House Of Commons
Monday, 27th April, 1874.
MINUTES.]—NEW WRIT ISSUED— For Wakefield, v. Edward Green, esquire, void Election.
NEW MEMBERS SWORN—John Holker, esquire, for Preston; John Holms, esquire, and Henry Fawcett, esquire, for Hackney.
SELECT COMMITTEE—Adulteration of Food Act, 1872, nominated.
SUPPLY— considered in Committee— Resolutions [April 24] reported.
WAYS AND MEANS— considered in Committee— Resolutions [April 23] reported.
PUBLIC BILLS— Resolutions in Committee— Ordered— first Reading—Intoxicating Liquors * .
Ordered— First Reading—Municipal Elections * .
Second Reading—Land Tax Commissioners Names * .
Referred to Select Committee—Offences against the Person * .
Considered as amended—Betting * .
Controverted Elections New Windsor—Wakefield—Athlone
MR. SPEAKER informed the House, that he had received from the Judges selected for the Trial of Election Petitions, pursuant to the Parliamentary Elections Act, 1868, Certificates and Reports relating to the Elections for the Borough of New Windsor; for the Borough of Wakefield; and for the Borough of Athlone. And the same were severally read to the effect following:—
New Windsor Election,—Mr. Baron Bramwell reported that in the matter of a Petition against the Return on the last General Election of Robert Richardson-Gardner, esquire, for the Borough of New Windsor, he had, after hearing, determined that he was duly returned and elected, and that the charges of corrupt practices alleged in the Petition were not proved.
Wakefield Election,—Mr. Justice Grove reported that he had tried the Election Petition for the Borough of Wakefield, between William Hartley Lee and Isaac Briggs, Petitioners, and Edward Green, Respondent, and that at the conclusion of the said trial he determined that the said Edward Green, being the Member whose Election and Return were complained of in the said Petition, was not duly elected and returned, and that the said Election was void. And further—(a.) That no corrupt practice was proved to have been committed by or with the knowledge or consent of any Candidate at such Election; (b.) That certain persons (named) have been proved at the trial to have been guilty of the corrupt practice of bribery; (c.) That corrupt practices did not so extensively prevail as to substantially affect the whole constituency, but that a number—not inconsiderable—of the poorest and least educated class of voters were tainted with corrupt practices.
Athlone Election,—Chief Justice Monahan made a special Report, as follows:—
"In the matter of the Petition of Edward Sheil, esquire, Petitioner;
"John James Ennis, esquire, and Major Walter Nugent, esquire, Respondents;
"The Petition in this matter, a copy of which is hereto annexed, was duly presented to this Court, and it appearing to the Court that tile case raised by the said Petitioner could be conveniently stated as a special case, such case was so stated, a copy of which is annexed hereto, and the same was duly heard on this day before the Court, and thereupon the Court determined as follows:—
"We are of opinion that the Sheriff was wrong in rejecting the 13 Ballot Papers in the Petition mentioned as marked on the right-hand side with a cross opposite the Petitioner's name, and that he should have received same and counted these 13 Ballot Papers in favour of the Petitioner, and if he had done so Petitioner would have had 153 votes; and in like manner that he should have received the 8 Ballot Papers marked on the right-hand side with the cross after the Respondent's name, and should have counted these 8 Ballot Papers in favour of the Respondent, and if he bad done so the Respondent would have had 118 votes, which would have left the Petitioner a majority of votes.
"It therefore became unnecessary to adjudicate on the other votes rejected by the Sheriff, as any decision allowing the same, or any of them, would simply have the effect of increasing the Petitioner's majority.
"We therefore have not considered the question whether the Sheriff was light in rejecting all or any of the said last-mentioned Ballot Papers.
"Accordingly the Court doth determine, and hereby certify to the Right Honorable the Speaker of the House of Commons, that the said Edward Sheil ought to have been and he is hereby declared to be the duly elected Member of Parliament for said Borough of Athlone.
"And the Court doth also adjudge that each of the parties, Petitioner and Respondent, do abide their own costs of the arguments of the special case in this matter."
Ordered, That the Clerk of the Crown do attend this House To-morrow, at Four of the clock, with the last Return for the Borough of Athlone, and amend the same by rasing out the name of John James Ennis, esquire.
Irish Church Act, 1869—The Surplus—Question
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, What is the present amount of the unappropriated ba- lance of the proceeds from the disendowrnent of the Irish Church, and who has the control of it?
I am not surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives has given Notice of this Question, for I know it is a question which is in many mouths. The point is, to ascertain the present amount of the unappropriated balance of the proceeds from the disendowment of the Irish Church and who has the control of it. Now, I am sorry to say that there is no balance, or, rather, no unappropriated balance of the proceeds from the disendowment of the Irish Church. The account is the other way, and the items are so important and interesting that I will take this opportunity of stating them to the House. Unfortunately, the debt due on the part of the Commissioners amounts to no less than £9,700,000. Of this £8,400,000 is owing to the Commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt, and £1,800,000 is due to the Representative Church Body. After the Notice of inquiry was given by my hon. Friend, I asked for some information in order that, having learnt this was the state of the unappropriated balance. I might ascertain what would be the future result of all these proceedings. I am told it is estimated that this debt of £9,700,000 with interest, the annual charge in respect of which is at present £240,000, will be paid off in about 17 years, and when that time shall have arrived and the liabilities of the Commission shall have been discharged, it is calculated that the capitalized value of the Terminable Annuities which will then be outstanding, will amount to about £5,000,000 sterling. This last-mentioned sum when realized will constitute the surplus to be disposed of by Parliament.
Army—Outrage In Weymouth Barracks—Question
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether the outrage; reported to have been committed in Weymouth Barracks, by a soldier of the 75th Regiment upon his comrade on Sunday last, and respecting which the coroner's inquest have returned a verdict of wilful murder, was facilitated by the access of the perpetrator to the ball-cartridges kept in the barrack room; what were the circumstances justifying this departure from the general order, issued by direction of Lord Cardwell, to the effect that private soldiers should, upon dismounting duty, return their ammunition into store; and, whether it is still the practice in the Cavalry on home service, to retain their ammunition when off duty?
in reply, said, that the question was founded on an error as to the facts of the case. The ammunition used was not found in the barracks, but had been obtained from a soldier who found it two feet under the sand near the butts. It was at that time very wet, but the prisoner got possession of it, dried it, and kept it a fortnight. There had, therefore, been no infraction of the general order, requiring private soldiers upon dismounting duty to return their ammunition into store, nor was it the practice of cavalry regiments to retain their ammunition when off duty.
Army Medical Officers
asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is true that on the recent occasion of the moving a troop of Horse Artillery from Ballincollig to Woolwich, and thence to Shorncliffe, a medical officer was sent to march with the troops from Bristol who was unable to ride, and that in order to accompany the troop one of the officers had to lend him a dog-cart; and, whether he is not of opinion that all medical officers attached to our mounted forces should be able to ride?
, in reply, said, that the medical officer referred to had no horse. He said he was not a rider, having only just been appointed, and as there was no very steady horse available, the commanding officer offered him a ride in his dogcart. As he accompanied a horse battery, it would not have prevented him exercising any of his medical functions if they had been required.
The National Debt—Question
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If he will state the total amount of the National Debt on the 1st April 1874, distinguishing between the amount of the Funded and Unfunded Debt and the capital value of the Terminable Annuities unexpired at that date?
Sir, the total amount of the National Debt on the 31st of March last was £779,294,271; the gross amount of the capital of the Funded Debt was £723,514,005; the capital value of the Terminable Annuities was estimated at £51,300,666; and the Unfunded Debt amounted to £4,479,600.
Poor-Law (Ireland)—Amalgamation Of Unions—Question
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, What are the existing facilities for the amalgamation of Poor Law Unions when desired by the ratepayers, and if any applications for amalgamation have been made to the Local Government Board of Ireland or to the former Poor-Law authorities?
, in reply, said, he believed the existing law afforded all necessary facilities for the alteration of the boundaries of Poor Law Unions in Ireland if the consent of the Local Government Board could be obtained to any proposed change of the kind. A general re-arrangement of this kind was made in 1819–50, and since then various applications had been made to the Poor Law Board to exercise its functions in the matter. Each of these applications had been considered on its merits, and the hon. Member would find a good deal of information on the subject in the Reports of the Poor Law Board for 1866 and 1867. An application of the kind was still pending.
Reports Of The Inspectors Of Mines, 1873—Question
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, When he will be able to deliver to Members the Reports of the Inspectors of Mines for 1873, and, if the Reports could not be delivered earlier in the Session than they have been for some years past?
, in reply, said, he had received all the Reports except one, and when that was received they should all be laid on the Table of the House. He was very anxious that the Reports should be laid before the House at an earlier period, and he hoped in another year to be able to attain that end.
Merchant Shipping Act—Compulsory Pilotage—Question
asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the attention of the Government has been called to the Law on Compulsory Pilotage, under the operation of which redress cannot frequently be obtained for damage done by ships in charge of Compulsory Pilots; and, whether the Government propose to introduce a Bill for abolition of Compulsory Pilotage?
Sir, the subject of compulsory pilotage is under the consideration of the Government, and I hope it may soon be dealt with. I will communicate with the hon. Member when the question is more matured.
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If it will be convenient to bring in the Bill relating to Friendly Societies before Whitsuntide, at which time members of such societies hold important meetings, affording favourable opportunities for considering any proposed changes in the Law affecting their interests?
Sir, the Report of the Commission on Friendly Societies is now in the hands of the Queen's printers, and I am informed it will be in the hands of the public in the course of about a week. Her Majesty's Government have not yet had an opportunity of considering any Bill on the subject, though I hope a measure will be ready for introduction soon after Whitsuntide. I am aware that Whitsuntide is an important time for meetings of friendly societies, and I wish to point out that the Report contains all the recommendations of the Commission, and in a form very convenient for consideration at those meetings.
The Workshops Act—Inspectors
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Whether his attention has been called to the fact that the number of Inspectors under the Workshops Act is still altogether inadequate to carry out its provisions; and, whether he intends to make any addition to the number of Inspectors during the present year?
, in reply, said, his attention had been called to the matter, and he must refer the hon. Member to the Answer given by Lord Aberdare in April last year. Since that Answer was given three additional sub-Inspectors had been appointed, and although it was not the intention of the Government to appoint more Inspectors during the present year, yet they hoped by some modification of arrangements to make the matter very much easier for the number of Inspectors there were now. The whole matter of workshops, and their relation to factories, was also under the consideration of the Government.
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any independent survey has been made, by orders of the Government of this country, of the deposits of guano on the several islands belonging to the Peruvian Government and other islands in the Pacific Ocean; and, if so, whether he has any objection to publish the result of such survey?
Sir, strictly speaking, no independent surveys have been made by orders of Her Majesty's Government of the deposits of guano in the islands of the Pacific; but reports upon the subject have been forwarded to the Foreign Office by the Admiralty. These Reports have just been printed with the intention of sending copies to the newspapers and various agricultural societies, and under these circumstances probably the hon. Member will think there is no occasion to lay them before Parliament.
Canada Pacific Railway—The Guarantee—Question
asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether the Canada Pacific Railway Guarantee of last Session is avoided by the refusal of Canada to carry out some of the provisions of her contract?
Sir, the facts of the case are, that negotiations are now in progress between the Government of the Dominion of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, arising out of the proposal by the Dominion Government of certain modifications of the provisions of the contract as to the construction of the Pacific Railway. No decision has yet been arrived at, and it would, therefore, be incorrect to speak of the refusal of Canada to carry out any of the provisions of her contract. Any question as to the validity of the guarantee would only arise in the event of alterations or modifications in the contract being adopted by the Dominion Government.
The Mauritius—The Coolies
asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the state of the Coolies at Mauritius is ready, and when it will be laid upon the Table?
Sir, considerable progress had been made with the Report, (by far the greater part of which has been completed by the Commissioners), when Mr. Frere's sudden and very severe illness interrupted his labours, which, it is feared, he will not be able to resume for some time. Looking at Mr. Frere's great experience in India and in British Guiana, it is very much to be desired that Her Majesty's Government should have the advantage of considering his recommendations on the numerous questions which will arise out of the Report; and although the other Commissioner, Mr. Williamson, is fully competent to complete the Report and to make valuable suggestions as to future legislation, it is considered expedient to submit to some further delay in the hope that Mr. Frere may be able to resume his work. The Report will not be laid on the Table, or otherwise published, until it has been fully considered by Her Majesty's Government.
Commission On The Legal Departments—Report—Question
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he will present to Parliament the First Report of the Royal Commissioners on the Legal Departments, which relates to matters on which they were directed by the terms of their Commission to make recommendations at an early opportunity; and, whether it is the intention of the Government to take any action in consequence of that Report, as recommended by the Committee of last Session on Civil Service expenditure?
, in reply, said, he had received the Report a very short time ago, and immediately sent it to the printers. The Government had not had time to study that Report, or its recommendations thoroughly; as soon as they had, he should be happy to answer the Question.
Ways And Means—Local Taxation—Lunatics, Rural Police
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether, in his measure to relieve Local Taxation, he is prepared to make any provision for the hardship inflicted on the counties of Middlesex. Essex, and Kent by the large number of Lunatics sent home from India, who, being landed in the Thames, were afterwards placed in the asylums of those counties?
, in reply, said, no doubt the question was one of great importance, especially to the three counties mentioned, which were somewhat accidentally charged with the expense of those lunatics. The matter, however, was one which was outside the proposals made in the Budget, but it was engaging the attention of the Government, and he could at present say nothing upon it.
gave Notice that he would take another opportunity of bringing the subject under the consideration of the House.
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, When the relief promised towards lunatic and police rates will be available?
asked. What description of lunatics would participate in the grant?
, in reply, said, the intention of the proposal he made the other day, was to confine the grant to the case of lunatics chargeable as asylum patients, and not as Union patients. As to the time when relief would be given, the Government proposed that it should be after the Michaelmas audit, and the accounts would be paid somewhere about October or November. With regard to the police, the additional payments would be made at the same period at which they were now made. There were different periods for different parts of the Kingdom. In England, the police year ended on the 29th of September, and the payments would be made from the 1st of April for the first half-year. In Scotland it ended on the 15th of March, and payment would then be made for the whole year. In the metropolis there were two settlement days, the 30th of June and the 31st of December, and the first payment would be made on the settlement on the 30th of June for the quarter.
The Suez Canal—Threatened Suspension Of Navigation
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the important news respecting the yielding of M. de Lesseps on the subject of the traffic of the Suez Canal was correct, as stated in The Times of this morning, and he might add as stated also in a letter to himself, containing the copy of a telegram from Port Said; and whether there was any objection to lay on the Table copies of the two letters lately addressed to the President of the Board of Trade and to the Lords of the Admiralty signed "Daniel Lange," in which the stoppage of the Suez Canal was threatened by M. de Lesseps, with copies of the replies?
Sir, the threatened closing of the Suez Canal has been averted by the good sense of M. de Lesseps, who has submitted under protest to the legal decision of the Sultan. There is, therefore, no reason to think that the ordinary course of traffic will be interrupted.
