( Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Sir Thomas Bazley, Lord Claud Hamilton, Sir John Hammer, Mr. Miller, Mr. Dalway, Mr. Macarthy Downing.)
Order for Second Reading read.
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he regretted to be obliged to bring this question before the House at so late a period of the Session, The House would remember that at the beginning of the Session they were in expectation of a measure being brought in by the Government for the purpose of dealing with the licensing system. An I intimation to that effect was contained in the Speech from the Throne. He had thought it would not be respectful to the Government if he introduced his project for dealing with intemperance when they were in daily expectation of the measure of the Government being brought for ward. No such Bill, however, had been introduced. He did not intend to reproach the Secretary of State for the Home Department on that account, because they know that the promised Bill had been postponed from the force of circumstances. Still, he did not think that was a wise or a good policy. However important the measures the House had had before it, there was none so important as a measure which would tend to reduce drunkenness in this country. They who felt strongly on this subject, and believed that they had in view a substantial remedy for the existing evil, could not take the responsibility of sitting still when they saw what was going on around them. He had therefore brought forward the present Bill. This Bill had only been twice before the House. The first time was in 1804, when he was defeated by a majority of 7 to 1. A new Parliament intervened, in which he had not a seat; but last year, on the assembling of another Parliament under a new state of things, he again introduced the measure, and the result was that he was defeated by only 2 to 1. This showed that the question had made considerable progress among the masses. One reason why he was defeated on the last occasion by such a majority was that hon. Gentlemen naturally looked forward to the measure promised by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce). The same argument might now be used as was used on a former occasion with respect to the passing of a very useful measure; but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not be led to fight against the Bill to-day, because he might be as thoroughly in earnest as he was last year. It was quite possible that circumstances might again prevent him from bringing forward his measure next year. He hoped, therefore, that whatever might be in the minds of the Government with respect to the mode of dealing with the licensing question, they would not permit it to militate against a full discussion of the merits of the Bill which was before the House. It might be urged, as an argument against proceeding with this Bill, that a great measure of national education was being passed, and that education was the real cure for drunkenness. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department seemed to place much reliance on that cure. He thought that was his right hon. Friend's strong impression; because although he admitted that restrictive measures were, to some extent, necessary, yet he based his main hope of eradicating drunkenness and improving the general morals of the people on a comprehensive system of national education. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was, however, of opinion that some such legislation as he proposed was necessary to effect the object. The New England States were described as being the best educated parts of the world; but he found, nevertheless, that they were there unable to contend with the evils introduced by the liquor traffic, and that it was there that all the attacks on it had been initiated. Now, what, he would ask, was the teaching which was to be given under the present measure of education with the view of putting an end to drunkenness? He was quite sure that nobody proposed that the children should be taught to become teetotallers. Those who were addicted to drunkenness knew perfectly well that they were doing wrong, and that the vice tended to produce their ruin and that of their families; but they were the victims of a habit into which they were led by an appetite they could not control, and to teach them the exercise of self-control was the only education which would be effectual as a remedy. He doubted very much whether mere book-learning would do much in that direction. It was not only the most ignorant persons who were the victims of this vice. In the debate of last year the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), after showing that the beer-shops were not so blameworthy as some supposed, said that—
Again, the Rev. B. de Renzi, chaplain to Leeds Borough Gaol, stated that out of 1,041 prisoners committed in 1852–3, only 138 had never been to school. The Rev. Joseph Kingsmill, in his official Report of Pentonville Penitentiary for 1849, said—"If he were called upon to name those within his knowledge who had ruined their prospects in life, who had lost good situations, and who had fallen from comparative case and competence to a state of degradation, they would not be the men belonging to the labouring class following agricultural or mechanical pursuits, but they would be the men of a superior class and of good education, men who had enjoyed comfortable homes and good salaries, and who, in spite of all, had fallen victims to that abominable and frightful vice."
Returns sent in in 1849 from the Governors of 100 prisons showed that out of 5,996 prisoners then in gaol 2,900 had been Sunday scholars. At a meeting of ticket-of-leave men, called by H. Mayhew, March 12, 1856, to which 50 responded, it appeared that more than one-half had been educated either at day schools or Sunday schools. In Parkhurst Prison, out of 937 boys confined in 1844, 734 had been at day schools, on an average, nearly four years. Mr. Smith, Governor of Edinburgh Gaol, said, in 1845—"The number of recommitments of those who can read well is much greater than the number of those who cannot read at all." Therefore he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not think that any specific for the vice of drunkenness was to be found in any system of national education. They were told that the upper classes had greatly improved within the last generation; but surely the House would not attribute that improvement to the progress among them of elementary education. It was not reading, writing, and arithmetic that prevented the country squire from drinking his three bottles now and falling under the table as in former times; it was rather the influences by which he was surrounded. It should be borne in mind, too, that education had been a long time in operation, but that it had failed to go to the root of the question. The teaching and preaching did not go to the root of the matter, and in the expressive words of the chaplain of the Preston House of Correction—"Of 1,000 convicts 957 had been scholars in the different day schools high and low in the country, and nearly half that number on an average five years."
