HL Deb 07 July 1927 vol 68 cc239-84

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading—namely, That this Bill be read a second time this day six months—moved on Tuesday, May 24, and further discussed on Tuesday, June 21.

THE EARL OF DUNMORE. My Lords, the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill has already lasted two days, and in the course of it a good deal of ground has been covered. Much of the discussion has centred round details which perhaps were better left to a later stage of the Bill. Apart from that, the general line of argument has been directed towards the great improvement generally that has taken place in recent years in the drinking habits of the people and the consequent assumption that the Act of 1904, together with certain Government Regulations, leaves no room for this Bill or for any further effort on the part of the temperance reformers.

I think we are all agreed that restrictions of hours and high prices have done a great deal in recent years to promote temperance, but unfortunately there is another side to this question—the economic side. I refer to the outstanding fact, so clear in its implications, of the expenditure every year of over £300,000,000 of our national wealth on intoxicating liquors. The effect of that expenditure, especially at a time when most of our industries are struggling with high taxation and other adverse circumstances, is very difficult to estimate. Its effect is probably to be seen in some of the most pressing of our political problems to-day. It certainly makes the argument which has been put forward by some of your Lordships—it was put forward, I think, by my noble friend Lord Dawson of Penn—that this social evil of drink is a disappearing factor in our national life, seem to be hardly justified by facts.

I think that the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool came much nearer the truth when he told this House that sooner or later the country would have to tackle this question, and that the only road to a solution of the problem lay in taking the trade out of private hands. That is the main question before the House: whether the solution put forward by the right rev. Prelate, involving as it does the public control of the drink trade, is the right solution to this problem. For my part, the more I look into this question the more difficult I find it to see any possible co-operation or combination between the conflicting interests of the nation and the trade. In saying this I should like to make it quite clear that I do not for one moment suggest that those who are responsible for carrying on this business of manufacturing and selling drink conduct it otherwise than with the best and most honourable intentions. I have too many personal friends in the trade to believe anything else. But I realise that the commercial interest of this trade makes it, extremely difficult for any proposals for the betterment of the conditions under which the traffic in drink is carried on to meet with their support.

Turning to the proposals of this Bill, I listened, on May 24, to the careful analysis made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, of the provisions dealing with finance and compensation. The noble and learned Viscount put before the House two extreme alternative cases. In the first place, he took the case of this Bill meeting with no response in the constituencies and thereby leading to the problem of the disposal of a large and unused fund at the end of fifteen years. If that problem ever arose it would mean that this Bill had been a complete and utter failure, and as for the disposal of the fund, I cannot conceive that this would cause any anxiety or disquietude to any Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day. The noble and learned Viscount then took the alternative case. He dealt with the case of this Bill meeting with such success that it resulted in the solvency of the Central Compensation Fund being seriously jeopardised. In questioning the adequacy of the Central Fund in this latter contingency, the noble and learned Viscount at the same time took exception to the inclusion in the Bill of a contingent liability on public funds. I gathered that the noble and learned Viscount feared lest the burden of this compensation should fall on the unfortunate taxpayers of this country and our national income become involved in the operation of the Act.

If those who are responsible for the framing of this measure had omitted to safeguard the Central Fund in this manner, I venture to think that its provisions would have met with just as much criticism from the noble and learned Viscount, though perhaps from another angle. Your Lordships will recollect that, when a similar Bill was under discussion in 1921, it contained a Treasury guarantee as regards the solvency of the Central Fund. That guarantee, so far as I remember, was seriously objected to, either as a principle or as a proposal emanating from a private member. Then, when the 1924 draft of the Bill came up, it contained no guarantee, either direct or indirect, yet the same critic who attacked the Bill in 1921 because of its guarantee damned the Bill in 1924 because it contained no guarantee for the safety of the Compensation Fund. In the present draft of the Bill there is no demand for any direct assistance from public funds, but there is an assurance that the money promised as compensation under the Bill will be forthcoming where it is required as a result of reorganisation or of no-licence votes, and I cannot but believe that a guarantee must form an essential feature in any Local Option Bill which contains provisions involving any disturbance of tenure. After all, if that disturbance of tenure is for the benefit of the nation, it is only right that those who are dispossessed should be guaranteed full and complete compensation, using for that purpose the credit of the State.

Turning to the other point that was raised by the noble and learned Viscount, some question, I think, was raised also by the noble Earl opposite, Lord Buxton, not only as to the solvency of the Central Fund but as to those upon whom the burden should fall if that Fund went into liquidation. In dealing with that point Lord Sumner took the case of a very large number of constituencies voting either for no-licence or for reorganisation at one of the earlier polls. I agree with the noble and learned Viscount that if this scheme were not in fact solvent, and if it resulted in a very heavy demand coming upon public funds, it is quite possible, though highly improbable, that the burden would fall upon the taxpayers and that our national credit might even be impaired. I think, however, that the noble and learned Viscount accepted the figure of £6,000,000 as being available in the Central Fund at the first vote, made up by the expectation of £2,000,000 being received each year in contributions from the trade. In that case there would be enough money in the Central Fund at the first vote to compensate, even under no-licence resolutions, many times more areas than even the wildest Prohibitionist ever hoped for.

I do not think it, comes within the limits of reasonable expectation to imagine that the sum of £6,000,000 would not meet all claims at the first poll, but if the unexpected should happen, and if there should not be enough money in the Fund to meet all claims, then the Board of Management hare been given certain borrowing powers secured on the Customs Duties on beer and spirits. Then, when we come later to the second poll, we find another safeguard. The Home Secretary has the power to postpone the taking of the second or the third poll for a period of one year; that is, if the depletion of the Central Fund justified such action. The effect of that postponement would be automatically to augment the Central Fund by the inclusion of one year's premiums from the trade, and the income derived from reorganisation areas. Therefore the only real question which arises is the question of the repayment of the borrowings on the part of the Central Fund to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.

In considering that question, we ought to bear in mind that this Bill is not a restricted Veto Bill, like the Scottish Act, and it is to the second option, the reorganisation option, that one would expect those areas who desire some change from the present system to turn—an assumption which I do not think is unreasonable, especially when you take into consideration the effect of the alternative vote. In this case the financial problem of meeting claims and repaying any borrowings which may have taken place would appear to be very much simplified, if you take the Carlisle scheme as evidence of an assured income under that management. It is here, I venture to think, that the figures contained in Lord Sumner's balance sheet are in error. If I look at the noble Viscount's profit and loss account, I find that he has taken no account of income from reorganised areas, having discarded that revenue, in his own words, as "speculative and very doubtful." The profit on revenue under the Carlisle scheme is no longer a matter of doubt or speculation. It is an acknowledged fact. If the noble Viscount will study the Southborough Committee's Report, he will find that the Report makes it clear that the Carlisle scheme is established on a revenue-producing basis and from a financial point of view is absolutely solvent. If you take into consideration the annual levies on the trade, the proceeds of sale of redundant properties in reorganisation areas, and the net income earned in those areas, I do not think, looking at this as a business proposition, that there is any fear of the Central Fund failing to meet its obligations when ever these become due.

I think it was the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Second Reading of the Bill who expressed his extreme dislike of the principles of the time limit and of the levies on the trade, which form the basis of the whole scheme of compensation in this Bill. I think Lord Banbury described these principles as amounting to confiscation. It is very easy to label this Bill, or any other Bill, which contains provisions which may result in taking the trade out of private hands, and which extends the principle of contributory assurance against this risk, as being unfair to the licenced trade; but this argument when examined does not appear to me to be nearly so convincing as it sounds. In the first place, the question of the time limit is a constitutional question. It is the broad issue of the right of the State to recover its freedom of action in respect of licences. That is a question which has already, I think, been adequately dealt with by other speakers.

In regard to the levies, the precedent of levies on the trade was undoubtedly established by the 1904 Act, and the additional levies in this Bill amount to nothing more than an additional tax on the very large profits arising out of the manufacture and sale of alcohol. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Sumner, contends that there is a real difference between the principle established in the 1904 Act and the principle established by this Bill. I think that argument is based on the fact that the levies under the 1904 Act are paid into local compensation funds, and that where a man loses his licence the trade from his premises is merely transferred to some other licensed premises in the neighbourhood, whereas this Bill provides no such compensating advantage to the licensed trade. The real question we have to consider, however, is the question of the man who has his licence taken away—the dispossessed licensee—and nobody is going to contend that the position of that man is any different, or any worse, under this Bill than it would be under the Act of 1904. That man stands to gain nothing by any transfer of trade when his licence is taken away, but, if the noble Viscount likes, we will look at the position of the other licensees.

Under the 1904 Act the compensation areas are of considerable size, and a very small fraction of the licensees in any one of those areas stands to gain anything by the mere transfer of trade from suppressed licences in that area. In fact the increment is by no means evenly divided. The great majority of licensees pay their levies under the 1904 Act without any benefit to themselves. They pay them to cover a contingent risk in precisely the same way as they would pay them under this Bill. The plain fact is that there is no difference in principle between levies under the existing Act and levies under this Bill. In both measures it is recognised that in the case of a licence there can be no claim in perpetuity in respect of it, as if it were a freehold, and therefore the question of fairness to the trade resolves itself into a question of the duration of the time limit. In this Bill the time limit is double that proposed in the Bill which was recently introduced by Lord Clwyd. Under this Bill, far fifteen years after its passing into law, licence holders will have complete security of tenure or equivalent compensation.