Ways And Means—Report
Resolutions [ April 23 rd] reported.
said, he would take that opportunity of making a few remarks upon the late Financial Statement, his object being to remove some doubts and misapprehensions which seemed to exist in reference to the policy of the Government. In so doing, he had great pleasure in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being the first Financial Minister of the country who had combined in the Budget the questions of local and Imperial taxation. The concussions, however, made to the ratepayers of the Kingdom, after all, were not so very large. As regarded England and Wales, they did not exceed £830,000, which was equivalent to a rate of 1¾ d. in the pound, and the relief was so small that it would probably find its way into the pockets of the occupiers of land, and not into the owners'. Small, however, as the concession was, he believed it was based on a desire to do justice to the ratepayers. The present Government were not responsible for the form in which relief was given in respect of the police; they found the form devised, and had only to advance the proportion from one-quarter to one-half of the cost of pay and clothing. So far as money went, the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) made a more liberal offer, for he proposed to give up the house duty, which amounted to £1,100,000; but the defect of that proposal was that more than half of the money would have gone to the metropolis. It was not true, as had been stated, that the greater proportion of this additional police grant would go to the rural landowners; on the contrary, it would go to the towns. The additional police grant for England and Wales amounted to £500,000; of this, £210,000 went to the metropolis, £120,000 to boroughs, making £330,000, and only £170,000 went to the country at large. Therefore, it could not be said that by this additional allowance the landed interests were unduly favoured; neither did he (Mr. Fell) desire that they should be. The towns got two-thirds of the grant in respect of the police, and the rest of the country one-third. What the metropolis would get would be equivalent to a rate of 2½d. in the pound; in the boroughs the relief would average a rate of 1½8;d.; and in the counties a rate of ⅝d. The financial proposals of the Government, therefore, did justice to urban populations, and showed no preference for owners and occupiers of land in the country. With regard to lunatics, the concession of 4s. per lunatic in England and Wales was supposed to be equivalent to one-half the cost of maintenance; but no allowance was made for the cost of buildings, and £3,300,000 had been sunk by counties in lunatic asylums within the last 20 years. The money had been borrowed at an average rate of 4½ per cent; and it would be a great boon to counties, and to such boroughs also as had lunatic asylums, if money could be borrowed from the Public Loan Commissioners in respect of these buildings. The outstanding loans of local authorities amounted to £44,000,000, and yet they went on borrowing and expending without it being the duty of any Minister to impose a check upon them. He, therefore, rejoiced to hear the remarks which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the salutary influence which had been exercised by the Chambers of Agriculture in checking additional charges on ratepayers. The value of the concessions just made should be compared with the additional charges recently imposed upon local taxation. Within the last 10 years, £1,250,000 had been added to the expenditure out of local taxation; £680,000 was for police; £330,000—exactly the amount now given—for lunatics; and £55,000 for vaccination. In addition, within the last two years, £162,000 had been paid for education, and £23,000 for sanitary purposes. These additions were equivalent to a rate of 3d. in the pound, and the concessions were equivalent to a rate of 1¾d. in the pound, and these new charges had been imposed on a fund supplied wholly by rates. The late Government were very much to blame for not taking up the question of local taxation earlier than they did; while as to the waste of power alleged by the late Prime Minister, in the way these grants had been made, without taking securities for better administration, he did not think the local governments, suffering as they did from new charges, were quite in a temper to receive conditional propositions with much favour. He was glad to learn that the proposals of the Government in relation to this matter were not confined to grants of money from the Imperial Exchequer. He understood they were inclined to deal with the question of administration, and there he looked for more important results than from grants of money, for it was not to be expected that justice could be done to the subject until the jumble and mess of the existing state of things should be met by a better system of administration. He believed that millions of money raised by local rates were lost through want of more intelligent and harmonious administration. Whose fault was that? It was the fault of each succeeding Government, who had left this subject untouched until at length they had been stimulated to bring it forward by the ratepayers in the country. In any reforms that might be carried out in respect to administration, he would urge that it would be well that, the present small rating areas and petty sessional divisions should be amalgamated, so as to form larger districts, and that these should be placed under some authorities of more importance than the present Boards of Guardians, and more able and willing to give their attention to the matter. He would conclude by saying that in urging reform in regard to local taxation, the country people had acted a not unworthy or unintelligent part, and the towns had to thank them for the initiative which they had taken.
said, he approved the aid proposed to be given by the central authority in the case of lunatic asylums; but he wished chiefly to call attention to the subvention in aid of the police rate. With regard to the police force, there was a minimum of local control as compared with the expenditure authorized for other local purposes. Virtually, the state and efficiency of the police depended upon the central authority. When the Government subvention amounted to one-half the expense of the force, he thought its efficiency should be thoroughly investigated. There might be fewer superior officers compared with the number of men in the different districts, and the whole charge and management of the police, he thought, might be taken by the Central Government. Its efficiency would in that way be much improved. The additional means which might be requisite to carry out his proposal would be supplied by a small tax on lands held by corporate bodies, who were free from succession duty, calculated at 2½ per cent of the rental, or 6d. in the pound. These properties would be relieved by the aid granted to local taxes, and it was undesirable to encourage the holding of land by Corporate bodies. There could be no more Conservative policy than that the number of proprietors of land should be increased. He regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not done more towards reducing the National Debt. This country had recently enjoyed years of great national prosperity, and now that so many taxes had been repealed, the duty of a further reduction of the National Debt should not be altogether lost sight of, especially when it was considered that this country owed a larger number of years' purchase of the Revenue than almost any other country in Europe, excepting France, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey. He trusted that the surplus of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be encroached upon by Supplementary Estimates, and that the Government would bear in mind the importance of economy in the national expenditure.
said, he was happy in bearing testimony to the frank, clear, and satisfactory statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was the more satisfactory because the Budget was provisional in some of its more important points. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in commenting upon the reduction of 1d. in the income tax, took it as a declaration that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended that the income tax should be entirely removed at a subsequent stage. He (Mr. Hubbard) did not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said anything to justify that remark, and if the right hon. Gentleman had heard the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or if he had read it more carefully, he would have found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had most carefully guarded himself against the supposition that in any proposal they now made, the Government gave up their right to consider with entire freedom either the reconstruction, or the abolition of the income tax. He approved the reduction of 1d. precisely because it left the entire question of the income tax free and open for the consideration of the Government and the House in a future Session. The Chancellor of the Exchequer only made one slip—namely, when he spoke of the interest of the Debtas£26,700,000. The interest of the Funded Debt was £21,700,000; the other £5,000,000 were Terminable Annuities, of which £1,500,000 were interest, and£3,500,000 were capital redeemed. It was consolatory to remember that when the country was paying off these Annuities, it was also paying off the Debt itself. As, however, these Terminable Annuities approached towards extinction the redemption of debt became heavier. The Savings Banks Commissioners were now re-investing £3,500,000 on account of the Terminable Annuities which would be extinguished in 1885. As time went on the sum redeemed would rise to £4,000,000, and in the last year of all it would amount to £4,500,000. There would be much inconvenience in further increasing the already large liquidation of the Funded Debt provided for in 1885, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was right in suggesting that the year 1885 should not be burdened by any further amount of these Terminable Annuities. If this system of paying off the National Debt by means of Terminable Annuities were to be followed out, it should be carefully watched. He (Mr. Hubbard) had objected to the manner in which these operations had been proposed, and would only now remark that even for a good purpose, no Chancellor of the Exchequer had a right to give a deceptive character to a financial operation, and that a fraud, even if it were a pious fraud, was not to be admired either in religion or finance. If, however, the country had accepted this mode of dealing with the National Debt, the most convenient mode was to carry it on continuously year by year. As the Debt became liquidated an additional amount of Terminable Annuities should be created, expiring in the year following 1885, so that the operations of the present year should be invested, not in Consols, but in a new amount of Terminable Annuities, expiring in 1886, to be followed by a further amount expiring in 1887. By that means the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have a regular succession of payments falling due each year, and insuring the extinction of a certain amount of Debt. Hitherto, these operations had been of a fitful description; but if they were to become part of our financial system, they should assume a regular character. It would tend to the con- venience both of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the National Debt Commissioners that the latter should be saved from the investment of too large an amount in one particular year. The present Budget being one of a provisional character, the House and the country must be looking forward to a Budget of a very different character next year; there was a great field for investigation before them into the whole subject of our Revenue, the way in which it was raised, the property on which it was raised, and the conditions of that Revenue generally; in fact, the whole question of local and Imperial taxation required to be reconsidered, and it was one well deserving of attention before another year. In conclusion, knowing the great interest and zeal which the hon. Gentleman had always shown with regard to these subjects he desired to express his satisfaction that the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had returned to the House to take part in these discussions upon our financial policy.
said, that the question of local taxation was by no means of a novel character, and had received a great deal of attention during the last quarter of a century. It was, however, in an unsatisfactory state, not only as respected the amount of taxation, but more especially as regarderd the management of the expenditure. From the numerous boards and parties mixed up in the affairs, many of whom were irresponsible for raising the funds and only charged with the duty of expending money levied by others, the natural result followed of waste and confusion in the expenditure of the people's money. He could not agree with what had been said in favour of increased advances from the Consolidated Fund in relief of the local ratepayers. He viewed this aid from the Imperial Treasury to be a dangerous precedent, and one that would lead, as it had done, to carelessness and extravagance in spending. He considered it of great importance to improve the control over all local taxation and expenditure, and trusted that the Home Secretary would examine the Bills brought in in 1837 and 1849 by Mr. Hume, and especially Mr. Milner Gibson's Bill of 1852 upon County Financial Boards. The whole amount now contributed, or proposed to be contributed, towards local taxation from the Consolidated Fund amounted to £3,750,000, or as much as was to be raised by the income tax the House ought to know how far that transfer was to go on, and he trusted that the Government would pause before they allowed the Consolidated Fund to be drawn upon for objects of local expenditure. The Treasury were paying £1,750,000 towards the police of Great Britain, and altogether a sum of about £2,500,000 was contributed towards the police of the whole country. An examination of the annual Reports on the police of counties and boroughs would show that the police force had nearly doubled in strength since 1856. The principle should be adopted of either maintaining the police out of the local rates alone, or, if out of the Consolidated Fund, of having a vigilant supervision exercised over them both in point of numbers and of pay by the Government, for a steady increase had been going on in their numbers and pay, and that increase was still proceeding. Indeed, at the present time the total strength of the police in the United Kingdom must be nearly 40,000, judging by the expenditure; but it was difficult for a private Member to ascertain the number or actual outlay. It was a subject well deserving more attention. He heartily thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the excellent Budget, on the whole, he had brought in, and he hoped that with a good Budget next year they would also have an improved system of administration of local taxation. He, however, greatly regretted that the tax on sheep dogs and guns had not been abolished, for the farmers of Scotland were anxious for the remission, and felt the wrong inflicted on the farming industry at a time when all other industries were freed from fiscal burthens, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider that matter before next year. The abolition of the sugar duty would be a great boon to the agricultural interest, for no part of agricultural business was more profitable than the feeding of cattle, and the abolition of the sugar duty would enable farmers to use sugar more largely in the feeding of tattle, and thus in two years render cattle fit for food, instead of, as usually, requiring three years to rear cattle on the ordinary food.
said, he was sorry that the Government had not devoted a greater amount to the relief of local taxation, for he thought this was a time when the agricultural interest might suffer very much, not only from the price of labour, which was high, and still rising, but from the Unions, which would paralyze, if continued, the whole system of agriculture in the country. Many burdens were about to be put on the agricultural community with reference to local government and sanitary improvement which it had not hitherto felt, among which were the maintenance of the highways, and the Sanitary Acts which were still in the infancy of their operation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer slightly alluded to the labourer's dwelling. That was a question of the greatest importance, for it was only in a few counties, and certainly not in that part of the country which he had the honour to represent, that cottages were in a fit state for the labouring population, and he expected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have grappled with that question. The erection of suitable cottages was a very expensive affair. There could be no return for the outlay, and many estates were so tied up that it was impossible for the tenant for life to raise a fund for the erection of suitable cottages. Acts had been passed to facilitate their erection, but the whole machinery was so expensive that it had not had that effect which was absolutely necessary for the health and prosperity of the labouring class. He thought it was absolutely necessary that the provisions of the Sanitary Acts should be put into operation, so as to shut up the cottages which were not fit for human habitation. Moreover, if cottages were not built in which labourers could live in decency and comfort, it was natural they would become members of Agricultural Labourers Unions and listen to agitators who would tell them that if they emigrated they would soon become rich, and owners of property, and offer them inducements to separate themselves from their employers, It would be a bad day, in his opinion, for English agriculture when the relations between the labourer and the farmer, or the landlord, should be regulated simply by commercial consideration. He was sorry that another year would be allowed to pass before the question of local taxa- tion would be dealt with. The agricultural population would not be satisfied with the small boon that had been given to them, and he hoped that next year the right hon. Gentleman would afford them that relief to which they thought they were entitled.
Sir, I would not have occupied the time of the House with any remarks on the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had he not, when speaking of the large revenue derived from spirits, and the possibility that in some future day the revenue from spirits might be reduced, made use of the following words:—
and when I add to these words, the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), who said he wished a gradual reduction of the malt tax, "for if the agriculturists received the franchise they would denounce a duty on one of their chief articles of consumption." It appears to me, Sir, that that language means that the injustice, that the people of Scotland and Ireland, and also the distillers of these two countries, have for 14 years submitted to, is to be aggravated and perpetuated. I, therefore, as a Scotchman and as a Scotch Representative, feel it my duty to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the House to the existing inequality of the taxation on the national beverages of England, Ireland, and Scotland; but before doing so, I would in the first place, Sir beg to offer my humble congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman upon the equitable manner in which he has distributed the large surplus, which the industry of the people and the unparalleled prosperity of the nation has put at his disposal. I am amused to hear hon. Members on that side of the House speak of this surplus as a bequest front the late Administration to the present. The merit of having a surplus belongs no more to that side of the House than to this. It is the product of the expenditure of the nation upon the luxuries of life arising from high wages and great manufacturing profits—in which I am sorry to say the cotton trade has not participated. But however that may be, there can be no doubt that the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with it has given very general satisfaction. Of course, we cannot expect unanimity on such a subject—many men, many minds. Some would have preferred larger provisions for the reduction of our National Debt; some the abolition of the income tax; others the relieving of all incomes below £300 front the tax. I myself had hoped that shepherds' dogs would have been exempted from the dog tax, and that farmers would have been allowed to use a gun for the protection of their crops without paying the gun tax. All these suggestions may be good in themselves, and I have no doubt will receive the attention of the right hon. Gentleman on a future occasion; but, in the meantime, the country seems to approve of the selection that has been made of the articles that are to be relieved of taxation. No part of these proposals were received more cordially by the Committee than when the right hon. Gentleman dealt with the claims of the brewers, and especially when he was interrupted by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass), who has the distinguished honour of being the king of that most flourishing trade. The Committee felt that the brewers' claim was unreal and groundless. Now, what is the nature of this great trade of brewing—one of the most important and most prosperous trades in the country? It is the converting by fermentation of malt, sugar, molasses, and other saccharine matter into alcohol. The product has many names, porter, stout, ale, beer, and I have no doubt many others I am not familiar with. It is a business analogous to distilling, but stops short at the last process, leaving the alcohol in the mother liquor. The object of the brewer and distiller is exactly the same—to provide alcohol in many forms for the drink of the people. Let us see now how those trades have been dealt with of late years, as to taxation, and what they contribute to the national funds according to the quantity of alcohol they produce and sell. The distillers pay now five times what the brewers pay for the same amount of alcohol. These, Sir, are the illused class of men who have been knocking at the door of the Treasury for relief. But how is it with the consumer of these drinks? Out of every 2s. spent on whisky, in which there are five gills of proof spirits, the consumer pays 1s. 6d. to the Revenue, while from the consumer of 2s. worth of beer, in which there are 4½ gills of proof spirits, the Revenue receives only 3d. The consumer of spirits pays thus six times the amount that the beer consumer pays to the Imperial Exchequer. Sir, I ask the House, I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is that just to the consumer of spirits; is it just to the revenue; and, above all, is it just to the people of Scotland and Ireland, whose national beverage is whisky? Why should the Scotch and Irish pay six times the amount of duty that the English do, for the form in which they prefer to drink their alcohol? I shall be told that the curse of Scotland is that the people drink so much whisky; that it leads to drunkenness, to poverty, crime, premature death. Well, Sir, I am not here to deny that many of the Scotch nation might with advantage drink less. As much may be said in the case of England and Ireland. But, do statistics bear out those sweeping allegations? Are our poor rates heavier; are offences against the law more numerous? Is our death rate greater? Quite the reverse. Our poor rates are considerably less than in England; our crime is less; and our death-rate per 1,000 is about 2 per cent less than England. The most important question, however, is, do we in Scotland drink more alcohol than England? Quite the reverse. The people of England consume about 50 per cent more alcohol than the people of Scotland, and 100 per cent more than the people of Ireland. The statistics for 1873 are—"You may say that that is a very dangerous thing to rely upon. It is dangerous and not very pleasant, I admit, to rely upon the increase in the consumption of spirits as a source of future Revenue. It may also be said that the time may come when a check will come and that source of Revenue may fail you. I have asked myself—how is it that you expect this some of Revenue will fail, what will be the cause of its falling off, and why should not spirits be able to bear—and it is quite possible they might be able to bear—an increased amount of taxation, without diminishing the consumption. That is one source of Revenue which is still open to us upon an emergency;"
|England||6˙689||Gallons per head of proof spirits, as contained in whisky, gin, brandy, rum, ale, beer, porter, &c.|
concurred in the agreeable criticisms on the Budget which they had recently heard from the right hon. Gentleman the late head of the Govern- ment. These criticisms might have been expected to have had not only the support of hon. Members on the Government side of the House, but the whole Budget might have been expected to meet with their grateful approval instead of the feelings of disappointment expressed. He looked with something like astonishment on the arguments adduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr-Ewing) who had just sat clown. If he understood the hon. Member rightly, the argument was that the 3,000,000 of people in Scotland were very temperate in the use of spirits, while the 22,000,000 in England were very intemperate in their use, and that therefore the duty on spirits ought to be reduced. He could not follow this reasoning.
said, he could not see that he gave the hon. Member any reason to suppose that he argued for a reduction on the spirit duty. His remarks had relation to the high duty on spirits, and the comparatively small duty on beer.
