§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, after the length at which he had explained the provisions of the Bill on the first reading, he would merely say that in consequence of certain enactments respecting beerhouses being of a temporary character, provisions would have to be introduced to meet the case of those expiring enactments.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Kimberley.)
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, as I have had an opportunity of looking through the provisions of this Bill since it was printed and distributed, I wish to offer a few remarks on the subject. As the Bill was not before us when the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) made his statement, it was impossible to follow him through all the details, notwithstanding the great ability and clearness of his speech; and I am not, I think, guilty of exaggeration when I say that the subject of which this Bill treats is one of the last importance, affecting, as it does, almost every class of the community. This Bill deals with the interests of the numerous and wealthy traders who have embarked their capital in the liquor trade, and I need scarcely say that it also affects the interests of a very large portion of the poorer members of society. And here, my Lords, I would express a hope that in legislating for the moral improvement of our poorer fellow-countrymen we shall at the same time show that we are desirous not to interfere with their comforts or with the wants of their every-day life. My Lords, I hope the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) will forgive me for remarking on the form in which this Bill was introduced in your Lordships' House. He took a course which I think 75 was somewhat inconvenient; for though I am aware it is a perfectly regular course, and has been adopted on many occasions, I do not think it was a satisfactory course in the case of a Bill of this importance—I mean the course of introducing the Bill in "dummy." Your Lordships will remember that the noble Earl came down one evening and stated that he intended to introduce on the following evening a Bill having reference to the licensing question. Under the circumstances, therefore, I do not think the course taken with respect to this Bill was a convenient one, seeing that the noble Earl made an elaborate statement, not only of its scope and bearing, but of its details, on the 16th of March, and that it was not printed till the 24th. The noble Lord, as I have remarked, introduced this Bill in "dummy" on the 16th of March, which, by a curious coincidence, happened to be the day preceding that on which a Bill on the same subject, introduced in the other House of Parliament by the hon. Member for Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), stood for second reading. One can almost imagine that at the meeting of the Cabinet held on the previous Saturday Ministers were reminded by some Member of the Cabinet that on Wednesday, the 17th, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson was going to move the second reading of a measure which might overtrump the Bill of the Government, and this may explain why it was that the Government resolved to introduce their Bill here on the 16th, in order that they might not appear to be behindhand in this important question. I am the more inclined to think that this would not be an incorrect surmise, because the Bill on the face of it bears all the marks of a hastily-prepared and ill-considered measure. Certainly one would be inclined to suppose that if it had received sufficient attention from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, it would have come before us in a very different shape. A promise of legislation on this subject having been announced in the Speech of our most gracious Sovereign from the Throne, the right hon. Gentleman having had so much experience of it during the last Session, and as it must have occupied no small share of his attention during the recess, it was not too much to expect a very much more perfect measure than that which has been submitted to your Lordships. In proof of 76 its being an ill-considered measure, I may refer to what has fallen from the noble Earl himself this evening. It treats as permanent Acts measures of 1869 and 1870, which were only temporary; so that, as it stands, the Bill does not deal with the beerhouse question at all. Clause 68 of this Bill purports to repeal several Acts "set forth in the second schedule," but when I turn to this schedule I find it to be a blank. This is pretty conclusive evidence that those who prepared the Bill failed to look to all the Acts of Parliament which should have been included in the schedule. One of my principal objections to this measure is that it appears to me to be one of merely a temporary character. On reading the Bill I almost doubt that the Secretary for the Home Department can have even seen it, because it seems to me that it is entirely contrary to the views which the right hon. Gentleman himself expressed as to the only basis on which satisfactory and permanent legislation on this subject could be attempted. In his speech last year the right hon. Gentleman said—He should expect them to concur in the proposition that, under the existing system of licensing, far more licenses had been issued than were required for the public convenience. He had no doubt of this concurrence in the face of the fact that there exists a publichouse or a beerhouse for every 182 of the population. The next proposition he would advance was, that the present mode of issuing licenses was unsatisfactory, no guidance being afforded to the magistrates either as to the number to be issued, or the respectability and responsibility of the persons seeking to be licensed."—[3 Hansard, ccv, 1063.]I can see nothing in this Bill to carry out the views so clearly expressed in that passage of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary for the Home Department went on to say—The Bill of the Government, which was framed on the principles he had stated, would repeal in whole or in part from 4.0 to 50 Acts of Parliament, and would consolidate and amend the laws regulating the ordinary retail sale of intoxicating liquors."—[Ibid. 1064.]In this Bill no attempt is made to consolidate—if anything, it adds an additional Act to those already in force, and therefore, instead of consolidating and simplifying, it rather adds to the confusion. It leaves the many existing Acts in force, and adds one more to them. The Home Secretary, alluding to the Bill of the hon. Member for Essex, said— 77The Bill of the hon. Member for Essex passed without a division. Yet that Act was regarded only as a makeshift until some complete measure could be introduced. The legislation affecting the trade was in such a state of confusion that it had become necessary to have a conclusive measure. Existing Acts contained conflicting provisions; there was a strange variety of licenses; while there was no definite principle on which licenses were to be granted."