He had heard Home Secretaries on former occasions quote judicial statistics to show that drunkenness was decreasing; but anyone who referred to the judicial statistics would find in them a convincing proof that the evil of drunkenness in this country was not diminishing, for while in 1866–7 there were 100,375 drunk and disorderly persons proceeded against, in 1867–8 they had increased to 111,465, and last year there was a further increase of over 11,500. That did not look as if things were improving very much. But still more remarkable was it, that even since the Licensing Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir Selwyn-Ibbotson) was passed, in all the large towns—the Returns state that in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, and Birmingham—there had been an increase in the cases of drunk and disorderly persons charged before the magistrates. He could not account for it, but still it was the fact. In Liverpool the increase in all kinds of offences connected with drink, but exclusive of drinksellers' offences, was not less than 1,726, the Returns for the four months ending January 31st, 1869, being 5,463; while those returned in the four months ending January 31st, 1870, were not less than 7,189. In Manchester he found from the Report of Captain Palin, the head constable, that the number of persons—"The improvement which takes place in the country, with respect to drunkenness, is so slow that it can be measured only at very long intervals of time."
He dared say some attempt would be made to controvert these statistics, but he believed that they would be found to be quite correct. Now came the question, what was to be done to remove so great an evil? It was idle, he contended, to expect that it would diminish unless some very decisive step was taken by the Legislature. They could not expect more from religious and moral influences than they had already gained. It appeared to him that if they sat still and did nothing, the same causes would produce exactly the same effect. They might as well sit down on a river bank, and expect that the stream would flow away. The principal cause of drunkenness was the temptation which was put in the way of the people by the present system of licensing public-houses in every part of the country. It was said in a Report on the licensing system from the Board of Inland Revenue, drawn up by Mr. Thring, that the system was introduced partly for police and partly for revenue purposes. If that were so he could only say that in the former direction there had been a total failure, while in the latter it had proved a brilliant success. In a financial point of view they could not have had anything more substantial, as they had raised a sum of £24,000,000 from the various sources of revenue derived from the manufacture and sale of drink of all kinds; but its failure as a police measure was proved by the attempts that were constantly made to amend it. Probably from first to last there had been 300 or 400 Acts of Parliament dealing with this matter, trying to make beneficial what had hitherto proved so injurious. In 1830, they had the Beer Act. They were told that good wholesome beer would carry everything before it. Well, they had tried it for nearly 40 years, and found it to be a hopeless failure. Then, again, in 1860, the Prime Minister introduced the Wine Act, and he stated in the House that he introduced it as a temperance measure. But if it had done no harm, which might be doubted, it had certainly done no good, as was perfectly apparent from the facts which he had laid before the House It was the fashion now to attribute all the evils of the system to adulteration. Well, perhaps the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), whom he was glad to see in his place, would have something to say on that subject. He was a great friend of the licensed victuallers, and when presiding at the festival of their asylum last May, he said that he was—"Proceeded against during the year were nearly three times the number they were 10 years ago. In these offences there was a considerable increase; drunkenness, however, showing most prominently. The persons arrested for that offence in 1860 gave 23 per cent of the total persons proceeded against, which had increased to 40 per cent during the past year. There were many other offences arising immediately out of drunkenness which could not be classed under this head. Some idea of that might be gathered from the fact that 65·1 per cent of the persons arrested were drunk when taken into custody. The increased demand upon the time of the police which that offence occasioned materially interrupted that constant attention to their duties which was so necessary for the effectual protection of property and detection of criminals."