And therefore that the duty should be increased on beer. He commended this argument to his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Bass). He would congratulate his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the views which he appeared to entertain on this question. The feeling of the country and the late debate had given him possession of the duty on the malt for as many years as he chose to keep it, and no doubt he would keep it with satisfaction to himself and the country at large. Apart from this point, the object of his rising was to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to one question of local taxation which he might have to adjust, and that was the hardships falling on agricultural interests in neighbourhood of towns. Local taxation was falling very heavily on towns at the present moment. There were sewage works going on, building, and other local improvements. It was, therefore, a difficult matter to put more taxation on these towns; but whilst those large works were going on in towns, there also happened to be changes in their vicinity, such as the abolition of all the turnpike gates, laying greatly increased rates, sometimes amounting to 2d. and 3d. in the pound, on farmers in the immediate neighbourhood of these towns. With regard to the abolition of the duty on horses, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman in taking the duty off had done much towards the improved breeding of horses. It would decidedly encourage the farmer in the breeding of horses. It would, no doubt, please those who kept horses for other than trade purposes; but to those who did so the duty was not so much a matter of importance. The abolition of the duty would most affect the convenience and comfort of the people at large—those—and they were by far the largest number—who kept horses essentially for trade purposes. It was, perhaps, not an over-calculation to say that nine-tenths of the horses were kept for purposes of trade; there could be no doubt that the tax was essentially a tax on the industry of the country. He had been almost alarmed when he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer quailing before the eloquence of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Mr. Barclay) on the subject of the gun tax. If he recollected aright, a special clause had been inserted in a measure that had been before the House, as to the farmer's right to use a gun for the purpose of scaring away birds; but the indiscriminate possession of untaxed firearms was not desirable. Along with other gentlemen, he had waited on the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in order to ask him to put a tax on guns, and he considered there was good reason for the request. They had made that request, because they found that some of the people in their northern districts were rather prone to use firearms. Some of these people of the Celtic race carried revolvers, which were brought out whilst they were in drink, and, being fired across the road, men were hit who were never intended to be hit. He looked upon the tax on firearms, therefore, as a useful tax. With regard to the tax on dogs, he agreed with those who thought it should be retained and increased, with the exception of shepherd dogs. In the border counties of Northumberland and Durham there were a large number of freehold farms as well as leasehold, and many of these farms were but small, embracing some 15 or 20 acres, and the farmers kept sheep on adjoining commons, and with their limited incomes often found the tax upon the shepherd dogs a perceptible increase in their rents. He would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to think whether he could not give some relief to these and other farmers similarly placed, by removing the tax so far as sheep-dogs are concerned. These dogs were not formerly taxed when all others were taxed, and the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lowe) had taxed all dogs alike, including shepherd dogs; but it seemed to him that they might with great propriety tax sporting dogs to a larger extent, and all other dogs kept for pleasure, and allow these useful trade dogs to go free.
regretted that a better opportunity had not been given to the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson) to discuss the question of turnpikes the other night. That subject of local taxation, with respect to which there existed great ground of complaint, had been well thrashed out by discussion in the Chambers of Agriculture, which were rapidly becoming provincial Parliaments, and he trusted the Government would turn their attention to it. It was obviously impossible to get this country to assent to a system of octroi duties such as prevailed in foreign countries, and it was equally impossible to adopt a graduated system of rental for taxation. With regard to the proposal to have a separate Schedule in the income tax for local purposes, it was clear that that tax was in course of extinction. Thus there remained only two modes of solving the difficulty—the one adopted by the Government last year, of charging on the Consolidated Fund the police, the lunatics, and, perhaps, in the future the administration of justice; and the other was the scheme proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wiltshire. On the whole, the agricultural interest had reason to congratulate themselves on the right hon. Gentleman's Budget. They were, at all events, saved from the solemn warnings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, who said they were unwise to raise the question in so large a manner. He was glad they were no longer treated to warnings of that kind. He could not, however, concur with the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease), who thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done justice by the manner in which local taxation had been lightened by a subvention in aid of the maintenance of lunatics in public asylums. The proposal might be accepted temporarily, as a step in the right direction; but in another year he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to a larger measure by which local taxation, which now went into the Imperial Treasury, such as the house tax, would be applied to the relief of local burdens.
thanked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the remission of the horse duty, which would be a boon to a great many persons, and would eventually tend to the improvement of the breed of horses. But then he wished to call attention to an effect which the remission might have. One of the inducements to young farmers for entering the Yeomanry had been the exemption from the horse duty; but now when there would be no longer a duty of the kind, it was feared they would not be so eager to join the service. He would ask the Secretary of State for War to consider whether some other inducement could not be held out to them to do so.
said, he could not help regretting that no sensible impression would be made on the Debt by the proposals of the Government, more especially when it was considered how favourable was the opportunity that now presented itself of doing so. Perhaps the reason for it was that it was thought desirable some concession should be made to the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) that one "ancient monument" should be preserved, and that one our National Debt. There was one danger which was always connected with the question of local taxation, which was that the amount had always been indirectly determined by persons who had no interest whatever in the payment of the taxes. Take the case of a lunatic asylum with 300 patients, for whom the Government would give 4s. a-head or £60 a-year. But suppose an Inspector went down and said the accommodation was not sufficient, and, to carry out some crotchets, required a large outlay to be made, it might well happen that the benefit to the local taxpayer would be very small, or would disappear altogether. Sydney Smith had said that every one would be a good Samaritan but for the oil and twopence. When the Inspector went down he had not to give either the oil or the twopence, and nothing was more agreeable than to give advice and recommend other people to pay the cost of it. The benefit to local taxpayers did not depend upon the amount of relief granted by the Legislature, but on the amount of the requirements made.
trusted that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not pay attention to suggestions for the remission of the dog tax. The only fault of that tax was, that it was too small, and fostered the existence of a vast number of useless animals, which did an infinite deal of mischief in a small way, and were a nuisance to all their neighbours. He had received several letters complaining of useless dogs, which went about barking at people's heels, and besides did an infinity of mischief, and he knew a village of some 500 inhabitants in which there were between 70 and 80 dogs, which roamed about the country to the great annoyance of the neighbourhood. A suggestion had been made to him whether it would not be possible to double the dog tax, but to grant exemptions in favour of shepherds' dogs and other useful agricultural dogs, just as there had been an exemption in favour of agricultural horses, and he thought it a reasonable proposition. With regard to the Budget he regretted that his right hon. Friend had not adhered to the ordinary mode of calculating the revenue which gave a surplus of £4,000,000 only. His estimated addition of £1,500,000 from continuing increment, and another £500,000 from repayment of advances, was novel and untried; and with a falling trade this was not the year to make a new experiment of that kind. As a mere matter of calculation, he dared say his right hon. Friend was quite right in the estimated increase of the Revenue; but, in spite of the sanguine expectations of the Revenue officers, looking to the present condition of the trade of the country, he doubted the propriety of anticipating it this year, and feared that in the end it might be necessary to re-impose taxes which had been prematurely taken off, while if the estimate were realized, it might very well be applied in reducing the National Debt, which still amounted to between 700 and 800 millions, and which, in these days of extraordinary prosperity, and while our coalfields were yet comparatively unexhausted, it was our duty to make some sensible impression upon. It would have been wiser not to have touched the horse duty until the tax on railway passengers could be spared; it was a question whether the passenger tax should be entirely abolished, but it was indefensible to punish railway companies for carrying third-class passengers by all their trains, and he had hoped to have seen the Government withdraw this year from the untenable position they had taken up in this respect.
said, that in his county (Perthshire) the dog tax was really intolerable, because it was necessary for a farmer to keep more than one dog to preserve the breed. Even at a time when everything was taxed, Mr. Pitt was careful to exempt shepherds' dogs, and he hoped his example would have influence now.
said, that in his county (Northumberland) the increase in the number of dogs had become a nuisance, and he had presented a very numerously signed Petition praying the House to take some steps to prevent the increase of mischievous and useless dogs, and complaining of the smallness of the tax. There was no animal that became such a depredator as a sheep dog, and when control over him was lost, he would worry sheep by the hundred. In fact, the superabundance of dogs was becoming a serious check upon the production of sheep.
said, that when hon. Members talked of the destruction of dogs, he thought he heard a shudder from the invisible regions of the House. In his opinion the tax on dogs ought to be increased, and their owners should be compelled by law to put collars on them, with their (the owners') names inscribed thereon. He approved of the abolition of the duties on horses. He thought the Government would find its reward in the cheaper rate at which they would get troop horses for the cavalry, as the abolition of the tax would most certainly lead to a large increase in the breeding of horses. On the whole he approved of the Budget. It was impossible for a Ministry called into existence at such a short notice to deal with everything. It was better to begin moderately, but another year he trusted they would enlarge their phylacteries, and produce something extensive enough to satisfy all classes of the community.
hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be unduly swayed by the bad character given to the dogs of Northumberland, which could hardly be the genuine Scotch collies and the well-known sheep dogs of Northumberland and Westmoreland. There were many farmers in the hilly districts of the country who would not feel the remission of the horse duty anything like so great a relief as they would the exemption of dogs.
said, he could assure the House that sheep clogs and taxed dogs generally had given him more trouble than almost any other subject. To settle a proper system of taxation on dogs, taxing those that ought to be taxed, and not taxing those that should not be taxed, was something like the attempt to balance an egg on its end, which even Columbus could not do till he broke the egg. A suggestion had been thrown out the other evening that the tax might be treated somewhat as a local tax; and he then said he would consider it with the gun tax, and see whether there was any possibility of dealing with the two together. With regard to the other questions he did not mean to detain the House after the rather desultory but useful and interesting conversation which had been held; but he must express his obligations to hon. Gentlemen for the favourable way in which they had spoken of the proposals in the Budget. He could only say with reference to the gloomy predictions of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Heygate), he still hoped that things would not be so bad as he appeared to anticipate. For himself, he must say he should not have been acting honestly by the House, if he had taken the Estimates lower than he had done, and he should have been committing a pious fraud, had he pretended to believe that the surplus would be smaller than he really believed it would be. With regard to what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) on the subject of Terminable Annuities, anything which fell from him on such a subject must command great respect and attention. He was very glad to find that his hon. Friend in general approved the system of reducing Debt by way of Terminable Annuities. The practical suggestion which he had thrown out well deserved consideration, and might possibly form the basis of a scheme of more general character than had yet been adopted, for he quite agreed as to the inconvenience of having too large a sum coming into the hands of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt for re-investment. Hon. Gentlemen who spoke slightingly of what was being done for the reduction of the Debt seemed hardly aware of the fact that the interest of the Debt was not £26,000,000, but rather £21,500,000, a considerable portion of the remainder being really redemption of the Debt. In reality, we were paying off £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year, to which we were now adding another £500,000 for the redemption of Debt in the next 10 years. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk), the Government did propose to proceed on the question of local administration by taking up a rating Bill, which would shortly be introduced. He must thank his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) for his very judicious and friendly remarks on improvements in administration, to which he attached great importance. Much, no doubt, might be done by improvement in administration, quite as much, perhaps, as by subvention in aid of local taxation, and that was the plan the Government proposed to adopt. He was sorry the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson) had not a better opportunity the other night of discussing the horse duty and its transfer to the relief of turnpike trusts; but it would be impossible to assent to such a proposal. All that could be done would be to decline to take off the horse duty, and that would not have been in accordance with the general feeling of the House or with the opinion of the Government as to the disadvantage and burden of the tax. To apply it to the maintenance of turnpikes would have been impossible, and it would be extremely difficult to devise a plan to apply the proceeds of one tax to get rid of another. It would be far better not to encumber the proceedings of the House by such an attempt, which would be going back to the old system of finance. He might take this opportunity of saying, with regard to the horse duty, that a suggestion was made the other night by the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) as to the time at which that duty should expire. As the Resolution now stood, the horse duty would cease on the 1st of January next. With regard to the proposal it referred to a matter of no fiscal importance, because licences were taken out for the year on the 1st of January, and probably not above £5,000 or £10,000 could be expected to come into the Exchequer from horse licences taken out during the remainder of the year; but parties might, in the interval, unwittingly bring themselves within the letter of the law, and therefore he proposed that the duty should determine on the 1st of July in the present year, instead of the 1st of January next. When the Resolution was read therefore he should move that it be amended in that respect.
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his concession. He thought the abolition of the horse duty would have a beneficial effect on the breeding of horses in this country, which at present was seriously on the decline. He hoped on a future occasion to bring the whole of the subject under the attention of the House.
First Resolution agreed to.
Second Resolution read a second time, and amended, by leaving out the word "January," and inserting the word "July." and by leaving out "seventy-five," and inserting "seventy-four."
Resolution, as amended, agreed to.
Subsequent Resolutions agreed to.