—[Ibid. 1067.]The hon. Member went on to refer to the hours of closing, the variations in the Excise duties, and so on. The noble Earl, in introducing the Bill, said it was not an ambitious measure. It did not propose to deal with the vast number of Bills and licenses to which he had alluded; but which last year was the opinion of the Home Secretary as to what was essential. Having thus expressed himself—Under these circumstances it was clear that consolidation and simplification of the law was necessary.I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I submit to your Lordships that this Bill does not affect what he held to be necessary. Now, although I entertain strong objections to this Bill, I will not incur the responsibility of opposing the second reading. I think that as the Government have laid it before your Lordships it is necessary that we should give it a second reading; but before I sit down I will endeavour not only to point out what are the objections to certain provisions in the Bill, but also to indicate certain provisions which, in my opinion, it ought to have contained. My Lords, I object to the manner in which vested interests are dealt with in this Bill. Under its provisions the owners of property were entirely in the hands of their tenants. This I regard as a serious blot. On conviction for certain offences against the Act not only does the person convicted forfeit his license, but the house is deprived of the license for five years. It might easily occur that the owner of a public-house might have a tenant who offended three times against the provisions of the Act without the owner having the slightest knowledge that the Act had been so violated; and yet his house would be deprived of a license for five years. I put it to your Lordships whether to shut a public-house up for five years is not in reality to shut it up for ever. Other houses would spring up in the neighbourhood and the owner of the closed house would be entirely 78 deprived of his property. I do not throughout the Bill find any provision for encouraging the establishment of a better class of houses to which licenses might be given, although that was a matter which was strongly recommended in the discussions of last year. Then, I strongly object to the way in which the Bill entirely ignores magisterial authority in the granting of original licenses. The manner in which those licenses are proposed to be granted is nothing more nor less than a scheme of centralization by which the Home Secretary will be enabled to override magisterial authority in respect of the granting of original licenses. There is another point, my Lords, and it is this—notwithstanding the Motion passed in "another place" by a large majority against the increase of local rates, the expenses of all the appointments under this Bill are to be defrayed by local rates—thereby adding to a burden already too heavy. The provision in the Bill of last year for the removal of licenses from crowded localities to places in which public-houses were more required, and which would be of great public advantage, is omitted from this Bill. I should have thought that the experience of the past would have induced the Government to adopt a system of minimum penalties. Under this Bill recourse is had to the Summary Jurisdiction Act, but the Small Penalties Act is not referred to, though it strikes me that you must of necessity avail yourself of its provisions if you proceed under the Summary Jurisdiction Act. All this tends to show that the Bill is what I have described it to be—an ill-considered and hastily-prepared scheme. I have referred to the mode in which magisterial authority is dealt with by this Bill. The proposal of the Government is that the magistrates in petty sessions shall grant licenses, but that they shall not be valid until they are approved by a committee of magistrates appointed for that purpose by the Quarter Sessions, and they are not to come into force until they have been approved by the Home Secretary. Practically, therefore, the licensing power is vested in the Home Secretary. Now, last year, when speaking of the measure then before Parliament, Mr. Bruce said—No appeal would be given from the decision of the justices in respect of the exercise of their 79 licensing jurisdiction, they, living on the spot, being supposed to be better judges of local and personal questions than the justices of Quarter Sessions could be."—[Ibid. 1077.]The justices living on the spot were then supposed to be better judges in the matter than the justices of Quarter Sessions; but now the authority is to be taken out of their hands because no licenses granted by the magistrates will be valid till they have received the fiat of the Secretary for the Home Department. The offences under this Bill are of two classes, and the first class are, I think, 13 in number, and each conviction for any one of these offences is to be recorded on the license. But, curiously enough, no record is required to be made on the license of the first conviction for two of the most serious offences among the whole of those enumerated in the Bill. Clause 8 deals with the case of a sale of spirits to children under 16 years of age, and Clause 20 with that of adulteration; but the first offence against either of those two clauses is not to be recorded on the license, though under Clause 6, if a glass of beer is drunk on or near premises in which it has been bought, and which are not licensed for the sale of liquor on the premises, the first conviction for this offence is to be recorded on the license. But surely it is quite as great an offence to adulterate the liquor as to give a glass of beer outside the premises. This may have been a mistake in the drawing of the Bill; but, while on this point, I should like to inquire whether three convictions by which a license is to be forfeited must be three convictions recorded on the license or may be three not recorded, or a mixture of both? I would now beg to call your Lordships' attention to the Preamble of the Bill, which is in these terms—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law for the regulation of public-houses and other places in which intoxicating liquors are sold, and to make further provision in respect of the grant of new licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquors.Now, when I come to