Sunday Closing Act shall be given to Monmouthshire. This Bill was passed in 1882, and I have not heard a single body asking for its removal from Wales. The people of Monmouthshire are clamouring for the extension of this Bill, which has been so well carried out during the War under D.O.R.A. When the Liquor Traffic Bowd was established in 1916 Sunday closing for Monmouthshire was considered. The chairman of South Wales Coalowners' Federation as well as the chairman of the Licensing Board produced a map showing the unfairness of the boundary lines running through industrial areas, the result being that while public houses were closed on one side they were open on the other. Many urban councils have over and over again urged that licensed houses should be closed on Sundays. One deputation from a Petty Sessional Division waited on the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister asking them to extend the measure to Monmouthshire. In the last Census the county had a population of 168,000 odd. At the present time it numbers over 200,000. I am not going to worry the House with figures showing how the number of convictions for drunkenness has been reduced under the operation of the Defence of the Realm Act. The recommendation made to the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister by this important Disputation was that Sunday closing should remain for public houses and clubs, and so far as I know no representative body has ever objected to that. I think I have said enough to substantiate the appeal I am making to the House, an appeal which has the support of practically the whole of the representatives of the Principality. They are united in asking this House to pass the Second Reading of this Bill. They come here knowing what their people want. They believe the Bill would do a great deal of good. We have heard much about devolution and self-determination in recent Debates. We ask you to apply those principles to our own country and thereby confer upon it a great and rich blessing.
§ Major BARNSTON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
Hon. Members are aware that a fortnight ago we had a discussion on a similar Bill applicable to Ireland, and that we have discussed this same principle from time to time in this House. I therefore need not ask the indulgence of the House, because I feel it is practically impossible to bring forward any really new arguments, or to say anything which has not already been advanced against the principle of this Bill. I wish merely to re-state the main objections which we have to that principle. I wish also, for a few moments, to draw the attention of the House to some of the clauses of the Bill which we deem to be particularly unfair. I am glad to note that the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Bill have already, to a certain extent, begun to run away from it. They have admitted that the areas are wrong, and that the compensation Clause might very properly be amended. The first reason why I take the action I do to-day is that this Bill is, without any qualification of any sort, frankly a measure of confiscation. No compensation of any sort or kind is provided for. The word does not occur in the Bill, and neither the owner, nor the tenant, nor the mortgagee, nor anybody employed in the industry is to get compensation of any sort. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the Bill simply gives six years' grace, and at the end of that six years, people connected with the licensing industry may find themselves absolutely ruined by the casual vote of their neighbours. I put it to the promoters of this Bill that surely they would not wish to be so unjust and unfair. They probably are connected with trade or business. Some of them, at any rate, have spent their lives in building up a business or trade. How would they like to be told at the end of six years, that the trade to which they had devoted themselves is to be wiped off the map, and their previous work undone? How would they like to find themselves in that position? But it is not from that point of view chiefly that I am opposed to this Bill. I approach the question from the standpoint of the individual liberty of every member of the 787 community. I cannot imagine greater tyranny than that a certain number of people should be permitted to say to their neighbours and friends, "We do not drink ourselves; we dislike drink; we will have nothing to do with it, and we will also stop you, our neighbours, from getting reasonable refreshment at public-houses." You could not have greater tyranny than that. It is class tyranny of the worst sort. If this Bill were passed to-day, and there was total prohibition all over Wales to-morrow, could anybody suggest it would make the smallest difference to my hon. Friends opposite, or to myself? It would not make the slightest difference to anybody in our station of life. I am sorry to use that phrase. I confess it seems rather snobbish. What this Bill would do, would be to make it impossible for a man to get drink except at great inconvenience, unless he has a private cellar of his own. The rich, the well-to-do, and the middle classes would not find that it made the smallest difference to them. It is only the ordinary working classes that would be affected.
Let me draw the attention of the House to one or two things which this Bill does. It does not even suggest that the majority of the residents in a district are to settle what the district is going to do. A 35 per cent. vote in a total vote of 55 per cent. is to be sufficient to decide whether there shall be any facilities at all in a particular area for the consumption of drink. But that is not all. I would ask the House to make a note of the fact that the Bill actually suggests that those who are in favour of no facilities whatsoever being given are to be lumped on to the total of those who are trying to get a favourable decision. Those high-minded individuals, who do not include the consumption of any form of alcohol amongst their virtues, who will have no truck with drink and look upon it as an accursed thing, are automatically compelled to compromise their principles and to support conditions under which drink will be available, although it will be a little more difficult to get hold of it. I should like to draw the attention of the House to one or two Clauses of this Bill which seem to me to be particularly unfair. I should like the House to grasp Clause 6. It is very short, and I will read it:As from the passing of this Act and until the fifth day of April. 1926, it shall not be 788 competent for the licensing court to order any structural alterations of licensed premises under Section 72 of the principal Act.The promoters of the Bill stop any structural alteration of any public-house in Wales for the next six years, thus compelling the public to undergo certain inconveniences and to have objectionable surroundings, although the owners may be very willing and anxious to improve them, because they think that at the end they are more likely to get prohibition if these public-houses and the surroundings are bad. Clause 7 shows that the Bill is confiscation. It provides that compensation for loss of licences shall cease. A fund, as we all know, has been created by the owners of licensed premises. No part of it has been contributed either by the ratepayers or the taxpayers. In the last 18 years this fund has averaged nearly £1,000,000 per year, and over 15,000 on-licences have been extinguished in that period. What would happen if the Bill were carried out? Obviously, some districts would remain wet and some districts would become dry. Assuming a no-licence condition is established in a borough and not in the surrounding district. Everyone knows that the townspeople would flock out of the prohibited area and go into the adjoining district. I have had a certain amount of experience of this kind of thing. My hon. Friend said how most people enjoyed Sunday closing. I happen to live in a very charming Cheshire village on the borders of Wales. Every Sunday, more particularly in the summer, hundreds of thousands of people come to that village in brakes, on bicycles, in motor cars, and in every sort of conveyance. I am not suggesting that they are a drunken crowd, but, obviously, having travelled a good many miles and having taken a good deal of trouble, they drink, possibly, a good deal more than they would have done if they could have got their refreshment in the next street or the next street but one. That is the way that people enjoy Sunday closing. I would point out one fact which seems to have been overlooked. If you have one borough dry and the next wet and you have a large migration of people from one place to another, it makes it impossible for the licensees of the districts which are wet to carry on their business properly. I know that in our village there is perfect pandemonium.
§ Major BARNSTON
It would be more reasonable to say that the Welsh people who come to us require reasonable refreshment. There is one other point that I should like the House to notice. Ten per cent. of the electors in any area can demand a poll by which licences may be prohibited or may be refused. They may put the unfortunate ratepayers to very large expense without any responsibility of any sort or kind for that expense. There should be some means, if the poll be unnecessary, of making those people pay, because we all know that nobody is really so intemperate as the keen temperance man. The Rill is somewhat badly drawn and it is hard to understand, but, as I understand it, in three years' time a new vote may be taken and a previous decision in favour of prohibition reversed, and then these houses may start again. Has anyone over heard of any business conducted on such lines?
§ Major BARNSTON
How would hon. Members like their own trades and businesses suddenly switched off and their employes scattered and then to be told, three years afterwards, that they may gather together their business and try and start again? How could you ever get a decent sort of licencee to take a house under such conditions? The measure, if it becomes law, will almost entirely affect the working-classes of the country, and I venture to say, speaking generally, that the better class of workman to-day is a sober workman. The working-classes today are going through the same process—in fact, I think they have accomplished the process—through which people in my station of life went perhaps 50 or 100 years ago. We all know that years ago it was considered a sort of manly thing to get drunk and to take alcohol to excess. Now, to take alcohol to excess is not only very disgusting but very ungentlemanly. There is nothing so objectionable as a man who drinks to excess. I venture to say that the working-classes to-day are following the lines which the so-called upper classes have taken, and, speaking generally, they 790 are a sober class. I do not believe that this Bill will assist temperance in the least. I do not believe that it is a temperance measure at all. I believe that it will cause hardship, friction, and great inconvenience, and for these reasons I ask the House to reject it by a large majority on the Second Heading.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I am not going into any very critical examination of this Bill, because I object root and branch to its principle. I should like to point out that I have not any interest in the liquor traffic, that I am not a shareholder in any brewery company or anything of that sort, and am not in the slightest degree influenced by the trade in that way. I claim to be a very tern perate individual and I am a believer in temperance, and on those grounds I claim to have as much reason in putting forward my views as the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are proposing this Bill Figures were given to us by the hon. Member who introduced this Bill, showing how convictions for drunkenness had considerably decreased during the last few years, and he argued that this was in consequence of the various restrictions which had been imposed by the Government. I happen, however, to know something of the figures for the few years preceding this Government control. I have the honour to be a magistrate for the city of Manchester, and we could produce figures showing that, prior to the War, there was a gradual reduction in the number of convictions for drunkenness, which, of course, has been continued since. This shows that there is a gradual tendency towards temperance amongst, the working people of this country, because I believe that those figures could be repeated in almost every other industrial centre in the country. Years ago it was considered to be a mark of a gentleman if he drank two sorts of wine, or kept two sorts of wine in his cellar, and also swore. Those qualification are not necessarily the mark of a gentleman to-day, and it is quite true that the working people of this country—and I happen to represent a working class constituency-are gradually and surely becoming more temperate. They are, however, becoming more temperate on the same lines as the so-called higher classes have become more temperate—simply by means of education 791 and by knowing its benefits. It is altogether another thing to lay down a hard-and-fast rule that those temperate people, on no occasion, or only on certain specific occasions when other people think fit, shall be permitted to drink certain kinds of drink which other people think are good for them.