Resolutions which on the 23rd day of this instant April were reported from the Committee of Ways and Means, and then agreed to by the House, read:—
Bill or Bills upon the said Resolutions, and upon the Resolutions now reported and agreed to by the House, ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
West African Settlements
, in rising to call attention to the Report of the Committee which inquired into the condition of our West African Settlements in 1865; and to move—
said, the condition of things in our West African Settlements was very different now from what it was when the Committee reported on the subject. In 1865 the position of those Settlements was, if not entirely hopeless, entirely unsatisfactory; and the Gold Coast, of all others, was most unsatisfactory. The trade was not only ridiculously small, but decreasing; and while the expenditure amounted to only £9,000 a-year, the revenue reached to only one-half of even that sum. At that time—and so long as the Dutch remained upon the Coast—there was no possibility of increasing it. A poll tax had entirely failed. A licence duty on the sale of spirits was being tried with an indifferent prospect of success; and the Customs duties themselves were levied in a manner expensive in collection, and distasteful to those from whom they were collected. So little had been done towards the civilization of the Gold Coast that human sacrifices—which, it was hoped, had been suppressed—threatened to reappear with increased vigour on our withdrawal. On the other hand, the slave trade, the suppression of which had been our primary object on the Gold Coast, had almost entirely ceased. Our prestige, gained under Governors Maclean and Hill, had been lost in the disastrous expedition of 1863, when our troops, after an encampment of three months on the bank of the Prah, during which they never once saw the enemy, were seized with a panic, and fled precipitately to the Coast. So unsatisfactory, in fact, was the state of affairs on the Gold Coast that the Committee would have been justified in proposing the abandonment of the Settlement had not strong considerations of humanity urged Great Britain to remain. Since 1865, however, circumstances had entirely changed, and while we should experience even greater difficulty in withdrawing, we had now the strongest reasons for remaining, He would not refer to the moral effect of the war just concluded, but he would rather call attention to the satisfactory position of our material resources. From a Report published by the Colonial Office there had been of late years a gradual increase in the revenue and trade of the coast. The imports had risen in 1872 to £260,000 as against £77,000 in 1863, and the exports to £385,000 in 1872 as against £53,000 in 1863. In 1872, the revenue had increased to £40,000 as against £8,547 in 1863. Of even this £8,547, about £4,000 was, in no proper sense, revenue, but supplied from the Imperial Treasury. But as on account of the war then going on, that contrast might not be regarded as fair, he would take the average of the six years from 1867 to 1872, compared with the average of the six years from 1858 to 1863. The average annual imports in the previous period were £200,000 as against £120,000 in the latter, whilst the exports showed an increased average of £280,000 as against £115,000. The trade with the Fantees for palm oil, &c., had been steadily increasing year by year, and as to the real trade of the Gold Coast—the Ashantee trade—it had not been opened at all for the last 10 years, and yet there was this enormous increase of exports and imports. The Returns of the year 1872, moreover, did not include the Dutch territories which had been handed over to us in April of that year. The full effect of the new tariff had not yet been felt, and still in 1873, when the war was going on, the revenue exhibited a considerable increase. The Revenue of 1873 was, in fact, £53,000 against an expenditure of £40,000. This expenditure was, no doubt, very large when compared with the £9,000 spent in 1863; but it still left us a balance of £13,000, sufficient, or nearly so, to cover the expenses of the Governor and the troops, which were now defrayed by the Home Government. The expenses of the squadron could not fairly be charged upon the Settlements, but counted rather against such places as the Oil Rivers, where the Commodore had so constantly to interfere. More than this, on looking at the Returns of expenditure, published by the Colonial Office, he found sums amounting to sometimes £10,000 in a single year, which could, in no sense, be considered to form a portion of the expenditure, but which were rather the savings or surplus revenue of the Settlement. The present position was this—our prestige had been recovered by the war. Our imports had been increased by three-fold, our exports by seven-fold, and our revenue by twelve-fold, and we had a surplus of at least £13,000. But the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), when addressing his constituents last year, had laid it down as an axiom of commerce that "trade flourished best without forts." The example of the Gold Coast might, of itself, go far to disprove that assertion, inasmuch as, although we had held that Coast under most disadvantageous circumstances, we could point to an increasing trade and revenue. However bad our government had been both on the Gold Coast and at Lagos—and it could not be much worse—yet, owing to the advantage of British protection, the trade there had enormously increased. The trade of Lagos had increased from £300,000, in 1863, to £800,000 in 1873, and the revenue from £16,000 to £41,000. In 1865, a large number of merchants and others interested in this trade were examined before a Committee. Some of them were in favour of our retaining the Settlements, and others of abandoning them. But those who objected to their retention, took exception mainly to the machinery of the Bankruptcy Courts and other matters of that nature, which were not an essential part of our government. Of the objections on principle, one was, that our taxation drove the trade from our Settlements to others not our own, where there was no taxation. But that was an objection rather to no return being made to the merchants for the taxation imposed on them and their customers than to taxation itself. Lately, however, the system of taxation had been entirely changed. Now, legitimate trade had no taxation—it was imposed only on gunpowder, guns, and rum; and he did not believe any objection would be raised to taxes on articles of that kind, which were the great curse of the West Coast of Africa. It was said that when merchants had protection they were more quarrelsome than when they had to trust to themselves, but the answer to that was, that, as a fact, our Gold Coast Settlements had had the effect of keeping both the Natives and the merchants in order, and the mere trade quarrels amounted to nothing at all. But whether the merchants quarrelled with them or not, the Natives, if not controlled, would, undoubtedly, do so both among themselves and with the merchants. It would be all very well if we could get merchants with the same kind of influence as Livingstone; but, unfortunately, the merchants in gunpowder, guns, and rum, were by no means the best specimens of Englishmen that could visit these countries. The Natives themselves were not such as Livingstone saw in the central parts of Africa, but were tribes already long debauched by this trade in rum and muskets. It was a curious circumstance that even those who did not advocate the retention of the Settlements were strongly in favour of retaining the squadron, except where the Native Chiefs were strong enough to afford the necessary protection, and these strong Native Chiefs were very rare. The whole West Coast was a country of small tribes, who were perpetually at war. Moreover, the tendency of our Government on the Gold Coast had unfortunately been to take all power out of the hands of the Chiefs. That some kind of protection was necessary to our merchants was clearly shown by the fact pointed out to the Committee, by Dr. Livingstone, that there was no trade whatever on the East Coast of Africa, simply because the Coast tribes were such Protectionists that nobody had any chance, unless he had British force at his back to open up trade. But a Settlement afforded much more protection than a Consul and a squadron would. The curse of the West Coast of Africa had been the inefficiency of our officials, and it was only by accident that we could find a proper man to accept the post of Consul there. In any case he would probably be a man of inferior stamp to a Governor, more open to bias, and less capable of deciding the difficult questions that must arise between the trader and the Native. The Commodore, if suddenly called in by him, had no time for a sufficient inquiry, and would naturally incline to the side of his countrymen. Thus, as a fact, the tendency of the trader was to more frequent quarrels at such a post than where there was a regular Settlement. Beyond that, a squadron was far more expensive than our Settlements where we had some revenue, and on the Gold Coast, a very sufficient revenue. But the Oil Rivers were constantly quoted to prove the assertion that trade flourished best without a Settlement. Now, the case of these Rivers was wholly exceptional. It was the only place on the whole Coast where you found a wonderfully rich country and good means of communication combined. The enormous development of trade there previous to 1865 was due to this fact, and also to the fact that it was an entirely new trade. But what was the case now? The squadron had constantly been called in to interfere between merchants and Natives, and the true oil country had never yet been reached. The result was that trade there was now stationary; and, unfortunately, what imports there were, were principally rum, gunpowder, and Birmingham muskets. He was no admirer of negro character, no frequenter of Exeter Hall, no advocate for putting a coat of moral whitewash, very often a very thin one, on every black man we came across; but it was one thing to go on Quixotic expeditions of regeneration, and another thing to debauch these people by the rum and gun trade of our own countrymen. In that respect our conduct contrasted unfavourably with that of other civilized countries towards savage tribes, for the Americans levied heavy penalties on whoever sold spirits or firearms to the Indians of the reservations. We did the same ourselves in Natal. But he need not go further than England in search of an example. In this country, we took upon ourselves to deal with and to control the liquor traffic, and yet in the case of these people, who were comparatively children, we hesitated to protect them against the evil practices of our own countrymen. Not only that, but those who held that civilization and trade progressed hand and hand must surely mean that the trade should be a good trade? But the trade he deprecated not only created no new wants, but limited its own area. It was to the interest of the Natives on the Coast, when the trade was in arms and gunpowder, to prevent that trade extending inland, and there- fore the extension was either impossible, or was carried on by a system of middlemen and of credit which had the effect of checking it. When we obtained any article of trade from the interior, the payment we made at the Coast was so diminished by passing through the hands of different brokers, that it was but poor remuneration by the time it reached the hands of the original producer, who therefore had hardly any interest in encouraging further production. The Returns which had been furnished showed that during the last 20 years our exports to Settlements non-British had actually fallen, while our exports to British Settlements had increased 70 per cent; and while our imports from the former remained stationary, they had doubled in the case of our own Settlements. Not only the amount, but the character of the trade also was different, for in 1872, while we exported £154,000 worth of arms and gunpowder to the non-British Settlements, we exported only £50,000 worth to the British Possessions. In the same way, the value of the spirits exported in the one case was £160,000, against £11,000 in the other. In other words, we exported to places where we had no Settlement twice the proportionate amount of arms, and more than eight times the proportionate amount of spirits. With respect to abandoning the Coast, all admitted that it was impossible to do so at present. The consequence would be, that the most horrible war would ensue, the place would become a kind of Pandemonium, and human sacrifices, with other barbarous practices, which had received some check, would break out with all their original force. If we were to wait until the people acquired a superficial civilization, or until some artificial system of self-government should be established, we should withdraw only to leave behind us a state of matters worse than it was before. The Natives would be in a worse position, for while we had not redeemed them from barbarism, they would, in addition, have contracted some of the vices of civilization. We were not in a condition to treat the Natives in the way we could have treated them when we first discovered them. They had been demoralized by the slave and spirit trade, and we had so deprived the Chiefs of their authority, that within the Protectorate, a Chief sometimes had not even the power to imprison one of his subjects. Assuming that war would not break out, at any rate, it was apprehended that the Natives would take the whole of the trade of the Coast to themselves, as they had done in Liberia, and shut out English merchants altogether. Assume, however, that no such result occurred, it might be said that the trade at the Gold Coast could be conducted by a company. Well, with regard to the African Company, which existed up to 1821, and which received from the Imperial Exchequer a large subsidy, amounting at one time to £13,000, and at another time to £20,000, its inhumanity, cowardice, and injustice, especially in its later days, were such as to stamp its rule with a blot which had never been effaced, and to compel the Government to take the administration of the Coast out of its hands. It might be said that a better company could now be established—that, for instance, one of the limited liability companies that were in fashion might undertake the work; but anyone who had had as much experience as he had had in investigating the affairs of limited liability companies, would probably agree with him in thinking that there was not much in the way of commercial or any other morality to be expected from them. It was admitted that the administration of Governor Maclean had been one of the most successful ever known on the Coast; but it must be remembered that, although a servant of a company, he was a man of unusual ability, and that he took over the government at a most fortunate time, a war having been concluded in 1828 in which the disgrace of the previous defeat had been wiped out and our prestige had been re-established. Moreover, a Treaty had just been signed which was exceedingly favourable to the King of Ashantee, inasmuch as it permitted Ashantee traders, who previously had been stopped at Mansu, to come down to the Coast; and this in a great measure, accounted for the fact that peace lasted during the whole of Governor Maclean's administration. Our happy relations with that king were further secured by the presence of a Consul at Coomassie. But the great advantage that Governor Maclean possessed lay in the fact that he remained at the Coast for 17 years, and was able during that length of time to acquire a thorough knowledge of the Natives. That was the great secret of his success on the Gold Coast, and proved that in this respect, at any rate, his rule was the model of the system they ought now to adopt. Moreover, he was not the mere deputy of a deputy, but the direct Representative, if not of the Sovereign, of a trading company which was directly under the control of the Government. In regard to the trade of the Coast, a comparison of the figures relating to the present time with those relating to the period of Governor Maclean's administration would he most unfair, as the former referred to only a few ports along the Protectorate, while the latter applied to the trade of the whole Gold Coast proper, stretching from the Assinee so far east as to Lagos. If a fair comparison could he obtained, he believed it would be found to be highly favourable to the present trade. Governor Maclean's administration had been pointed to as the administration of a trading company, but that could not be accepted as anything but an accidental description of it. It had, however, been that Governor's opinion, and the opinion of Mr. Swanzy, who had acted with him, that the administration would be very much improved, if it were once more taken wholly in hand by the Home Government. What, however, had recently been the difficulties in the way of our Government? While the Dutch occupied a Settlement on the Coast, there were constantly petty local squabbles arising, and smuggling was prevalent to the detriment of our finances, but now that they were gone, many of the difficulties which were connected with the financial question had been done away with. In 1865, when evidence was taken before a Committee of the House of Commons, one objection which attached to our Government in the Settlement, was the fact that the people of the Coast entertained strong resentment against those who assisted in stopping the slave trade. Well, the slave trade was now, in that quarter at least, nearly suppressed, and the argument no longer existed. During the last ten years, since 1863, we had suffered from loss of prestige, owing to the disastrous expedition under General Macarthy, and there was nothing to be wondered at when the Fantees refused to help those whom they believed to be the weaker party. The great difficulty of all, however, was the recommendation of the Committee of 1865. Their policy was so undecided that the Governors along the Coast really did not know what to do, and nobody knew whether there existed any policy to be acted upon. It produced indecision and vacillation on our side, and indifference on the part of those whom we professed to protect. It was not intended on our part to occupy the Gold Coast permanently. Still, the Fantees were heavily taxed; but we had done very little in opening up the country by the making of roads, or giving them any kind of return. Not only that, but we had adopted a system which he could not better describe than as a mere dog-in-the-manger policy, for, while we said that we would not defend them against the Ashantees, we refused to allow them to set up any means of defence for themselves. The Ashantees themselves had been emboldened by our weakness, the indifference of our allies, and our evident anxiety to leave the Coast so soon as we could decently do so. In spite of all those difficulties, however, our trade had flourished, and something had been done in the way of civilization. But with such advantages as we now possessed, what might we not expect to accomplish? Our prestige was established, and we were free to occupy a position of perfect neutrality towards all parties. All we need do was to keep up a few troops on the Coast, and we had, thanks to Captain Glover, a very good force at our disposal in the Houssas, who had been well organized, and who had, moreover, this advantage, that, coming from a distance, they had no associations. By doing so our trade would be largely increased. Everybody admitted that there was in Ashantee and the districts beyond a very considerable trade in gold dust, the result of superficial washings, because no determined attempt had hitherto been made there to get gold as in California or Australia. By our occupation, that would be properly worked, and by opening up the Volta, we should obtain the inland traffic. But if we were to secure all the benefits of the trade we must make full use of our control on the Coast. If we did not prevent the Ashantees from obtaining Sniders, we should soon find that we had a more formidable enemy to contend with than we had in the late war. But one of the most important questions of all was what kind of government we should establish on the Coast. We were, in his opinion, bound to have a really good government, and if efficient men could not be procured to fill the office of Governor and other positions of responsibility at the present rate of pay, the salaries ought to be increased. There need be no difficulty in inducing good Governors to go out to those Settlements if we paid them, instead of a paltry £1,500 per annum, £5,000; and gave them, as we might easily do, a decent place to live in, and one in which some attention was given to the elementary principles of sanitary science. Such a man might retain office for several years, and so be able to form a better system of rule than could be carried out by those who, after a few months residence at Cape Coast Castle, returned home sick. During the last 17 years we had no fewer than 18 successive Governors on the Coast—a state of things obviously incompatible with any fixed or efficient system of government. No cumbrous machinery nor any elaborate. Constitution was wanted for those regions. The one great object should be the maintenance of peace. We ought simply to act the part of policemen there, and let things take their natural course, giving the people an opportunity of learning the arts of peace, and educating them, so that the superior members of their race might administer side by side with us. We owed it, moreover, to the Dutch, who did not sell those settlements, but ceded their jurisdiction on the Gold Coast to us; we owed it also to legitimate trade, and likewise to the interests of our own subjects there, not to abandon our position. Further, we owed a duty to the Natives. We had demoralized and disunited the people, and had deprived the Chiefs of their authority, and until some elements of union and self-government were established on the Coast, it would be most unfair to leave it. But there was another consideration, and that was, that there were some customs which it was our bounden duty to interfere with, one of which was that of human sacrifices. Now, if we were to abandon the Coast, there was no doubt that these sacrifices would be renewed in all their vigour. These sacrifices were largely due to our suppression of the slave trade, and therefore an additional responsibility was cast upon us to endeavour to put a stop to them. There were three courses open to us. The first was, that we might take the course which had been adopted since the year 1865; but he thought it would be much better to abandon the Coast altogether than to continue to pursue such a course. The other two courses were, either to abandon the Coast, or to make full use of the power which we had acquired. A great opportunity was now before us, and we should not be true to the English power which was spread throughout the whole world, if we retired from the Coast, simply because we could not see how to govern the people. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution."That this House is of opinion, that, in the interests of civilization and commerce it would not now be desirable to withdraw from the administration of the Gold Coast,"