Clause 13, I find "Penalty on persons found drunk." Surely that clause is not consistent with the Preamble, which refers only to the regulation of places in which intoxicating liquors are sold and to the granting of licenses. Penalties for drunkenness are a part of our police regulations, and have not properly anything to do with a Bill such as the Preamble recites this to be. 80 It is, no doubt, difficult to deal with the question of publicans harbouring improper characters; but as Clauses 15 and 16 are of the most stringent character they will both require grave consideration hereafter. Reverting again to Clause 20, I must say I think it is the most extraordinary one I have ever yet read. I imagine I see it in the hand of the noble Earl himself, and I am satisfied it must have emanated from his colonial experience. It states—Where a licensed person is convicted of any offence under this section he shall affix, at such part or parts of his premises as may be prescribed by a public-house Inspector under this Act, a placard stating his conviction, of such size and form and printed with such letters and containing such particulars as such Inspector may prescribe, and shall keep the same affixed during two weeks after the same is first affixed;"—so that the unfortunate publican is required to act the part of bill-sticker to his own establishment—and if he fails to comply with the provisions of this section with respect to affixing or keeping affixed such placard, or defaces or allows such placard to be defaced, or if the same is defaced and he fails forthwith to renew the same, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding 40s. for every day on which the same is not so affixed and undefaced, and such Inspector as aforesaid or any public constable may affix or re-affix such placard during the said two weeks, or such further time as may be directed by a court of summary jurisdiction.This punishment appeared to me alike novel and un-English; and I asked in vain where this clause was taken from. I was told that the only country in which any such degradation was inflicted upon anyone was New Zealand. I therefore attribute the clause to the colonial experience of the noble Earl who has charge of the Bill. The clause dealing with adulteration is very unsatisfactory. I am as willing as anybody to prevent the adulteration of liquors; but I think the dealers in the liquors to be analyzed should have better security that the liquor cannot be tampered with from the time it leaves their premises till it reaches the hands of the analyst:—it is important to remove from the mind of the publican any ground of suspicion that such a thing has been done. Clause 27 refers to the "local authorities;" but I have looked through the Bill in vain to find what the "local authority" is. Clause 28 prescribes that refreshment-houses should close at 10 p.m. I cannot see any good reason for this, because I think persons 81 are less likely to get drunk in such houses than in places where no food is sold. Clause 31 makes this provision—There shall be appointed in every police district a sufficient number of constables as public-house Inspectors, so that in every police district there shall be at least one public-house Inspector; and in police districts containing 100,000 inhabitants and upwards there shall be at least one Inspector for every 100,000 inhabitants, and for every fraction over 100,000 inhabitants or multiple of 100,000 inhabitants.I object very much to the appointment of public-house Inspectors for reasons which I shall state presently. It is an additional charge on the rates which is totally uncalled for. But the arrangement provided by this clause is an inadequate one. Take the western division of the county of Sussex for instance. It contains 100,000 inhabitants; it is 40 miles long, and between 30 and 40 wide. Would one Inspector be sufficient for such a division? Under the Petty Sessional divisions we have one constable for each of these divisions, which is much better than an arrangement under which there would be only one Inspector to travel over the whole of such a division as West Sussex. But my great objection to the clause is that it appoints a particular man to be a spy on the public-houses of a district. I object to the Inspectors on the ground that they would be spies—a character which will not dignify the administration of the law. Moreover, at the annual courts for granting licenses, it will be impossible for him to be at all the Petty Sessions for the purpose of giving evidence. In Clause 44 I object to this provision—The justices shall not entertain any objection to the grant of such new license, or take any evidence with respect of the grant thereof, unless written notice of an intention to oppose the grant of such license has been served on such holder not less than seven days before the commencement of the general annual licensing meeting.My objection is that an offence which ought to disentitle the publican to a renewal of his license might be committed within less than seven days before the commencement of the general annual licensing meeting, and this proviso would prevent any opposition to the grant of the license founded on such offence. I am sorry that I find no attempt made in this Bill to put an end to a state of things which I believe does more to demoralize the lower class, and particularly the female portion of it, 82 than anything else in connection with the traffic in intoxicating liquors. I allude to the sale of wine and spirits by grocers. What does Dr. Little, the senior physician of the London Hospital, say on that subject?—I am satisfied that any multiplication of the number of places at which spirituous liquors are obtainable tends to extend the habit of solitary drinking among females. I regret to add that tradesmen reputed respectable have been found to send wines and spirits, packed in disguise, to the wife's order, without the knowledge of the husband. I was professionally consulted in one lady's case, her brain and health having been thus destroyed.My Lords, it is stated on good authority that the sale of wine and spirits by grocers who take out wholesale licenses is very injurious to the poorer classes. It is said that in a village near Ipswich, with a population of 900 persons, there is a grocer who thinks it no unusual thing to sell as many as 100 bottles of gin on a Saturday night. In conclusion, my Lords, I must again express my regret that this Bill has not been more carefully drawn, and while I will not oppose the second reading, I must express my conviction that on account both of its omissions and its objectionable provisions the measure will require very careful examination in Committee.