That was, according to the hon. Member, the effect of the beer barrel. The hon. Member strenuously denied that there was any adulteration; but it might be that the hon. Member was mistaken. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not care which way it was; either it was good sound beer which did harm, or else the licensing system failed in obtaining satisfactory dealers. On either theory, then, the case must go against the hon. Member. The other new suggestion was, that they should have some fresh licensing body. He had no objection to that, and he was sure that it would be regarded as a boon by the magistrates, who had to discharge, under great difficulties, a most delicate and onerous duty. He was not certain that any other body of men could have discharged it with more satisfaction to the public at large. An elective body had been tried. They had it in Scotland, while in parts of Ireland they had licences granted by a recorder, who was free from local influences. He did not attack the exercise of this power by the magistrates, and was now proposing no new body at all. He wished it to be understood that this Bill was in no shape or way a licensing Bill. It was an anti-licensing Bill. He did not seek to interfere with the power of the magistrates with respect to inquiry into a man's character before they granted him a licence; but they ought, he contended, to be assisted in the performance of that most difficult part of their duties—namely, the finding out of the wants of the inhabitants of a particular neighbourhood so far as the establishment in it of a public-house was concerned. This Bill would not shut up any public-house in the country, but would leave it entirely to enlightened public opinion to act where sufficiently strong to do so. In a number of cases it would have no effect at all; but in others it might be displeasing to the inhabitants of a district that a public-house should be opened in it, and the Bill would give them the power of giving effect to their views, while the magistrates would be saved from a disagreeable duty. The principle of the Bill had met with the approbation of Convocation, and last year 800,000 people had petitioned in favour of it, while there were only four Petitions, all of which came from Licensed Victuallers' Associations, against it. It was this power which the committee of Convocation declared to have been exorcised in many cases with the most beneficial effect; and in the report which they issued on the subject, they strongly recommended that the people should be intrusted generally with such a power. Then, again, they had had a number of Petitions on the same subject this year, though it was quite true that they had not so many as they had last year. The reason of that was obvious. People could not be always petitioning upon any subject. They felt that they had expressed their opinion once, and that opinion was equally strong now as it was last year. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, whose absence they all deplored, in one of the last speeches he had delivered in that House, had also endorsed the principle of the Bill. It was true, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, the machinery was as bad as it could possibly be. Well, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was now talking of the principle, which was a right and just one; the machinery might be altered in Committee. He was not prejudiced in favour of the machinery, and would willingly consent to any alteration which might tend to make it more effective. He took the best that he could find, and adopted the machinery of the Bill from an excellent Act which had worked extremely well. But all he contended for was the principle which was supported by the right hon. Gentle- man the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in his speech. He must, however allude to the objection which that right hon. Gentleman took to the measure, because he thought it right to vote against the Bill simply on account of the machinery. Now, on the second reading of a Bill, it was perfectly clear that it was the principle alone and not the machinery, which was proposed for the purpose of carrying that principle into effect, which ought to guide them in their vote. Some hon. Members did not like the idea of a permissive Bill, He begged to say that the present law was permissive; it gave the magistrates a permissive power over these licences. He proposed to put the power in the hands of the ratepayers. No doubt this would be a local Maine Liquor Law. He did not shrink from the word, and contended that wherever the Maine Law had been enforced, it had been an effectual cure for drunkenness. [Mr. BASS: But you cannot enforce it.] Well, let the experiment be tried. [Mr. BASS: It has been tried, and has failed.] The prohibition of the liquor traffic had never failed to do good when carried out in accordance with the will of the people. While on the permissive part of the question, he might ask what did the Vice President of the Committee of Council say with respect to permissive legislation? While acknowledging that it was not to be advocated as final legislation, he said that he could point to cases to show that it had not seldom succeeded. Well, all they wanted was that the experiment should be tried. If the experiment failed, and if, when public-houses were put down, crime and misery continued as rife as ever, it would be time to revert to the old system; but if, on the contrary, their removal was accompanied by a general rise in the moral, social, and material condition of the people, then it would follow that this, like all other good movements, would become progressive, and, in the end, the removal of public-houses would become general. And why was it objected to because it was permissive? The permissive principle had succeeded in the Museums Act. The application of the Health of Towns Act was permissive; and if you applied this principle to the effort to make people healthy, why not also to the endeavour to make them sober? Again, the establishment of Free Libraries was a permissive measure; few places had availed themselves of the Act, but great good had resulted therefrom, and nobody was hurt by it. Another permissive measure, the Public-houses Closing Act, was brought in by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) in 1864, and Town Councils were thereby empowered to adopt its provisions at pleasure, and close public-houses within certain specified hours, and empowering the police to visit them in the middle of the night. That Act was adopted in many places, and, so far as he could see, no person was aggrieved by