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words this House is of opinion, that, in the interests of civilization and commerce, it would not now he desirable to withdraw from the administration of the affairs of the Gold Coast."—(Mr. Hanbury,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, it must be plain to every hon. Member that the question of the Ashantee War was one which had caused the people of this country very considerable anxiety, and in proportion to that anxiety was the interest they now felt as to what our future policy would be with regard to the Gold Coast. Although he did not concur in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House, he was glad that the subject in question had been so early, and so ably, brought before them by him as it had been. For himself, he would rather urge upon the Government to leave the Gold Coast as soon as practicable, and the entanglements of war could be got rid of; but, at the same time, no reasonable man would expect that it should be left all at once. He felt the question had been raised in rather an unfortunate manner, because it was of so grave a nature that, in his opinion, a division should be taken on it as a substantive Motion instead of on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair. In the first place, it was a question as to our giving up a possession of the Crown; in the second place, it was a question whether the House would agree to, or dissent from, the opinion of a Select Committee, and further, the whole question of the late unfortunate Ashantee War was involved in the discussion of the subject. In dealing with a question so large as this, we must look at it from every point of view. First, we had to regard the honour and interests of the nation. We had then to look at what position our merchants and missionaries would he in if we withdrew from the Gold Coast; and we were also hound to look at our obligations towards the Fantees and other African tribes, and not to forget the position in which we were placed in respect to the King of Ashantee. At the outset, he wished emphatically to say he regarded this, as no party question, for all parties alike were interested in a rational and practical settlement of the difficulties which had arisen out of our connection with the Gold Coast—fortunately respecting this possession we had more information than about any other of our settlements abroad. To the Gold Coast the whole of his observations would be confined, and they would not include Sierra Leone or any other Settlements. On entering upon this subject two questions suggested themselves—first, for what purpose were we at the Gold Coast at all? and, secondly, how was it that, with all our experience of the past, and with the distinct recommendation of a Select Committee that we should reduce our responsibility on that Coast, with a view of ultimately departing from it altogether, we found ourselves engaged in prosecuting the greatest war we ever had on that Coast, for the purpose of greatly extending our territory and increasing our responsibility? In reference to the first question, that it might be answered clearly, he would divide our occupancy into three epochs—the first, from the time we became possessed of the territory in 1672, until 1807, during which epoch we were there for the purpose of obtaining a cheap supply of slaves for our Colonies and plantations. In 1807, when we abolished the slave trade, the position of affairs at the Gold Coast was this—that from Appolonia to Voger, a distance of 250 miles, were to be found 27 forts belonging to the various nations of Europe, who had fastened upon Africa like leeches, and were sucking her very life-blood, those forts being maintained for the purpose of offering facilities for obtaining slaves. From that period until 1862 might be called the philanthropic epoch, because we were there partly for the purposes of trade, but mainly with the object of putting down the slave trade, in which we were eminently successful. From 1862 until now, constituting the third epoch, we had been there solely for the purpose of having an outlet for our manufactures and merchandize. What had the value of that trade been? Had it been profitable in any sense? The statistics he would use were all based upon official Reports, vouched for by the most experienced officers of the Board of Trade, the Colonial Office, and by others whose position gave them access to the most accurate information. Taking the two years from 1805, before the abolition of slavery in 1807, he found the amount of exports from England was £2,811,000. In 1830, the British Government finding the government of the Gold Coast somewhat troublesome, as well as expensive, came to the conclusion that it would be better to withdraw from it altogether. The English merchants, there, however, took the responsibility upon themselves, upon being allowed £4,000 a year by the Government for doing so, and they appointed a Committee—three from Liverpool, three from Bristol, and three from London—sitting at the latter place, who ruled the Gold Coast, through Governor Maclean, whom they appointed. Governor Maclean, who had no army to back him, acted with great wisdom, and endeavoured to find customers wherever they might be found, and, consequently, the Ashantees found their way to the Coast, and the road from Coomassie was open and could be traversed in swinging hammocks in 60 hours. What was the trade done during this period of ten years? From 1831 to 1840 the amount of exports from this country to the Gold Coast was £2,274,000. Since then the territory had been ruled by a succession of Governors, and whereas Governor Maclean was there for 17 years, without any change, during the 20 years from 1854 to 1874 there were 26 different changes of Governors, and it was quite impossible for us to rule with such changes; and from 1853 until 1862 our exports to the Gold Coast fell to only £1,154,000. Our exports during the following 10 years were somewhat different from the amount stated by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hanbury). He held in his hand a Return from the Colonial Office, which was of a most fallacious character. It was a Return showing that the trade from 1863 to 1872 amounted to £1,301,000. That did not represent the trade from this country with the Gold Coast, but it was the trade of the whole world with that Coast. The real amount of our exports to the Gold Coast during that period was £1,156,000, or altogether, for the 20 years, from 1853 to 1873, £2,310,000, and if that did not show a diminishing trade, he did not know what did. But what had the British taxpayer to pay during the same 20 years? Parliamentary Grants had amounted to £50,000, we had a military expenditure of £440,000, a war in 1863 had cost us £700,000, and the latest one £900,000, so that the taxpayers of this country had to pay a sum of £2,090,000 for sales of merchandize amounting to only £2,300,000. Surely, the loss of the lives of our brave soldiers must count for something; but if it were taken merely as a money-making concern, the best thing we could have done would have been to have asked the merchants not what their profits were, but what their sales were, and to have given the whole sum into their hands rather than to have adopted the course we had done. The hon. Member for Tamworth had said, that we should have no more wars with Ashantee; but, in his opinion, so far from having a peaceful prospect with Ashantee, we might look for the very reverse, and that at no distant date, He believed the King of Ashantee would arm himself with superior weapons within a moderate space of time, and assert his claims to certain places which we held, especially to Elmina, which he regarded as the key to Ashantee. It was a remarkable fact that whilst our trade had been such as he had described, that of the United States had shown a great increase, whilst they had incurred no charge whatever for the maintenance of these dependencies. In 1863, their exports to the Gold Coast were £76,000; in 1870 they had increased to £253,000, of which £80,000 was from the United States, and only £156,000 from this country. Last year the amount was £266,000, of which £177,000 belonged to this country. He now came to the important subject of increased expenditure on the Gold Coast. Whilst for 17 years before 1868 it averaged £10,000 a-year in 1870–71 if was £32,000; in 1872, £42,000, and for the present year the estimate was £54,000. That money had been raised mainly by increased duties upon imports. In 1867 the duties on manufactured goods were 2 per cent. and in 1873 they were 10 per cent; in 1868 the duty on spirits was 6d., and in 1873, 2s. 6d. per gallon; in 1868 the duty upon tobacco was 1d. per lb., and in 1873, 6d. per lb. The effect of these high duties was to drive the trade to the Volta on the one side, and Assinee on the other, and these duties had no small influence upon the King of Ashantee. Whilst we were doing all we could by high duties to keep goods out of this Settlement, he thought we also acted very unwisely in our treatment of those whom we ought to allow to come to the Coast; we aided the Fantee brokers to keep the Ashantees from the Coast, and we disregarded not only the latter, but also our own merchants, who had not received that support from the Government which they might justly have expected. Some eight years ago, when the Ashantee trade flourished and the Ashantees came to the Coast, the Fantee brokers charged for their board and lodging, and as commission, 3 per cent upon the goods purchased by the Ashantee merchants. In 1872, when they resumed their trade with the Coast, this 3 per cent was again demanded of the merchants, and refused. The Fantees then created a riot, and while this riot was in action, the acting Governor and the local magistrate recommended the mercantile community to submit a claim so made and so enforced to arbitration. The general opinion of the British merchants was that trade was more satisfactorily carried on with the Natives at places where our Government did not interfere. He would now ask the attention of the House to a very important consideration in dealing with the subject, and that was the European population of our Gold Coast Settlements at the last Census, which consisted of only 16 merchants or clerks, and three British missionaries. The British subjects there only numbered 19, and they were under the control of 22 civil and military servants of the Crown. We were, no doubt, indebted to missionary labours throughout the length and breadth of the world, but we could not look with satisfaction at the state of mission work on the Gold Coast. Our three missionaries and 11 Native assistants and their stations were maintained mainly by our guns and bayonets, and the influence of the Dutch missionaries at Elmina extended only as far as the camion of their forts reached. But there were 39 German missionaries in Liberia, and 25 American missionaries, and 64 stations, without any Government to look after them, and on the eastern side of our Settlements, on the Coast of Calabar, there were 11 British and six foreign missionaries where there was no Government protection. He was sure, that if it were necessary that our missionaries should be maintained by the country, the people of this country would be prepared to supply them with the means of carrying the Gospel of peace to the native population; but if their position was such that they were to be maintained by the aid of the guns of the British it was better not to have them there at all. What he (Mr. Holms) could not understand was why the Government of this country sought more territory on that Coast, when all the information they had had on the subject, when every recommendation made by Committees that considered and examined it, recommended them to prepare to withdraw from it altogether. Instead of doing so, however, they had greatly increased it. What had been our experience of the past? From 1807 to the present time they had nothing but a succession of wars there and a succession of Commissions to inquire into their cause. In 1811 they had a war on the Gold Coast, and in 1812 a Commission to inquire into it; in 1816 another war, and in 1817 a Mission to Coomassie, who made a Treaty with the King, which in 1819 was found to be useless, and in 1822 we had another war, and again in 1826, until they gave up the whole territory, in 1830: but it was again resumed in 1843, and from that date down to 1865 many complications and difficulties occurred. A Committee to consider the whole subject was appointed in 1865, consisting of the present Earl of Derby, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Charles Adderley), the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and other eminent Members of the House, and they unanimously recommended that all extension of territory on that Coast was inexpedient, and especially recommended that the British agents there should keep on good terms with the native authorities, and that the Protectorate should only be partially encouraged. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), speaking last October to his constituents, told them that the time would come when Parliament, acting on the advice of that Committee, would consider it wise to withdraw absolutely from the African Coast. With respect to the course which this country had pursued, the Government did proceed in 1867 to carry into effect the recommendation of the Committee of 1865, but it was not done very wisely, and that was the first step towards the late war. We possessed a long territory, and the Dutch had their forts intertwined with ours, and as our customs duties and laws were different from those of the Dutch, great inconvenience undoubtedly arose. The proposal of the English Government was that we should assume the protection of all the territory to the east of the Sweet River, taking over all the Dutch forts, and that in like manner the Dutch should take over all our forts which lay to the west of the Sweet River. We did not, however, consult some hundreds of thousands of Natives on the subject. The Commendah people, always loyal to us, greatly disliked being transferred to the Dutch, and thus becoming, in fact, allies of the Ashantees who were their enemies. They resisted the transfer and the Dutch bombarded them. Their old allies, the Fantees, came to their aid and in retaliation blockaded Elmina, and the result was that in 1868 the King of Ashantee, at the request of the Elmina people, sent an army there in spite of the Dutch, who were said to be the rulers of the place, and in spite also of the Fantees, who were supposed to be under our rule. As the Ashantee army would not depart from Elmina, the Dutch Government, beginning to feel very uncomfortable, sought to find a customer, not for the goodwill of the business, but for the stores and fixtures. In October, 1870, they offered them to us for £80,000; in the following month, finding we would not take them at that figure, they offered them for the reduced sum of £25,000. Shortly afterwards we had a Treaty by which the amount was limited to a sum not exceeding £24,000, and the negotiations ultimately ended in this that, adding 5 per cent to the charges for delay, we actually paid them the modest sum of £3,790 1s. 6½d. In accepting the cession of Elmina by the Dutch, whose rights were of a doubtful character, we entirely ignored the claims of the King of Ashantee and the King of Elmina. It might be said that the King had renounced his claims in a letter dated 19th August, 1871, and which had been obtained through Colonel Natglass, but this letter of renunciation would require some explanation as being quite contradictory both to the words and acts of both parties all through the previous negotiations and by the light of which it looked ludicrous. Hence the present difficulties. It was this, combined with the unfortunate disregard of the wishes of the native tribes which led to the recent war. At the Legislative Council held at Cape Coast in January, 1873, that was abundantly clear. A despatch which arrived at the Colonial Office on the 25th of January, 1871, gave a key to the whole difficulty. It was sent from Governor Kennedy to Lord Kimberley, and he answered two questions which the Colonial Office was very anxious to understand. One was, "What right the King of Ashantee had to Elmina?" and the second was, "Whether the native populations desired to come under our protection?" That despatch went to show that the King of Ashantee distinctly claimed the sovereignty of Elmina; that the Dutch Government had paid the King a monthly allowance on account of his claim to the Castle of Elmina; that our Governor Usher was clearly of opinion that the King of Ashantee had such rights as it was dangerous for us to disregard in relation to the port of Elmina; and that the King of Elmina and other native tribes, assembled in public meeting at the St. George's Hall at Elmina, had declared that while they were anxious for peace, they did not wish to be joined with the Fantees under the English flag, but wished to remain under the Dutch flag. He now came to the question of the action taken by our Government, and he thought the great war which had cost us so many lives and so much treasure, and which had opened the question as to whether we should continue to maintain this distant possession of the Crown, was a subject that ought to be discussed with gravity and care. He was aware that the subject could not be completely discussed that evening, but he had endeavoured to place some facts before them which were, at any rate, beyond doubt, and he thought he had mentioned enough to show that the Government of the day might have paused before having to do with an extension of territory especially when without the goodwill of the people of the soil. The Government did not immediately answer the despatch, which was received on the 25th of January. It was not answered till the 28th of February, when the terms used were—
Although they had just received a despatch which showed how earnestly these tribes had refused to come under the British flag, yet, three days before this language was used, a Treaty had been signed at the Hague which in effect settled the whole business. It appeared that during the whole of our transactions with the Dutch, a general of the Ashantees. Prince Atjempon, still remained in Elmina, that he was there when the transfer to us took place on the 6th of April, 1872; and that it was only after that transfer, that he was sent over the Prah. The King then sent forth the invading Army, and that was the beginning of the late war. It might be urged that the King desired the return of Prince Atjempon, but, looking at the facts, it did not appear that this really was the case. He was merely anxious for time to prepare for war with us and merely appeared to wish for his return. On the 17th May, 1869, Earl Granville, in writing to Governor Kennedy, stated—It should be distinctly explained to the Elminas that Government had no intention to compel them to accept British protection."
and on the 11th February, 1873, after the Ashantees had invaded the protected territory, Colonel Harley, in reply to some Natives seeking aid from him, stated that the maintenance of the fighting men by his Government was out of the question, and that the Fantees must understand that they were called upon to defend their own soil. By that, the policy was laid down as clearly as possible, that we were not to protect the tribes at all beyond our own forts. How was it, then, that we departed from that policy and advanced our troops not only beyond the forts, but across the Prah to Coomassie? He thought the House must look forward with great interest to the statement of the late Government as to what was the real cause of the war. He had shown how utterly the native tribes when under the Dutch detested the idea of coming under British rule, and that the Home Government had said they would not take these tribes under their protection unless they liked, and he would now give them from an official despatch the history of one day—that the first day—of the war. The troops were in motion at 5 A.M., and in a short time marched to the first village on their route. In 35 minutes they fired upon that village, and then they destroyed it. They then marched to the next village, which was two hours distant. That village was deserted, and they destroyed it. They then marched to the nest village, which was also deserted, and which they likewise destroyed. And this was done by the troops of a country which sent forth more missionaries to spread the Gospel of peace than any other, and which distributed millions of tracts inculcating peace and goodwill among men, and which, while it was considering how to alleviate famine in one distant country, was, by means of fire and sword, carrying famine into another, and against a people whose only crime was that of refusing to come under the protection of a country which by the mouth of one of its chief Ministers had declared that they would not be forced to act against their will. There were great difficulties to be encountered by remaining on the Coast. The Government had now 810 miles of boundary to defend, instead of 370, and its frontier towards Ashantee had increased from 170 to 190 miles. Moreover, we could not in honour remain and become the protectors of any of the tribes he had spoken of without asking their sanction. A suggestion had been made to form a confederacy of native tribes for mutual defence against the Ashantees; but these tribes were not friendly among themselves; and even if we succeeded in forming an Army amongst them, we would have to instil into them a bravery which they did not possess. Our withdrawal from the Coast could scarcely be hindered by a consideration of obligation to the Fantees, who had involved us in several wars, and who had behaved in so cowardly a manner in the late expedition. As regarded our merchants, it would be worth our while to compensate those who retired from the Coast, if we withdrew our forces. The Government might induce the merchants of 1874 to do what the merchants of 1830 did, and hand over the management of the Gold Coast to them. As to the Ashantees, history had declared, what experience had recently confirmed, that they were the only tribe in Africa who were able to organize and maintain a Government. If we had been as zealous to make friends of the Ashantees as we had been successful in making enemies of them, we should long ago have arrived at a solution of the difficulty. Our Government should now change their policy, and, instead of driving them back into the interior, should encourage them to come to the Coast, and above all things endeavour to bring them into harmony with some of the border tribes, for already, indeed, some of the Fantees would willingly be associated with them. This policy had been recommended many years ago by the Rev. Sydney Smith, who, when reviewing the work of Mr. Bowditch, the African traveller, said that he sympathized with the victories of the King of Ashantee, and that if the King had been encouraged to come to the Coast, we should have been saved many of the difficulties which the great traveller recorded. In Mr. Smith's opinion, the best thing that we could do was to leave the Gold Coast altogether. Whilst endorsing this view no reasonable man would think of instantly withdrawing, but rather that we should prepare to do so as early as practicable. In conclusion, he begged to express his regret for having occupied the time of the House for so long, but he felt that if he touched upon the question at all, he ought to do so thoroughly."You cannot be unaware that the recent war with the Ashantees was a subject of the greatest regret to the Government, that the recurrence of such a war would he viewed as a great calamity, and that the employment in it of British troops would be wholly against the policy of this country,"
, in moving the adjournment of the debate, said, he did so because there were many hon. Members who wished to speak on the subject.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—( Mr. Arthur Mills.)