Whenever this Bill is debated in this House the experience of the United States of America is repeatedly referred to in a manner distinctly prejudicial to the interests of the Bill. Such observations appear to me to lose sight of the fact that this Bill is not a Bill to impose Prohibition on this country; it is a Local Option Bill and its powers are strictly permissive. If deductions are to be drawn from the existing law in the United States I should like to point out that before Prohibition was passed as a Federal measure that country had Local Option, and it is only since Local Option was abandoned and Prohibition imposed upon all States, regardless of their personal feelings or desires, that any difficulty or agitation has arisen. Before Local Option was abandoned many of the States had already introduced Prohibition, either wholly or in part, under their Local Option laws, and as far back as 1913 there were 46,000,000 people living under prohibitory legislation, that is to say that in 1913 Prohibition operated under Local Option laws, affected half the population of the United States, and apparently operated without engendering any ill feeling or discontent.

I doubt whether the agitation which has since arisen against the 18th Amendment, of which we hear so much in this country, represents in any way the considered opinion of the great mass of the American people. I have been out in that country very frequently in the last ten years. I was out there only a few weeks ago, and the view expressed to me by most of the business men with whom I came into contact was distinctly favourable to the law as it stands to-day. They admitted that the law was not yet fully effective, but pointed out that it only affected a very small minority of the nation. As regards the masses they said it had accomplished a good deal of good. The wage-earners were better off, had better homes, and were vastly more contented with the conditions under which they now lived than they were before the passing of the Volstead Act.

They also told me that the wage-earners in that country are rapidly becoming quite important shareholders in the industries of the country, a statement which I find was borne out by the deputation sent out under the Ministry of Labour to inquire into the industrial conditions in the United States and Canada. The Report of that deputation gives the stock holdings of the employees in the United States as amounting to £140,000,000, this figure, they say, having been derived only from statements issued by companies which had initiated definite stock-selling plans for the benefit of their employees. That figure of £140,000,000, in other words, takes no account of the mass of investments made by employees outside-those stock-selling plans.

I confess that when one tries to look into this question to see how that law affects the output and efficiency of the worker, it is difficult to disentangle from the many elements in productivity the single element of personal efficiency due to abstinence from alcohol. But there is enough evidence to convince me that the existing law has done a great deal to increase the output and efficiency of the industrial workers. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, appears to have accepted this increased efficiency, but he apparently has stated it as an additional indictment of this Bill. The noble and learned Viscount described the workers as "machines speeding over their course with a greater velocity for the same amount of wages." In regard to wages I can only refer the noble and learned Viscount to the Report of the Federal Department of Labour, which gives the cost of living in the United States as 75 per cent. higher than before the War, and the average wages in the same time as having increased by over 100 per cent.

I think that if we weigh carefully all the facts, good and bad, favourable and unfavourable to the existing law, we must admit that, however much we may dislike the principle, and however imperfect the enforcement of that law may be, it has already accomplished a great deal of good among the masses of the people, both from a social and an economic point of view. It is from the economic point of view more than from any other that I interest myself in this problem—from the point of view of a man who is concerned to some extent with industry, and who has been impressed by the effect of Prohibition on the lives of these people engaged in great manufacturing industries in the United States. I would not wish to express any opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of the step which our neighbours over the seas have taken. I most certainly would not wish to see Prohibition imposed on this country.

In supporting this Bill I do not forget the argument which was put forward by one of your Lordships, that because 55 per cent. of the votes at a poll can carry no-licence this Bill is a Prohibition measure. That is an argument with which I cannot agree. It may be that a no-licence vote should be given a more substantial majority before being made effective, but that is a matter which would naturally be dealt with during the Committee stage. It is entirely a matter of opinion. But this Bill as it stands is in no sense of the word a Prohibition measure. This Bill gives the people of this country the right to carry out certain large scale experiments. They can carry a no-licence resolution, and they can go back to reorganisation, under which they can get as much drink as they want; in fact, they can experiment between the two systems of local prohibition and public management. The same system obtains in so far as these two principles are concerned in Canada today. I think I am right in saying that all those Provinces which have abandoned local prohibition have gone back, not to a system of private ownership, but to some system of government control, and this Bill, in refusing a return to private ownership, follows somewhat closely the principle which we see operating in Canada to-day.

There are a good many people in this country who believe that it is only under some such system, the system of public control, that you will ever remove the very undesirable temptations to push the sale of drink, or that you will get any real improvement in the conditions under which that drink is sold and consumed. They may be right or they may be wrong, but I do not think that any other constructive proposals have been put before us by the opponents of this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, went somewhat closely into the question of the improved public-house referring sympathetically, as I understood him, to the improvement of those houses by means other than under the system of public control. It is quite true, as my noble friend Lord Lamington pointed out, that some of the brewers are willing and anxious to carry out improvements to their public-houses and that proposals to that effect have been put forward, but in every Bill which is brought forward or supported by trade interests there is some proposal for diminishing public control or for some limitation of the statutory powers of licensing justices; and before conceding that control it is only reasonable to ask how any large extension of these improved public-houses could be carried out and where the money is to come from under a system of private ownership and commercial competition.

If this system of the improved public-house were brought forward as a serious question before Parliament, how far would it meet the difficulties with which this Bill is attempting to deal? The improved public-house is only a part—I might almost say the least essential part—of disinterested management, for as long as the improved public-house is owned by the trade it naturally remains a business run with a view to earning dividends by pushing the sale of drink. Then there is another question which arises in regard to this policy—the question as to how far many of these public- houses are capable of being improved. Even those brewers who support this policy only claim that a proportion—a minority I believe it is—of these houses are capable of being turned into the licensed cafés and restaurants which my noble friend Lord Onslow held up before us the other evening. The Report of the Southborough Committee confirms this and also makes it plain that not much extension of these improved public-houses could be carried out without obtaining some monopoly for the whole area in order to eliminate the competition of the unimproved houses in the neighbourhood. The South borough Committee also snakes it quite clear that the whole question of this policy of improved public-houses is so wrapped up, so interlocked, with the other aspects of the drink problem, that it would be impossible for them to suggest any legislation to deal with that policy without dealing at the same time with the wider aspects of the whole question of licensing reform. In fact, it seems to me that the Southborough Committee realised the insuperable difficulties which surround this question as long as the improved public-house remains under private ownership, difficulties which would be removed under any system of public ownership such as the reorganisation scheme in this Bill.

Under reorganisation you would already have the monopoly demanded by the Southborough Committee. Under monopoly the local advisory committees could carry out improvements as much as they liked to the public-houses without any difficulty or any fear of the competition of the unimproved houses in the vicinity; in fact, it seems to me that the reorganisation scheme contained in this Bill provides the only effective way of attaining those objects aimed at by the supporters of the, improved public-house policy. Those of us who support this Bill do so because we believe that there is a growing demand for some such legislation in the country. This Bill is largely hacked by the temperance societies, but what is far more important is that it is receiving more and more support from those who are not connected in any way with the temperance movement. These people want a fair, logical, moderate policy—a policy which they find in this Bill. I believe that this Bill gives a liberty for experiment which will appeal to a large section of the electorate, a liberty for experiment which is badly needed.


My Lords, the debate on this Bill has taken an unusual and rather inconvenient course. In some ways it has been strangely disjointed. This is the third day on which we have been discussing the Second Reading and both previous discussions have been separated by intervals of a fortnight or three weeks, so that I fear, if I should have occasion to refer later to some of the remarks made by previous speakers, they will not be so fresh in your Lordships' minds as they otherwise might be. So far as I am concerned it also has one other peculiar feature. I have received, as I have no doubt all your Lordships do, that voluminous and expensively printed literature which is circulated by the trade on these occasions, got up beautifully, full of all sorts of arguments why you should do nothing, with which, as a rule, I profoundly disagree. But to my amazement, in the last circular which I received, I found one paragraph with which I completely agree. They were referring to the Southborough Report and they conclude some comments on it and some analysis by saying: "What did the Report amount to? Just nothing."

I am sorry to appear to endorse anything like that in regard to my old friend Lord Southborough, but I must say, having read that Report very carefully, that I have not succeeded in getting from it that guidance and assistance which I think we all hoped for when that Committee was appointed. I waited very anxiously for its Report, hoping that it would give me a great deal of information and some conclusions which would assist one in snaking up one's mind on many of these subjects, but it appeared to me that whenever that Report came to grips with the subject it shied away from it, as if the Committee were a little afraid of it. The net result is that one does not get very much assistance and one hardly knows even now from that Report whether the Carlisle experiment is to be regarded as a success in any respect except the financial one. As to that, the Committee are perfectly clear that financially it has been successful.