I am suffering from a cold, which commenced a few days ago, and I took the precaution, on two nights, of having a hot glass of rum. I am told that rum is the least injurious of all spirits, and also that it is the most warming, and I am convinced that it is very efficacious, the last thing on a cold night, if you are suffering from a chill or cold, in warding off the serious effects of that cold. I may point out that a bottle of rum lasts me quite twelve months, and serves for Christmas puddings and mincemeat at the same time. Is it right or fair that any body of men, irrespective of majorities and minorities—I do not care if I am one out of a hundred people, and the other ninety-nine think differently—is it fair or just that those people should interfere with me, provided that I do not in any way abuse my drinking of either spirits or beer? The working classes of this country, although they are not, perhaps, in the habit of having wine in their cellars, do really consider it an intrusion if you interfere with their beer in any way. Mention has been made of Sunday closing. If a gentleman wishes, on Sunday, to have a bottle of wine on his table, is he going to prohibit the working man from having his beer? There are many respectable working-class districts where it is quite a common thing to go for the Sunday dinner beer, and, personally, I do not see any harm in that whatever. A working man, perhaps, is away during the whole week, and if he is only home to dinner on. Sunday, and prefers to enjoy himself in the company of his wife, and family in this way, I am sure it is very ill, on the part of those who can obtain their alcoholic liquors in other ways, to interfere with him. A point was made by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Robinson), who introduced this Bill, that there had been a reduction of convictions during the last four or five years, while at the same time he showed the Stock Exchange quotations for shares in brewery companies; and, while we saw a reduction in the number 792 of convictions for drunkenness, we also saw a rapid increase in the profits of those companies and in the prices of their shares. Which way does the hon. Gentleman desire to have it? He says that by legislation drunkenness has been decreased and by legislation the shares of those companies have gone up. What is the obvious alternative to that? The alternative is to remove all forms of legislation with regard to licensed premises and breweries, and to promote healthy competition and a sudden drop in the shares of those breweries. The hon. Gentleman cannot really argue that legislation has been a good thing, if at the same time he argues that, in consequence of this restriction, those shares have thus gone up.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hinds), speaking in favour of the reduction of licences, and saying that this should be placed in the hands of the people, omitted to mention that already it is in the hands of the people. We have popularly elected town councils, and the people of a district can choose the members that they will put on those town councils, and can also influence the composition of their watch committees. It is, after all, public opinion that picks the magistrates out for a district. We have all this in the light of day and the public Press criticising and watching the administration and the granting of licences in our industrial centres. I fail to see what more public control can be obtained than what we have at present by our popularly selected town councils and by the administration of justice on the bench as it is to-day. He said it ought to be in the hands of the people, and he quoted Sir William Harcourt, saying:If the people are to be reformed they must be the authority of their own reformation.Exactly, and that is the policy which I advocate. I do not care how often or how long people preach temperance, but convince the people themselves of the bad effects of temperance, and I believe these are the lines along which we should work rather than interfering by legislation. I have some knowledge in my own business of what interference by the Government meant during the War, and anyone who has had similar experience must know of the difficulty and the awkwardness, the cost and so on that is entailed in trying to educate the various Ministries which 793 are set up to interfere with different people's business, and the less we get of that Government interference, and the more we educate the people to stand by themselves and to work out their own salvation in various ways the stronger the nation we shall produce. It is far better to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains, and if there is one thing about the British people of which we are proud it is that we are able to educate ourselves and to work along constitutional lines for our own betterment, and we do not want any form of militarism or of imposition from above. I am convinced that if we start interfering by Government measures with the liberty of individual people, because other nations do so, it will be a sad day for this country.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
It is with considerable diffidence as a Scottish Member that I intervene in a matter which exclusively concerns the Principality of Wales. But my disability, such as it is, is, I think, shared by both the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Amendment in speeches distinguished by great moderation and cogency of argument. Indeed, under any conceivable form of devolution, in the various schemes which we understand are now being considered under your tutelage, Sir, in another part of these precincts, this is a matter which could never fall to be discussed and decided upon the floor of the Imperial Parliament. But as things now are, we have to decide such questions here, and my only title to say a word or two on the matter is that I was the head of the Government which, now three years ago, passed into law the Scottish Temperance Act, of which this Bill is in substance a reproduction for Wiles. The Scottish Temperance Act, to which all the objections which have been set out by the two hon. Members who have spoken are as applicable as they are to the present measure, will come into operation at the beginning of June in the present year, as I gather—for I have recently been in that part of the United Kingdom—with most hopeful auguries of its successful working. Some years before the passing of that Act the Government with which I was connected passed through this House a, comprehensive measure running upon the same lines of licensing reform both for England and Wales which, but for the, as I think, unfortunate action taken in another place, would have been now 794 for some years on the Statute Book, and in my judgment would have produced untold advantages to the community and proved by experience—and it is only by experience, that these things can be tested and proved—that it is in the direction and by the machinery of free local control alone that you can find a way of escape from the manifold trouble and embarrassment of this great national problem.
I have never been able to bring myself to believe that such a solution could be found in the transfer to the State of a monopoly of this particular traffic. I doubt also—and that doubt is founded on experience in other countries—whether it is possible for Parliament to lay down anything in the nature of a legislative cast-iron rule in this matter applicable to all the different local circumstances of such a community as ours. It appears to me the only safe way, because you carry with you at every step on the road the opinion and the feeding of the persons directly concerned, is to respect local needs, local conditions and local sentiment. You may be sure, if you take that line, although you will not have a rigid uniformity of treatment or of conditions throughout the length and breadth of the country, you will have, as temperance opinion and temperance practice grows in strength, in diffusion and in intensity, an enormous reduction of the grossly excessive facilities for the consumption of drink which now prevail. That, I am sure, is the wise and statesmanlike course to proceed upon in this matter. It has already been adopted in Scotland, where public opinion in this sense has always been in advance of public opinion elsewhere. I am heartily glad to think Wales is going to follow suit, and I trust before we are many Sessions older we shall find England also adopting this the only safe and sound principle of local control.
§ Major KELLEY
I am connected with the trade with which this Bill deals, and I sincerely hope I shall not say a single word in connection with the trade which I ought not to say in connection with my position here. In criticising this Bill I shall only try to point out what I consider flaws in it. Whatever legislation may do to the trade, so long as that legislation is honest and fair, I bow my head to it, whether I like it or whether I do not. But this Bill is badly drawn. The great point that the Mover made was that it 795 handed over to the people the question as to whether they would have licences or not in their own neighbourhood. The question of the vote is all camouflage, because if you look carefully at the Bill it will be seen that, without taking any ballot of the people, the magistrates can take away all and every licence. I do not think hon. Members quite grasp that point. If the Bill passes, each application which is made at the first brewster sessions will be a new application, which the magistrates can refuse. The licence does not come up for renewal, but it comes up as a new application and it can be refused Another injustice arises in connection with a vote in favour of limitation. It is unfair that those licences that are taken away should have no appeal to a higher authority. We all believe in an Appeal Court in this country, and I would like to see in this Bill some appeal in regard to licences. When you come to the question of clubs, if a vote is taken in favour of no licences, all the clubs in the district go, but if this Bill is passed in its present form, and the magistrates are allowed to take away licences, they cannot under this Bill refuse to grant licences to clubs. Therefore, as public-houses go, clubs can spring up. That is a great weakness in the Bill. A further unfair point is the question of compensation. I think I am correct in saying that in the case of death, for death duties 16 or 17 years is taken as the value of the licence. Here it is six. That is exceptionally unfair. Further, the Bill is unfair in that it is more for the rich man than the poor man. It does not interfere with the man who can afford to get spirits or anything else into his own house, but it does interfere with the poor man, and I cannot help thinking that it will have a very strong tendency to create class hatred, and not to settle the differences that we are having to-day between class and class.
I hope that the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), when she makes up her mind as to which Lobby she will go into, will not forget what she said on 24th January, when she spoke in Liverpool. She said:I hate the word prohibition, and I have just enough of the devil in me that if anyone prohibits anything it becomes the one thing I want.She went on to say that people went to 796 public-houses for warmth and comradeship, and that temperance workers had failed in the past because they had failed to satisfy these objects.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
If the hon. Member would read the whole of my speech it would be better. That is exactly what the trade do. They pick out one bit of a speech, and publish it throughout the country, whereas, if they had read the whole of my speech it would be better for my position and for the position of temperance reformers. It was not quite fair to take out one line and publish it. I wish the hon. Member would give the House the whole of my address.
§ Major KELLEY
I am afraid the speech was too long, but there is no reason why the hon. Member should not give it again this afternoon.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I support the Bill because I consider it a democratic Bill. The people are to decide for themsedves as to the number of public houses that should be retained in certain localities. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Major Barnston), who moved the rejection of the Bill, seemed to have very great sympathy for the working classes. The working classes can look after themselves I am speaking from my experience of the working classes. This question of local option has been before the Labour Party Conference, and the Trade Union Conference, and on each occasion when local option has been discussed it has always been carried by a very large majority in the Labour Party and Trade Union Conferences.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I cannot remember for the moment, but if the hon. Member challenges it I will produce the information later when I go to my room.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
Very well. I also support this Bill because the Welsh party, Unionists, Liberals and Labour men are united in support of it. The hon. Member for Eddisbury said that this Bill would interfere with the liberty of the subject. When people ask for a 797 thing you cannot deny what they are asking, and the people, from Wales have been asking for this measure for a large number of years, and have sent members to this House in order to support a measure of this kind. I have hundreds of letters and hundreds of cards from Nonconformists, from Anglican members of the Church, from Roman Catholics and from all kinds of men and women in my constituency in Monmouthshire asking me to be in my place to-day and support this Bill. The remarkable thing is that out of ail these hundreds of letters and cards, I have only had one protest against the Hill, and asking me to vote against it. If the hon. Member (Mr. Simm) will come into my room he will see the letter which I am sending to the person who sent this protest, justifying the reason why I am supporting the Bill. I am not an extremist, and I do not believe that drink is the cause of all the poverty that the temperance reformers talk about. There are other contributory causes of poverty. You have low wages, unemployment, ill health and other contributory causes that bring about poverty, but we must admit that where you have a man who is weaker than his fellow man or woman who is weaker than her neighbour, we know that they are not strong enough to resist the temptation and they spend their wages. Who suffers? The women and children. It is our duty and the duty of those who are strong enough to assist those weaker sisters and brethren of ours. The amount spent on drink has already been mentioned. It was £170,000,000 a year before the war, and according to statistics it will probably be £400,000,000 during the present year—£8,000,000 a week. The figures are appalling. What could we do in the way of social reform with a figure of that kind?
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
The majority of people in Wales are ripe for this Bill. A similar Bill was passed by this House in 1898, and in the Licensing Bill of 1908, as the Member for Paisley said, there was a clause that would put into operation immediately local veto for Wales. We are not asking for that now, because this Bill is not to be put into operation until 1926. The former Bill would have been in operation in Wales but for the action of the House of Lords. I represent the steel 798 and tinplate trade of the country. It is one of the hardest trades, in which men work before big furnaces in intense heat. These people have to take intoxicating liquor or water, because they perspire so much, in order to assist them to do their day's work. We have Divisional Councils formed in England, Scotland and Wales of members connected with my society, and this question of local option has been brought before these councils, and resolutions in favour of it have been carried unanimously. One most remarkable thing happened at our last Divisional Council meeting when the matter was discussed in Wales. Out of 90 delegates representing 15,000 of these men working in this intense heat the resolution was carried by 60 votes to 30. The thirty who voted against it did not vote against local option, but voted for an amendment in favour of prohibition. Local option did not go far enough for these men. This shows the feeling even among the men employed at this very arduous trade.