Sir, I think that it would be much for the public convenience that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have an opportunity of bringing forward the Licensing Bill, in accordance with what has been arranged; therefore I shall not oppose the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate, and the more especially so, because the subject now under discussion is one of great public interest, and is one upon which many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. Feeling it to be my duty to meet that wish, I am willing to agree that the debate shall be resumed on Monday next.
Motion agreed to.
Debate adjourned till Wednesday.
Intoxicating Liquors Bill
Acts read— Considered in Committee.
(In the Committee.)
, in rising to move—"That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Laws relating to the sale and consumption of Intoxicating Liquors," said: I am quite aware of the great difficulty of dealing with the subject which I am now approaching on behalf of the Government, and if the Government do not meet in this Bill the wishes of the Committee, certainly it will not be for want of suggestions, for we have had them made to us by every section of the community. I am also aware of all those suggestions—some happy, and some otherwise—which were made to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I think that those which have been made to the Government through my- self certainly exceed the number of those which were made to him, and if they exceed in number, I also think they exceed in differences of opinion. I do not think I have had, out of all the deputations that have waited upon me, two who were of the same opinion upon this subject; and certain of the members forming more than one of these deputations entirely disagreed amongst themselves. Therefore I am left with the pleasing reflection quot homines, tot sententiœ. In approaching this subject, perhaps, I may at once state that I do not wish to weary the Committee with a great number of statistics or figures on this matter, for they have been so constantly brought before the House that I do not think I shall be justified in taking up much of your time in laying further statistics before you. There are however, one or two which I must give, in order that the Committee may be aware, in the first place, of the magnitude of the subject, and, in the next place, to remove that false impression which has gone abroad upon one or two facts which have been based upon statistics. I must, however, remind the Committee, that there is hardly anything so delusive as figures, and you may draw almost any conclusion from them if you look at them from one point of view only. Before putting these figures before you at all, however, I may say that I do not intend to detain the Committee by dilating at any length upon the evil effect of drunkenness, nor upon the crime, misery, and wretchedness which undoubtedly spring from it. There is hardly a Judge who in charging a grand jury at Assizes has not something to say on the subject, and, certainly, no one more than myself feels the truth of a great many of the observations that are made on these occasions. And when we look at the facts which shortly I shall have to place before the Committee, in their broad outline, we must acknowledge that they certainly do present a rather appalling state of things; for I find that in the year 1873, in England alone, no fewer than 182,000 persons were proceeded against for drunkenness, and that the consumption of intoxicating liquors during that year amounted to the sum which I am just going to place before you—namely, there were consumed very nearly 63,500,000 bushels of malt, and nearly 40,000,000 gallons of British and Foreign spirits, and 18,000,000 gallons of wine. Therefore, I think I may assume that the Committee will agree with me in this—that if the people of England and the United Kingdom in general did not spend quite so much money upon these intoxicating liquors, there would be more health, more wealth, and more happiness than at present exist in the country. [Opposition Cheers.] Well, I was quite prepared for that cheer coming from the other side of the House. I will go one step further, and say this—that the consumption of spirits—speaking of British and Foreign spirits alone—has undoubtedly increased rapidly in the last few years; for in 1866 I find the proportion of spirits drunk throughout the United Kingdom was 1·01 gallons per head of the population, and in 1873 if was as much as 1·21. Therefore, there is certainly a large increase in the last few years. But that being so, we must not run away with that bare fact uppermost in our minds. Hon. Members would do well in these cases, as in many others, not to draw their conclusions from a small number of year's, and think that because there has been an increase in the consumption of spirits, it is likely to run on in the same proportion; and if they will look back for a longer period of years than 1866, they will find some crumbs of comfort, at all events; in this fact—namely, that in taking a period of 20 years, say 1853, and comparing it with 1873, the difference is not so great as the few years I have named would be likely in the first instance to load them to infer. In the year 1853 I find the consumption of spirit, proof, amounted to as much as 30,163,933 gallons, but in the year 1869—although, as I need hardly say the population of the United Kingdom had in the meantime largely increased, and although this increase had gone on gradually and there was no sudden jump from one period to another—the consumption was 30,114,594 gallons, which was considerably less in 1869 than in 1853. Indeed, it is not until you come to 1871, that you find the proportion of gallons per head, which is consumed by the people of the United Kingdom, really amounts to the same figure that it did in the year 1853. And another fact has to be remembered. You must consider not simply the increase of population between these two years, but also the number of public- houses which existed in the year 1853 and in 1869. In 1853 the number was 87,625; in 1866, 93,593; and in 1873, it was 97,132. [An hon. MEMBER: Is that licensed victuallers?] Licensed victuallers and retailers of spirits. And therefore, although the amount of spirits consumed in 1853 and 1869 was exactly the same—indeed, rather smaller in 1860 than in 1853—the number of public-houses increased considerably during that period. The Committee, therefore, will see that they must not jump to the conclusion, too rapidly, that the consumption of spirits grows with the number of public-houses or licensed retailers of spirits. There is also some comfort which I think I can put before the Committee in connection with this subject of the quantity of spirits consumed, and that is the improved condition of those places where spirits are sold. And you may find that in many ways. You may consult the police reports, and the reports made by the magistrates in different parts of the country—both from the mayors in one case, and the police in the other—you may look at the number of convictions of the public-houses and publicans and beer-house keepers in the year 1853, and compare that with the latter period, and you may also look at the number of forfeitures which have taken place in the licences of those persons who have been licensed to sell intoxicating liquors, and in all these quarters, wherever you look, you do find a vast improvement in the character of the places where these liquors are sold. I find in 1869 there were as many public-houses in England as 61,893, whereas in 1873 there were 62,261, which is a considerable, though perhaps not a very large, increase. But when we come to the number of convictions, we find that in 1869 they were as many as 3,152, whereas in 1873, although the number of public-houses was considerably larger, the convictions were only 2,297. When you come to beer-houses, you will find the same striking difference still. In 1869, the number of beer-houses was 46,298, and in 1873 there were only 40,923, showing a large decrease. You will agree that not only is that so, but that it is a good thing it is the case. But when we come to the number of convictions, you will see they have decreased in a much larger proportion than the number of houses, for in 1869 the number was 6,871, whereas in 1878 it was only 1,495. Then, again, if you look not only at the number of convictions, but at the number of licences forfeited, you will see a much larger discrepancy still; but as regards beer-houses, no doubt, that result is owing to the operation of recent legislation. In 1869 there were 127 public-house licences forfeited, and in 1873 that number had dwindled down to 13. Of the beerhouses there were in 1869 no fewer than 1,951 whose licences were forfeited, and in 1873 only 14. I think, therefore, we may judge that the conduct of these houses has been gradually, and I may say rapidly, improved, and I hope the conduct of these houses will be still more improved. I am quite sure it is for the interests of those who keep them that it should be improved; and, so far as we are concerned, we ought to do all that we can to enable them to improve the condition of their houses. However, the result of the figures I have placed before the Committee shows that the public-houses, and all houses where intoxicating liquors have been sold, have been fewer in number than in 1869; that they have been much better conducted; that, in consequence, the streets have undoubtedly been much more quiet and orderly; that there have been much fewer publicans convicted; and that there have been still fewer licences forfeited for the houses being badly conducted. Nevertheless, although this is the case, we have still this appalling state of things, that although public-houses have been well conducted, and although the number of beer-houses has been reduced, and the public-houses slightly increased, yet still the consumption of beer and spirits has largely grown. The consumption of spirits in 1873, as compared with 1869, has grown from 30,114,594 gallons in the latter period to 39,132,207 gallons in the former; while if you take the quantity of beer which has been consumed during the same years, calculating it by the bushels of malt used, you will find in 1869 it was 52,000,000 bushels as against 63,500,000 in 1873; and, in the case of wine, I find it has grown from 14,500,000 to more than 18,000,000 of gallons. It is to be noted that the convictions for drunkenness also have very much increased during the same period. Now, the question is, how are we to account for this? Be- cause, in the first instance, we find that while the public-houses were increasing in number the quantity of spirits consumed gradually decreased; and certainly it has happened, although I do not place much stress on the fact, that when the number of public-houses has decreased the quantity of spirits consumed has largely increased. Well, I account for it in several ways. I believe a great deal has arisen from the increased care and attention which the keepers of these houses themselves have given to their trade; a great deal of it has arisen from the activity and vigilance of the police; but I believe still more it has arisen, so far as the consumption of spirits is concerned, to the wealth of the lower classes of this country. And when I say "wealth," I mean the largely increased wages they have received, and not simply from their largely increased wages, but from the suddenness with which they have increased. I also believe it has grown not merely from the large amount of wages, but from the increased amount of leisure they have enjoyed. Taking the case of my own county—and I take it because in that district wages have greatly increased and have, too, suddenly increased, so that it may be fairly taken as a test—I find that in that county the proceedings taken for drunkenness in 1872 were 13,135, and that they increased in 1873 to 13,6–18. Comparing that with 1871 the increase is still larger, as in that year they were under 12,000. The same state of things has taken place in the metropolis, and the conclusion I arrive at from these facts is this—that the increase of wages, and the suddenness of that increase, and the want of other sources of enjoyment for those persons who found themselves in possession of comparative wealth without being educated how to best spend it for their own happiness and that of their fellow-creatures, have led them to go into the only pleasure with which they were acquainted, and they have spent it in drinking. There is one further reason which I hope the Committee will bear in mind, and it is, that although we may speak of drunkenness as the cause of crime and of many attendant evils, it has a primary cause, and it is one which the working people of my own county feel still more deeply—I mean the want of a happy home. When you are trying then, to get at the bottom of this evil, do not stop with the amount of drunkenness. If you want to go to the bottom of the evil, yon must go further; you must improve the education of the people, and try and induce them to learn that there are other enjoyments than the mere sensual enjoyments of the moment, and you will do this if you make their homes happy and comfortable. Therefore, I do believe that the movement set on foot to provide the labouring classes with what they can well appreciate—improved dwellings, will do more to promote sobriety than any measures you may pass to prevent the sale of intoxicating liquors. Still there is a large amount of misery and unhappiness that hon. Members wish to do the best they can to prevent, and these group themselves into three distinct schools of thought, differing in their view of the way in which this ought to take place. The first is that school of thought so ably represented in this House by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and his friends. They think they can improve the matter by putting a stop absolutely to the sale of intoxicating liquors. I need not say for myself that I consider that is an impossible plan. I do not believe that in these matters, more than any other, you can legislate beyond public opinion. If you do, public opinion will not bear you out, and the laws which you will pass will be broken, as they have been in other countries in which they have been tried, and therefore I hold that it is better not to pass any such law, as the frequent violation of it will be sure to create a disregard for law altogether. I am quite willing to give the hon. Baronet, and those who act with him, credit for the best possible intentions, and they do a great deal of good in a particular way. I can speak of a great number of the labouring classes in my own county who have taken up this matter very warmly, and who in their own particular society exercise a wholesome influence over their relations. That is the good they can do, and if they will only leave alone the good they cannot do, and follow out the good they can do, it will be a great benefit to the country. What they do is this—They endeavour to ripen public opinion on this matter; and what I want to see brought about is, that people should look upon being drunk as a matter of disgrace, and when you can get them to so look upon it, you will influence the classes among which drunkenness now prevails, just as the higher classes were influenced some years ago. I have always said that the people of England have no right to come to this House for legislation for the mitigation of an evil, until they have done their best to cope with it without legislation; and in this case, the working men in their building societies and clubs have the remedy in their own hands if they choose to make use of it. They can, if they please, form themselves into building societies, build their own houses, and not allow a public-house to be among them. There are a great many places where I believe the working classes have taken this course, and, notably so, near the City of Canterbury. On the same plan, there is the Shaftesbury Park Estate, where it is possible they may get a number of persons to live together without having a public-house among them. That is, I consider, a legitimate way of influencing public opinion. The second school of thought is represented by those who take quite the opposite view—who say that all restrictions are improper, and that you ought to have free trade in intoxicating liquors, as you have free trade in other articles of consumption. There are a great many very thoughtful men who take that view of the case. Well, that has been tried in the town of Liverpool. The magistrates granted licences to all who asked for them, and the result was, that drunkenness increased to such au enormous degree that the inhabitants in large numbers petitioned the magistrates to make an alteration in the borough rules. They did so and there was less drunkenness than before. Then we come to the plan which the House of Commons has always adopted, and which I am sure it will continue to pursue, and which is to regulate the monopoly of the trade. When we talk of a regulated monopoly, we must be all aware that it is easy to make the law, but it is not so easy to get it properly administered. Various plans have been tried. It has been referred to the Town Councils, it has been referred to the magistrates, and some of you wish to refer it to the ratepayers. The complaint is that the Town Councils and the magistrates have administered it in the sense of their own particular bias, and not as it was intended by Parliament that it should he administered; and the same would rake place with a still stronger feeling, if it were to be referred to the ratepayers, which I hope it never will. Everyone would act according to the bent of his own mind, and in proportion as his opinion was warped by any bias, so he would impose restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquors. You have therefore, when considering the Act of 1872, to see if it has been worked out fairly and honestly, as it was intended should be done. I do not intend to make any imputation upon the magistrates, to whom Parliament committed the administration of that Act. I do believe that they honestly meant to carry it out in its integrity; but they have, through the bias I have mentioned, been led to give a complexion to that Act which the judicial mind would not do in any other matter which might come before the bench. Now I come to the particular point to which I wish to call the attention of the House. That is the liberty given to the magistrates, by the Act of 1872, to enlarge or limit the hours of closing. I have before me a Return made to the House on the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) on this subject, and it shows that although to a considerable extent the magistrates have left the hours fixed by the statute unaltered, we yet find that in 200 out of 890 licensing districts a change has taken place by the act of the magistrates: and, although I do not wonder at their being puzzled to decide upon the subject, yet I confess I do not know on what principle they have proceeded, for when we look to the list of the towns, we find that while in some large towns the hour for closing is 10 o'clock, in other and smaller towns it is 12 o'clock. I certainly cannot see why the circumstances of one town should differ so from the circumstances of another town, and I think that any hon. Member who looks through the Return will agree with me that although the magistrates have done their best to administer the Act fairly and justly, they have not arrived at the same conclusion; and when we come to the country districts we find a still greater divergence in the limitation of the hours. This is a considerable evil, for I find that while in one village or one licensing district the public-houses have to be closed at one hour, they are in the adjoining village or licensing district closed at another, and the result is this—that it induces the inhabitants of one village or parish where the houses close early to go to another village or parish where they are not so well known, and drink as much, if not more, than they would have drunk if the public-houses in their own parish had been kept open. I think, therefore, that Parliament should take upon itself to regulate this monopoly. And here the Committee must remember that for a very long time there was no restriction in respect to hours at all; but Parliament has—and very wisely as I think—determined that such restrictions should be imposed, and that being the case, the House is bound to take upon itself the responsibility of fixing the hours. The first Proposition the Government has to propose, therefore, is that the hours at which public-houses shall be closed shall be fixed by statute, and not left to the discretion of the magistrates. That being so, the next question that arises is—What shall the hour be at which public-houses shall be closed? Well, that is a very difficult question, and I can honestly tell the Committee that that is a point on which all the deputations which came to me totally differed, and as this House is merely a representation of the persons who formed those deputations—["No."] Well, I will put it another way—I believed that all the persons who formed those deputations have Representatives in this House. Therefore, I cannot propose for a moment, that any hour which the Government propose will be entirely satisfactory to every Member of the Committee, any more than to every member of those deputations. But we have made every inquiry we can into this matter, and, among others, we have obtained the views of the publicans and beer-sellers, like everybody else. But, remember, this is a question which must not be determined in the interests of one body or of another; but we must fix the hours in the interests of the public, and not simply of the publicans. When we came to ask the trade what they had to suggest in this matter, their answer was very plain, very simple, and very intelligible, but I question much whether it was a very wise one they said they thought the best thing we could do would be to have uniform hours from one end of the country to the other—that