it, or suffered from its operation. He must, therefore, confess that he did not see any force in the cry which had been raised against the Bill on the ground that it was permissive legislation. But there was another objection which had been raised to the measure, which he I must confess was a very fair one, that was, that it was an attack upon the rights of inhabitants that ratepayers only were to vote, and that they ought to take the opinion of all the inhabitants before the measure should be put in operation. Nothing would give them greater pleasure than to do so if they could; but there was no machinery for getting at them that they knew of. If there were they would be ready and glad to adopt it. Another objection was, that the measure was an encroachment upon individual liberty; but every Act of of Parliament was more or less an encroachment upon individual liberty. They put down gambling houses by statute—why not drinking houses? Then it was objected that the ratepayers only were to vote, while all the inhabitants were interested. Now he was ready to give every inhabitant a vote; but there was no machinery for taking the votes of any but ratepayers. Then it was stated there ought not to be piecemeal legislation. This was stated in a Petition presented by the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. C. Forster) from the licensed victuallers of that borough—only they spelt the word "peacemeal." But he did not think any grave objection could be brought to their attempting to proceed by instalments. The licensed victuallers argued that they had invested a considerable amount of money in the trade for public accommodation; but if they were so foolish as to invest capital in an undertaking on the faith that the law of this country would be similar to that of the Modes and Persians, he did not think they were entitled to the consideration of that House. However, he did not object to the Petition; but if their case was really made out, how did the matter stand? The licensing body, the magistrates, were empowered by the public to make a bargain with them, in consequence of which the publicans, in consideration of paying so much money, were privileged to sell drink for one year. The State had a right to decline renewing the bargain. But, whether they were to be compensated or not, surely had nothing whatever to do with the second reading of the Bill. He wanted to know whether a man who built a house with the intention of getting a licence for it, well knowing that the very act of getting a licence would raise the value of that house 50 per cent, was to be compensated when the house returned to its actual value, especially when they knew that the increase in its value to the extent of 50 per cent or so had been made at the expense of the depreciation of the value of property all around it? But only let them clearly know on what ground the demand was made, for until then they could not give it a definite answer. At the same time he would say that any compensation would be cheap which would put a stop to the spending of the hundred millions of money which the country expended annually on intoxicating drinks. He intended to have quoted a list of cases in which the prohibitory principle had been put in force, and the manner in which it had always answered its purpose; but he would leave that to his hon. Friends who would speak after him, and to his noble Friend, who would second the Motion, and give his own experience, having seen the benefit of it. His noble Friend the other night attended a large and enthusiastic meeting, at which he stated how of his own knowledge the prohibitory principle had worked, and the strong reasons which induced him to demand it for his fellow-countrymen, having seen the effect of it in different parts of the country in which he lived. The House would allow him to say that the Bill interfered with that of nobody else. His right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did not even give them a hint of what sort of a Bill he proposed to introduce next year in regard to that question. No doubt the measure which he would bring in would improve the licensing system; and, in point of fact, any Bill which was brought in must be of benefit. He felt sure of that, without seeing it; because he was convinced that it must go the length of restricting the facilities which now existed for obtaining drink, if he made any change at all. But his measure was not passed yet; nay, it was not even introduced. He only said, in the meantime, at all events, do not thrust the liquor down the throats of the people. He did not moan to say that his Bill was a panacea for all the evils of the country; but he believed that it would do an immense amount of good, with no corresponding amount of injury. But if it did a small portion only of good, surely it was worthy of the consideration of the House. Speaking to his constituents last January, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said—"One of the fifth generation of a set of tradesman who, for more than 100 years, had been cultivating with all their hearts the good opinion of the licensed victuallers of the country. Some 15,000 of them were in constant communication with him." They were "the most ancient and most useful body of tradesmen that ever existed in the world, engaged in the production and the distribution of the various beverages, without which, he believed, mankind would become no better than a set of monks."
Now, if this measure only tended in that direction, surely it was not one which the Government, the friends, we hope, of the people, could find it in their hearts to oppose. Surely a great responsibility would rest upon any statesman who, without any plan of his own before the House, simply chose to obstruct others. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce) would not take that course; and if he did, he hoped that the House would support him in a measure which he did not pretend to say would be a perfect euro for drunkenness, but which, at any rate, would give to the people of this country a chance of doing what they believed to be for the advantage of themselves and the welfare of the nation."If we could subtract from the ignorance, the poverty, the suffering, the sickness, and the crime which are now witnessed among us, the poverty, the suffering, the sickness, and the crime which are caused by this one single but the most prevalent habit or vice of drinking needlessly, which destroys body and mind, and home and family, do we not all feel that this country would be so changed, and so changed for the better, that it would be almost impossible for us to know it again."