I would ask those who oppose this Bill to realise that the Welsh people have aspirations and ideals which the English people do not understand. The Welsh people are a nation. We have a language of our own; we have aspirations and ideals, and if England is lagging behind do not link us up to you any more. Let us do our own work in our own way. We do not want to be at your apron strings any more. Give Wales the opportunity of putting into operation what she has been asking for. The Prime Minister himself said that drink was a greater enemy than even Germany. It has also been stated by a great statesman that unless this country will control the drink traffic then the drink traffic will control the country. In Wales we want to get this very moderate reform put into operation and we ask you English people not to put any obstacle in the way so far as we are concerned, because we are ready for it and we know that from the drink traffic arise misery, degradation and vice. If people say, "Look at these men and women. It is impossible for them to look after themselves." We say, "give a man and a woman who are in such a weak state that they canot refuse this great temptation, education, you place them in a new environment and put them among new companions and you will find in them unsuspected accompaniment to the joys of life. Give these 799 people a chance. Give our Welsh people a chance. They have been asking for this, and we hope that you will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. SIMM
I should not like to allow the speech of the hon. Member who has just spoken to pass without challenge. It was stated that the Party which he represents, and especially the iron workers of the country, are in favour of this proposal or in favour of the abolition of drink. I have lived and worked among that type of men and I am quite prepared to go with the hon. Member among his own associates, say in the town of Middlesboro or Consett, and test the feeling there. I assert that for every teetotaller he will find among the blast furnace men and steel workers of this country he will find ten men of the opposite point of view. The men who work at the blast furnaces and the puddling furnaces simply cannot drink cold water. They have either got to have beer or meal and water. Everybody knows that meal and water make the blood very hot and bring out patches on the skin. Therefore we suggest to the hon. Member that his statement that the members of his union are strongly in favour of this proposition is not in accordance with facts. I am not concerned with the question whether Wales is to go dry or not, except that I do not want to see a large exodus from Wales into England. Wales is a very good country to live in.
§ Mr. SIMM
I believe it, but the danger is that, if Wales goes dry and the tap is still left running here, there may be an exodus from that country to this country where people can get all they want. Some play has been made this afternoon upon two things. One is the fact that for a period of nearly two years there was in this country a decrease in drunkenness and an increase in the dividends of brewers. That is very simply explained. As a matter of fact, for two years it was almost impossible to get drunk on the beer that was brewed. When a man did get drunk there were thousands who wanted to know where he got his beer. An hon. Member has also said that there were people who could 800 not protect themselves, and has argued that if they were too weak to protect themselves the State ought to step in. I should like to know the class of individual he is speaking for. He says this is a democratic measure. I believe in the blessed phrase self-determination. I think everyone ought to decide whether he is to drink or not. It is impertinence for the hon. Member to assume that he is a strong man and I am a weak one, because he does not take beer and I do. He assumes that I have no will. As a matter of fact, I have the will to get a drink when I feel so disposed. Mention has been made of the fact that there is Sunday closing in Wales. I was in Wales some years ago. It is a country well supplied with hills. In going through the valleys in Wales I noticed a difference between that country and England. In England on a Sunday morning, if you go for a country walk you find the public house doors shut, and they are shut also from 2.30 to 6 o'clock, but I found in Wales that the public house doors were standing wide open asking for customers. Beyond the three mile limit you are a bouâ fule traveller. I found plenty of bonâ fide, travellers on the road, and I was one of them. The public-house doors were standing wide open. So much for Sunday closing in Wales. With all the Sunday closing I should like to know how much the consumption of beer has increased in Wales.
I am in no way concerned to vote against this Bill as affecting Wales. If it applied to England I should be strongly opposed to it. There are two institutions that the law ought to preserve—our old churches and our old "pubs." There is joy and much virtue in both of them. If you take a five mile tramp in Wales on a hot day, you are fairly sure to find a Methodist chapel on the top of a hill. There are plenty of them in Wales, very ugly most of them, and without any comfort. I suggest that the wayside inns do not belong entirely to the people living in the district where the inns are situated, and that there are others living outside the district who may be on the road, and have a right to use places of refreshment. Suppose they found an inn closed at the end of a five or ten miles' journey; the next inn might be ten miles away. It is possible that hardship would be imposed on hundreds of thousands of people. Restrict the number of our wayside inns according to 801 the number of the population as' much as you like; abolish all the wretched long bars with their sawdust and such like, which are disreputable and mere drinking dens; but allow people to get refreshment in whatever form they like. People have drunk in this country for 2,000 years. The two nations which drank most were the strongest nations in the War. There is no harm in the consumption of beer. I am certain that in the steel and tinplate trade, to compel men to drink water, or even meal and water, in place of beer, will impose a very great hardship on them.
§ 2.0 P.M.
I should like to support this measure, not from the point of view of an ordinary temperance advocate or prohibitionist or any other kind of reformer, but solely from a Welsh Nationalist and democratic point of view, because I think that true progress and permanent development are based upon the will of the people. This is a truly democratic measure, in that it gets directly at the people for their decision. I admit that there are many clauses which might be improved. For instance, there is the clause with regard to the items upon which the various communities or districts are to vote. To be perfectly just all round, there should be another item added; the people should be able to vote as to whether they want an increase in the number of licences. That would suit the hon. Member who has just spoken. It might also be extended so that the people could decide the hours of licensed houses and clubs. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill used an argument which amounted practically to the fact that his little village, bordering on Wales, was crowded on Sunday by Welsh people. Had he seen Wales before the Sunday Closing Act, he would have seen that the villages and towns in Wales were all crowded in the same fashion, and the fact that his little village happens to suffer is no argument why the Bill should not be applied to Wales and take in his village as well. Another hon. Member said that if he chose to drink rum it was no business of people to interfere with him. The point is whether he, in taking rum, interferes with either people.
This House has altogether too much work to do. We have only to look at our Standing Committees. There is very 802 often only a small attendance, and if an Amendment passes the Committee it can easily be altered when the Bill comes back to the House on Report. There is a good deal of waste of time. We are overburdened with legislation when we try to legislate for every hole and corner of the United Kingdom. We are seven hundred Members representing nearly 45,000,000 people, and we are trying to legislate for the whole of them. This little bit of devolution which we are asking for Wales will ease somewhat the work here, and I hope that additions will follow. The only ultimate solution is to devolve legislation. This House has treated Wales as a separate entity in legislation on many occasions, and particularly with regard to the question we are now discussing. Wales manifests a different mentality from that of the people in England. It is a very good thing that we do not see all questions in the same way. It is not for the good of the United Kingdom or of the world that we should Bee eye to eye in everything. If we develop ourselves in our particular way we shall add to the common good of the world. Our whole traditions are different from those of other countries, our religious development is different, and that is so also with our literature and our language. It is not possible to have all the domestic affairs of our little nation dealt with from this central spot. You cannot fuse two nations without destroying something which is good in both of them. Fusion sometimes means confusion and it does in this case. Humanity is moving towards a common objective, towards the same kind of perfection of the whole of mankind. We have a single command and are moving along parallel roads, and though often we cannot sec each other for the mountains and we do not understand what each is doing, and the valleys through which we pass are in some cases bare and barren and in others smooth and fertile, yet we will come out in the end under the one banner. We need the advice of all but the interference of none.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I have listened to the Debate this afternoon with considerable interest, and one thing that struck me very forcibly was that every speech from replies of the Principality has been in support of the Bill. We had to go across the border to Cheshire to get a Member to move the rejection. I 803 listened to that hon. Member with interest mixed with astonishment. He referred to the question of Sunday closing in Wales and spoke of a village which was unfortunate enough to get a large influx of Welshmen on Sunday in order that they might indulge in drink. I do not doubt that is so on the border and it does not matter where you have the dividing line. There will be people on the border who are so addicted to drink that they will go any distance in order to get drunk on Sundays. But surely the hon. Member does not deny that the Sunday Closing Act has showered untold blessings on Wales. He must remember that the whole of Wales practically is sober on Sunday with the exception, perhaps, of a few villages such as that he suggested. I am a teetotaler and it has been the impression of my life that it is my duty and every other person's duty, especially at the present time, to do everything I can to increase the efficiency of my country. I believe the one thing that makes most against the efficiency of a country is the drinking habits of the people. I would do anything to improve the conditions of the people and to get them, if it were only for the common good of the country, to exert every ounce of energy, to try and recover the position which we occupied before the War. I support this measure on that ground. When my hon. Friend talked about confiscation, I suppose he meant that under the Act of 1904 no licence can be done away with except on two grounds unless compensation is paid, According to this Bill no compensation is to be paid after the sixth year. The temperance advocates objected to that Bill of 1904. They believed it was a most unfair Bill, and that a monopoly was created and a property handed over to the trade which should never have been handed over at all. They opposed that Bill even more strenuously than the hon. Gentleman objects to this measure. He talked about tyranny and that this measure was greater tyranny than anything that had ever been introduced into this House.
The basic principle underlying this measure is popular control. It is the people who have to determine whether they want licences to remain or whether there is to be prohibition. Some hon. Members seem to assume 804 that the people are going all at once to adopt prohibition. The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. Simm) mentioned iron works, and said that the men must either have beer or water and meal. It is a matter for them to decide. The people themselves will be the determining factor as to whether there is to be prohibition or if things are to remain as they are. I have confidence in the judgment of the people. I have sat on the Bench, and I believe the people will be able to determine the number of licences better than any number of men sitting on a Bench. That is the principle underlying the whole Bill. It has been said that we have had special legislation in Wales. The Prime Minister has gone so far as to say that Wales was as ripe for legislation of this kind as Scotland is. I believe it is riper, but, being smaller in numbers than Members for Scotland, we have not been as insistent, but, at any rate, we are insistent now, and we hope the House will be generous and will do what we unanimously ask should be done. After experience on the Bench, I think the Act of 1904 is far too slow in operation. I have taken the trouble to get statistics relating to my own constituency (Merioneth), which is fairly large and sparsely populated. In thirteen years we were able to reduce the licences in Merioneth by 13, and I will tell you why. The maximum charge was levied upon the publicans and yielded only £550 per annum, with the result that in 13 years we have only been able to reduce by redundancy 13 houses. I will give you the case of a public-house in Blaenau Festiniog, known as the "Market Vaults." The amount awarded was £2,012. It was referred for compensation on 29th Juno, 1909, but it had to be kept open for three long years because the fund was not sufficient to pay it. The same thing applies in the case of the "Castle" Inn, at Dolgelley, which had to be kept open 3½ years after being referred for compensation, and the same thing applies to most of the public-houses referred for compensation. The fund is so small that, although there is unanimity in referring them to compensation, they are not able to close, simply because the fund is too low. There is the case of the "Cross Foxes," Dolgelley, which has been referred since the 2nd July, 1918, for compensation, but has not yet been closed because the funds are not available. 805 That is ample proof that something is required to deal with this traffic in Wales other than the Act of 1904.