is to say, whether the hours are fixed in the great City of London, or in the country towns, or in the smallest villages, they should be absolutely uniform. I confess myself that I cannot see much logic in that answer, because although you do not want to fix the hours exactly according to the habits of the people—which you may almost turn any way after a time—yet the business of a great town is totally different from the business of a country place. In both, there are certain hours which the people cannot help following, and the hours which are necessary in the City of London are totally different from those which are observed by agricultural labourers in the country. We have therefore come to the conclusion, with which I hope the Committee will agree, that the hours should not be uniform, but should vary according to certain circumstances which I am now going to mention. First, let me say, when we come to the question of hours, that it is not the intention of the Government to alter either on Sundays or on week-days the hours at which beer-houses are kept open, beyond taking away the discretion of the magistrates. Publicans, however, stand on a different footing. They are under different obligations to the public, and they are established for a different purpose. Now, I go one step farther, and say we do not mean to make any alteration in the hours during which even public-houses are kept open on Sundays. We think the Sunday hours have been fairly followed, and no great complaints have been made to us concerning thon. On Sundays, then, the hours will be left as they are. But when we come to the hours on weekdays, we find a considerable difference of opinion. Let me take the case of London. In the case of London, the hour of closing at night, as the Committee is aware, is fixed at 12. Looking at that, it was found quite necessary that a distinction should be made for those persons who are in the habit of attending theatres, and therefore could not reach those houses in time to get their refreshments; and therefore power was given to the Commissioner of Police to grant what are called "exemption licences," and he has granted under that power about 54 such licences to different; houses up and down the town. They are dotted up and down in the neighbourhood of the theatres. The Commissioner, acting under advice, has not felt himself justified in saying, "I shall open every house within a certain radius around a theatre." but he has given those licences to as many houses as he thought necessary. The result has been that one or two or three, or four houses in the neighbourhood of a theatre, as the case may be, have been allowed to keep open till 12.15, instead of 12, and then later for persons who have gone in, to consume what they have ordered before. That arrangement was made in order to accommodate persons going to a theatre. A more invidious power placed in the hands of any man, especially a Commissioner of Police, I cannot imagine. I must, however, speak of Colonel Henderson in terms of great praise. I believe he exercised the power very carefully with regard to the houses he selected for those particular licences. But no man—I do not care who he may be, could act on an Act of Parliament such as that and give satisfaction to everybody. The result has been that the keepers of all the houses which are closed at 12 are perfectly entitled to think that their customers have just as much right to go to their houses after 12 as to go to the exempted houses, and they believe they have a reasonable ground of complaint. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that the wise course is to put a stop to all these exemptions in London, and to place all the public-houses in the metropolis exactly on the same footing. When we came to the matter of hours we found there was a considerable difference of opinion among the licensed victuallers of London on that point. The great majority of them had joined with the country members of the trade, and agreed to ask that the houses should be closed at 12 o'clock. Then came the question of the special exemptions, and when we considered the question it became clear that 12 would not do at all. We also found there was another and considerable body of licensed victuallers, a body numbering some 1,000, who stoutly maintained that 12 o'clock would not do; and when we asked what would be the hours that would satisfy the wants of the public, the answer we got from them—and it put the hour at the latest—the hour that would satisfy everybody in the metropolis was 12.30. Now that is the hour we have placed in the Bill for closing the public-houses in the metropolis. [Mr. MELLY: Are beer-houses to be allowed to be kept open until that hour?] No. I have already stated that we do not propose to make any change in the beer-houses as to the hours of closing. We will now go to the country. The country is in an entirely different position from the town, and we do not see that the country, cither in the large towns or in the country itself, requires that hour. Indeed, it has not been asked for from any quarter, from one end of the country to the other. It is not population that should be the sole guide of the wants of a town and of an agricultural population. The guide should be not only the habits, but the nature of the occupations of the people, and the consideration whether these occupations require later hours or not. Large towns other than London should have later hours than villages. One Member of the Committee, if asked, would probably suggest one hour and another another, but the hour which I believe, from all the representations made to us, would really satisfy all the wants of the public, not simply in small places, but of people in the towns, taking as the definition of a town any place that has really some importance and authority, a town such as would be named in the Public-house Closing Act—a place, in fact, where there is a Corporation, an Improvement Commission, or a Local Government. Board, so as to distinguish it from a mere aggregation of houses, and where the population is over 10,000—the hour we have stated in the Bill for closing in those places is 11.30. In the country, looking at the Returns obtained on the Motion of the hon. Member for Stoke, and considering that in these places the hours are practically lengthened from their not being included under all the restrictions that apply in the case of towns, and the fact that the magistrates have made no alteration, we have left the hour as it is stated in the old Act—namely, 11, so that the hours we suggest are these—in the metropolis, in the district over which the Metropolitan Board of Works have jurisdiction, enlarged by one or two parishes where the population is so great or so dense that the arbitrary rule of a four or five miles radius could not be satisfactorily applied, the hour would be 12.30; in the large towns it would be 11.30; and in the country the hour would remain as at present, 11. There is one other matter which flows out of this subject, and which has been much pressed upon us as far as London is concerned. The Committee will remember that, under a particular Act, passed some time ago, certain houses were left open, which go by the name of "night-houses;" and in London there are over 1,000 of these night-houses, which have a licence to keep open the whole night. They do not actually sell intoxicating liquors; but when the Public-house Closing Act was passed, it was found that these houses were really the resort of persons who went there simply because they were driven out of the public-house, and there congregated to do mischief. Therefore the Public-house Closing Act made this regulation—that all these houses shall be closed at 1 A.M. when the public-houses closed. And now we find from the police, that the night-houses which now exist are not resorted to in the least by people who want refreshments, but are simply frequented by persons who have been turned out of the public-houses, and who go to them the moment the public-houses are closed. The result I have from the police may be summed up in these words—that these refreshment-houses are simply the resort of prostitutes and their companions; that they carry on an illicit trade in spirits; that the persons who frequent them remain till the last moment; and then rush out in a boisterous and disorderly state into the streets, which they disturb for an additional hour. We propose, as the Public-house Closing Act suggested, that they should be closed at the same time as public-houses, and as we suggest that public-houses should close at 12.30, that these houses should be closed at the same time. We also propose to give a publican the right of keeping his house open for the full number of hours, if he chooses to do so, or of closing at an earlier hour on complying with certain conditions. There are some very large districts in Wales where that optional power will be useful and where the public-houses might be closed at 10 o'clock instead of 11. As this appears to result from the wishes of the inhabitants, we do not think we have a right to force the publican to keep his house open any longer than anybody wants him; but we think it better that the right to do this should be regulated by a fixed principle rather than be left to the discretion of a magistrate or magistrates. The Committee will also remember that in 1872 the Bill which was proposed gave the option to licensed victuallers to take out six-day licences instead of seven, and make a proportionate reduction for the days on which the house was closed. Following the example of the law in this respect, we propose—and competition is likely to prevent this being acted on, except where the population is favourable—that any publican who chooses may close one hour earlier than the regular hour, provided that when he applies for his licence, he declares his wish and desire, and has that inserted in his licence; and further, the gross amount of hours being about the same, that the same allowance shall be made for the hours during which the house shall be so closed as is made in the case of six-day licences. Of course, a man taking out such a licence will be subject to a penalty if he does not close at the hour agreed upon. I may mention that the experiment of those six-day licences seems to be working very satisfactorily. In the first year after the Act was passed, there were only 6,000 licences of this description applied for; they got on very slowly at first, but in the first six months of the second year, the number has risen to 9,000, and there is every probability that they will increase in numbers, and thus in a very beneficial manner regulate the trade according to the wants of the locality without external interference. I believe these early closing licences will be found in practice very beneficial to all parties. There are other provisions in the Bill which I ask leave to introduce, which refer to matters which undoubtedly, in our opinion, do press very hardly upon persons connected with this trade, and the principle upon which we think it right to deal with them is the principle applied to persons connected with all other open and legitimate trades. Our object should be to get the best and most honourable houses we can; and though, no doubt, there has been a considerable improvement since 1872, yet it cannot be denied that the very stringent regulations of that Act have a tendency to prevent persons from entering the trade, whose capital and personal character would render them fit and proper for the business in all respects. A great variety of suggestions have been made to us on this point, all of which have been carefully considered. One proposal on which much stress was laid was, that the houses should be classified, and licences granted accordingly, distinguishing large and commodious places from small ones, where men go at night and get drunk; but the Committee would see that it was utterly impossible for the Government to make any arbitrary rule as to either large or small houses, or to distinguish between well-conducted houses that might be frequented by the rich or the poor. We therefore came to the conclusion upon this point that everything must depend upon the personal character of the person to whom the licence is granted. I do not mean by that to say that any jealous or improper inquiries are to be made as to the antecedents of a person who applies for a licence—the present regulations seem quite sufficient; but simply to say that the continuance of the licence should depend upon the manner in which its conditions are observed. The only test of a house is the character of the man who keeps it and it must be the wish, not merely of the public, but of the publicans, that the trade should be adopted by honest and well-conducted men. Indeed, many deputations—to their credit be it said—laid stress on that point. That brings me to another important and practical point. We do not think that a magistrate should be bound to impose a minimum penalty of 20s., no matter how little the defendant may have been to blame. In some cases a man has been extremely careful to give every possible order to conduct the house properly, but through the carelessness of some of his servants he incurs conviction. We propose to leave the fine for the first offence at the discretion of the magistrate; in case of another conviction we leave the law as it stands. Then there is the endorsement of licences, which the trade feel very deeply. Under the present Act, the magistrate has no option but to endorse any conviction of a pub- lican his licence for an infraction of its conditions, and for fines ranging from £1 to £20. Three of such endorsements subject the holder to forfeiture of the licence, and it may lead to the loss of a large capital, and good business, under circumstances of great hardship, and for offences which it was impossible to prevent. The magistrate has, of course, a discretion as to the amount of fine, but he has none as to the endorsement of the licence, and so the case may occur of a licence being marked with three separate fines of £1 each, or £3 in one for trivial offences, that would involve the forfeiture of the licence, whereas in the case of two fines of £10 and £20 each for serious offences, no such forfeiture would follow. It is true that the magistrate may order the conviction not to be endorsed on the licence, but he thus steps out of the ordinary course of law. We propose therefore that the endorsement shall not be binding—that the magistrate may reduce the penalty; and in other things we leave the statute as it stands, the endorsement in any case being done by the special order of the magistrate. Some years ago an Act was passed by which it was provided that after a second conviction for felony, prisoners, after the expiration of their sentence, should be placed under police supervision for seven years, unless the Judge otherwise ordered. The result was that in 99 cases out of 100, persons found themselves placed under police supervision. The consequence of this was, that a very short time afterwards an Act was passed abolishing supervision, unless specially ordered by the Judge. That being very intelligible, we propose that in this case the same principle shall apply as we propose with respect to endorsements, with the exception that the record of conviction will always be kept in the petty sessional division, so that when the magistrate inflicts the sentence he will have it before him, and will form an opinion whether the conviction should be endorsed or not. We do not think there should be any special legislation affecting this trade if it can be avoided. Now, when the adulteration clauses were inserted in the Act of 1872 everybody expected great results from them, and the Government of that day were quite right in passing them, for the general Adulteration Act at that time in existence was almost unworkable; but the Licensing Act received the Royal Assent on the very same day as a general Act respecting the adulteration of food and drinks. A sort of stigma was thus cast upon the publicans in subjecting them to special provisions unlike any other trade, and what has been the result? In the metropolitan district, as far as I can ascertain, there has been no prosecution, and the Reports of Inspectors of Police show that in the Northern district, where adulteration was most likely to occur, no conviction has been obtained. In one instance in Cumberland, and another in the North Riding, liquor was seized, and sent for analysis, but proved to be unadulterated. The adulteration clauses have thus been a dead letter, and now that there is a general Act on the subject, the improvement of which is about being considered by a Committee, to be moved for by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), we may fairly repeal those clauses. The legislation with respect to adulteration has in its operation given rise to a great amount of discontent and ill-feeling. The Committee are perhaps aware that since the reign of William IV. the police have had power, for the purpose of enforcing order, to enter the licensed premises; but in the Act of 1872—and clearly having reference to the object of putting down adulteration and the seizing of adulterated liquors—the police obtained power, in the expectation that such liquors would be sold, not in the usual place but in rooms ordinarily devoted to the family, to enter upon and search that portion of the premises—a power which has, as I have said, given rise to a great deal of ill-feeling. The words run thus—
That provision was adopted with a view, as the result has shown, that the police should have power to examine every room, and the power has certainly been arbitrarily executed. And therefore it is that we have endeavoured to wash out that colour—to remove the blot which has been put upon the old law; and for that purpose to give the constable power to enter the premises only for the purpose of enforcing order, unless it is absolutely necessary he should do so in the execution of his duty—a fact, the proof of which will lie upon himself. That, I believe, will afford a great relief to the trade, while it will not stand in the way of order being thoroughly protected. I have already said that all those premises ought to be subject to be licensed in the way I have mentioned. We are also of opinion that all premises which are licensed for the sale of drink should be subject to the same laws. I take the case of occasional licences. Where such are granted by the Justices, it has been ruled that the police have not the same power which they possess in the case of other licensed premises. Now, we do not see any distinction between the one and the other, and are of opinion that all alike should be subject to the supervision of the police. There is another matter in which not only the publicans, but the public have much reason to complain, and it has reference to fairs and races which are held up and down the country. The local publicans, who are well known, do not go to these places unless with the sanction of the magistrates; but, on the other hand, a vast number of people who have nothing whatever to do with the locality, and who are not known to the police or the magistrates, come down and sot up booths, which for the most part are conducted in a disorderly manner. We think that those places ought to be subject to the rules relating to licensed premises, and that the persons setting up the booths should be compelled to go for licences to the local magistrates, and ought not to have any advantage over the licensed victuallers of the locality. Further, we are of opinion that if they obtain temporary licences they should be under the same regulation as the regular trade are subject to. This provision will, we think, tend to the promotion of quiet and order at all those fairs and races. The Bill contains a great many more details, with which I shall not now trouble the Committee, except one which is certainly of considerable importance. A man now goes to a large expense, say £3,000 or £4,000, in building a public-house, and when it is finished he goes to a magistrate and says—"I have built a house at a great expense, which I mean to be a public-house. Will you grant me a licence?" But the magis- trate says—"No; we have public-houses enough in this neighbourhood, and do not require any more." Now, that in our opinion is a very great hardship, and we propose that any person who chooses to build a public-house may go to a magistrate and say—"I have got or purchased this piece of land, and if you grant me a provisional order for a licence I will build a public-house according to the plans I now lay before you." We propose to give him the power, if he should think it right or necessary, and approves of the plans submitted to him, to grant this order, which would of course be confirmed at the proper time. That seems to us a fair proposition, obviating any risk of loss. In conclusion, I have only to say that in dealing with this subject, we have considered only two questions—first, to see that the just wants of the public were supplied; and next, to do justice to those engaged in the trade, and to induce the most respectable men to come into it by doing away with every unnecessary and unjust restriction. These are the sole objects we had in view in preparing the Bill. I feel obliged to the Committee for the patience with which they have listened to my statement; being, as I fear it is, of unwarrantable length; but before I sit down I may state that I am extremely sorry, from the shortness of time at my disposal, that I am unable to lay on the Table a Consolidated Bill on the entire subject. The number of statutes bearing on it are so innumerable, that it would be impossible for me to do so. In fact, very few persons have any idea of their number, and to consolidate the law as it now stands would take the whole of a Session; but when this matter is settled, it will be my anxious wish to bring in a Consolidated Act on the whole subject."The constable may at all times enter on any licensed promises, and examine every room and part of such premises, and take an account of all intoxicating liquors found therein."