, in seconding the Motion, said, he would appeal to hon. Gentlemen to dismiss from their minds any prejudices which they might have formed on the subject from what was said by the opponents of the measure. He contended that the Bill in no way partook of the spirit of the old sumptuary laws, and that it did not seek unduly to interfere with the liberty of the subject. The object of the measure was simply to allow the inhabitants of the country to have some voice and influence in those arrangements which most materially affected their social and moral welfare, and he could not look upon that as an unreasonable or impracticable object. The widespread feeling which now existed on the subject had been created by the consideration that some legislation upon it was necessary. There was an immense body of evidence to show that the greater part of the crime in this country arose from drunkenness. Past legislation on the subject had been faulty and injudicious, and had been confessed to be so by all the authorities and by many successive Governments; and a great public cry had now gone up to Parliament to induce them to meet some of the evils which had been thus created. From the valuable Report which had been issued on the subject by the Committee of the Lower House of Convocation in the Province of Canterbury it appeared that there were nearly 1,000 parishes in which, under the Act passed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), the restrictive measures of this Bill were already in operation to a certain degree and were producing beneficial results. He would remind the House that Parliament was not invited to make men moral and sober by statute, but simply to undo its own bad work and remedy the mischief which its own faulty legislation had brought about. In Ireland there was perfect unanimity of feeling upon the subject in almost every class, and among those whose views were of almost every shade. The Roman Catholic clergy denounced the evils of the existing state of things, and countenanced this opposing movement in a manner which was most gratifying to all the supporters of this Bill and most creditable to those clergy themselves, and the same feeling was found in the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the Presbyterian body, in the Wesleyans, and, indeed, in every sect or class of the Irish people, who all joined together as one united Christian body in support of legislation of this character. In Ulster the unanimity in its favour was marvellous. At the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church the decision was unanimous in favour of the Bill; the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterians had also expressed an opinion in favour of legislation of this kind; and he had received more urgent requests to support this measure than he had received respecting any other measure before the House, including even the Land Bill. After the statement made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department last year, that the most intelligent, industrious, and thriving of the artizans were in favour of such legislation, and after the right hon. Gentleman's further statement that it was the duty of Parliament to aid them in such a matter, he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would now go further, and give the powerful support of the Government to this Bill. In the name of thousands and tens of thousands of heads of families who were deeply impressed with the evils produced by the liquor traffic, he entreated the House to try to mitigate those evils, and respond to the prayers of the Petitions addressed to them.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
said, he rose to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time upon this day three months. Something had been said by the hon. Baronet who introduced the Bill (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) as to the number of Petitions which had been presented in its favour: but with an organization such as that of which the promoters of the Bill had command, with branches in every district of the country, it was very easy to get up Petitions to any extent whatever. The real test of the sentiments of the country generally upon the subject was to ascertain what was the actual feeling of the people in the large towns and cities of the kingdom. He begged the House to consider what they were asked to do. He could not see the justice of allowing two-thirds of a meeting called together in some very small room, perhaps, by the mayor of any borough to decide whether what was supposed to be the other third should have a glass of ale or cider. If it was right to shut up public-houses, why was it not sought to shut up the clubs in Pall Mall and the refreshment rooms of the Houses of Parliament? Gentlemen of position could afford to stock their cellars and have their wine or boor whenever they were so disposed. What was right for the people generally was right for Members of Parliament. Let there be fair and just legislation all round, and if a proposal to abolish the refreshment room there would not be listened to, as something too ridiculous, why apply a different principle in the case of working men? Under the Bill, one parish might determine to carry out the provisions of the Act, and the adjoining parish might say "No." It would only be necessary to cross the parish boundary in order to obtain what you wanted; but, in his opinion, the establishment of a Maine Liquor Law would lead to evasion on all hands. There would be such a determination to obtain the prohibited drink as to render their legislation practically of no avail. If the Bill passed, there was a danger, not to say a probability, that the quietest and best-conducted people would refuse to submit to its operation. Then, as to compensation, could it be said that it had been put that day in the way it ought to have been? Would the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) think it right if his own property was dealt with in the way he proposed to deal with that of publicans? If the people promoting this Bill were so anxious to carry out its provisions, they need not enter a public-house. Did the supporters of this Bill never drink a glass of wine or brandy and water? He was, indeed, aware that there were some who said—"Give us not this Bill, but give us the principle, and the Government will settle the details," their object being to get the thin end of the wedge in, with a view of ultimately forcing Parliament to drive the wedge home. Now, he objected to the thin end of the wedge altogether. Not a few of the supporters of the hon. Member (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) were professed Freetraders; but Freetraders had sometimes peculiar notions, and allowed but one kind of free trade to exist. Was it free trade to enable two-thirds of the people of a town to say to the other third—"Yoxi shall not have a glass of beer?" If the operation of prohibition were so very satisfactory, as it was represented to be by its advocates, how was it that there was not a rush to those estates in the North, where it was in force, until they became peopled like cities of China and Japan? According to Clauses 8 and 9, the teetotallers could ask the opinion of the voters in a parish or borough once every year, while their opponents would be permitted to do so only once every three years. Was anything so likely to produce and promote almost perpetual agitation and turmoil as this evidently unfair attempt at one-sided legislation? Had nothing been effected by the Act of last year promoted by the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson)? And ought it not to have a further and a fair trial? It was idle for the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle to say that no interference with the present licensing system was intended. If this were not such an interference, it was difficult to say what could be. In protesting against an infinitesimal portion of the population setting aside vested rights and ignoring compensation, he hoped he should be supported by the House, and in conclusion he would therefore move that the Bill be read a second time upon that day three months.