It is said it is confiscation if you do not pay compensation, but the view I take is this. I believe that every Welsh Member is prepared to have it fully discussed and amended in accordance with the view of the majority of a Committee upstairs upon its details, and if the six years is too short a period for the publicans in Wales to recoup themselves from funds the trade ought to provide, let us know what period would be a fair one, and we can deal with the matter in Committee. But the points that have been made here this afternoon have been pretty nearly all Committee points. I have not heard anybody stand up and say he will not trust the people to decide how many public-houses are required in the different areas. If the area is too small or too largo, let it be amended in Committee, but let us, I beg of the House, approve of the principle of this Bill, and let Wales know that for once, at any rate, its Members have succeeded in impressing the majority of this House with the necessity of granting special legislation for a matter upon which the Welsh people feel very keenly indeed. It has been said here that local option has been a plank in the platform for many an election. Ever since I was returned to the House of Commons, I have made it a plank in my platform, and I am certain that if I stated in my constituency that I would not vote for local option, I should at the next election have a tremendous majority against me. The people of Wales are unanimous in believing that the people should rule, and that they alone should rule, in a matter of deciding whether there should be prohibition, whether the public-houses should be reduced in numbers, or whether they should remain the same. That is a reasonable proposition; it simply means trust the people, and if you are going to trust the people, show it by your votes this afternoon. I am afraid that question was at the root of the whole of the speech of the mover of the rejection, namely, that he preferred not to trust the people who require beer, as they think. If they require the beer, surely they can look after their own interests. I make a very earnest appeal to the House to do justice by Wales in this matter.
§ Mr. GOULD
The Mover and Seconder of this Bill have said there is unanimity of opinion in Wales with regard to this measure, but on that I particularly want to differ from them. There is a number of Welsh Members who are not in agreement with this Bill. We are not against the general principle of local option, but against the proposals in this Bill, in so far as we think they are not fair or just and do not allow for a fair system of discrimination on the part of the people as to what really should be local option. In the first place, I object absolutely to any principle of confiscation. If this measure is carried into law, it will probably cause the driving into the hands of a most undesirable section of the community of the control of public-houses, because there is no security of tenure whatever. There is no possibility of any man continuing in his business with any hope that at the end of six years he is going to be able to get back what he has put into the business. If I know the industrial districts of South Wales at all, I am of the opinion that they do not want this measure thrust upon them. I also think that a great many of the Members who support the Bill should have regard to the fact that they represent agricultural and rural districts. We in Glamorganshire represent a purely industrial community, and I would call the attention of the House to the fact that last Sunday there was a meeting, a demonstration, at Porth, against this very measure, when nearly 70,000 were present.
§ Mr. GOULD
The figures were recorded in the Press. From what I know of Cardiff, I should say a great many misstatements have been made with regard to the conditions prevailing there, and I think the same can be said of the Welsh mining districts. Things are not nearly as bad as they are painted. We are told that the convictions for drunkenness in Cardiff are very heavy and excessive. There is not one of us who would like to go back to the pre-war hours and conditions. We are not asking for that, but it so happens that in 1919 the total number of proceedings in Cardiff for drunkenness was 287. The residents were 188, and 99 were other people who came from neighbouring constituencies of hon. Members who support the Bill. When 807 you consider that we have in Cardiff a floating population of 20,000 people and that we have a large number of people who come in from the seas, who are probably bent upon a burst when they do come ashore, I think the record we have is a very wonderful record and by no means indicative of the fact that Cardiff itself or South Wales as a whole is very much given to excess of drinking. I know there is a movement, and a strong movement, in favour of this Bill, but I am prepared to accept a Bill if the Bill is fair and honest, which this Bill is not. This Bill grants no compensation, and, in the second place, it gives to a minority the power to say whether or not they are going to have prohibition. We all realise that in these matters the opposition goes to the poll when voting, but the people who are really interested are at work, and they suddenly find themselves deprived of what they want, and those people who are working in the steel and iron works, and aboard ship, and people of that nature I do not think ought to be deprived of the right to indulge in a glass of beer if they think fit. The agitation on this matter has been engineered very carefully, and the propaganda work has been carried out with exceedingly great care, and we are all, being threatened that, unless we vote for this Bill, we are going to have the women's vote against us, we are going to have the chapels against us, and we are going to be in a very parlous condition. It seems to me that if we are going to allow our feelings in these matters to be carried away by passing a Bill of this nature, which is certainly not fair, we shall not be doing our duty to the majority. I hope the House will not give this Bill a clear passage. I would be prepared, as I said before, to accept a reasonable and just measure of Local Option, but I do not think this Bill meets the case, and I hope the House will reject it.
§ Sir PHILIP SASSOON
I hope the House will forgive a Member for a purely English constituency getting up on a day like this, and I hope the fact that I rise to support this measure will placate the Welsh Members here to-day, and perhaps condone any small criticisms I have to make against this particular measure. The first criticism I would like to make is that the great difficulty in 808 discussing a Bill of this kind is to know whether the promoters are really out to give the man-in-the-street the power to decide for himself on a matter which up to now is really a matter of purely domestic and individual concern, or whether it is, in a way, to force a decision out of him. The present Bill, to my mind, lays itself open far too much to the criticism that it is a thinly-veiled attempt to force total abstinence upon an unwilling public, or, at any rate, upon a public which the promoters of the Bill would not care to leave alone in the same room with a bottle of whiskey. This Bill, of course, is a temperance measure, and it is therefore open to those who support it, like I do, to say that drink is a bad thing and that it would be far better for the country to go dry altogether. That is a perfectly intelligible proposition, though, to many men's minds, a slightly intemperate one. What I would like to point out is that if that position is taken up, then it is idle, and of doubtful honesty to talk about local option.
Local option, fairly and honestly applied, is, to my mind, the most desirable thing we can have. It is the only practicable solution of the whole drink question, and all the subsidiary evils which attend it. If that is so, it is essential that the people concerned should be given a real option, and that there should be no question of the extreme temperance-reformer trying to stead a march upon the general mass of the population to whom the drink question is but one of the many matters of which they have to think in their daily life. I think there should be no suggestion of local option trying to force the pace. Also I think the temperance movement in this country would be most easily served if nothing should be done to give rise to anything in the nature of skits such as the "microbe" poster which one sees on the hoardings to-day, or to an old dialogue between a working-man and a temperance reformer, which was written with regard to a previous Bill, and which ran something like this:'Pray, what's this" Local Option," Bill,That some folks rave about?I can't, with all my pains and skill,Its meaning quite make out.''Oh, it's a simple little Bill,That seeks to pass incog.,To prevent me to prevent youTaking your glass of grog.'809 That may seem rather a childish thing to bring up in this House, but I do submit that that sort of thing is being used today against the temperance movement and many people in favour of this movement are giving ample cause for these things to be spread about. People resent being told that they do not know what is good for them, and they have good reason to be suspicious of a Bill which is attempting to do one thing while purporting to do another. For my part, I am strongly in favour of Local Option, and it is on that ground that I intend to support this Bill, because I think any objectionable features which it may contain will be removed at a subsequent stage, if the House intends to proceed with this measure. I can see no objection to a local referendum upon a matter which, however much it may react upon the nation as a whole, is essentially and primarily a matter of parochial and local interest.
What appears to me to be the most objectionable feature of the Bill is, that an active and well-organised temperance party in a locality, deriving its principal support from outside interests, without any local association whatsoever, and representing less than 20 per cent. of the actual electors in the voting area, may be able to force a no-license resolution upon the remaining 80 per cent. of the electors. Such a provision seems to me to be absolutely indefensible, and it is proposals of this kind that are most harmful to the cause of local option, and, therefore, though I am in favour of the general principle of local option contained in this Bill, I would like to say I am absolutely against any provision of that kind, or anything in the least resembling it. However, I think that is a matter of detail, and is one of the things that can be taken out in the Committee stage. It is common knowledge that in matters of this kind—I mean in matters which are decided by popular vote—an active and well-organised minority has a very great advantage. Any measure, therefore, setting up local option on the drink question ought to take that fact into consideration, and very great care ought to be taken in drafting any resolutions, either to impose fresh restrictions, or to remove restrictions already imposed, that they should represent the wish of the majority of the people in that locality, and the electors of that area should be taken into account. I 810 think this is an absolutely proper and reasonable view to take of the requirements of local option, and it is because I hope this Bill will be suitably amended to meet all these requirements at a later stage, that I support this Bill.
§ Mr. LYNN
In rising to support this measure, I should like, in the first place, to congratulate the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) on the courage he has shown to-day. It was a courage which was not conspicuous a fortnight ago, when we tried to get a similar Bill passed through this House, and I can only say that if the right hon. Gentleman's consistency is equal to his courage to-day, I do not think it will carry his party very far. I rise to support this measure because I feel it is a democratic measure which ought to be carried. It gives the power not to a handful of people, not as my hon. Friend opposite says to the magistrates, some of whom can be bought for 10s. to vote in licensing cases. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I can give hundreds of cases. I am speaking as a journalist with practical experience of this sort of thing. I remember recently asking a journalist what sort of people were dealing with the licensing Laws in Ireland at present. I said, when I was young it was possible to get some of these magistrates' support a publican for 10s. "Why" he said, "you can get one of them to vote for this sort of thing now for half an ounce of tobacco." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, as a matter of fact, the magistrates to whom I refer were appointed by a gentleman who represented at one time, a Bristol seat. Therefore I have some interest in this aspect of the case. The point I want to put is that this is a purely democratic measure, and as such ought to be supported. It gives the people themselves the right to say whether or not they will have twenty, thirty, or forty licences, or whatever other number they desire or none. The hon. Member for Central Cardiff said that the people did not want this measure. If they do not want it, they will have the opportunity of voting against it. This leaves the power in their hands. There are people who come home from sea to Cardiff, who, he said, want to go "on the burst." I am not at all sure what that means! If it means what we term in Ireland, going on the "razzle-dazzle" then, I ask, is there any special reason why we should provide these people with that opportunity? 811 Is it not our business as legislators rather to restrict the opportunities for that sort of thing. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Sir P. Sassoon) said this Bill would put the power in the hands of the minority. How could that be? They might as well say that a general election puts the power into the hands of the minority. If the people have the right to give a vote and do not vote, that shows that they have not much interest in the matter. Therefore I say this is a real democratic measure. I am glad to see that hon. members on the Benches opposite are present in larger numbers than was the case a fortnight ago. There was then one Liberal and two Labour Members present. The numbers are increased to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Seven!"] That is a perfect number. One hon. Member said that no part of the United Kingdom was so ripe for local veto as Wales. I cannot speak for Wales, but I can for Ulster, and I say there is no part of the United Kingdom so ripe for Local Option as Ulster. Practically every Unionist Member is pledged, not compulsorily pledged, but because he believes it is in favour of Local Option. Therefore I am speaking not only for myself, but for my colleagues, in supporting this measure, and I am supporting it in spite of the fact that hon. Members opposite did not support us a fortnight ago.
Captain TUDOR REES
There is one unfortunate thing about a debate of this kind, and that is, that you are constantly graded according to the position you take up. If you support a Temperance Bill you are instantly called a fanatical teetotaler, while if you oppose it you are regarded as a drunkard.