did not think his noble Friend who had charge of this Bill need have made any apology for its introduction in that House; their Lordships were particularly well fitted to deal with such a measure because of their local knowledge, and also because they were independent of all those classes which were affected by the Bill. At the same time, he did not think the Government had any reason to complain of the criticisms of the noble Duke. He approved of the form in which the Bill was presented. He was of opinion that the Government had done right in not making the measure too ambitious, and he thought that because it was not ambitious it had a better chance of success than the measure of last year. Such a Bill must be tentative, and therefore he did not think it would have been wise to include in it all the subjects glanced at by the noble Duke. He was struck with the observations made by the noble Duke about grocers being allowed to retail wines and spirits; but the noble Duke must have forgotten that so long ago as the ninth year of George II. an 83 attempt was made to put down that system by the imposition of penalties; but the step was so unpopular that only a few years had elapsed till it was repealed. The licensing question was surrounded with difficulties. Their Lordships would remember that the Committee presided over by Mr. Villiers came to the conclusion that the whole system of licenses ought to be abolished, and that the liquor trade ought to be put on the same footing as the other trades of the kingdom. It was a delicate and difficult subject, though not one as to which legislation ought to be avoided for that reason; but at the same time it was a full justification for the Home Secretary not having attempted to legislate at once on the whole subject. Everyone knew that a powerful agitation had been got up out-of-doors in favour of what was called the Permissive Bill, and that the position and prospects of many political persons depended upon that movement for the absolute repression of the sale of strong liquors. He believed that such an attempt would be wrong in principle and inconsistent with all the foundations of our social life. In truth, there were two classes of men whom no legislation could prevent indulging too freely in stimulants—those who could afford to buy them, no matter what the expense; and those whose constitution was such that they would succeed in satisfying their craving even if great physical difficulties were put in their way. It was hopeless to dream that such persons could be made sober by Act of Parliament. But there was the large middle class, who might be tempted into habits of excess by the presence of undue facilities for obtaining drink; it was in behalf of such persons that legislation might usefully be invoked, and it was because this Bill would be useful to that class that he hoped their Lordships would assent to it. To a very great degree, the proper regulation of the liquor traffic must be a question of police; and he was glad to observe that the Bill proposed that a system of police inspection should be established. He was not blind to the difficulties in the way of carrying it out; but if it could be efficiently carried out it would tend to great moral improvement. He believed that it would be welcomed by all the respectable members of the trade, and 84 that they would willingly co-operate with the Inspectors in securing the respectability of their houses. He did not believe that any good would be achieved by merely diminishing the number of public-houses, because the only effect of such a step would be to increase the size of those that were left; and a few large houses, gaudy with lights and rich in decorations, were more harmful than a greater number of less pretentious establishments. The Legislature had no right by any means whatever to deprive the working classes of innocent enjoyment. Such was not the object of this Bill. Its object was the welfare of the people, and he hoped the House would read it a second time, and thus assist the Government in applying a remedy to an admitted evil.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH
My Lords, I do not wish to intrude my opinions on the House; but as this is a question so deeply affecting the social welfare of the people, I do not think you will deem it unbecoming that one Member at least of the Episcopal Bench should say something on it, especially as there are some considerations connected with it which have not been brought fully into discussion by the criticism of details which the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) has made at such length and with such ability. My object is to put before your Lordships a view of the question which I know to be very largely entertained by persons fully entitled by their knowledge of it to express an opinion and which has hardly found expression in this debate. I am one of those—and they are many, indeed—who do not find fault with Her Majesty's Government for the stringency of the provisions of their Bill as compared with that of last year. Assuredly the Government have not now erred on that side of the question. A moment's comparison of this Bill with that introduced by the Home Secretary last year, both with respect to the renewal of licenses and the regulations for public-houses, convinces me that Her Majesty's Government have felt it necessary—I should be sorry to think that they merely felt it would be expedient—in order to insure the passing of this Bill to relax the stringency of many of the provisions of the Bill of last year. They have omitted several important provisions, the absence 85 of which I, for one, regret. One other matter that I particularly regret is that this Bill does not, any more than the Bill of last year, make any provision for giving to the ratepayers any share in the control of the liquor traffic in their own town or district. That seems to me, my Lords, a great defect in any Bill dealing with the licensing question. There is a very deep and growing feeling in the country, especially among the humbler ratepayers, who are so much interested in this question, that those who pay the rates and whose rates are increased by the crime and pauperism intoxication creates, should have some voice in controlling the machinery which is to issue licenses and regulate the whole of the liquor traffic. I do not, my Lords, claim for the ratepayers entire control; I do not say that they, or a majority of them, should have the power of suppressing the liquor traffic in any town or district. It seems to me monstrous to say that it shall not be a crime to make an article, it shall not be a crime to use it, but it shall be a crime to sell it—to leave the manufacturer free to make liquor and the customer to buy it, but to say to the middle man who comes between these two, you shall not sell it. That, my Lords, I hold would be something like an outrage to the moral sense of the community—it would never be tolerated by the English people if by any chance it became an Act of