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that the advocates of such measures seemed to think that when they had proved, what no one disputed, the evils of intemperance, they had established the necessity for what was called coercive measures. He thought the clergy had done injustice to their own powers of persuasion in seeking for such measures. He did not believe that people could be made wise, virtuous, or temperate by Act of Parliament. The licensed victuallers of Ireland were remarkable for their intelligence and orderly conduct and enlightened ideas, and they would gladly co-operate in promoting any measure which they considered would conduce to social order in that country. No one was more obnoxious to the licensed victualler than a drunken customer.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Mr. Wheelhouse.)
said, it was a mistake to suppose that the Bill proposed any new restrictions in principle. It only enacted that the present mode of restrict- ing the sale of intoxicating liquors, which was by means of the magistrates, should be made more effective and useful. The greatest difficulty with which magistrates had to deal was that imposed upon them by the licensing system, and on that ground he supported the principle of the measure without pledging himself with regard to its details.
said, with regard to the assertion that men could not be made sober by Act of Parliament, he thought the House was quite ready to recognize the principle that Parliament could do much, and therefore ought to do much, to remove temptations to drunkenness out of the way. They were asked to assent to the second reading of the Bill not because it was a perfect measure, but because it was the only measure which could be proposed to the country; but, in considering the principle and provision of the Bill, they had to ask themselves whether it was wise, practicable, and just, and he came to the conclusion that he could not vote in favour of it. It gave a power of absolute prohibition to a majority of the ratepayers of a district, and, remembering that a majority of ratepayers might be a minority of the whole population, he thought this was too large a power to give, because it was capable of tyrannical abuse. He believed the minority would not submit to such a vote, riots would ensue, ill-feeling would be engendered, and the last state of things would be worse than the first. It might be said that riots did not ensue upon private estates where prohibition was enforced; but they could not argue from the action of a beneficent despotism and predict a like result in the self-government of a free people. In the one case, there was no appeal against the edict, and transgression would be summarily punished; in the other there was hope that renewed agitation and difficulty of conviction would restore the old state of things. He thought they might consider a little more the licensed victuallers' interest. The hon. Baronet professes himself willing to accede to any proposal of compensation which would obviate any injustice that might be done under this Bill to the publican interest. They were asked to agree to the second reading of the Bill in the uncertain hope that something might be done to modify its provisions in Com- mitee, but, in his opinion, it was a I very dangerous tiling to allow measures to pass such a stage in the hope of their being improved afterwards. They had lately heard much about damages for eviction, and would not licensed victuallers have a claim to compensation if their I houses were closed? It was said that the only legal claim was to have a licence I for a year; but when capital had been invested under the sanction of the Legislature, and the State had derived an income from that investment, it would not be fair or right to interfere with men's trade, and disestablish them, as it were, I without more consideration than the Bill proposed. As to New England, the hon. I Baronet declared that the imposition of the prohibitory law on the sale of intoxicating liquors in that country had met with great success. He could only speak with reference to the State of Massachusetts; but the effect of the prohibitory law which was passed there 10 years ago had been brought under his notice during two visits he paid to America. The Prohibitory Liquor Traffic Act, passed about 10 years ago, was allowed for a long time to remain totally in abeyance, and on the occasion of his first visit to America there was an absence of restriction of any sort upon the liquor traffic, and though the law existed, it was entirely unenforced. But within two years "a change came o'er the spirit of the dream," and the majority of the Legislature elected on another platform, determined to enforce the Liquor Traffic Act, and the result was that although the liquor was not sold openly in the streets, yet in the hotels its sale was not interfered with, and of the wholesale dealers liquor was always to be procured. Mr. G. A. Sala writes—
Therefore, it was plain that drinking went on, and if not openly, there was plenty to be procured. He had lately been in communication with Gideon Haynes, the governor of a state prison in Boston, Massachusetts, a practical philanthropist, and he said that his gaol has been fuller than before, since the attempted enforcement of the law. Moreover, in offences against the Act juries would not convict any man of good character, and there were, in consequence, 2,000 or 3,000 cases in abeyance. Surely it would be a most impolitic thing that any measure of that land should be retained on the statute book when it was openly evaded. It was most unfavourable to the morals of the people that laws should be made which could be broken with impunity. It was quite evident, therefore, that in New England the prohibition did not give the effect which was desired, but people could still obtain any drink that they required. When Mr. Gr. Haynes left Massachusetts six months ago, a Bill was being passed through the Legislature, and had received the sanction of the Lower House, which allowed the open sale of beer, ale, cider, and light wines, as it was felt to be impossible to maintain absolute prohibition. America had undoubtedly preceded is in the struggle against intemperance and ignorance, and in his opinion they were bound to improve upon her experience, and not blindly to follow her example. That was what he trusted they were doing in the matter of education, and what, he trusted, they would do I when they came to deal with this matter. But if they could not support this Bill, they were not to be allowed to stand by I and do nothing. It was their duty to make more and more strenuous efforts to grapple with what he did not hesitate to say was the most gigantic evil of the present age. The hon. Baronet said that the licensing system had failed everywhere; what they, on the other hand, alleged, was that it never had been fairly tried. Let them see it tried upon the principle of the Home Secretary—namely that the manner in which those houses are conducted should be inquired into and restricted by the law. There would then be far more security for the well-conducted houses. He thought, also, that there should be some power conferred upon the magistrates, or other local authorities, for the purpose of restricting the number of the public-houses in any locality; and then, instead of arraying so formidable an interest against them, they might hope to see the holders of all well-conducted houses on the side of temperance. He thought that he would better serve the cause of temperance by promising a hearty support to any real attempt to deal with this licensing question than his voting in favour of the present Bill."On one occasion when I asked for it the landlady said—'Oh, we can give you nothing whatever to drink;' but the landlord said—'You can get the stuff on the sly,' and so I found. When you enter you ask how the baby is, upon which you go into a cellar or back yard, and there you have an opportunity of drinking the health of the baby."