If not in this House that is the assumption made outside. Generally speaking, if a man says he is a temperance man, it is assumed that he is a teetotaler. That is, I think, the general proposition. I would point this out to hon. Members that when you say that a country has a temperate climate you do not mean to suggest that it has no climate at all. If I confess, as I propose to do, that I am not a teetotaler, I can still claim to be a temperance man. I do not drink to excess. I do not abstain to excess. From this Debate one very 812 significant thing has emerged: that is that all those capable of expressing Welsh opinion have expressed themselves in favour of the Bill—with one insignificant exception. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Shall I qualify my statement by saying that all Welsh Members who are Welshmen, and who have taken part in this Debate, have expressed themselves in an unqualified way as being in favour of this particular measure.
I am supporting it on general grounds. First, because I believe it is, as already suggested, a democratic measure. I was rather interested to know that the hon. Gentlemen who Moved and Seconded the rejection of the Bill, do not represent any part of Wales. They did, however, endeavour to establish a claim to speak on behalf of Wales. The Mover claimed a connection with Wales. I see that he suggested that he could speak for Wales because occasionally he went to North Wales to play golf. The hon. Member who Seconded the rejection said he was a Member for one of the Divisions of Manchester, and it was assumed, by reason of the fact that the Prime Minister was born in that particular city, that he was sufficient of a Welshman to speak on behalf of Wales. Very respectfully I resent the assumption of the two hon. Gentlemen that they are in a position, in any case, to represent Welsh opinion. They made one very obvious mistake. The whole of their arguments were addressed to the question of Prohibition. They assumed very improperly that if this Bill were adopted, it would mean that Wales would instantly go dry.
We hope it will go gradually. Surely the hon. Member agrees that it is much better to go dry gradually than violently? The old bogey was raised by the hon. Members who moved the rejection, of interference with the liberty of the subject. Whenever any measure is introduced into this House, having social reform for its object, someone or other gets up and trots out the old bogey of interference with the liberty of the subject. I suggest that the licensing trade to-day is hedged about by more restrictions than any other trade, and the only proposition contained in this Bill is that the powers now vested in the magistrates shall, at any rate to some degree 813 be vested in the people themselves. The hon. Member said he could not imagine any greater form of tyranny than what he called the tyranny outlined in this Bill. I do not call it tyranny. I am perfectly certain that at the last election the hon. Member posed as a democrat. He appealed, no doubt very eloquently, to the electorate to return him in a democratic-way. I am rather surprised, while he was satisfied with the result of that democratic action, he is not prepared in a matter of this sort also to trust the people. He regarded the return of Members of Parliament as important. Apparently he does not regard this enormously vital question of the regulation of the drink traffic as important at all. Personally, I suggest to him that it is of very much more importance that the people of a district should have the opportunity of ex pressing a direct opinion in regard to the drink question than even of sending Members to Parliament. All I want to do is to give the people the right to say how many licensed houses there should be in a particular district.
So far as I am concerned, I am not attacking the trade at all. It has been my privilege to practise before the licensing magistrates, and I think I can claim to have had as many licensing cases as any hon. Member of this House. I should like to say from my experience of those cases that, so far as it goes, I can say that the licensing bench always endeavour, in a very fair, honourable and just way, to deal satisfactorily and properly with the cases which come before them. I have also the greatest possible sympathy and respect for the licensed victuallers. No class of the community is so hedged round with restrictions, and no class carries on its trade under such vexatious conditions as the licensed victuallers. I daresay most hon. Members have, during the War, been into public-houses, and they must have seen a notice at least six feet in length containing an incalculable number of restrictions under the Defence of the Realm Act, printed in very small type, and every licensed victualler is supposed to be cognisant with every word and syllable in that notice. They carry on their trade under the greatest possible difficulties, and I am in no way attacking them.
What we want to do is to give to the people the opportunity of saying for themselves whether they will have any 814 licences, and if so how many, in their particular district. I do not see any particular vice in that proposition, and there is no new principle involved. I wish to say, however, that so far as I am concerned, there will have to be a considerable number of important Amendments made in this Bill in Committee before I can give it my unqualified assent. I want to protect the rights of minorities as far as possible, and I should like to see the percentages in one case increased and in the other decreased. I should like to see this Bill so amended that there would have to be a substantial majority in any particular district in favour of any proposition before any licence was taken away, because after all we are supposed to look after not only majorities but minorities as well. I hope we shall in Committee make the majority a very substantial one indeed. With regard to Sunday closing, a good deal has been said about it and I should like to add my testimony with regard to the value of Sunday closing in Wales. Some of those hon. Members who have not lived in Wales have spoken about the effect of the Sunday Closing Act, and out of the fulness of their ignorance they have stated that the Act was a failure, but nothing is further from the truth. One proposal of this Bill is to extend the Sunday Closing Act to Monmouthshire. The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. Gould), has seen sights that I have seen. Very near Cardiff runs the boundary between Wales and Monmouthshire, and those who are particularly anxious for a drink walk from Cardiff across the border and get into Monmouthshire. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I wonder how many hon. Members who cheer that statement have seen the horrible sights there on a Sunday night. You only have to walk just over the line to the public-house to see not one or two or dozens, but scores, and I have seen hundreds of men and women lying helpless on the roadside. This is not merely a question of the Tightness or wrongness of drinking, and on this point I would like to quote the opinion of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain who said with regard to the provision of facilities for drink:The fatal facility of recourse to the public-house makes it extremely difficult for multitudes of persons, in view of the hardship of their lives, to resist or avoid intemperance.815 Those of us who are in favour of this Bill maintain that it is for the people themselves to say what facilities, if any, they want, and if they want facilities let them have them, and if they do not, then they will have an opportunity of saying so. Surely that is a democratic measure that ought to commend itself to every hon. and right hon. Member of this House. It might be argued that, assuming local veto to be a good thing, why is this Bill introduced only for Wales, because if it is a good thing for Wales why not make it for England as well? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I notice many hon. Members who do not represent Wales cheer that proposition. May I reply that having supported Welshmen to-day in getting this Bill through, I think I can, on behalf of Welshmen, promise them our unqualified support when they advance to such a stage as we have done to-day. In these matters we are a long way ahead of England. We have our own system of education. It is one of the best in the world. We have our own separate existence as a nation. The Irish and Scotch people have an excellent brogue, but Welshmen have a language of their own. We have our own literature and our own ideals of social reform, and, unlike the English people, the Welsh people have made up their minds about this principle. We have fought for it for 30 or 40 years, and with one or two exceptions Welsh Members are unanimously in favour of this measure. I want to appeal to the Government to accept the principle of this Bill. I want to remind them that the father of this particular measure is a very important statesman, and some years ago that particular statesman said:I implore the House to pass this Bill, which will give to the inhabitants of a district the power to remove from their midst, if they desire, the contaminating influence of the public-house. This is a great and momentous social question which touches the very fabric of society. I believe that there is a growing demand for a measure like this, and that when the time comes—as soon it will—for the nation to give its verdict upon the question, that verdict will be that the people will no longer allow their intellects to be enfeebled and their moral sense to be blunted by the demoralising effect of strong drink.The author of these very cogent words was the Prime Minister. He is in favour of this measure. He was responsible for the introduction of a measure along these lines in 1891. It was practically the 816 first thing he did in this House. He was the Chief Teller and he had the joy of seeing a majority of six in favour of it. As he was practically, therefore, the father of this Bill, I am hopeful that he has not outraged his paternal feelings by instructing the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench to come down here and destroy his first political offspring.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Sir W. SEAGER
I am glad to have had an opportunity of saying a few words in support of this measure for Wales. We have listened this morning with great interest to the speeches delivered. But the outstanding speech was that of the hon. Member for the Central Division of Cardiff (Mr. Gould). I speak for the Eastern Division, which was referred to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who last addressed the House as on the borders of Monmouthshire, and I have seen repeatedly the scenes which he described in the old days before the War. This measure, in my opinion, is not only democratic in its conception, but it will be highly beneficent in its operation. Much has been said about compensation, but I think hon. Friends who think with me in this respect are quite willing, and indeed admit that, in justice, in Committee, something should be done to put that matter right. There is no desire for spoliation or in any way to inflict injustice on members of society who, in the main, have been honourable and have sought to carry on their trade in a proper manner. My object in intervening is to say a word in regard to clubs. Most of us are members of clubs. I think it will be agreed that if clubs are carried on in a legitimate and proper manner they are a very necessary and a very estimable form of social enjoyment and social environment. I feel sure that this Bill will not do anything to destroy that social element which we experience in our club life. It is a rendezvous for all classes, and they will meet in the future under similar conditions to those under which they meet to-day. I do appeal to hon. Members to support this Bill. One hon. Member opposite referred to a very homely scene in connection with the Sunday dinner beer. Many of us, however, know the sad results of children being sent for dinner beer on Sunday, and having a drink out of the jug 817 or mug and so forming habits which have led eventually to their downfall and ruin. We want to protect the young of our country. The youth of our country is the finest asset we have. I believe education will be greatly improved in the future. Already it has done a great deal for temperance, and I hope as time goes on we shall see the whole youth of the country growing up in habits of temperance and sobriety. I was very delighted to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I join with my hon. Friend from one of the outer constituencies in the remarks he made. But there was another side to those remarks which appealed to me, and that was we find the right hon. Gentleman in agreement with one of our greatest statesmen, and we hope that agreement on this measure may lead to agreement on other measures, and so bring about the rapproachement which we so much desire, so that they may work together for the common good of our country, and especially of Wales. This is another argument in favour of the Coalition, so that we may obtain those things which are for the best. Something was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff about coal workers and trimmers. I have lived in Cardiff for 58 years, I am a life-long abstainer, and I do not think I look very anæmic. I remember when I was quite a youth the huge jars of beer which were carried down to the docks by relays of men to refresh the coal trimmers. That is a thing of the past. There are other hon. Members of this House who no doubt remember it. There is no beer carried into the docks to-day, and yet there is no finer class of men than our coal trimmers.
§ Sir W. SEAGER
If they do trim less coal it is because there is less coal to trim. There is nothing like the quantity of coal we should like to have there. But conditions have altered because the shipowners interested in the export trade have constructed their ships in such a way.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwell)
The hon. Gentleman had better not allow the interruptions to lead him astray.