At an earlier part of this debate we had one of those very interesting speeches which we get too seldom from the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, who I regret is not yet here to-day. As he has done on previous occasions he gave a certain amount, I might almost say a considerable amount, of praise to the advantages of alcohol in civilised society and he finished off in an almost lyrical passage by saying that it added to and was to a large extent the cause of the frolic and the fun of the world. When I listened to those words I wondered for a moment whether your Lordships had here a reincarnation of the Persian tentmaker or perhaps of Dionysius, not at all the sort of figure whom one would normally have associated with the noble Lord, Lord Dawson. I was rather interested also to notice that later in his speech, when he came to deal with Young soldiers at Aldershot who went to the dry canteen and did not take liquor, he repeated, apparently with approval, what had been said to him by a General or a Colonel who was taking him round to the effect that they were fine, upstanding young men and that you could see at once by their faces that they did not take drink. Those two propositions did not seem to me quite consistent.

Then we had, as we also often have in these discussions, the intervention of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham. He also opposed this Bill, and he opposed it not so much on the ground that alcohol was a desirable thing in itself or a thing not to be condemned, as upon the ground that it was better that we should proceed by education and by the gradual development of temperance among the nation than by prohibitive legislation. I confess, when one contemplates the enormous harm that is done in this country by the consumption of drink—the poverty which it entails, the misery to which it so often gives rise and the injury, small in many cases no doubt but constant, to the general health of the population, injury to which the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, bore unwitting tribute when he referred to those fine, upstanding young men—it seems to me very much to be regretted that such important leaders as a distinguished doctor and a right rev. Prelate should use words which will be quoted outside without their context and will give rise to the impression that people who are the guardians, the one of our health and the other of our morals, do not think there is anything to be said against the consumption of alcohol.

We had a remarkable contribution from the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, as to the effect in some Scottish parishes where complete prohibition had been tried. I am not going to weary your Lordships by quoting the figures. They are there in the OFFICIAL REPORT and they are in every way remarkable—increases in the bank balances of the poor, decreases in the convictions for drunkenness, increases in the amounts in the co-operative stores and obviously, as a result of that, a generally increased standard of health and prosperity for the community. Those are actual things which cannot be disregarded, and which must be weighed in the balance when you are considering whether any steps should be taken to deal with the present laws as to the consumption of drink. We had a speech, of a character also not unusual on these occasions, from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, who analysed very minutely and carefully the financial provisions of the Bill and proved, to his own satisfaction at any rate, that they were extremely ill thought out, extremely dangerous and very unlikely to work. I am fortunately spared the necessity of any detailed examination of those figures because they have been amply dealt with by the noble Earl who has just sat down. He went into the same sort of calculation as that on which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, relied.

These grudging criticisms of proposals which are made do not really help your Lordships in a constructive policy. This Bill, at any rate, is an attempt to put something before your Lordships to consider for dealing with the admitted evils of the drink traffic. I am very far from saying that the Bill is anything like a perfect Bill. It is not. It is open to many quite legitimate criticisms. I would not even guarantee that, if the Bill remained exactly in its present form and unaltered, I should be willing to support it finally on Third Beading. I do not think that is necessary in order to support it at this stage, because I take this Bill as presenting to your Lordships an opportunity for doing something in connection with the drink trade and the drink traffic, and for considering whether there is any direction in which an advance can be made. If I give my vote for the Second Reading, it will be a vote for that principle and for that principle alone. It is worth remarking that those who oppose this Bill and those who opposed previous Bills seldom offer anything in exchange for the simple negative which they present to your Lordships. Only two spokesmen have spoken for the Government and the most that was said was that the Government were considering, or would consider at some time or other, what steps should be taken to promote temperance and what legislation, if any, was desirable. That sort of consideration and that sort of vague assurance do not really get one very much further. All the time, day by day and year by year, the evils caused by the present system are going on.

We also heard on this occasion, as we have heard on other occasions, that something might be done to encourage the improved public-house. One Government spokesman—I think it was Lord Onslow—committed himself to that view. So far as the improved public-house means an enlarged and beautified public-house, still in the hands of the brewer, still with the main object of selling the maximum quantity of alcohol, and still without any other interest than that of pushing the trade in liquor, I must say that for my own part I have the gravest suspicion of it. I have seen, as your Lordships have seen, the proposals put forward by the trade and, as the noble Earl who has just spoken said, those proposals, when you come to examine them, nearly always contain some advantage to the trade, and the corresponding advantage offered to the public is that they should have larger and more comfortable houses in which to consume their drink. That is not enough. The principle of disinterested management, which is contained in this Bill and which is the foundation of the principle of this Bill, is one that is almost necessary if you are to make any real advance in this direction.

Among those circulars from the trade, to which I have referred, there was a flat denial of the statement so often made that it is the duty and the interest of the publican to push the sale of liquor and that he induces his customer to take too much liquor, and there was a reference to the serious penalties that would fall upon him if a customer was found to be guilty of drunkenness in his house. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham also referred to drunkenness as the thing to be avoided. Drunkenness is not the only thing. It is quite possible for a man to take not only much more liquor than is good for him, but much more liquor than he wants to take, without reaching the stage of drunkenness. The result of the present system is that, in a great many cases, people who go to public-houses do drink more than is good for them, and much more than they would wish to drink if they were left entirely free and without any of that sort of pressure being put upon them to continue to fill their glasses. It is for that reason that I doubt whether any so-called reform, which still leaves a direct financial interest in the increased sale of drink, is likely to be effective. I do not know whether any of your Lordships recollect a certain case—I have not got the name of it by me, but it was a remarkably instructive case on this matter—in which a publican in a large house tied to brewers had put up a notice in the bar to the effect that he would not serve more than two drinks to any customer. The owners of the house took him before the Courts in order to obtain a declaration that, under the conditions of his tenancy, he must not pet up any notice of that sort and that it would be wrong for him to attempt to limit the amount of drink sold in his house. The Courts decided that as a matter of contract between the parties that was so.


Would the noble Earl say for how long a period of time?


I think in one evening. I forget the exact time, but it was not for a week or anything of that sort. Anyhow, the man who introduced it had knowledge of the sort of trade he did, and it was an attempt by him to put what he considered a reasonable limit on the amount of drink any one man could have in his house at one time. That attempt had to be abandoned at the instance of those who owned the house and who were making the profit out of it. I think that the whole system of tied houses is indefensible and does great harm. It is not merely that a man runs a public- house and endeavours to sell drink there as one of the incidents of running it and as one of the refreshments he has to supply, but it is also that he is regarded as a channel, and merely a channel, for getting rid of the productions of the brewer who owns the house. That seems to me a very bad and indefensible system, and I do not think we shall have any real advance until we do something to put an end to tied houses.

Nearly all these improved houses of which we have heard were to be tied houses, for fairly obvious reasons, because there are very few other people in possession of the capital to make the necessary alterations. It is also said—I regret that I have no personal experience of these matters—that in these tied houses the publican himself has to put up with whatever liquor the brewer chooses to send him, and that not so good a, quality of liquor is dispensed as in a, free house. Those who know say that that is so. It is for that reason that I submit to your Lordships that when we are considering this subject it is not enough to say that, this or that remedy has difficulties, that this or that remedy is financially unsound, that this or that remedy has not been sufficiently considered. If your Lordships, or the majority of your Lordships, are really convinced that some legislative move in the direction of temperance is desirable in addition to the educative move, then you must not merely submit a negative to these Bills, but you have a duty to support or suggest some form of constructive proposal. It is for that reason that when we come to the Division, I shall vote, and I hope those of your Lordships who feel like that will vote, for the principle of some legislative action being taken and some consideration being given to this Bill and to these details in Committee.

The question of total prohibition, even in an area, is, I admit, a very difficult one. I intensely dislike saying by law that my neighbour shall not do anything he likes that is now within the law and that, does not, interfere with the comfort and convenience of his fellow creatures. I do not like, or really think valuable, the principle of a compelled morality in any form, but if a sufficient majority in an area thought that complete prohibition was desirable, it seems to me the experiment might be tried in those areas, and that you would not in these cases be inflicting anything like irreparable hardship upon people who want their pint of beer and cannot get it. But I confess that I do not altogether like the principle, and I will say this in agreement with the right rev. Prelate, that I believe that in this, as in all other questions of conduct and morals, it is education and not the law to which you must chiefly look for improvement. We have done in the last half century a great deal in that way. I accept entirely what has been said, that there has been an immense improvement in the sobriety, self-restraint and self-control of our people, and I believe that is still going on. Although, perhaps, it is doubtful whether you would accelerate it by total prohibition still I do feel that at least you need not retard it by the present system of flaunting opportunities of drink and pressing people to drink not only more than is good for them but more than they want.


My Lords, the noble Earl is a most persuasive and acceptable advocate of any cause which he undertakes in this House. Indeed, I know of no one who has the gift of surrounding with more Parliamentary plausibility any case which he presents, and in a day when we, are, as I understand, somewhat disrespectfully spoken of in another place and the hereditary principle is assailed, it is a satisfaction to reflect that one who comes from one of the great Parliamentary families of England retains in its highest expression the eloquence upon which the fame of his family was established.