said, he had listened with pleasure to the last speech, which to a great extent embodied his views, and also to the speech of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), which was mild and judicious as compared with his Bill and with the tone of its supporters outside the House. He (Mr. Bruce) quite agreed that the interest felt in this subject, especially among the working classes, was both deep and widespread. That was a reason why they should give the question of limiting and regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors their most serious consideration; but it did not preclude them from deciding whether the mode proposed by the Bill was the wisest or the test that could be adopted. The hon. Baronet had dealt fairly with the Government in reference to their conduct in not introducing a Bill this year, for he admitted that if the Irish Land Bill and the Elementary Education Bill were more important than a Licensing Bill, the Government were justified in pursuing the course they had done; but he argued that a Licensing Bill was more important than an Education Bill—and this might be so if reading and writing were the end and aim of education. But the reason why so much labour had been spent first upon education was, that it was believed education would not only expand the intellectual powers of the people, but would also strengthen their moral powers, and encourage in them habits of prudence and forethought, besides creating for them resources the want of which, perhaps, more than anything else led them into drunkenness. He (Mr. Bruce) did not for a moment suppose that education would be a complete cure for drunkenness; but he nevertheless felt confident that the enlargement of the resources of the people would do more than anything else to keep them from the public-house. He opposed this Bill on the ground that it was an imperfect measure. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) supported it, because in his opinion it would supersede the granting of licences by the magistrates. He (Mr. Bruce), however, could not possibly see how it would have any such effect. Imperfect as the Bill was, however, there would be some excuse for passing it if it were loudly demanded by the country; but such was not the case. He felt bound to say that Parliament was pledged to deal with the whole subject, and the Government was pledged also. He should be glad to pledge himself as strongly as he could to undertake to introduce a measure dealing with the whole subject at the earliest practicable period of next Session. Perhaps the Government were rash in introducing this Session two measures of such magnitude as the Irish Land Bill and the Education Bill; for, to use a railway figure, ordinary trains had been shunted for these two expresses, and many important measures remained to be dealt with next Session. The present Bill would deserve to be seriously considered by anyone introducing a general measure. Since the year 1838 they had had in operation two systems, one destructive of the other—a system of authoritative selection, relating to public-houses, neutralized by a system of free trade, relating to beer-houses. The free-trade system never had a fair trial, but they had got rid of it; and the system of authoritative selection was now administered with more regard to public opinion than had ever been shown previously. They, therefore, had a considerable security against a wanton increase in the number of liquor houses; but he did not say that that security was sufficient; and it might be possible to devise other or further means of restriction. It was a more difficult task to deal with existing public-houses than to prevent the increase of their number. No doubt in many places the number was inordinate. Beer-houses had increased in great numbers, and it would have to be considered how that number could be reduced; for, however beneficial the Act of last Session might have been in reducing the number, it applied only in cases where there had been misconduct, or in cases in which the houses were rated below a certain amount. He thought some measure of restriction for the future must be devised; and it would be a great advantage if effect could be given to the popular will expressed in a guarded and judicious manner, and if, without injury to existing interests, they could secure a gradual reduction in the number of existing public-houses and beer-houses in places where by common consent they were too numerous. As to the suggestion that advantage might be taken of the fact that licences were granted only for a year, it would be to the last degree unjust if they were by one Act to suppress existing public-houses and beer-houses without compensation. In many instances licences had been transferred for large sums of money, even as high as £1,000; and in many cases sums had been expended which could be recouped only by the prosecution of trade for many years. While he agreed that no pecuniary consideration ought to deter the House from doing that which it deemed necessary and wise, he held it would be unjust to stop trade without compensating those who had embarked their capital in it. The Bill made no provision for this, and it was not sufficient in such a matter to accept the hon. Member's assurance of consideration. The Bill ought to contain the means by which compensation should be offered to those whose trade was interfered with. These were the reasons why he could not support the Bill. A measure introducing better regulations for good order, providing against the adulteration of drinks, further limiting the hours of sale, offering great security against the multiplication of houses, and giving effect to the well-considered opinions of a proper tribunal as to the adaptation of the number of houses to the wants of the population, would be far more effectual, and give more general satisfaction, than this one-sided, incomplete, and, he must add, unjust measure.