Parliament. I entirely agree with the noble Lord who preceded me (Lord Houghton) as to the mischief, and I would even say the absurdity, of the Permissive Bill. I believe such a Bill would be not only absurd but mischievous, and that it would tend to exasperate all the difficulties of this question; that in towns where it was most needed it would be inoperative, and that where it is most operative it would be least needed. It proceeds on this most vicious political principle—that the tyranny of a mere majority, not of representative men, but counted merely from door to door, should govern any people. Such a principle is most pernicious. I hold that it is the right of Englishmen to be governed by the Estates of the Realm sitting in Parliament, and not by a hap-hazard majority collected by agitation and canvassing. This is one of the dangers of all democracy—it ignores the rights and privileges of the minority as against the 86 majority; and therefore I believe the tendency of all modern legislation ought to be towards protection of the rights and privileges of minorities. Therefore I entertain the strongest dislike to the Permissive Bill. I cannot, perhaps, express it in a stronger form than by saying that if I must take my choice—and such it seems to me is really the alternative offered by the Permissive Bill—whether England should be free or sober, I declare—strange as such a declaration may sound, coming from one of my profession—that I should say it would be better that England should be free than that England should be compulsorily sober. I would distinctly prefer freedom to sobriety, because with freedom we might in the end attain sobriety; but in the other alternative we should eventually lose both freedom and sobriety. But, though I am thus strongly opposed to the Permissive Bill, I do wish that the ratepayers should have some voice—not an absolute and sole voice, but some voice—in the regulation of the liquor traffic. I think it would not be wise or desirable to in-trust the regulation of the liquor traffic to a Board elected entirely by the ratepayers; but I do think it would be quite possible so to combine the official and elective elements in the Licensing Board as to give to the ratepayers the assuring conviction that their interests were fairly represented; while by retaining the magistracy you would have the conservative element duly to resist popular influences and give consistency to their decisions. I appeal to the noble Earl who has charge of this Bill (the Earl of Kimberley) with all the more confidence on this point, as the principle for which I contend has been adopted and sanctioned by a measure introduced by the Government in 1869 for the establishment of County Boards. These County Boards were to be managed partly by elected and partly by official members, the latter being Justices. I would ask your Lordships to consider one fact of great importance in its bearing on this subject. I have spoken of the mischievous tendency of agitation for the Permissive Bill. My Lords, I have had to discuss this question over and over again with some of the most eminent advocates of the Permissive Bill, and I have always found at the bottom of their advocacy—not so much the desire to carry 87 a Maine Liquor Law or totally to suppress the liquor traffic—as the desire to have for themselves, and for the ratepayers, some share in the control of the liquor traffic; and if some such control was given by this Bill and the ratepayers felt that they were fairly represented on the Licensing Board, and were not altogether ignored in the decisions come to as to the number of public-houses, the whole of this most mischievous agitation for the Permissive Bill would, if not altogether collapse, receive a shock which would make it much less dangerous for years to come. There is another consideration which I must mention. In the 44th clause of this Bill there is an extremely stringent provision against frivolous and vexatious prosecutions;—when a prosecution fails the person instituting it must pay the costs and compensate the licensee. A clause so stringent against vexatious prosecutions almost amounts to a prohibition on individual ratepayers taking proceedings; and it is therefore all the more desirable to place on the Board itself representatives of the ratepayers, so that without the vexation and irritation of prosecutions due weight may be given to the objections of those whom they represent. I appeal, if not with confidence at least with earnestness, to the noble Earl who has charge of the Bill whether it is yet too late to adopt this suggestion? As a member of the Episcopal Bench, I feel it would be almost criminal in me to remain silent on this question. It is not a mere question of police, it is not a mere question of licensing, it is not a mere question of adulteration; it is a matter of deep principle which lies very near to the hearts of the great masses of our fellow-countrymen. When you lay your finger on this question you are touching the hearts of the people, and bringing yourselves still closer into relations with the great masses of our population. Nothing, I am persuaded, my Lords, would do more to win their hearts to the cause of law and order than that they should see your Lordships earnestly and deeply considering how far you can not merely repress intemperance and cheek the evils arising out of it, but doing this in a manner to satisfy them that the highest interests of the working classes of the country will be duly and fairly considered.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
thought the present Bill a more practicable measure than the Bill brought forward last Session by the Secretary of State for the Home Department—that was a most unfortunate scheme. The proposal now under consideration he regarded more favourably; but it would hardly meet the requirements of the case, unless it were subjected to the consideration of a Select Committee of their Lordships' House. There were so many points of detail in the measure that it would be almost impossible to deal with them otherwise. He did not find that the selling of spirits by grocers was brought under the operation of the Bill, and he thought that the placing public-houses under control and leaving grocers' shops uncontrolled, would be a mode of proceeding which would be fatal to success. They ought both to be brought under one principle. Again, he was surprised to find that the Bill did contain any provisions in reference to the granting of retail licenses for the sale of wines and spirits, to be held in conjunction with wholesale licenses. This, he thought, was a very bad principle. He would not go into details; but he would point out that, though the Bill would diminish the number of public-houses, the provisions relating to the hours of closing would create a feeling throughout the country against the Bill. The noble Earl, in bringing forward the measure, had referred to the large number of licenses at present existing; but he did not state what licenses would be continued under the present Bill; nor did he say whether the sale of spirits would be under the same regulations as the sale of other drinks. While on some points the stringency of the Bill might be relaxed, there were other points in respect to which its stringency should be increased. He had witnessed many instances of the evils of the existing system. When he was at the Admiralty he went to see Haslar Hospital, where he found several men, from 20 to 26 years of age, suffering from delirium, tremens, and it appeared that many of these young men, on landing, received from £20 to £40, which they spent all in drink; and he constantly received letters stating that the Saturday half-holiday was frequently a greater harm than benefit, because much of the holiday time was spent in drinking. He 89 believed that the country was quite prepared for some measure like that before the House, and he was glad the noble Earl had taken the matter in hand; but the Bill could not be made efficient unless it was sent to a Committee upstairs for consideration.