I have read very carefully this debate. In my opinion it is a debate very creditable to this House. I do not think that this House would suffer by comparison with a debate upon a similar subject in another place. We should, no doubt, incur the charge that we are deficient in that vivacity which has distinguished them so much of late. We have had no interruptions of a character to render coherent debate impossible. We have not lived fully up to the standard, no doubt, of modern democracy as expressed in Parliamentary institutions. But while that no doubt is true, we have had a debate in which, with the exhibition of great courtesy and good feeling, the competitive arguments have been exhibited. I was, I confess, a little astonished to read that Mr. Lloyd George, in another place yesterday, denied that there were 200 even of your Lordships who were capable of exhibiting the gift for revising legislation that came from another and much interrupted place. I was, I confess, astonished, because a calculation of which I was aware had informed me that Mr. Lloyd George had himself most bountifully enriched your Lordships' House by 192 new members, leaving some eight others over whom Mr. Lloyd George had no control, who did not owe their seats in this House to his bounty.

I might take, for instance, the case of the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. I might take the case of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey. I might take the case of my noble and distinguished friend the Earl of Balfour. I can easily bring it up to 200 by selecting illustrations of whom it seems unlikely that even Mr. Lloyd George would allege that they were incapable of exercising revising functions. I am, therefore, driven to the conclusion that Mr. Lloyd George added 192 members to this House, making no doubt a deliberate and conscientious selection, knowing that legislative functions were committed to them, and knowing at the time he elevated them to this House that they were incapable of exercising the revising functions which are required of members of this House. I will not say more upon that point, except that there are noble Lords here who, without the conveniences of a salary, without the recommendation of a railway fare to their country houses, are nevertheless content to come to this House day by day, and on all important occasions in considerable numbers, and who are just as capable of exercising and discharging their duties in this House as Mr. Lloyd George is capable of discharging his duties in his House.

To resume the immediate topic—something must be conceded to one who is of a combative temperament and is somewhat disturbed by these reflections—no one has ever disputed the importance of the subject that engages our discussions at this moment. But as I listened to the speech of the noble and learned Earl, when I reflected how bankrupt even he, with all his plausibility, was of real arguments in favour of this Bill, I was confirmed in my view that the Government are right in their conclusion that they are unable to support it. I will go further and I will suggest for the consideration of the noble Earl—and I know that he will at least examine this candidly in his mind—that if he were a member of a Socialist Government he would give this Bill no more support than we feel ourselves able to give it to-night. The noble Earl, with fine irresponsibility, has said, indeed, that he will vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but he was unwise enough to give us his reasons for doing so. I remember an observation in a witty essay by Mr. Birrell upon the subject of Milton's "Paradise Lost." He said something to this effect: This great poet has made the mistake of exhibiting the Almighty too frequently arguendo, because he provokes the retort that indisputably the Deity on many ocasions was argumentatively wrong. In the same way the noble Earl has, I think, committed, as he rarely does, a slight dialectical error, because he told us perfectly plainly that if he had thought that this Bill was going to pass into law in anything like its present form he could not possibly support it.


I only said that I was not sure that I should.


If the noble Earl is not sure—and he is a very cautious man and applies his mind carefully—that he would support the Third Reading of a Bill which he is ostensibly supporting, I should venture to say without any unreasonable presumption that it is extremely improbable that the noble Earl would support it. Let us examine the position a little further and see whither it carries the noble Earl. He is prepared to support this Bill on the Second Reading, although very uncertain whether he could conceivably support it on the Third Reading. What is the only logical justification of the noble Earl's attitude? It is, of course, that he has in his mind certain Amendments that he could suggest or recommend which would enable him on the Third Reading to vote for a measure which at present, from the Third Reading point of view, he rejects and repels. It would be an extraordinarily useful contribution on the part of the noble Earl if he told us what these positive Amendments were. The noble Earl cannot possibly complain that he has not been afforded abundant objections to the Bill. It has been riddled on its financial side by my noble and learned friend Lord Sumner, with his incomparable skill and knowledge of such matters, and it has been assailed upon its theological, moral and sociological sides by a very independent right rev. Prelate, for whose logical mind and rhetoric I have a sincere admiration. Accordingly, the noble Earl does not come here to-day in ignorance of what the fundamental objections to this Bill are. On the contrary, he comes here very familiar with them.

The noble Earl has told us that he would vote for the Second Reading for one reason, and one reason only. What is that reason? The reason is that, in the opinion of the noble Earl, something must be done. I have never heard any man or any woman—the words are far more frequent on the lips of women than upon the lips of men—say that something must be done without knowing quite certainly that that man or that woman has not the slightest idea what was to be done; and it certainly suggests a quite unusual sloppiness of mind on the part of the noble Earl that, in a very disputable matter in opposition to which grave objections both of principle and of detail have been alleged, he should say that he is determined to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill because in his opinion something ought to be done.

The noble Earl was certainly very economical in the illustrations that he gave of his general thesis. He says that he objects to tied houses. My view upon that disputable matter can be very shortly expressed. I strongly object to tied houses if there is no competition and they compel you to drink inferior liquor. But that is the only important point. If you have a competition between houses it is of no importance at all that an individual house is tied. If, on the other hand, all houses in a given area are tied to a given brewer, with the result that he exacts from His Majesty's subjects the ordinary and very excessive sum by which thirst in these unhappy days is slaked for inferior liquor, there is very grave objection to the tied house system. The noble Earl—I do not know whether it was in admiration or in wonder—quoted the case of the licensee who posted a notice to the effect that no one was to be allowed more than two drinks in an evening. I must confess that a spirit of curiosity invites me to reply to the noble Earl interrogatively. How long was the evening? I understood, unless I mistook him, that the noble Earl spoke in terms of warm approval of this licensee, as if he were some obscure village Hampden, waiting at long last to receive immortality in the eloquent oration of the noble Earl. Let us be cautious before we associate ourselves with eulogies that may possibly be premature.

I do not know at what hour all men desist from their work, but let us suppose it be the case that a man leaves his work at half-past four. I wish to take an illustration in which there can be no possibility of prejudice, and I will suppose, therefore, that he is a bachelor, so that there are no competitive domestic demands upon him which undoubtedly might enter as calculabilia into the question. If a bachelor finishes his work at half-past four at night and no duty impels him to any domestic circle until such time as in recreation he needs repose in preparation for his next day's work, I suppose he might without incurring grave censure spend five or six hours in a convenient and reputable public-house, precisely as the noble Earl would spend five or six hours in a convenient and reputable club. I have had the advantage of meeting the noble Earl on many pleasant occasions, and particularly in Gray's Inn, of which we are both members. If the noble Earl met me at dinner in Gray's Inn, we dined about seven o'clock in the evening, and it was our pleasant and hospitable habit not to part until about midnight.

I am revealing no secrets that are domestic to Gray's Inn, but I would invite the noble Earl to make it quite plain whether he thinks that it would be a grave reflection either upon me or upon him or upon the Treasurer of Gray's Inn if, in the course of those long hours, more than two drinks were offered to either of us. If I am indisputably right—as of course I am, and as the noble Earl will agree that I am competentem reum—why should we be confused with these questions by talking as if a different standard were to be laid down for different sections of the population? I must rebuke very harshly the noble Earl for his undemocratic tendencies. The noble Earl sits in this House as a Socialist Peer, and I am bound to do him the justice of saying that he professed himself a Socialist long before any of his present colleagues had found salvation. Therefore he is entitled to recognition, but let me urge him against the virus of this undemocratic poison—against laying down one law for the rich and another for the poor. I hope at least that this will not be the argument which will deflect our judgment.

Then I am bound to point out that very little attention has been given by any speaker to that most admirable measure of licensing reform of which my noble friend Lord Balfour was the author—the Act of 1904. I listened to the speeches which were made by the right rev. Prelates who are in favour of this Bill, and I thought they might perhaps have reserved their eloquence and their rhetoric for topics which, if they will allow me to say so, they have rightly more closely studied. I cannot help thinking that if they had made themselves masters of the reforms achieved by the Act of 1904, they would have realised that it was the greatest temperance Act which had ever been passed through Parliament. It was attacked by noble Lords who belong to the Liberal Party. It was most bitterly, and so long after the event I may be allowed to add ignorantly, assailed by those who had not studied the probable results, and I say with some knowledge that of all the licensing Bills which have gone through Parliament it has done more to reform the habits of the people, and to lessen the temptations of excessive and undesirable drinking places, than any other Bill.

It is no part of my purpose to trouble your Lordships with figures, but it would. I think, be congruous with my purpose, and not disagreeable to the House, if I gave two sets of figures. This Act became law in the year 1904. Let us examine for a brief moment what the decrease has been in on-licences since January 1, 1905. From 1905 to 1909 5,347 licences were refused, with compensation, and I will say a word later about the nature of that compensation as compared with the so-called compensation contemplated by the present Bill. From 1910 to 1914 4,506 licences disappeared, and, not to go through each year, from 1905 to 1925 14,833 licences or, for short, 15,000 licences, disappeared, with no sense of bitterness and with no feeling that the proprietary principle had been unjustly invaded. Coincidently with those disappearances 5,532 licences disappeared through accidental reasons which it is no part of my purpose more closely to analyse, and 551 were refused without compensation. In other words, if I take the number of new licences granted from 1905 to 1925—namely, 1,298—we have a net decrease in the number of licensed premises (effected, as I have said, without the slightest sense of injustice and with no disturbance of those elementary principles upon which all property depends in this country) of 19,600 licences, or nearly 20,000 licences.