§ Sir W. SEAGER
The fact is there is now no need for the enormous manual labour that was necessitated in the old days. I have no desire to say more than that as a individual, and as Member for the Eastern Division of Cardiff, speaking for the bulk of my constituents, we very much desire that this measure should be carried through. We all know the difficulties. One of the hon. Members opposite said that people in an area which has voted against having public houses in their midst can move out into other areas if they choose. May we not also use that argument and say that those who desire to be in an area where local option is in force will go into such an area and make it even cleaner, better and purer than it was before. I do hope that this measure will secure a Second Reading. The question of compensation, and any other little matter that may have been overlooked in the drafting of the Bill can be put right in Committee, and I trust the House will decide to remit the measure to a Committee upstairs.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I rise naturally to support this Bill, as I believe in demo cratic government. There never has been a more democratic measure put before this House. It is very extraordinary that already in this Session there have been two Bills for local option. This is the second Bill. So it shows that the feeling for local option is growing. One hon. Member asked why not have it for England. I assure him that the feeling is growing in England, and it is growing larger every day. It is very important to carry public opinion with you on drink. That is why I believe in local option. No one can say, if there be a majority, that the will of the people in that area has not been tested. Some hon. Members have said that you should not be ruled by the minority. I maintain that in drink we are governed by a minority. At present we have a minority dictation as far as drink is concerned. The drink trade are in a minority in the country. They are a very highly-organised and skilful minority. They are so highly organised that they manage to intimidate a great many candidates who stand for Parliament. We who have 819 stood for Parliament, and have even go; in, know the power, or at least the threat, of the trade. I favour a referendum where the majority can clearly show what they want and what they desire. After all, this drink question should be dealt with separately. It is a large issue. It is an important issue. When it comes to elections, people have to vote on drink, on the question of a big or small Navy, and on Tariff Reform, all mixed up together, and I maintain that the Government cannot very well bring in a great big drink reform until they know how the people in the country feel about it. I am not blaming the trade minority. We cannot afford to go on and have that minority educating the people as it is doing. All you have to do is to look at the posters. It is doing its best, and I do not blame it a bit. It is going to keep on doing it, quite rightly, until we can get the drink question put clearly and simply to the country, and I believe that local option will do it.
We all know that there is a difference of opinion on drink. I suggest that every area should have the chance of making experiments. Some people say that State purchase in Carlisle has been a failure, others that it has been a success. I should like, not only a vote for no licence, but also a vote between public and private ownership. I think that is important The War has taught us some lessons. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) is not in favour of the public ownership of the trade. A great many people say that if the country still wants drink, it has a perfect right to have drink, but we do feel that it ought to say whether it wants it in the hands of a private trade, or in the hands of the public. I believe that it would be far better for the country if it were in the hands of the Government. Get it out of vested interests. As long as you are in a job, you have to push your goods, and that is what the trade has to do. They have to push their goods. The interests of the trade are absolutely opposed to the interests of the State. Otherwise, we should not have any Licensing Laws. It is because the State is bound to try to control the trade that we have Licensing Laws. That is quite simple. Surely hon. Members follow me there. If the backers of this Bill are willing to trust the people on prohibition, 820 they ought to trust them on the question of State purchase as well. I should like that put into the Bill in Committee.
There is another point on which the Bill might be amended. Hon. Members ought to provide more fully for compensation. I want to be as fair as possible to the trade. I want to be fair to everybody. I do not believe in any laws which are not based on justice and fairness. There are many people in this trade whom we have allowed to go into it, and who, as some hon. Members have said, have put everything that they possess into it. Those people should be fairly compensated. It is neither fair, right, moral, nor expedient, to take away people's property without compensating them. I maintain that this Bill admits the principle of compensation; otherwise, hon. Members would not wait six years. The very fact that they are waiting six years shows that they admit the principle of compensation. During these six years the trade are supposed to pay into a sort of private compensation fund. I would like to see that made a public insurance fund controlled by the Government. Take a village, and suppose that in that area you want to get rid of a certain public-house. People will say: "If we get rid of it, there is Sarah Gubbins, and she will be done out of a living. We cannot get rid of it." That is ft proper feeling. If this fund were in the hands of the Government, the people would know that when they voted Sarah Gubbins out of a living, she would be fully compensated. It is very important that it should be taken out of private hands and put into the hands of the Government. Some of us are very keen on temperance. The hon. and learned Member for Barnstaple (Captain Tudor Bees) has just said that it is very difficult to speak on the drink question without being considered either a drunkard or a fanatic. Like the hon. Member, I am neither a drunkard nor wholly sober. I would like to tell you why. Sometimes I am intoxicated with the things for which I am fighting. It is a far better form of intoxication than the ones in which some hon. Members indulge. I imagine that the joys of drink are very fleeting, but the joys of a great desire to put things right are undying. Some people think that if you want to control drink you want to take the very joy out of life. It is all nonsense. We 821 want to put real joy, not only into their lives, but into the lives of thousands of people. We must make this a cheerful subject. We have made it too dreary. Look how cheerful I am!
We are all looking to the Prime Minister. We have heard and know exactly how he stands on temperance. We know he stands for local option. I cannot believe for one moment that the Prime Minister is going back on his opinions. I know that there are certain sections of the party who feel that he has got to be careful. I do not think that the Prime Minister carries much weight when he is careful. He is far better when he is fighting for a great big thing than when he is careful, and I hope that he will take a clear, resolute, and determined stand on this question of local option. It is not only the Prime Minister. I am very anxious to see what the Government are going to do about this Bill. The Government has some very distinguished Liberal Members in it. I am perfectly certain that all those Liberal Members are for local option in their hearts, and I have no doubt that they had to put it before their constituents when they got in. What are those Liberal colleagues going to do? Are they going to stand up for the things that they think and know are right, or are they going to be diddled by the trade? We are all watching them. It is a real opportunity for them to show their independence and that they are ready to fight for a cause. If those Liberal Ministers are as interested in temperance and in local option as they are in fusion, then I will believe in fusion. I can truthfully say that I could not advise the women of the country to support a drink policy which was framed by the brewers or to please the brewers, for the simple fact that we have shown quite clearly that the interest of the trade is against the interests of the State. Is the fate of the Welsh Local Option Bill going to be settled by the Welsh or by the English trade? Surely we, who believe in democratic government, should let the Welshmen have what they like. I do not say they are more advanced, I do not say they are more educated, I do not say they are more splendid than the English, but I do say that in some things they are very advanced, certainly in education, otherwise they would not be pressing for Local Option If the people of this country 822 do not want public houses, they will not have them; if they do want them, they will have them. I am all for their having a real and fair say in what they want, and getting it out of party politics. The sooner this drink question can be got out of party politics, the better it will be for all parties. It is not a party question. There are temperance reformers in all parties, and by that I mean people who want to be just to the trade, who want to be fair and do not want to force their will on other people, but only to give the people a chance. This drink question is too big for any one Government. It is a huge moral issue, and, whether hon. Members like it or not, they have to face it and make up their minds. Party politics would be all the better if we could get the drink question out of them. Every hon. Member in this House knows that, and most of us would rejoice. Then we could talk about the drink question as we thought, and not as the party politicians would like us to think.
During the War we were always talking about ourselves as a Christian nation, and we were quite right, because we have got Christian ideals. I do not say that we always live up to them, but I would like to impress upon hon. Members that all those in authority who represent the Church, or the Chapels, or the Roman Catholic Church, are in favour of Local Option. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] I think I am perfectly right in saying that all the bodies in authority in the Church, the Chapels and the Roman Catholic Church—I mean the bodies which speak for the whole—are in favour of Local Option. There may be individuals in the Church, or in the Chapels, or in the Roman Catholic Church, who are not, but I am talking about people who would be appealed to by anyone seeking our views as a Christian nation with regard to Local Option. They would all say they were in favour of Local Option.
§ Mr. HAILWOOD
May I ask the hon. Member what is her authority for saying that the Roman Catholic Church has in, any way laid it down that it was in favour of Local Option?
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I certainly thought that, before the Election, the Roman Catholic Church was for the "Nine Points." Whether they are in favour of it now, I do not know; all I can say is that they ought to be. Surely we ought to take 823 the Church authorities when it comes to a great moral question like that. It is better than taking the authority of the trade. I would ask hon. Members here, of all sections, when we come to deal with a question like this, to put aside all prejudice, private interest and partial affection.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
There are many important matters with respect to which opinion in Wales assumes a sharper, more definite, and more emphatic form than opinion on analogous questions in this country, and there is no domain in which this proposition is more true than the field of temperance reform. I think there can be no question that the feeling upon this subject is more emphatic and more general in Wales than in this country. I do not, of course, wish in any way to minimise the sincerity and the depth of the temperance movement in England. Indeed, hardly a day passes on which I do not receive some palpable and ocular demonstration of it, in the shape of a manifesto or communication from some temperance body, to give witness to the strength of the feeling upon this subject in England. In Wales, however, that feeling is, as I have said, even stronger than it is here. I do not propose to speculate upon the reasons which may account for it, whether it be due to the Calvinistic theology, or to the active ministrations of a democratic and popular Church, or to the imaginative temperament of the Celt, or to the elevating influence of mountain scenery, but, whatever the causes are, it is a fact; and this strong Welsh feeling is reflected in the Bill that is now presented to the House. The feeling in Wales is so strong that it appears to infect Englishmen who take up their residence in Wales, because I think the mover and seconder of this Bill are neither of them born Welshmen.
§ Mr. FISHER
I beg the hon. Gentle-mans pardon. Not only is there a strong feeling for temperance in Wales, but I notice that, although many different expedients have been suggested for the solution of the drink problem, the expedient which appears to have found most favour in Wales, over a period of more than thirty years, has been this expedient of local option. I have recently been reminded of the fact that, as far back as 824 1888, a canvass was made in certain counties in Wales, with the result that an immense preponderance of opinion was shown in favour of the introduction of local option. The question, therefore, so far as Wales is concerned, is a very old one, and this Bill embodies and illustrates a mode of dealing with the temperance question which has, I believe, a great body of support behind it in the Principality of Wales.
There is to be an interval of six years before the Bill comes into operation. A good deal may happen in six years. Some persons may lapse into intemperate habits, even in Wales, in that time. It is very obvious that we cannot introduce a system of local option without according to the trade an adequate period in which to turn round. That would be right even if the system of local option were accompanied, and it is not in this case, by compensation. I do not, therefore, complain of the delay, but I complain of the Bill attempting to deal with the drink traffic in Wales which does not provide for any carefully thought out amendment of licensing law for a period of six years. During the War an institution was created which is commonly known as the Liquor Control Board, under whose operation a number of very material and important improvements have been carried out in the administration of our liquor laws. There has been in particular a limitation in the hours of sale in public-houses, and it is common ground, not only among temperance reformers but among brewers and licensees, that on no account ought we to go back to the old pre-War hours. But this Bill proposes nothing upon the all-important subject of hours, and the explanation was accorded to us by the hon. Member who let out that the Bill was prepared before the War and consequently takes no account of the accumulated experience of the operations of the Liquor Control Board. This in itself constitutes an important deduction from the value of the Bill considered from the angle of temperance reform. It is, of course, true that under the operation of the Bill certain reforms will take place during the period of six years. Sunday closing is one—it will be made necessary for the bonâ fide traveller to walk six miles instead of three—and a Clause is introduced which strengthens, and, I think, improves the law with respect to 825 the registration of clubs. These reforms, and they are of no very great importance, constitute the sum total of the changes to be introduced into the licensing law which it is intended to introduce into Wales during the next six years.