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, after the very eloquent speech of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough), I desire to say a few words on behalf of that much-abused body, the magistrates of the county, as the licensing authority. You must remember that you have got not merely to satisfy the noisy agitators who attend public meetings and speak from public platforms upon this subject, but you have to provide for the discharge of what is a most important administrative duty, affecting the social life and condition of all classes of the community. The great object which you have to attain is to place what is a most invidious power in the hands of persons who are sufficiently independent to secure that they shall not be open to suspicion in the exercise of it. Suppose you place, as has been suggested, the power of granting and refusing licenses in the hands of persons elected by the ratepayers—the persons elected will be tradesmen of the same class as those from whom the guardians of country unions are drawn, and consequently of the same class as the keepers of public-houses themselves. How much ill-feeling, envy, bitterness, and suspicion would you give rise to, even if these representatives exercised their power in a prudent manner; and you would be exposed always to the danger that local feuds would find their expression in the refusal of a license to a person who had taken one side or the other. It seems to me of far more importance that the licensing authority should be free from any suspicion of being influenced by impure motives in granting the license than that you should satisfy a small body of ratepayers who desire to have a share in the licensing authority. I must say that a rather Utopian view of the English ratepayer seems to exist in some minds. There seems to be a notion that the ratepayer is careful for nothing but the moral and social advancement of his kind; that he takes an active interest in all political and social questions; and that the one object of his 90 desire is to be allowed to occupy a position by which he can force his brother ratepayers to be sober. Now, the real state of the case is that if the average ratepayer is sober himself, that is all he can reasonably hope to attain to. I am not particularly fond of household suffrage; but by the use of household suffrage we ascertain what the housekeepers, the ratepayers, think; and when I am told that the ratepayers desire to have a power of depriving me of the power of granting licenses to public-houses, I am inclined to look at recent elections, and ask if such is the ease. I have not found in the authorized expression of opinion any intimation of such being their desire. I am afraid a belief is prevalent that the advancement of morality is due to the action of Government authority. If so, we are in danger of abandoning the highest standard of morality, that of Christianity, and of seeking another in Acts of Parliament and regulations of police. Is there any country in the world in which the action of the Legislature has been able to supply the calls of the moralist and the teacher? 150 years ago the upper and middle classes of this country were as bad with regard to drunkenness as the lower classes are now. People did not then trust to legislative action, they resorted to civilization and religion. They trusted to allegiance to a principle, and in the upper and middle classes of this country at present drunkenness is not a prevailing vice. Why, then, not believe that the influences which had been so powerful with the upper and middle classes will be equally operative with the lower? I trust that in any measures your Lordships may be asked to pass, you will shrink from attempting a task which it is impossible for any Legislature to perform—namely, by the action of Government to insure morality among the people.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, there is much in the remarks of the right rev. Prelate behind me (the Bishop of Peterborough) and of the noble Marquess which is worthy of consideration. This Bill, however, I think they will admit, does not err in the way of introducing a new element of control on the part of the ratepayers. I wish also to point out to the noble Marquess that the demand for the interference of the ratepayers comes 91 from the lower classes themselves, and, be it wise or unwise, I do not think those who make that demand are open to the reproach which has been cast against them—of seeking to legislate for the rich to the prejudice of the poor. I will go further, and say that I am perfectly persuaded—so great is my confidence in all classes in the country—that if the absence of regulations likely to affect the rich were the only bar to the passing of this Bill, we should have little or no difficulty in doing that which we believe to be necessary to promote the welfare of the people at large. But, at the same time, I am not one of those who would wish to go too far in the endeavour to make men sober. There is, I admit, a great tendency to apply on every occasion to the Executive Government to remedy evils which I am satisfied cannot be remedied either by the police or by a still higher authority. Any attempt, in my opinion, by means of such measures to put down evils which we may all deplore would not only result in throwing upon the Executive Government burdens heavier than they could well bear and responsibilities which they could not discharge, but would produce other evils greater than those which it is sought to remove. All such measures must therefore be dealt with with the utmost caution—for it is idle to say that we can by such means alone succeed in making a nation moral. Having made these few general remarks, I shall proceed to deal with the criticisms which have been passed on the details of the Bill—especially by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond). I had the advantage of hearing some of those criticisms before, because