That is a real reform and that very Act which received the full force of the attack of the Liberal party is the only licencing measure which ever attained to a real effective result in this country. If you will only give that measure another twenty years, or even another ten years, in my humble judgment there will be no problem at all left to solve. This present Bill suffers, among many incurable defects, from the fault that it does not even attempt to readjust the work of an established legislative Act with its own imperfectly considered proposals. I do not even know now, after such study as I have been able to give to the Bill, how they propose to readjust their own proposals to the existing Compensation Funds of the old Act. It is very obscurely indicated in any statement which I have had the advantage of reading, and very imperfectly made plain in the clauses of the Bill, and when we are told in the Memorandum to the Bill that consistently with any established scheme a method of compensation is established. I reject that argument in toto.

No method of compensation is proposed at all in this Bill. The Act of my noble friend Lord Balfour had the advantage to which the noble Earl who began the debate to-day in a very interesting and moderate speech, referred. The Act of Lord Balfour had this advantage, that it was the very people in the neighbourhood who paid the compensation who, in nineteen cases out of twenty, benefited from the suppression. As a junior member of the Bar I was engaged in many of these cases when the Act of 1904 became law, and, believe me, there are few who in that comparatively humble capacity as a junior member of the Bar, are in a position to speak with more certain knowledge of how the matter worked. It worked in this way. The authorities took an area, they scheduled in that area a certain district, and within that district—I am speaking now of my own City of Liverpool—there would be fourteen or fifteen public-houses, and they said that out of those fourteen or fifteen houses two or three must go. It is not mathematically certain that the trade of the suppressed houses would go to the surviving houses, but a very great proportion of that trade would so go, and so it has proved to be, I am informed, throughout the whole country. The result has been that while somebody is sure to complain in this imperfect world that he has suffered, at the same time, without any real spirit of resentment, this enormous diminution has taken place in the licensed houses.

Under the present Bill we are to have a Central Fund. There will no longer be a local fund and you will have a sense of great injustice. Do not let them, however, call that compensation. It is not compensation. If you find one hundred men and of those one hundred men you are going to take away the livelihood of ten and are going to make the other ninety between them make up that which is lost, do not say it is compensation. It is an enforced contribution to an act which probably is morally wrongful and almost certainly socially and economically unjust. Do not call it compensation. That is a complete abuse of the term and I am very sorry that the right rev. Prelates who have lent their support to this Bill should have lent it that complexion when there is no compensation of any kind at all. No compensation is being paid. The noble and learned Viscount has pointed out on the financial side what the objections to this Bill are, and I am bound to say that the very speculative and uncertain reply which the noble Earl who spoke first to-day has made, has convinced me more strongly than ever of the force which underlay the criticisms of the noble and learned Viscount.

And I am bound to make one other observation. We are told that there will be no loss in this matter, that the authorities are entitled to borrow in order to pay whatever sums it may be found necessary to pay. And the noble Earl is very sanguine; he says the thing will certainly pay. Well, the noble Earl may have examined this very carefully, but I am sure he would be very unwilling—so should I—to give any financial guarantee that it would pay. Supposing it does not? The answer is that the whole charge falls upon the taxpayers of this country. And upon that point I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Banbury. This House has no power, even contingently, to pass such a Bill. If a financial scheme as to which we are insufficiently informed, which has strong clerical but little City support, proves not to be well founded in its actuarial calculations, and too sanguine, the ultimate recourse is to the taxpayer.

The noble Earl who spoke first to-day said: "But I take the case of Carlisle. Carlisle has succeeded very well." There again we find ourselves involved in a complex branch of this proposition. Carlisle has certainly not been a financial failure. On the other hand, observe the opportunity that has been given to Carlisle. They had, in the first place, the backing of the whole State. In the second place, they are not bound by the ordinary licensing restrictions. They are allowed these very opportunities for improved public-houses, the extension of which to other houses the noble Earl discourages. And it is an extraordinary thing to me that one so thorough in his examination of this and similar topics as the noble Earl should not have perceived how destructive of his argument with reference to the improvement of the public-house is the very case of Carlisle.

The noble Earl says in relation to the improved public-house there are no premises, or very few premises, that it is possible substantially to improve. The noble Earl began his observations by saying that he did not profess to be an authority upon this point. Well, no man is willing to put himself forward and say that he is an expert or a specialist upon such a topic, but at the same time I do not wish the noble Earl to underrate his opportunity for informing his mind at first hand. If he really puts forward the proposition that there are not in this country a very large number of licensed premises that can be slightly improved—and improved in this sense, that they can be rendered places where an ordinary citizen can with credit to him and with enjoyment to them all take his wife and family—then I agree with him, his knowledge of the subject is defective. Because I assure him that it is quite incredible that we in this country suffer from some disabilities in this matter which no other civilised country in the world has found insuperable. Why should we be in so unfortunate and so singular a situation?

Then the noble Earl says that the trouble in our existing system is that drinks are pressed upon the ordinary customers of the public-house. I am really entitled, without making any excessive ascetical claim, to say that I seldom visit a public-house. If I had occasion to I certainly would, but I do not profess any more than the noble Earl a first-class acquaintance with them. But the whole of my information is directly contrary to that which the noble Earl, I gather also at hearsay, possesses. In these days the one thing that a licensee has to fear is the loss of a licence which, of course, has become a valuable property, and I reject absolutely, from such information as is available to me, the picture which the noble and learned Earl draws of the eager licensee leaning over the counter and tempting the customer with unordered refreshment. I do not believe that it has ever existed in this country, I do not know that it ever will exist, and if the noble Earl would be more precise in defining the houses where this method of entertainment is provided he will give an advertisement which will be very highly appreciated by those who derive the emoluments from them.

And there was a very remarkable omission from the speech of the noble Earl. He did not deal at all with the subject of clubs. I am not sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who made a most interesting speech, and who has such a specially parental relationship to this measure, dealt at all with the subject of clubs. If any one imagines that you can propose a measure of this kind, upon what, if I may be permitted a homely expression, I would describe as the morality ticket, and pay no attention to the club problem, it shows that you have not even approached the elements of the question. I have reminded your Lordships that the Bill of my noble friend in twenty years diminished the number of on-licences by some 20,000. What has happened to clubs in the same period—and I am dealing not only with Liberal clubs, but, if I may say so without indelicacy to the noble Earl's friends, I am dealing also with Labour clubs. This is no Party point at all, it is a general point by which we are all, in fact, hit, and of which, if we are to escape the charge of insincerity, we must all discharge ourselves. What has happened to clubs, very many of them political clubs? From 1905 to 1926 there has been an increase of 5,409 clubs in which drinks are sold—and sometimes more than two drinks a night, I may inform you.

How is it supposed that this problem should be dealt with? The Conservative Party has made some spasmodic and not especially successful attempts, and they are at the present moment, among their other difficulties, the targets of invective and attack in the Conservative clubs of the country. I remember a day when the Liberal Party were in exactly the same situation, and I have read, the most seductive descriptions about the noble Earl's political clubs—dances, and every form of social flippancy—not culpable flippancy. Do you think you can solve a problem like, this by talking morality without facing the problem as a whole? There is not the slightest attempt in this Bill to face the problem as a whole. The only word said about clubs is that in a district which is reorganised (if that be the right expression) they can pass regulations for clubs. That is the one single respect in which clubs are dealt with at all.

I have no doubt that this is a Bill which is framed upon a principle which must fail because it is anti-social and it is tyrannical. It is claimed that it is democratic. A more amazing pretension was never put forward. You take a district, we will call it X district, with 100,000 inhabitants, and the noble Viscount, is good enough to give them, in the first place, the choice as to whether they shall go no-licence or not. Supposing they go no-licence with their 55 per cent. majority of actual voters—or whatever the majority may prove to be in the end —is it or is it not democratic, if they realise their folly, if by a larger poll they desire to reverse their decision, that they should have the power of doing so? You say: "You have gone no-licence and you have done it for ever, you have done it for three hundred years even if there was not one man, woman or child in the whole district who desired to adhere to the no-licence system." The noble Viscount says: "In the sacred name of democracy we will not allow them." That is not my conception of democracy. It is not a thing that ever has appealed, or ever will appeal, to the people of this country.