The Bill introduces into Wales substantially, but in a somewhat aggravated form, the local option Clauses of the Scottish Bill. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) gave the weight of his great authority to the principle of Local Option and reminded us that the proposals which were introduced by his Government in 1908, but which foundered in another place, included the principle of Local Option. That is true but he failed to remind the House that there are very material differences between the proposals of 1908 and the proposals embodied in this Bill. In 1908 there was compensation, and the operation of Local Option was controlled by a central authority. It is quite natural that; Welsh Members anxious to promote the cause of temperance and conscious of the evils of intemperance should desire not to fall behind Scotland in the race for Temperance Reform, and therefore I am not at all surprised that in a measure introduced by Welsh Members for the purpose of promoting the cause of temperance this principle of Local Option, which some years ago was accepted and is shortly to come into operation in Scotland, should have been included.
There is, however, a difference between the position of Wales and the position of Scotland, and it is this: The Licensing Act of 1904, which establishes property in a licence, does not apply to Scotland, but it does apply to Wales. It is perfectly true, as one hon. Member for Wales said, that the Welsh Members in 1904 vehemently resisted the extension of that measure to Wales. They did not like it. They thought that it introduced a wrong principle. They were anxious to preserve for the public authority the right to terminate a licence without compensation whenever it might seem expedient to do so. But after all facts are facts, and we must accept them. This Act of 1904 was applied to Wales, and on the strength of that Act licences have been bought and sold, properties have changed hands, and a fabric of legitimate expectations has been built up. Therefore, to come down to the House now and 826 to propose, as this Bill does, that licences should be extinguished without any compensation at all after an interval of six years would be to inflict a manifest injustice.
In the course of our discussion, it has been admitted that the Bill, if it is to proceed further, would require a good deal of amendment. In particular it would require amendment in respect of the areas proposed. If ever local option is to become an accepted part of the law of the land, there is good reason for taking one area for optional prohibition and a different area for optional reduction; but I am not proposing to discuss the question of whether local option is right or not. That is not a question which I wish to discuss. I merely wish to point out that to propose to abolish licences in Wales, without compensation, is a proposal to which the Government would take strong objection. As the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) pointed out, this is a question on which, if the principle of devolution is accepted, Wales herself will be invited to decide. In view of that fact, in view of the special position of Wales and a strong feeling of Welsh Members, the Government is prepared to allow the House to vote freely upon the merits on Second Reading. At the same time, I would remind the House that the Government is about to bring in a Bill dealing with the liquor traffic. In view of that fact, and in view also of the great claims upon the time of the House this Session, I must not be understood to give any pledge whatever that the Government will be able to find further facilities for the discussion of this Bill.
I hope that in the observations which it has been my duty to make, I have not shown myself wanting in sympathy for the very genuine temperance aspirations of Wales. [Laughter.] I would ask hon. Members who question my sincerity on this subject, or the sincerity of the Government, to wait until the Government Bill is proposed.
§ Mr. FISHER
Those who are responsible for this Measure and who believe that this Measure is framed in the best interests of social progress in Wales, will have an opportunity by their votes this 827 afternoon of showing the strength of feeling which lies behind it.
§ Mr. FISHER
I will conclude by saying that the Bill seems to us to be defective both by reason of the fact that it makes no use of the experience which has been acquired during the War, and because it makes no adequate provision for temperance reform during the six important years which lie ahead of us. Also by reason of the fact that at the expiration of that period it gives to the community in Wales the right of taking away licences without compensation, in spite of the fact that a great fabric of legitimate commercial expectations has been built up upon the basis of the Act of 1904.
§ Major BREESE
We have just listened to a speech from the right hon. Gentleman which, I am sure, and I speak in all sincerity, will cause the greatest concern to the people of Wales. It may indeed disturb the whole edifice of cooperation built up under the stress of the tragic period during which the nation has passed, and prove disappointing to those with whom they have loyally co-operated during the past 15 months. Personally, I feel sorry that the Government has seen fit to take up an attitude of hostility to this Measure. There is much of what my right hon. Friend said with which I agree, but when he proceeded to point out that there were no provisions in this Bill for dealing with the intermediate period of six years he certainly did the supporters of this Bill a grave injustice. There can be no possible reason why during this intermediate period, regulations of the Liquor Control Board should not operate. I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. I further join issue with him on another point which he made as to the jurisdiction of licensing justices during this period. Listening to the right hon. Gentleman, it appeared to me as if he thought that the people of Wales during this period will not only stand still, but will go back in this matter. Nothing is further from the thoughts of the promoters, or from the provisions of this Bill.
Presuming that the Act of 1904 did not apply to Wales as it did to England, we should be in a position analogous to that 828 of Scotland, but through circumstances over which we had no control, this House, which is largely composed of aliens to us in speech and habits, inflicted what we considered to be a grievous hardship on us in reference to our licensing system, and to that extent has thrown us back upon our resources, with the result that this Bill is now before the House. Surely it does not lie with the representative of the Government, to twit us on this score, that we are ungenerous in the matter of compensation of vested interests. I can only say that the heart of the people of Wales is fixed upon this measure. They wish to inflict no injustice. They are perfectly willing that in Committee the matter of compensation should be fought out and agreed to, and in the matter of area they are willing to have amendment if necessary. I am certain that my hon. Friend would be, for instance, prepared to agree to the petty sessional area, or a group of petty sessional areas. These are matters which could be quite easily dealt with in Committee, and would be dealt with in a spirit of accommodation. But from the whole tenor of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, holding the high office he does, and presiding over the Department over which he does preside, there appears to me to be very little hope of establishing that education in the most important matter which can possibly be conceived. I despair of it. It may be that we shall attain our purpose when, with the approval of this House, we shall have our own separate legislature. I am sure that I am only voicing the views of my friends when I say that we shall look to that for that measure of justice and relief which we cannot obtain in this House.
§ Major COPE
I rise to oppose this Bill on general grounds. The hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Captain T. Roes) made a statement to the effect that all Welsh Members who are Welshmen, were in favour of this Bill. I claim to be a Welshman, perhaps not in name, but at all events in ancestry, birth and sympathy. I oppose this Bill on the broad ground that it embodies restrictive legislation, and I am convinced that although this problem of drink is a very grave and serious problem, it is a problem which this Bill is not going in the right way to solve. The solution lies far deeper than merely dealing with what I may call the superficial position. If 829 you are going to have any real lasting improvement or solution of the drink problem, you must go to the real root of the matter. That lies, not in restrictive legislation, but in education in the broadest sense, physical, moral, and religious, and in recreation, and I lay great stress on recreation, for I believe that there should be provided in every district, playing grounds for all classes of the people, so that they may all, according to their ability, be able to take proper physical exercise. I do not mean just one playing ground in a district, but playing fields on the lines of the playing fields of the great schools of England.
Another step which will go far towards solving this problem is an improvement in the general conditions of living. Environment, I am certain, has a great deal to do with causing drinking. We are all striving to obtain better housing conditions, better and happier surroundings and happier homes. I believe that if the problem is tackled on those grounds it will do far more good than restrictive legislation. Restrictive legislation, especially when you deal with a somewhat excitable people like the Celts, will breed discontent and breed Bolshevism. I am speaking with some little authority on this, because I know what very bad results the present control of clubs on Sundays in the Rhondda Valley have had on the people. In the old days men used to go to their clubs on Sundays to get their glass of beer, and they returned home perfectly happy and contented. They now go to their clubs and they do not return home, but on their way, thoroughly disgruntled, they come across some agitator, and the seeds sown by the agitator fall on very fruitful ground. I say with every confidence that the control of clubs in the working districts has done more to create Bolshevism than anything else could have done. Surely the public-house exists for those who want to use it! Why on earth should those who do not want to use a public-house seek to interfere with those who do? If the place is a nuisance the law of the land should be sufficiently strong to deal with it. If the law is not sufficiently strong, it should be tightened up.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
I have not risen for the 830 purpose of taking part in this Debate, but simply for the sake of making a statement to the House. It was the intention of the Prime Minister to be present to-day and to take part in the Debate and in the Division had a Division taken place; but this afternoon, after fulfilling another engagement, he was obliged to meet a deputation from the Miners' Federation. The House, I know, will readily understand the importance of that meeting and how in the circumstances it was impossible for the Prime Minister to fulfil his intention of attending the House. He authorised me to say that, had circumstances permitted him to be present, he would have spoken and voted in favour of the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BILLING
We have just listened to a very remarkable example of what we may be led to expect if this sort of legislation is allowed to pass without criticism. The Prime Minister is meeting the miners in an endeavour to protect this country from the nationalisation of mines. That is the whole issue, and that is why he is meeting them—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and yet Conservative Members in this House are attacking the Government for refusing to nationalise drink. I regard coal as an essential and drink as a non-essential, but the whole question is that this is the thin edge of the wedge as to whether the Government shall give way and nationalise drink. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), who spoke in support of this Bill, presumably with full authority and with the support of the Movers and Seconders of it, told us that what they wished to do was to nationalise drink, and, speaking as the mother of the House, she told us exactly what she proposed to do with us all, even if we did not agree. If I may give a little advice, speaking as a relatively young man to the Mother of the House of Commons, it would be to say that men are sometimes, are always, following the wishes of their womenkind, but never when they are previously expressed. May I put it in this way? It is easy enough for us here, who have every facility that we may wish to enjoy—there is a bar hero, another lower down, there are drinks and every opportunity of partaking of them—to get up and legislate about what other people should do. It is easy, 831 when there is no danger of your own desires being checked, to say what you think other people should do. The hon. Member for Plymouth told us also of the extraordinary sensations occasioned by heavy drinking. I really do not know whether she is justified in telling us that I do not know on what experience she has based those remarks. The most intemperate people in this world are the temperance reformers. I regard temperance, if I may say so, as exemplified by the man who drinks, but not too much. That is the happy medium, and that is being temperate. To denounce everyone who takes any liquor which may be alcoholic as someone who should be put under legislative restriction is a very intemperate way of looking at the question.