a deputation of licensed victuallers waited on me the other day, and pointed out a great many objections to which, in their opinion, the measure as it stands is open. It would be strange, indeed, if it were not liable to some objection, because a Bill of this kind is essentially one of details, in dealing with which we had frequently only a choice of difficulties. Some of the objections which have been advanced by the noble Duke I can, however, I think, show to be unfounded. He, in the first place, referred to what he regarded as an omission in the Bill, and gave us an account of what he supposed had passed in the Cabinet on the subject—but it is clear that account must be based on his 92 experience of previous Cabinets. He said—and the objection was a very natural one—that although there was a clause in the Bill relating to the repeal of a great number of Acts, those Acts were not specified. That, however, is not due to any oversight on the part of the Government, because we have been assured by the drawer of the Bill that the proper time to supply the omission is when the Bill has passed through Committee, following the course which was pursued in the case of another important measure—the Bankruptcy Act. That is the simple reason why the Bill is in its present shape. The noble Duke also urged it as an objection against the Bill that it is not a Consolidating Bill, and I admit at once that it only consolidates the police regulations, which is, I may add, a very considerable work in itself. If your Lordships should adopt the clauses of the Bill, with such Amendments as you may deem desirable, I think we should, as regards the police regulations, accompanied by the repeal of such Acts as it may be necessary to repeal, have a complete code of such regulations. The noble Duke went on to comment on the 4th clause—and it is one, I freely admit, which deserves careful consideration. I am alluding to the clause which provides, in the case of certain offences on a license being recorded, that certain consequences shall follow without any discretion being left to any authority in the matter. The noble Duke pointed out that in certain eases such a provision might work hardly on the owners of houses, and the suggestion is one which is, in my opinion, worthy of attention. I would, however, remind the noble Duke that a similar provision exists in the Prevention of Crime Act, which provides for an absolute disqualification in the case of criminals after a certain number of offences—so that the principle is not a new one. It is, however, perhaps, desirable that the clause in the present Bill should be further guarded, and I will see whether it may not be possible to give the owner, in the case of a second conviction, the power of terminating the agreement with the occupier, so that his interests might be protected. I am, however, perfectly certain that without some stringent clause such as this you will be able to effect no really considerable reform of public-houses. The noble Duke, again, 93 objects to the veto which is given by the Bill to the Secretary of State. It is, he says, extraordinary that such a provision should be introduced into it by the Government, inasmuch as no such provision was introduced by the Home Secretary into the Bill of last year. But I will remind the noble Duke that the principle has been since introduced in the Suspensory Bill, and that it has been found to work very well: it is, therefore, that it has been embodied in the present measure. The Bill will, no doubt, throw considerable impediments in the way of the granting of licenses. My Lords, I think that that is a very important object. It will require the concurrence of three separate authorities before any new license can be granted, and if there is to be uniformity of practice throughout the country, this veto of the Secretary of State is, I think, most desirable. But, at the same time, should the other authorities exercise the power vested in them prudently and wisely, so that there shall arise throughout the country a regularity and uniformity in the granting of licenses, the veto lodged with the Secretary of State becomes of very little importance. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) went on to find fault with the provision which establishes a special system of inspection on the ground that it would throw an additional burden on the local rates. Now, I am aware that this question of the adjustment of local and Imperial taxation is one of the utmost importance; but I ask the House whether it is possible to delay every measure of public utility until a controversy so extremely difficult is settled? Under the Bill we make use of the existing machinery in the case of the constabulary; and one of the duties of the constabulary now is to see that the public-houses are properly regulated, and all that is now proposed is to give the Secretary of State special power to see that proper officers are selected from the constabulary force generally who shall carry into effect the inspection of licensed houses. Without some such power it has been shown in practice that, whatever laws you pass, the inspection by the constabulary is to a very great extent a mere name, and nothing more. It is true the Bill gives special powers to the Secretary of State to see that this inspection is adequately carried out and 94 to disallow the proportion of police expenses now contributed by the Treasury if those provisions are not complied with; but these provisions are absolutely necessary. The noble Duke referred to one omission from the Bill which had astonished him—the provision as to the removal of licenses. No doubt a provision on this subject was contained in the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend, as well as in the Suspensory Act of last year. But the subject has since been fully and carefully considered by the Government. Something may, doubtless, be said in favour of a system of removal of licenses; but it seemed to us that the objections predominated. The original intention was to forbid the grant of new licenses altogether, and only allow licenses to be removed from one district where they were in excess of the wants of the population to another district where more were required. That would have been an exceedingly stringent provision. It might have recommended itself on its merits as far as removals were concerned; but if you allow the grant of new licenses, the result of permitting also the removal of licenses would be to incur great risk of perpetuating existing licenses, and of strengthening the proprietary right which the owners of them are assumed to possess. By such a system you make the license, as it were, a marketable commodity which may be conveyed from one part of the country to another; and our object in reducing the number of public-houses would be to a great extent defeated by allowing the abandonment of such houses in one district and the transfer of the licenses to another. We, therefore, thought that, upon the whole, it was better in the public interest not to introduce the principle of removals. Another point to which the noble Duke referred was the absence of minimum penalties in the Bill. Now, the existence of minimum penalties has been found in practice to work great hardship, and unless you entirely distrust the discretion of magistrates, it is far better to provide merely maximum penalties, leaving it to the magistrate to say how much of these penalties he will inflict according to his view of the gravity of the offence. Then the noble Duke alluded to what he seemed to think the almost diabolical invention of the placard system.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