I was much struck by the fact that the noble Earl who spoke first to-day made a long enumeration of the advantages which he conceives that Prohibition has brought to the United States of America. Like the noble Earl I have travelled considerably and extensively in the United States of America since the adoption of Prohibition, and I am quite unable to share his admiration of that system or his appreciation of its consequences. The noble Earl says that in his opinion many of the workers are more prosperous and more contributory in toil than they were before the days of Prohibition. As to prosperity first, there are many other reasons than those associated with the partial—the very partial—discontinuance of alcoholic liquor which have contributed to the welfare of the American working classes. The American nation finds itself in the happy position that it is the possessor of nearly all the gold in the world and is receiving a welcome shower—I will not call it tribute, but contribution, from almost every combatant nation in the late War. There are many reasons for the prosperity of the working classes in America which cannot be and ought not to be associated with any change in their social habits; and when the noble Earl speaks of the work which they do, I would reply to him confidently and simply that with the exception of our trade disturbances, so unhappily and inexplicably protracted and recurrently produced in the last four years, there are no working men in the world who work better or more efficiently than the British working-men to-day. If you take off the number of working days that have been lost, and lost only because of industrial disturbances, and then address yourselves to the question of the output man for man, there is none who can challenge the competence of the British working man.

And a great price—let the noble Lord not forget it—has been paid in the United States of America for whatever advantages have emerged. The respect for law in Anglo-Saxon communities is one of those assets inherited from long historical tradition, preciously nurtured throughout the ages and the very basis and heart of Anglo-Saxon civilisation. What has happened in the United States of America? The law is one and indivisible; it is not segregated in watertight compartments. You cannot say: "I will break the law here and I will observe it there." You cannot produce in the fabric of your polity a feeling among great and responsible bodies of citizens, men to whom the community looks for light and leading—you cannot produce among a body like that an ostentatious indifference to the sacredness of the very term law and expect that law in its other aspects will continue to be revered and obeyed. Without the slightest disrepect to that great country and founding myself, not upon criticisms that have been made from this side of the Atlantic, but founding myself in every detail on criticisms made by the great political leaders of thought in the United States themselves, I could indeed make it plain how great has been the inroad upon the reverence for law which distinguished that great community and has distinguished that great community throughout the centuries.

I may be told that this is not Prohibition. I reply, it is partial Prohibition. Noble Lords have not had the courage to put forward a direct Prohibition proposal, but they say: "We will allow one district to say no-licence and thereafter there is no reversion to free competition." I would point out that an amazing confusion will follow in any district where no-licence has been once voted and where the attempt is made to introduce in substitution organised control. The whole system that has been organised for so long is then torn up by the roots and there is no new system, except by improvisation, able to take its place and when it does take its place, if there was no-licence for a considerable area of this country you would have substituted for the competitive licence system a system which is demonstrably nationalisation, with all the officials appointed by a Minister. Such a system is demonstrably nationalisation. I would only say of this proposal that I believe it to be ill-conceived, confusedly thought out, financially unsound and in absolute antagonism with the spirit and traditions of the British people. That spirit and those traditions have throughout the ages, and not altogether unsuccessfully, proceded upon the basis that a great confidence may be reposed in the moderation and in the common sense of the humble folk of this country. In other words you are to impose upon them moral improvements, not by coercion and not by sermons, but by trusting them, making them the judges and the trustees of their own morality and keeping them as the responsible custodians of their own moral forces.


MY Lords, to follow in debate the noble Earl who has just sat down is necessarily something of an ordeal because of the comparisons which are inevitably invited between his formidable debating power and the humble equipment which is all that I have at my command. I start, however, with one great advantage, for I have some confidence that I shall be able to prove to your Lordships that the case in favour of giving a Second Reading to this Bill is at least as far superior to the case against it as put forward by the noble Earl as his debating powers are superior to my own. The first point to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention is what, in my opinion, is a very strong reason why it is necessary to carry out some kind of reform. The right rev. Prelate, in moving the Second Reading, referred to considerations touching excessive drinking with which no one has been found to disagree, but the particular reason to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention is of a different character, and is one which, I think, will command entire approval in your Lord ships' House. It is that the condition of the public-houses in this country to-day leaves a great deal to be desired.

It has been stated that fifty per cent. of the adult population of this country are either regular or occasional frequenters of the public-house. I believe that to be correct and, if that is so, it is perfectly fair to say that the public-house is an established institution in the social life of this country. People go to the public-houses, net only in search of liquid refreshment, but in search of social intercourse and of that amenity which is far too often lacking in their own homes. It is of the first importance that the public-house should possess the qualities which correspond to the needs of so large a proportion of the population. In the hackneyed phrase, the public-house is the working man's club. I wish that was true to a far greater extent than it is. In that connection I would refer your Lordships to a book recently published, entitled, "The English Public-House as it is," by Ernest Selley. It is the result of two years' careful personal investigation of public-houses up and down the country.

Mr. Selley divides public-houses into three categories, the food tavern, the public-house and the drink shop. His definition of the drink shop is a public-house which provides practically nothing in the way of social amenity except shelter and liquid refreshment. The great majority of public-houses in this country fall into that definition. In industrial areas, where the need for decent houses is the greatest, no less than eighty per cent. fall into that category. They are houses where there is little or no provision for rest, no comfort, and where there is nothing to do except drink. The accounts in that book of some of the scenes witnessed by the author, quite by chance, on Saturday nights and at other times when supervision is difficult, bring home the sordid side of this trade. There is a sordid side to it and it must be recognised. A perusal of this book leaves one with the feeling that the working class of this country are worthy of something better than they have to-day in the way of public-houses. I do not think that we supporters of this Bill, who take that view, deserve to be called, as we were called by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham, "reforming cranks," or, as we were called by the noble Viscount, Lord Sumner, whose words were not without a spice of contempt, "earnest idealists."

The question arises why are so many of the public-houses so bad and, of course, the blame must be thrown on the system under which they have come into existence. From the trade point of view obviously the public-houses exist for the sale of liquor. That is a perfectly legitimate object. Certainly they were not constructed with any other object. They were not constructed in order to make supervision easy. Your Lordships must bear in mind that, from the point of view of the trade, an inferior back-street house may very easily be a more profitable concern than a better house on a larger site which has perhaps cost more money. In the meaner house the sale of drink may be greater; in the better house the overhead charges may be greater. As things are at present, there is very little incentive for the trade to improve their houses. The trade answer is to refer to repressive legislation and the restrictive measures of some of the licensing justices. I should be the last to deny that in some cases justices may be unduly severe, particularly in cases where increased facilities are asked for. I do not desire for one moment to defend a policy, which some people even go so far as to advocate, of keeping a public-house a disreputable place rather than encouraging people to improve their houses. Making allowance for all that, it is not surprising that the licensing justices are inclined to be suspicious of the trade proposals. The trade, as a trade, in the past has paid more regard to the profits made by a house than to the character of the house.

On the question of restrictions, we must have some restrictions and it cannot be too clearly realised that all restrictions are repugnant to the financial interest of the trade. Expansion is the law of successful trade and not contraction. That, of course, is the reply to the noble Earl when he denies that such a thing as the pushing of liquor exists. Restrictions are necessary in the public interest and that leads inevitably to the antagonism which does exist between private gain and the public weal. That was referred to by the right rev. Prelate in his speech introducing the Second Reading, and by my noble friend Lord Astor. It has remained unchallenged throughout the debate because no answer is possible and it is not an answer simply to disregard it. There is another defect in the existing system—namely, the competitive aspect. The noble and learned Earl, who has just spoken, thought that the competition had a great merit in that, if you did not like the product of one brewer, you could get the product of another. I do not attempt to guess what are the particular brands which the noble and learned Earl on the Front Bench here and the noble and learned Earl on the Front Bench opposite enjoy on those social evenings at Gray's Inn which the noble and learned Earl told us about, but I would suggest to the noble and learned Earl on this side that, next time he is in Carlisle, he should visit some of the houses there and he will find he is able to get whatever particular brand he fancies. That is a complete answer to the point he made on the subject of competition.

My comment on the subject of competition leads me in another direction. In an ordinary trade competition between one trader and another is the best security for the best service to the public. In this particular trade it is a source of difficulty and danger. Competition is one of the factors which lead to the perpetuation of the bad house by putting a premium upon undesirable practices. That competition, as has been pointed out in the course of this debate, is the greatest obstacle to the expansion of the Trust house. In its origin, the promoters of the Trust house originally intended to obtain a monopoly in an area, but funds did not allow that to be done and the Southborough Report makes quite clear the relative failure of the Trust house in that respect. In paragraph 13 of the Southborough Report, referring to Trust houses, it says: The movement cannot be said to have touched the problem of the town public-house. In the towns, particularly in poor areas, where an excessive number of inferior public-houses is already in existence, the refreshment house is faced with special difficulties. There is often no possibility of building up a food trade for lack of any demand, and in the absence of any monopoly such as was contemplated by the promoters of the movement, the undesirable class of business which is discouraged tends merely to go to some other house in the neighbourhood. In paragraph 58 the Southborough Committee makes one of its definite statements. There are only two, I think. One is a reference to the success of Carlisle, and in paragraph 58 the Southborough Report runs as follows, and it really is of considerable importance: It was represented to us that in view of the above considerations"— "the above considerations" are the serious competition by the inferior houses and by the clubs— certain conditions are necessary for the effective development of improved public-houses under a system of disinterested management.… and they go on to say that monopoly is necessary in order that the competition of unimproved houses may be eliminated. In paragraph 62 they state why they are unable to suggest legislative means to secure the conditions they thought necessary for "improved public-house enterprise." I think that this paragraph 62 has escaped the notice of some of the noble Lords who have advocated the improved public-house. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, read paragraph 60, but he did not go on to paragraph 62, which makes it clear that, having regard to the present position of the licensed trade, the Southborough Committee were unable to suggest legislative improvements by which the condition referred to in paragraph 58, that is "monopoly," might be secured in favour of the improved public-house enterprise. That competition of the bad houses is the greatest obstacle in the way of improvement under present conditions. Indeed, paragraph 62 is, or ought to be, the death knell of any claims which the improved public house may have to supply anything like a complete solution of the problem.