I ask the House to remember that this is the thin edge of the wedge. It is put down as a Bill for Wales. It is wasting the time of the House, when there is so much urgent legislation required, to debate for five hours a measure which, if carried, will not become an operative Act for six years. Surely there are other measures of more importance than this! The temperance reformers are in all cases in a minority, but active minorities are dangerous things. It is extraordinary where they get the money from to go on with their agitation. I hold no brief for the trade, for I think a great deal of the stuff they sell is abominable. If legislation is to be introduced, what I would like to see is that it shall be made illegal to sell any alcoholic beverage that is likely to injure. There is, for instance, the arsenic in beer, which is put in to give a flavour. Let us have that form of legislation by all means and let us see that the drink which is sold is fit for human consumption. I think we are trespassing within the realm of the liberty of the subject if we start to interfere with the drink traffic. They have had enough of it in America. We have it advocated here by an American viscountess for the British working man.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
We have had the opinion of the British working man on this subject, and I think it is far better that we should take the opinion of those who work in mines than either that of an American Viscountess or that of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. BILLING
I have listened with interest to that interruption, and if I may presume to contradict, I say that in my opinion we have not had the opinion of the working man on this Bill. We have had a campaign in this country, an alien campaign, to endeavour to make us go the way of America. America is a very young State. They are passing now through social conditions through which we passed many centuries ago. They are, and I use the word without any offence, somewhat of a bastard race, and they suffer the effects, legislative in particular, of that cosmopolitan mentality, and, let me say with all respect, they go off occasionally at a tangent. I am quite sure America would be quite safe if a Bill of this kind was to take place in six years' time, because in six years' time America will not be dry. I never wish to see this country dry, unless it is the will of the majority. Take the opinion of every elector, if you like, by referendum of the whole of England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. If we lose in that I shall be tempted to resign my seat and leave a country which is so much in favour of restricting the liberty of the subject. I do appeal to hon. Members that this is not really a joke. We have had much of this restrictive legislation during the War, and I think it is about time the House took the matter seriously. No hon. Member can say that if this country were put to the issue now of making this country dry that it would be carried. If the hon. Member for Plymouth believes in it let her resign her seat and fight an election on it. There was very little about prohibition in the Plymouth election. Let any hon. Member go and fight his seat on that issue and he will not be returned to this House.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I think I can claim a right to take part in this discussion as I first saw the light of day in Wales and spent 63½ years of my life there. I have lived among the people, I know the people and their aspirations and desires. I am not going to be silly enough to say that the Welsh people have all the virtues and no vices. I am supporting this Bill on principle, and I regret it is not to be applied to England as well as Wales. I would not mind taking a test, and in reply to the hon. Member (Mr. Billing) I wish we could have a local veto in this House as to whether the drink traffic custom should continue here. A lot of 833 speeches have been made as if all the people supporting the Bill were total abstainers. I am not ashamed to confess I am and have been a teetotaler for forty years, and I think I am a better sample brought up on the water bottle than the hon. Member who spoke of the bottle of rum. However, I am not supporting this Bill because I am a total abstainer or because I have spent nearly the whole of my life in Wales, but because it is a just and reasonable measure of reform. I believe that with all my heart and soul, and there is no reason, because I believe it, why you should not believe it also. Anyhow, we will try to convert you into the straight path. I am not supporting this Measure because it has been described as a temperance reform. I do not know where the temperance reform comes in, because it gives the option to the man who wants to drink as well as to the man who does not want, and could there be anything fairer than that? Have not I a right to say that you shall not plant a public-house up against my door as much as you have the right to say you will plant it there?
Before I left Wales, which is very recently, I lived in a district for 25 years, and there was not a solitary public-house in the whole of that area. There was some form of indirect local option there, because the land was leased with certain conditions, that the three landowners had to agree before they would let the land to any person who would build licensed premises on it; they had to test the feeling of the people, and only one person in 25 years attempted to get possession of property and to turn it into licensed premises. Out of 10,000 people who lived on that estate, I believe I would be exaggerating if I said that 10 per cent. of them were total abstainers or pledged temperance reformers—they were just a mixed lot, like we are in. this House. Some would have their booze, and some would not, but it was decided, before the ground landlords would agree to this con version of property into licensed premises, that they should take a vote of the house holders, and it was done. There was no pressure, no agitation, no excitement, no canvassing, but merely a house-to-house visitation—"Are you in favour of licensed premises being erected on this estate?" The result was that an overwhelming majority said "No," and that licensed house has 834 never yet been brought into existence. Who was going to complain about that, who was going to call that temperance-reform? It was the wish and the will of the people who lived there and had a right to decide for themselves. I fail to see what serious objection there is to that. We have heard the same old tale told today, that we have heard hundreds and hundreds of times before—"Do not rob the working man of his beer." What you mean to say is, "Do not deprive me of the right to my own drink." Leave the working man alone to look after himself, and to decide for himself whether he will have licensed premises and the facilities for taking beer at his door. Do not use him as a stop-gap to defend yourselves. I appeal to the country at large not to use the old phrase about depriving the working man of his beer. The working man will look after himself. This Bill gives the opportunity to working men as; well as other men to decide whether they will have the public-house against their door or not.
§ Mr. BILLING
Seeing that the hon. Member's Leader is here, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman will say that at the next election all the Labour men will fight on a prohibition ticket?
§ Mr. WIGNALL
The hon. Gentleman who has put that question to me knows perfectly well that we are not talking, about prohibition. In the Labour party, like every other party, we are a mixed lot; I guarantee we can pick a few equal to the best you have got in your party, and that is saying a lot and meaning a lot. If this were a Bill for prohibition I would not vote for it, simply because I know the country is not ripe for it or ready for it. Therefore, if it were a Bill for prohibition I would raise my voice and cast my vote against it, and if it were a Bill for State purchase I would vote against it, because it would be too costly a business, and a man or women could get drunk in a State-owned public house as well as in a privately-owned public house. This, however, is an honest and fair opportunity for men and women to decide whether they shall have the drink traffic at their door or not. A good deal has been said' by the right hon. Gentleman representing the Government about the want of provision for compensation in the Bill. I have had some experience as a licensing magistrate on that issue of compensation. I agree that compensation must be paid, 835 and it has got to be paid, and provision must be made for compensation. But I want to say the whole present system of paying the compensation ought to be re-modelled. Who gets the bulk of the compensation to-day? The brewer and the property owner. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Oh, oh! I say "Yes, yes," How-many understand the far-reaching effect of Mr. Justice Kennedy's decision on this compensation issue? How much do the brewers benefit under that? I have heard them say, "The less pubs the more beer we sell." I have many a time sat there and awarded compensation, or rather agreed to the agreement that has been arrived at between the valuers, and out of £5,000 or £6,000 the brewer has got his £2,000 or £3,000, and the property owner has got his, while the poor tenant, who has put his all into it, and is the only person who loses his job as the result of it, is shoved off with a paltry £100 or £200. That is where the wrong of the position comes in.
I say that the one who ought to be compensated most and best, the one who has the better right to the biggest share of the total sum of compensation is the man who loses his job, who is displaced from his position, and whose livelihood is taken away. Yet he is the man who gets the least! The property-owner has got his property. He can convert it into another shop. The brewer can transfer his business to other public-houses, or another district. He gets compensation all the time. But the man who is the tenant, the man in possession, the man who has to depend upon the house for his livelihood, and who suffers; he gets less than all the rest. He is the man that ought to have it most. So I say I am in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman that compensation must be provided. But I would like to say further that the whole principle of administering compensation should be reconstructed and remodelled so that the real sufferer shall have the best share of it. I agree with the principle embodied in this Bill because it gives the right to the workman and other people in the district to say whether or not they will have a publichouse planted against their doors.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has spoken with great conviction and great sincerity 836 To his words the House is always delighted to listen. But he will forgive me if I say that a great deal of his speech reinforced the argument of the right hon. Gentleman who answered for the Government, that we would spend our time more profitably if we addressed ourselves to this subject when the Government introduce their Bill to deal with, the whole question for the entire country. I would ask hon. Members not to allow their attention to be distracted from the consideration of the Bill, either by the challenge which the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to me to throw out, as to State competition in this matter of alcoholic consumption, or that which fell from the hon. Member for Hertford, who gave the House to understand that if the Bill were passed he would, or might, find it necessary to resign his seat. I would earnestly plead with my hon. Friends not to allow that utterance of my hon. Friend, one way or another, to weigh with them. I for my part feel considerable sympathy with the speech of one of the Welsh Members who spoke more, I think, in sorrow than in anger, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher). I think if I had been a Welsh Member, I should have shared the same disappointment that that hon. Member expressed. The right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped the House would acquit him of either lack of sympathy or of inconsistency.
I confess that if we are inclined to charge the right hon. Gentleman with inconsistency it would be with having made such an admirable speech against the Bill and afterwards saying that he was going to leave the House free to decide, whereas I should have expected the Government Whips to be put on against the Bill. I hope, however, that that will make no difference to the Bill being defeated. I shall vote against this Bill. I respect most absolutely the convictions and the sincerity of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) and those who have worked with her with a single aim for the cause of temperance. I wish, however, to enter an earnest protest against those of us who may be unable to support a particular Bill of this kind being denied the right to share in the title of temperance reformers. The reason why I am bound to join hands with those who vote against this Bill 837 is that a good deal of the discussion has, of course, turned upon this proposal being a democratic principle, and it is said that it is impossible to resist this measure because, if it is nothing else, it is democratic in that the majority is going to decide. As I read the Bill there is no guarantee at all that it will be decided by a majority, and it may very well be decided by a minority. I go further and say that minorities, or even a majority, have no right to deny the enjoyment of privileges and rights which can be enjoyed without inflicting injustice upon other people.
The hon. Member for Plymouth says that if the country wants drink, the country has a right to have it, and I say that if I want drink I have a right to have it, and I do not wish to do anything that would deny that right to myself or to anybody else. I believe there is great truth in what the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) said, that this kind of proposal savours of the worst form of class legislation. It is all very well to say that this does not mean prohibition On paper that may be perfectly true, but it is no less true that, if you take away all licences, the Member for Plymouth will still be able to enjoy her cellar. Therefore I am not able to accept the verdict arrived at by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Wignall), who suggested that the phrase "Robbing the working-man of his beer" was mere camouflage. My drink would be safe under this Bill because I do not rely upon my part, because I want to provide the public-houses, and it is really altruism on same opportunities for other people.
My noble Friend, the Member for Plymouth, said the Churches were unanimous on this question. Her statement was challenged, and I was on the point of interjecting that I had received a joint deputation from Roman Catholics, the Church of England, and Non-Conformists inviting me to vote for Local Option, and that I had refused. I am afraid I must do so, although many of my friends in the Church will be very much hurt. But I cannot honestly support it, largely because of the action of what I may call institutional religion in allying itself to the powers of "kill joy"—powers that are against all harmless pleasures, even though they may claim to have the highest scriptural sanction. In essence these (pleasures are looked upon as bad, and 838 therefore are condemned by institutional religion as such. It is that kind of spirit which makes the ordinary man think that religion and human nature are two things inconsistent and opposite, whereas the truth is that one should help the other and both are mutually dependent. I agree wholly with those who claim that in these matters people who are moving along the lines I have indicated are on a wrong track. Punish drunkenness as severely as you will. Improve your public-houses. Punish anyone seen giving children drink on Sundays or any other day. By all means punish that sort of thing. Reduce the number of your licences. Make perfect your system of control, and see that your machine has all the advantages which can be got from experience. See too that your machine works. But when you have done all that do not suppose you will have begun to solve your problem. If you introduce an artificial system of prohibition, which in effect this will mean, you will find you will not have secured the reform of the individual on which ultimately everything depends. There are the reasons, or some of them, that will actuate me and I hope actuate the majority of this House, in voting against this Bill. I am not moved by any idea that this is merely going—