said, he thought the course taken by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) very intelligible, but not very fair. Those who with the hon. Member were in favour of prohibiting the sale of all intoxicating liquors, but did not see any prospect of carrying their views into effect, now attempted by means of the present Bill to put in the thin end of the wedge in the hope that the time would come when, on returning from a dinner party, some one might say of his host—"That vulgar fellow had wine on the dinner table." He could not conceive how those whose object was simply to restrict intemperance could advocate the present measure. For his own part, he did not think it would be just to place in the hands of two-thirds or three-fourths, or any other proportion of the ratepayers, or of any other local body, the right to interfere with the comforts and enjoyment of the great mass of the people. What was right for one district would be good for all. If the House passed the Bill it would permit local legislation to override Imperial legislation; and how, he asked, could the sanction of such a Bill as that now under consideration be reconciled with the commercial treaties with France and other wine-producing countries? It was impossible to make people total abstainers by Act of Parliament; and the Bill, if carried, would be systematically violated. It would, in fact, encourage secret drinking, and merely convert the people from a beer-drinking to a spirit-drinking people. Under the existing state of things temperance was on the increase; for statistics showed that while in 1750 the consumption of beer per head was 72 gallons, in 1809 it was not more than 36 to 34 gallons. He hoped the Government would introduce a measure dealing with the whole subject in such a manner as to conciliate all moderate men, and do away with the suspense in which the trade was now kept; but he trusted that no concession would be made to the permissive principle, which would have the effect of giving to local bodies the power to interfere with vast existing interests and the reasonable convenience of various districts. He wished to see a responsible licensing tribunal established, which would decide all these cases unswayed by local prejudices and local politics; and that rules should be laid down by which a certain number of public-houses might be licensed in proportion to the population of each district, their management regulated, and punishment awarded for wilful violation of the rules. The present Bill proposed to empower a number of ratepayers in any district to make an attack every year not only on the business of beer-house-keepers and publicans, but on that of all wholesale and retail dealers in intoxicating liquors, and, by a majority of two-thirds of those voting to prohibit them from selling such liquors. Was ever such a principle of legislation adopted? Those men were as honest as any other traders, and had been licensed by the State in order that they might increase the national Revenue. They were, at any rate, in common fairness entitled to compensation if their business were destroyed. The hon. Member for Denbighshire last year said—"Salus populi suprema lex," by which he meant, he supposed, that it was fair to inflict any injustice on the minority so long as the majority were benefited; but there was another maxim equally sound, and that was—" Fiat justitia ruat cœlum," which he might translate by the words— "Do justice at whatever cost." If compensation was to be given, he should say that they who indulged in the amusement of ruining their neighbours were the proper persons to pay for that luxury. If this had been a small question no doubt it would have been dealt with by a straightforward measure; but it related to a trade with a capital of more than £100,000,000, and to a Revenue of £23,000,000. The hon. Member for Carlisle simply nibbled at the subject in the hope of bringing the country to share his views; but the question was too large for his hon. Friend to undertake, and he trusted that early next Session the Government would bring in a comprehensive measure.
said, he would only address a few words to the House in reply. He admitted that his Bill was imperfect; but he maintained that an imperfect measure was better than none at all. What was wanted was that the people should have a veto, and that the magistrates should not be allowed to have this power over them. If it were said that the people were not fit for such an extension of power, he, for his part, could trust them, and he hoped the House would trust them. He quite agreed with the Secretary of State for the Home Department in thinking that if the people had more resources they would abstain from drinking; but his point was that at present there were hundreds of thousands of people in this country who, without having such resources, were exposed to the temptations set before them by the Government, and it was to enable the people if they wished it to remove those temptations that he brought forward the Bill. This Bill would not interfere with any measure which the right hon. Gentleman might introduce next year; but it was needed as a supplement to any licensing system, and he therefore hoped the House would agree to the second reading.
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
The House divided:—Ayes 90; Noes 121: Majority 31.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Bill put off for three months.