I think it is important to consider carefully this question of the improved public-house, because from the line taken by some of the Government spokesmen it seems possible that the Government are inclined to favour it. I would like to examine a little more closely the work of the association referred to by the Earl of Onslow, the association which goes under the name of "The association for provision of restaurant public-houses in poor districts." The name expresses adequately its object, and the association is under the chairmanship of that admirable public servant, Mr. Cecil Chapman. I would like to pay my tribute to the brewing firms who are sufficiently enlightened to provide houses for this experiment and, still more, to pay a tribute to the ladies, who not only give their time but, I believe, actually serve in these houses. But an examination of the matter proves quite conclusively that there is no prospect of any extensive reform on these lines, for reasons which were given in a recent letter to The Times by Mr. Cecil Chapman himself.

Explaining the project, he ends up by saying: Two things are necessary to extend this work. The association must collect from the general public sufficient money to maintain an office and staff and to train the right type of workers in public-house management, and the brewers must find some way of increasing the number of houses which they are prepared to see improved and conducted on such principles as those for which the association stands. One does not require to be any great prophet to foresee that that movement, unfortunately, cannot go very far. Most brewers, of course, will not touch it. Most brewers have too much difficulty, or would have too much difficulty, with their shareholders to hand over many of their public-houses to the control of a committee of ladies, and even those enlightened firms who do provide houses for this interesting experiment will, I do not hesitate to say, continue to draw the vast proportion of their revenue from unimproved houses. I do not think the public are likely to provide funds to any extent to work it. From their point of view it would be regarded as the duty of the brewers. But it is not the duty of the brewers to think first about social amenities. It is their job, naturally, to think first about profits. That experiment illustrates better than almost anything else the antagonism which does exist between the interest of the shareholders and the interest of the public. It takes one back to the dictum of Mr. Waters Butler, himself a brewer, that it is impossible for the trade to reform itself. I am aware that that consideration is one that is distasteful to a great number of your Lordships. I regret it, but the fact that it is distasteful does not, unfortunately, render it untrue. Therein lies the real case for reform.

I would like to refer at this point to two observations of the noble Viscount, Lord Sumner, which have a bearing on this point. Lord Sumner said:— We have heard diatribes against the liquor trade; whether they are deserved or not I do not know, and for the purposes of this debate I am afraid I do not care. He also said that this— political campaign against intoxicants seems to me to be one fraught with very great danger. I do not know—I have no personal experience of it—whether the gloomy picture that has been painted by at least two speakers of what the trade, as it is called, does in order to influence elections is well founded or not. There is no political campaign against intoxicants; the campaign is against the system under which intoxicants are sold. With regard to the noble Viscount's reference to the political activities of the trade, as to which I shall have to say something later, the noble Viscount admits that he does not know. If he does not know, I would respectfully suggest that before he next urges your Lordships to vote against a Temperance Bill he would do well to make himself acquainted with the facts.

The only hope of reform is to replace this system by something better, and this Bill opens the attempt to constructive reform. The reorganisation option, as your Lordships are well aware, substitutes disinterested ownership for trade ownership. I am not going to waste the time of your Lordships in discussing whether that is nationalisation or not. I concede at once that it is public ownership, and there are plenty of precedents for public ownership in the case of a trade or business where a monopoly is required. The latest precedent that your Lordships have is the production of electricity. Before that you had harbours and docks, and you had water. I venture to say that liquor is at least as suitable as water (possibly more suitable) for provision under a monopoly. Under public ownership amenity will come first and profits second. The fact that profits come second does not mean that they will not exist. They still will exist, and Carlisle is proof of that. Noble Lords who oppose this Bill are in somewhat of a dilemma as to Carlisle. Viscount Sumner referred rather contemptuously to amateur dealers in beer, who, he was afraid, would not make a profit. I think Lord Dawson of Penn, admitting that Carlisle was a success, said he supposed that the most capable people from all over the country had been chosen to run it. Neither of these statements is correct. The people who run Carlisle, I understand, are in a great majority the people who were the publicans and managers in the area before. So it would be under the reorganisation option.

With regard to the other options in the Bill—no-licence and no change—no-licence is, of course, repugnant to many or most of your Lordships, not more than it is to myself. I believe the main opposition to this Bill comes from the fact that people believe they are opposing Prohibition. I will not argue that point, as the ground was fully covered by the noble and learned Earl opposite. I would only say that I admit that Prohibition is an infringement of the liberty of the individual. But I cannot help feeling somewhat cynical when I see the liquor trade in the guise of champions of the liberty of the individual. They are not usually too regardful of the interests of the consumer, and I cannot help feeling that what they are really concerned to preserve is the liberty to make the greatest possible profits. Speeches against Prohibition are not conclusive against this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, made an eloquent speech against Prohibition, but I cannot help feeling that the statistics which he gave were singularly irrelevant to the point. He gave elaborate statistics to prove that little or no drunkenness arises from the great popular restaurants. Nobody has suggested that it does. His figures concerned, I think, not drunkenness, but the amount of alcohol consumed. If he would devote as much time to investigating the proportion of alcohol consumed in the public-houses to which I have referred, I think he would get rather a different result.


I did.


I turn to another point on which criticism, if it were successful, would be destructive of the Bill—namely, its finance. I am not going to follow the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sumner, on the question of the workable character of the Bill, for he was completely answered by my noble friend Lord Dunmore. Nor do I propose to argue the general question of the fairness of the compensation, except on one point. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, dealt with the fairness of the compensation, and if any further argument is required it can be summed up in one sentence. The compensation that is given is market value. You cannot give more than that. But I think that there lingers some doubt as to the fairness of the time notice, and this point does deserve rather careful attention. The fairness or otherwise of the time notice depends entirely on the nature of property in licences. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, spent some time establishing the fact that there was property in a licence. Nobody disputes it. The only question is exactly what is the nature of that property. Before the Act of 1904 there was no dispute on that point at all, because it was settled by the well-known judgment of Sharp versus Wakefield, which made it perfectly clear that the licensing justices have a perfect right to get rid of a licence on the sole ground of redundancy.

It is admitted that certain considerations of equity arose owing to the expectation of renewal, and this was dealt with in 1904 by the system of levies, which were denounced with so much vigour by the noble and learned Earl but which were at the time accepted by the trade. The Scottish Act of 1913 established the principle of the time notice, which was also accepted by the trade. In 1904 nobody suggested that there was freehold in licences, and the noble Earl, the Lord President of the Council, was always careful to guard himself, and made it quite clear time after time that the Act of 1904 did not create that perpetual property. He made it clear that the way was left open to future Governments to deal with the matter, and a very relevant quotation from one of his speeches in 1908 was read by the right rev. Prelate in introducing the Bill. I need not repeat it.

The argument has been used that this is a dangerous precedent, that notice might be given by socialistically inclined people with regard to other kinds of property. I think that this is a most dangerous argument, for it is putting the property in a licence on the same level as the freehold property in land and buildings. It seems to me that merely to suggest that argument is to do the very thing that those who use it say that the time notice does. In point of fact, my right as a landowner to my land is on a totally different basis from, and offers no analogy whatever with, the right of the licensee to his licence. The suggestion that this Bill, with its time notice, is an attempt to rob the trade is the direct contrary of the truth. The attempt of the trade directly or indirectly to obtain freehold in the licence is an attempt to impose upon the public. The fairness of the Bill is one of its fundamental features, and I desire to say, in reference to the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, from the Liberal Benches, that it is a source of very great gratification to learn the intention of the noble Earl and his friends to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. I desire to assure the noble Earl and his friends that, if any remote degree fairness can be shown to have been infringed in the Bill, its promoters are only too ready to listen to constructive criticisms and to meet them in any way that lies in their power.