No—the noble Duke was, of course, referring to the clauses of the Bill. He seemed to think I had adopted it from some knowledge I had of the existence of a similar law in New Zealand. Now, I am ashamed to say that I was entirely ignorant of the existence of any such law in New Zealand; but I am glad to hear from the noble Duke that our fellow-countrymen in that colony have adopted so sensible a provision. The offence for which this punishment is prescribed is that of adulterating liquor with the articles mentioned in the Schedule. They are coculus indicus, copperas, opium, Indian hemp, strychnine, tobacco, darnel seed, extract of logwood, salts of zinc or lead, alum, and any extract or compound of any of the above ingredients. I think if a man commits an offence so grave as that of mixing drugs directly deleterious to health with the liquor he sells, it is a most appropriate punishment to enact that every person who goes to his house should know he has been guilty of that which really amounts to a crime. If it had been proposed that a publican should be obliged to expose such a placard if he supplied liquor to a drunken man or allowed drunkenness in his house, I should have said the regulation was an unfair one; but when applied to an offence, which, as I am assured, the publicans themselves regard as most grave—an offence which no respectable man would commit—I think it may be properly met by the punishment provided in the Bill. The noble Duke says that punishment is novel and un-English. My Lords, I cannot help thinking we should make it an English punishment and embody it in our law. The noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Somerset), while he thought that the measure was on the whole a good one, expressed surprise that it did not apply to retail licenses for selling spirits and wine held in conjunction with wholesale licenses. The exemption of these licenses from the provisions of a Licensing Bill is, however, no new principle, and I am prepared to maintain that the exemption is wise and proper. We are dealing here with a class of licensed houses which are found to be subject to great abuses. 96 It has not been found that the sale by wholesale dealers of wines and spirits in small quantities under their retail licenses has been a cause of abuse. I know there has been a strong movement on the part of the publicans to obtain these restrictions, and I see clearly why they desire them—the sale by wholesale dealers of liquor in small quantities interferes with the publican's monopoly, and therefore the publicans want to drive people into their own houses by means of restrictions which would make the holding of a retail license by a wholesale dealer impossible. Now, for my part, I think the present monopoly of the publicans is quite as great as it need be and ought to be, and therefore I think it would be undesirable to interfere with the retail licenses of wholesale dealers, and place them under these restrictions. On this ground I can hold out no expectation that we shall deal with these licenses in the way which the publicans desire. A great number of details have been alluded to, but most of them were minute, and I shall not weary your Lordships by commenting on them at this stage of the Bill: in Committee, however, I hope to make such explanations as will prove that the clauses have been well weighed, and are not proposed without reason. I may say, however, that in the clause to which the noble Duke refers, he will find the local authority duly defined. The Bill contains so many details that I fear it may present itself to many persons in an uninteresting light. But I agree with the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Peterborough) that important questions are involved in the Bill; it is a matter which deeply concerns the morals and health of the population as well as very large interests throughout the country. Your Lordships must not forget that, while we cannot but deplore the grievous effects that may be produced upon the people by the sale of intoxicating drinks, we are dealing with a trade of great magnitude. It may be the right course to maintain the sale of liquors as a monopoly, or it may be wiser to adopt the opposite course, and throw open the trade as the other trades of the country; but a monopoly we have to deal with, and whilst the Legislature ought not to press unduly and unfairly upon its present possessors, I hope your Lordships will sustain me in maintaining the right of Parliament 97 to control and regulate the monopoly, and in protesting against the attempt of any one class in the country to prevent the Government from carrying into effect legislation in the interest of the public at large which is required for the welfare of the nation.
§ LORD KESTEVEN
said, that a measure of this character was very generally required. In Peterborough, for instance, the number of public-houses was greatly in excess of the population. One-half of the licensed houses were opened for the sale of beer only; and as these licenses were granted, not by the magistrates, but by the Excise, at the request of the ratepayers living in the locality, it was singular that the right rev. Prelate should call upon the ratepayers to suppress an evil which they had themselves created.
THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH
explained that he did not propose that the ratepayers should act alone, but that they should merely assist the magistrates in granting licenses.
§ LORD KESTEVEN
said, that whenever the magistrates and the police had endeavoured to restrict the number of public-houses and beershops in Peterborough by refusing to renew the license of any house, a large body of neighbouring ratepayers were sure to come forward and say that the House was conducted with the greatest order and propriety. The consequence was, that the action of the magistrates became futile by the very acts of the body which the right rev. Prelate wished to be incorporated with the magistrates. He ventured to think, then, that if such a body were incorporated with the magistrates they would neutralize the action of a much more independent body than themselves, and so perpetuate the evils that were deplored.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday, the 10th instant.
§ House adjourned at a quarter-past Seven 'clock,' till To-morrow, Eleven o'clock.