Moved, "That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend the Laws relating to the sale and consumption of Intoxicating Liquors."
regretted that the Government had felt it necessary to introduce a measure to unsettle what had been passed with much agreement on both sides of the House. He had nothing to complain of in the very lucid statement made by his right hon. Friend. He extended the hours of the metropolis for public-houses to 12.30, leaving the beer- houses closed as at present, at midnight. In the provinces he extended the hours of closing for public-houses from 11 to 11.30 P.M., leaving the beer-houses to be closed at 11 o'clock in towns of over 10,000 inhabitants. The unanimous cry of the licensed victuallers and beer-sellers had been for uniformity of hours of closing and opening. The right hon. Gentleman ought, therefore, to have made 11 the uniform hour of closing. Nothing had been said about the time of opening—[Mr. CROSS: I propose to leave that as it is.] If the Bill had fixed 6 A.M. to 11 P.M. for every district, he could not have complained, for the Return that he had moved for had shown that there were 890 provincial districts; in 13 of which the hours of closing were 12 or 11.30; in 75, 10 or 10.30; and in 802, 11 o'clock, as suggested by the Act of 1872. Five insignificant towns, with a population of 200,000, had extended the hours of closing; 13 small towns, with a population of 300,000, had shortened the hours; but 154 boroughs, with a population of 6,000,000, now close at 11. All that was to be disturbed. In all these boroughs there were to be two hours of closing. The public-houses were to close at 11.30, the beer-houses at 11. Thus the drunken customers of the beer-houses would cross the street at 11 to top up with gin at the spirit vault, and the police would have nothing to do from 11 to 11.30, but to watch their future captives crossing the street to make themselves still more disorderly. There would, he thought, have been no serious objection to fixing 12.30 as the hour for closing in the metropolis, but he had hoped to see a provision as to uniformity elsewhere. The Act of 1872 had been universally approved. He believed the public, the magistrates, the police, and even the trade itself, preferred the earlier hours. The Budget figures also showed that they had done no diminished trade. The three chief Inspectors of Police in the Northern, Midland, and Southern districts, had reported most strongly in favour of the working of the Act; 49 superintendents of county, and 117 chief superintendents of borough police had, in their reports to the Home Secretary himself, used these words—"The Act works most satisfactorily," "well," or "beneficially." One superintendent complained of the want of uniformity in hours; but no officer of police made any other complaint. There would, however, now be diversity of hours in the lane of every county and the street of every village and town in England and Wales. There were 40,000 beer-houses and 67,000 spirit-houses to be closed at different hours, and so strongly did he feel as to the increased drinking to which this extension of spirit-houses must necessarily lead, that he should oppose the Bill. All experience had shown that the diversity of closing hours led to great disorder, and largely increased the labours of the police; and he was convinced that the Justices of the Peace and others charged with the maintenance of law and order, would object to his right hon. Friend's proposals. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not thought proper to propose that grocers' shops where drink was sold in small quantities, to be consumed off the premises, should also be closed at 11. That, however, was not the time to deal with the minor concessions proposed to be made to the drinking interests. When the Bill came to be considered by the country, the universal verdict would be, that instead of the proposal of the Government, there should be absolute uniformity of hours for the whole trade in each district, He begged to give Notice that on the second reading, he should move the following Amendment—
"That, in the opinion of this House, no measure for the regulation of the sale of Intoxicating Liquors will be satisfactory which affords increased facilities for drinking, and which deals unequally and unfairly with a considerable branch of the liquor trade."
said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with great regret, because he thought the changes he proposed to effect in the present law would be most unfortunate. The licensed victuallers had had a monopoly in which the interests of the public were ignored, and the improvements which had been secured were worth retaining. He had no doubt that the endorsement provisions had a considerable effect in the improvement of the conduct of the houses to which reference had been made. He thought the alteration proposed in respect to those endorsements was an injurious one, and would result in strengthening the vast and gigantic monopoly of the liquor trade.
looked upon the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman as a retrograde step in legislation, and would reserve to himself the right of opposing, on the second reading. Some portions of the scheme he had heard with sorrow, and he believed the country would read them to-morrow with alarm. He regretted that nothing was proposed calculated to bring houses which were doing much harm, more fully under the control of the magistrates than they were now. In case this Bill ever came to a second reading, he should move, in Committee, further restrictions with regard to grocers' licences, and to give the magistrates more discretion over those houses in which the drink had to be consumed off the premises. Altogether, the statement had produced a most unfavourable impression upon his mind, and he trusted that in several particulars the right hon. Gentleman might see it his duty, in the interest of the country, to re-consider his plan.
said, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) had made unfavourable comments upon the measure proposed, in which he could not join. He thought the Bill would do much to secure the uniformity required, and would meet the wants both of the publicans and the public. There had been need of some extension of the hours, and he did not think the boon would be abused. He knew it was a difficult subject, but he would reserve what he had to say until the second reading.
thought the right hon. Gentleman had failed to produce a measure which would be satisfactory to anybody. Very few persons found fault with the hours of closing fixed by the Act of 1872, and that, he might say, applied to the persons engaged in the trade as well as the general community. The hours of closing at 12 o'clock in London and 11 in the country, with 10 for the smaller places, were late enough for all proper purposes. To extend these hours as the right hon. Gentleman proposed, instead of doing a public good, would, in his opinion, create a great mischief. Experience showed, that earlier hours under the Act of the late Government produced greater quiet. They had abundant evidence of the fact, and he must express his regret that, with such a gratifying experience, the Government should be induced, from any considerations, to submit proposals for the lengthening of the hours. Had the Government really consulted the feelings of the country on the matter, they would not have been led into such a course. The fact, however, was that they had not consulted the wishes of the public so much as they had the wishes of an agitating section of the publicans.
said, he would not attempt at that hour of the night to enter upon any discussion, or to criticize the details of the Government measure; but there was one point on which the right hon. Gentleman laid considerable stress—namely, the distinction—he might say the unfounded and unfair distinction—which was drawn between the houses of licensed victuallers and beer-houses. Beer-houses as a class were not less respectable than public-houses. No doubt there were discreditable beer-houses and discreditable licensed victuallers' houses, but to stamp the former as a class to be put in a different category from that of the licensed victuallers seemed to him most indefensible. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the injustice and unfairness of exempting from the existing Act licensed victuallers who carried on their businesses in the neighbourhood of the theatre, and he pointed out that circumstance as one of the reasons for the amending Bill he had introduced. So it was with regard to exceptional treatment for the higher class of hotels. Very fairly, the right hon. Gentleman objected to any distinction between classes of houses for the rich and the poor. He (Sir William Harcourt) could see no fairness in saying that the time of closing for the licensed victuallers should be fixed at one hour, while the beer-houses were to close at another. One of the practical consequences of that would be, that when people left the beerhouses, they would proceed direct to the licensed victuallers' and procure spirits there. It seemed to him to be a sort of class legislation which recognized the aristocracy of spirits as against the democracy of beer, and that was a view he felt by no means willing to accept. He had always protested against the unfairness of the treatment to which beerhouses had been subjected, more especially as regarded their valuation. This was a matter on which he should certainly challenge the judgment of the House.
said, there was no harm whatever in drawing a distinction which had some justification. It should be remembered that licensed victuallers' houses were established in a great many instances for the purpose of eating as well as drinking, while beer-houses, as the name implied, were intended for drinking beer only, and notwithstanding the Utopian view advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), every person who resided in the country knew full well that frequenters of beer-houses were, speaking generally, not the most desirable section of the community. He regretted the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease), whose opinions were entitled to respect and consideration, thought the country would view the measure with alarm. He (Mr. Talbot) could not but think that on the whole, it would be taken, as it deserved, as a moderate measure. There ought, in his opinion, to be a further classification in population. There ought to be some distinction between places of 2,000 and towns of 10,000. Many persons did not want a late hour. Publicans were in the country often engaged in trade or work, and had to rise early, and one of them had told him (Mr. Talbot) that early closing was the greatest boon he ever enjoyed. The time of closing for small places with a population under 2,000 ought to be 10 o'clock instead of 11 o'clock. The hours of closing on Sundays, as he understood the Bill, were to remain the same as they stood under the present Act. If he should find it necessary when the Bill went into Committee he should move Amendments in the direction he had indicated. Before he sat down, he should like to know if it was intended to alter the present hour for closing on Saturday nights.
No. The whole of the houses in London will be closed at 12 o'clock at night on Saturdays.
Mr. Raikes—The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross) has not met with much approbation for the Bill which he has just introduced. Nobody has, so far, said much in its favour, except the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney). But I hardly know whether I ought to join in the general chorus of dissatisfaction, because I am convinced that there has never been a speech delivered in this House or elsewhere which will do more to promote the cause with which I am especially associated, for it will go forth to the country, and open up their eyes to what is intended. We have seen a strange thing to-night. In the early part of the evening an hon. Member (Mr. Hanbury) made a speech touching Africa, and over and over again he denounced the sale of spirits to the Natives of that country. It seems horrible thus to ruin Blackman; but now, down comes the Homo Secretary and proposes to extend that very trade among the White men of his own country. Sir, I have been watching the course of the present Administration since its formation, and I had begun to wonder in what respects it was any worse than the former Administration. I began to think that I should be one of its supporters. But to-night a mystery has been revealed to me. I understand, at last, the real meaning of the "Conservative reaction." It means half an hour more drinking at night. But how wonderfully the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with this whole question. The cry of the trade has been, for months past, for uniformity of hours in respect to houses, if not of districts. But what does the Bill do? It makes the hours, so to speak, more un-uniform than ever. The right hon. Gentleman does not dare to lengthen the hours for beer-shops, and what is the result? Why, in Lancashire—his own county—there will be 7,000 beer-shops closing at 11 o'clock, or earlier, and 8,000 public-houses keeping open, most of them, until half-past 11. So far from promoting uniformity, the Bill will establish six—[An hon. MEMBER: Seven]—yes, no less than seven varieties in the period during which drink maybe sold in various places. So much for the uniformity notion; and how strangely it is proposed to be met by the process of Parliament fixing a great variety of hours for different regions, and, in addition to that, different hours for different classes of houses on opposite sides of the streets, or even next door to each other. That is the way of removing the "discretion of magistrates" as to the hours; and the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to give the opportunity of increasing variety by allowing the publican to fix his own hour shorter, with an allowance if he exercise it so wisely as to produce a want of uniformity. It passes all comprehension. As to adulteration, I am not much disturbed by the right hon. Gentleman's intentions in that direction. I always knew that the cry of adulteration was a red herring drawn across the trail. You cannot make the stuff much more mischievous than it is itself. As to heavy penalties for drunkenness, I am no great advocate for them. I am more anxious to punish the drunkard-maker than the drunkard. The hours of sale are the real points. By lengthening the time during which drink is sold you simply increase the temptations to drinking. It is said that a good man struggling with difficulties is a spectacle for the gods. For my part, I viewed with pain the spectacle of a good Member of Parliament, like my right hon. Friend, struggling under the weight of the worst cause which ever anyone undertook. I have always given my right hon. Friend credit for prudence, but a more extraordinary speech from a Home Secretary has never been presented to the House than that which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, after the reports of the three Inspectors of police, all telling him how admirably the late Act has worked—an Act which he now seeks to repeal. The right hon. Gentleman said in his speech that he proposed to legislate in the interests of the public; but he has proposed legislation entirely in the interest of the publican; he also talked about improving the people by leading them away from sensual enjoyments, but he has proposed to do this by opening public-houses half an hour longer in the evening.
said, that considering the evils which the right hon. Gentleman described as attending want of uniformity in closing public-houses, he failed to see how he had persuaded himself to propose no less than six or seven different hours, all of which might in some places be in force within a very short distance. But he did not rise to criticize the proposals of the Government, but to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give as long a time as he could between the introduction of the Bill and its second reading, so that its provisions might well be considered by the magistrates and all who took an interest in the question throughout the country. There were strong opinions upon this question, which there should be ample time to apply to the particular proposals now made, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give at least three weeks or a month before the second reading.
said, that one consideration seemed to have been lost sight of by every speaker, and that was justice to the publican. A stigma had been attached to the vocation, and the result was, that the best men who would otherwise be got in London did not enter on it. Looking, however, at the temptations to which they were exposed, it was, he thought, remarkable that they so seldom went wrong. He considered that the measure propounded by the right hon. Gentleman accorded with his practical good sense, and that if he were able to carry it out, its effect would be to introduce the best class of men into the trade. He, however, regretted that a difference was made in the hours for closing beer-shops and public-houses, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman might be induced to modify that part of his Bill, for as it stood, it was immeasurably absurd.
said, the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Melly) had complained that there should be different hours of closing in different places, but common sense dictated that such should be the case. It was perfectly absurd to say that in the metropolis, with between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 inhabitants, the hours of closing should be precisely the same as throughout the whole country. When the matter came before the Committee, it could be decided what hours would be applicable to towns with given populations. There was one thing he rather regretted, and that was that the hour of 1 was not fixed for the time of closing in London instead of half-past 12. He was greatly pleased to find that his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had nothing particular to complain of, excepting that the publicans set their backs against everybody. They knew the hon. Gentleman was a kind-hearted person; and although he would not allow licensed victuallers to retail wines and spirits, yet he (Mr. Locke) had been told that he was hospitable to his friends to a large extent. However, from what his hon. Friend had said that night, he could clearly see that he was coming round, and he was exceedingly pleased to find him in that happy condition.
hoped some conclusion would be arrived at so as to settle the bonâ fide traveller question. Persons arrived at small villages in trains and on bicycles, and in all manner of ways, and the publicans were obliged to open their houses at all hours of the day, not being able to distinguish the travellers from other people.
thought 10 o'clock in the country would be late enough for public-houses to keep open, and urged that if they were kept open later the working classes got so much less sleep, and were not so well able to get to their work in the morning. He thought the extension of hours in London was desirable, and had nothing to say in objection to the proposal; but understanding the country places in Wales, and sympathizing with the working men, he objected to lengthen the hours of the public-houses and beer-shops.
said, that the seaport which he represented (Hull) could be very injuriously affected by the proposals of the Government. They had fixed hours earlier than those named by the right hon. Gentleman. Both public-houses and beer-shops closed at half-past 10; and if he understood the proposal the uniformity would be destroyed, and public-houses and beer-shops would both be lengthened in their hours and yet be different. That he regretted very much, as the present hours gave general satisfaction. It was also the case with the port of Liverpool he understood. He hoped the proposals would not be carried as submitted.
hoped that the Bill would be printed immediately, and that it might be circulated throughout the country, so that it might be discussed and public opinion taken upon it. He also wished to call attention to the fact that in several large towns there were working men's clubs of one kind or another which met at public-houses to transact their business, and that as they could not assemble until late in the evening they ought to have time to go through it satisfactorily. He also thought that some provision should be made for the supply of refreshments to the men and women working on the night shifts.
asked if the man who took out a six-day licence, and also took out an early-closing licence, would have two-sevenths of the amount remitted to him, as in either case he would have a remission of one-seventh?
I am rejoiced to find that although there seems to be considerable difference of opinion upon some points of the Bill, its main principle, which is that Parliament should fix the hour, meets with general approbation. I never expected there would be unanimity of opinion in respect to the hours. With respect to the double remission, one-seventh on the six-day licence and one-seventh on the early-closing licence, it is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say whether a publican could take out a licence for the double character of six days and of early closing, and thereby obtain the double remission. I have now. I think, touched upon every part of importance in reference to the Bill. With respect to its second reading, the Bill will be delivered to hon. Members in a few days, and we will put down the second reading for next week. ["Oh, oh!"] Nominally then, to-night I will put down the second reading of the Bill for Thursday week, but I will consult my Colleagues, and give the House early information on the subject.
trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not press on the second reading so early. There were many towns now closing at 11 that would not like to close at half-past 11, and which should have an opportunity of considering the Bill.
observed that he had no desire to hurry the Bill on. He wished the House to fix the hours on a full consideration of the matter.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution agreed to and reported:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. RAIKES, Mr. Secretary CROSS, Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBRETSON, and Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 83.]
Municipal Elections Bill
On Motion of Mr. GOVRLEY, Bill to amend the Law regulating Municipal Elections, ordered to be brought in by Mr. GOURLEY, Mr. WHITWELL, Sir HENRY HAVELOCK, and Mr. RICHARDSON.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 84.]
Offences Against The Person Bill—Bill 13
( Mr. Charley, Mr. Whitwell, Mr. Edward Davenport.)
Order for Committee read, and discharged.
Bill committed to a Select Committee.
And, on April 29, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. CHARLEY, MR. COLE, Mr. GREGORY, Mr. ALFRED MARTEN, Sir CHARLES MILLS, Mr. MUNDELLA, Mr. STANSFELD, Mr. WATNEY, Mr. WHEELHOUSE, Mr. WHITWELL, and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL:—Five to be the quorum.
House adjourned at half after One o'clock.