There are a number of minor and Committee points that have been touched upon. There is the question of the polls, whether they should be mandatory or permissive. For my own part I do not care about mandatory polls and would prefer them to be permissive. But what does that matter? It is purely a question of detail. I must, however, refer as briefly as possible to the political aspect of this matter. That there is a political aspect is, of course, due to the system under which the trade is carried on. The right rev. Prelate, in making his introductory speech, said that we were approaching a state of things perilously near to the corruption of our political system. That is another of the statements which have been allowed to pass completely unchallenged. In the previous debate on a Bill similar to this the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, said that he could not accept at their face value all the pretensions of the trade; nor does anybody. But it is undeniable that the trade has succeeded in gaining very considerable political power. I am quite sure that the noble Earl, the Lord President of the Council, will remember the events of 1903, when there was a by-election at Rye. This was just at the time when the magistrates were exercising their powers of cancelling licences for redundancy, and the trade were putting their pressure upon Lord Balfour's Government in order to secure more considerate treatment. The trouble at Rye was that the division was a complete Conservative stronghold, and had never been known to return anything but a Conservative Member. By the efforts of the liquor trade, however, in 1903 they succeeded in returning Dr. Hutchinson in the Liberal interest. The moral was pointed in 1906, when Dr. Hutchinson was one of the few Liberals to lose his seat. The Liberals more or less swept the country, but Rye was one of the few constituencies which returned to its Conservative allegiance.

The objectionable feature of the activities of the trade in politics is that they do, deliberately and avowedly, withdraw or give support indifferently to different Parties purely in accordance with the favour shown to their own interests, which are admittedly selfish interests. At the time of the Rye by-election a meeting was being held in London of a trade society, and the speakers made it quite clear that the society was determined to place its profits before its politics. Only the other day, in North Southwark, Admiral Sir Reginald Hall found it necessary to make an appeal to the licensed interests not to put their private and petty grievances or their trade before their country—and even Sir Reginald Hall described them as private and petty grievances. The comment in the liquor trade papers on that is illuminating. In the Licensing World these words appeared:— The contention that the by-election was being fought solely on a national question did not weigh with them, because, they argued, the situation in China would not be altered by the result of the election, and it was the only chance they had locally of voicing serious home grievances. Not long since another trade paper, in an editorial, made it clear that From the national point of view it may be sound policy to boycott the Labour Party … but when taking the future position of our trade in politics into consideration we cannot afford to pursue such a simple policy. Many quotations from Prime Ministers and others have been made to your Lordships on this subject, and I will not inflict a repetition of those quotations, but there is one from a Conservative statesman which has rather a special interest. In 1889, Lord Randolph Churchill said this in a speech in the country:— The great obstacle to temperance reform undoubtedly is the wholesale manufacturer of alcoholic drink. Those manufacturers are small in number, but they are very wealthy. They exercise enormous influence. Every publican in the country almost, certainly nine-tenths of the publicans in the country, are their abject and tied slaves. Public-houses in nine cases out of ten are tied houses. There is absolutely no free will, and these wholesale manufacturers of alcoholic drink have an enormously powerful political organisation, so powerful and so highly prepared that it is almost like a Prussian Army; it can be mobilised at any moment and brought to bear on the point which is threatened. Up to now this great class has successfully intimidated a Government and Members of Parliament; in fact, they have directly overthrown two Governments, and I do not wonder. I do not blame Governments for being a little timid of meddling with them. What is remarkable is the comment of the biographer of Lord Randolph Churchill. It is as follows:— A single extract will show how far his mind had travelled from those serene pastures where the Government lambs were nourished. That does bring me to the attitude of the Government on this Bill. There is evidence that there is pressure being brought on the Government at this moment, similar to the pressure which was brought on the Conservative Government in 1903. The question is, how are they going to respond? Lord Desborough foreshadowed a Bill. Lord Onslow said the Government were in favour of judicious reform, but were not going to reopen a controversial question. I do not know whether the Government think that the improved public-house would not be controversial. If so, they were never more mistaken in their lives. The Government spokesman was opposed to local option, because of the experience of the Scottish Act. The defect of the Scottish Act, in the opinion of most of us, is that it does not contain a third option, such as reorganisation.

I should like to take a moment to refer to some of the objections taken by the noble and learned Earl who spoke last. He spoke of the success of the Act of 1904. I cannot claim to be so enthusiastic as he is as to the result of that Act. I agree that licences have been reduced, but what has the Act done to improve the conditions of public-houses?—which is one of the most important things. The noble Earl was, I think, making a mistake. He said that if no-licence was voted under this Bill it would be no-licence for ever. That is a misconception. There is no return to private enterprise, and that, in my opinion, is perfectly right—


Divide! Divide!


—but there is no reason whatever why they should not go back to public ownership. I do regret that on this Bill the Government have put on the Whips, and I make an appeal to the noble Marquess who leads the House, and who is as keen about temperance as any member of your Lordships' House, not to make this a Party measure. I think it would be unfortunate to have a Division on Party lines on this Temperance Bill. Two members of the Government have said it is a sincere endeavour to deal with a difficult problem, and I think it would be unfortunate to have a Division with the Conservative Party on one side and the Liberal and Labour Parties on the other. If the Whips are put on I cannot play the part of a Government lamb. I shall vote for the Second Reading, and I hope that sufficient noble Lords on this side will go with me to show the Government that there is a strong feeling in our Party in favour of a constructive policy on temperance, for there is no other constructive policy on temperance before us.

Several Noble Lords

Divide! Divide!


Some of the noble Lords who oppose this Bill spoke of the advantages of education and housing. The people who are always found in opposition to temperance are

the people who are the strongest opponents of social reform. Lord Banbury, who moved the rejection of this Bill, always tells us that he strongly dislikes social reform of every kind. All in this House are united in wanting progress, both in the direction of a diminution of excessive drinking and of the improvement of public-houses, but the way of advance lies only in scrapping the existing system. In the War, when the efficiency of this country—


Divide! Divide!


—was so visibly impaired by the superabundant activities of this trade, the elimination of private interest was nearly but unfortunately not quite accomplished. Those private interests stand as a bar to social progress and form the greatest menace to the purity of our political life. On the one side you have the principle of the private profit of the liquor trade and on the other the public weal of the common people of our country, and I ask your Lordships to vote in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill.

On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 36; Not-Contents, 114.

Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.) Bradford, L. Bp. Arnold, L.
Chester, L. Bp. Balfour of Burleigh, L.
Chichester, L. Bp. Boston, L.
Reading, M. Hereford, L. Bp. Braye, L.
Lichfield, L. Bp. Clwyd, L.
Beauchamp, E. Lincoln, L. Bp. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)
Buxton, E. Liverpool, L. Bp. [Teller.] Gainford, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) London, L. Bp. Gorell, L.
Russell, E. Manchester, L. Bp. Hemphill, L.
Rochester, L. Bp. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Allendale, V. St. Albans, L. Bp. Parmoor, L.
Astor, V. [Teller.] Southwark, L. Bp. Plumer, L.
Haldane, V. Worcester, L. Bp. Stanmore, L.
Thomson, L.
Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.) Dufferin and Ava, M. Grey, E.
Zetland, M. Harewood, E.
Balfour, E. (L. President.) Kimberley, E.
Airlie, E. Leicester, E.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Bathurst, E. Lichfield, E.
Bradford, E. Lindsay, E.
Cranbrook, E. Lindsey, E.
Marlborough, D. Denbigh, E. Liverpool, E.
Northumberland, D. Derby, E. Lucan, E. [Teller.]
Wellington, D. Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Macclesfield, E.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Bath, M. Eldon, E. Mayo, E.
Midleton, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.
Minto, E. Cornwallis, L. Leconfield, L.
Morton, E. Cranworth, L. Lovat, L.
Northbrook, E. Crawshaw, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Onslow, E. Dalziel of Wooler, L. Merthyr, L.
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Danesfort, L. Methuen, L.
Powis, E. Darling, L. Mildmay of Flete, L.
Scarbrough, E. Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.) Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Spencer, E. Dawson of Penn, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Stanhope, E. Derwent, L. Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Stradbroke, E. Desart, L. (E. Desart.) Mostyn, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Desborough, L. Mowbray, L.
Yarborough, E. Dewar, L. Newton, L.
Digby, L. O'Hagan, L.
Chaplin, V. Dynevor, L. Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)
Cobham, V. Elphinstone, L. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
D'Abernon, V. Ernle, L. Playfair, L.
Falmouth, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough)
FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)
Hood, V. Faringdon, L. Redesdale, L.
Inchcape, V. Forester, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Peel, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.) St. Levan, L.
Sidmouth, V. Gisborough, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Sumner, V. Greenway, L.
Templetown, V. Greville, L. Sandys, L.
Ullswater, V. Hampton, L. Sempill, L.
Younger of Leckie, V. Hanworth, L. Somerleyton, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L. Southampton, L.
Durham, L. Bp. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Sonthwark, L.
Harris, L. Stafford, L.
Askwith, L. Hastings, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Atkinson, L. Hayter, L.
Banbury of Southam, L. Heneage, L. Sydenham of Combe, L.
Barnard, L. Hindlip, L. Templemore, L.
Belper, L. Hothfield, L. Wargrave, L.
Biddulph, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Wavertree, L.
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.) Islington, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Carew, L. Joicey, L. Wharton, L.
Carson, L. Knaresborough, L. Wittenham, L.
Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Kylsant, L. Wyfold, L.
Lamington, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.

On Question, Amendment agreed to: Bill to be read 2a this day six months accordingly.

House adjourned at five minutes before seven o'clock.