Order for Second Reading read.
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, its object was simple, soon stated, and easily understood. It proposed to vest the power of granting, withholding, and transferring licences for the sale of intoxicating drinks, now enjoyed by the magistrates in a board elected by and composed of ratepayers. The constituency would be all persons who were rated, or liable to be rated, for the relief of the poor. The qualification for members would be rateability and residence, and the jurisdiction of the board would be co-extensive with the Poor Law Unions. The elections would be triennial, the voting by ballot, and each ratepayer would give one vote for each candidate. The cost of the elections and the working of the board would be defrayed out of the local rates. The number of members of the board would vary according to populations—never being less than five, nor more than 21. Against the decision of the board there would be no appeal to magistrates in quarter sessions or other authorities. All the licensing powers that the magistrates now possessed would be handed over to the boards without curtailment, and without addition; but there would be no interference with the ordinary licensing laws. The regulations that now existed with respect to the opening and closing of public-houses and the police restrictions, would be the same under the Bill as they were at present. There were many other details in the Bill, regulating elections for and the working of the boards, but in none of these details was there any principle involved. They were merely matters of convenience and arrangement, and if the Bill should be so fortunate as to be read a second time, these could be altered in Committee as the House thought fit. The vital principle of the Bill was the transference of the power of granting licences from a class to the people—from an irresponsible to a representative body. The reasons for the Bill were two-fold. First, he asked for it as an act of justice to the ratepayers; and, second, as a means of mitigating the evils of intemperance. Men of all parties, classes, and creeds were agreed that drunkenness was the curse of our age and country. No sane man would attempt to apologize for or excuse, much less defend, the vice. The subject had been written about so extensively, and spoken of so often, that it was almost impossible to give expression to anew thought upon it, or to clothe an old thought in fresh language. Medical men, Judges, police authorities—all persons, indeed, interested in the administration of criminal justice—Poor Law Guardians, and the number of excellent men and women who were daily concerning themselves with the social betterance of the people, were all agreed that most of the pauperism, much of the crime, and a great portion of the insanity in the country were due to the excessive use of intoxicating drinks. It had been estimated that two-thirds of the pauperism, three-fourths of the crime, and half the insanity were thus occasioned. He gave these figures not as facts, but as calculations. They did not possess sufficient data to form an absolute conclusion on the subject, but the opinion that had been expressed was worthy of consideration. The indirect evils of intemperance were scarcely less than the direct miseries it inflicted. There was not a household in the land that had not felt its blighting and baneful influence. The wisest and the ablest and the best amongst them had suffered either by themselves, or through their connections, from its demoralizing and degrading contaminations. He believed he spoke the unanimous sentiments of the House when he said they were all anxious to discover some remedy that would, if not remove, at least moderate the injuries sustained by the nation from intoxication. Drunkards did not suffer themselves only for their vices—they entailed suffering and expenditure on others. Poorhouses, lunatic asylums, and gaols, had to be erected, upheld, and the inmates maintained, by the sober and thrifty section of the community. It was difficult to calculate the exact amount thrown on the rates by this selfish and self-destroying custom. It was customary of late years to include in the poor rate almost every new local rate that was imposed, but, making all necessary deductions, he calculated that the sober and thrifty ratepayers paid no less a sum than £20,000,000 a-year for the direct and indirect consequences of drunkenness. This amount might be considered excessive by some, but he believed the Poor Law and prison returns would sustain it. On these two points—that intemperance was an evil, and a consequent expense to the ratepayers—he believed he would carry the united support of hon. Members. His third point might not receive such general approval. He maintained that the excessive and unnecessary multiplication of public-houses was productive of drunkenness. He knew this view was not universally held, as he had that morning received a letter from a gentleman, written with great ability, and in which figures were very adroitly manipulated, showing, or attempting to show, that the more public-houses they had the less drunkenness they had. He did not think the view of his correspondent would be acceptable to the House. Committees of the House of Commons had sat at various times—in 1834, in 1853, and at more recent dates—examining into the cause of intemperance and the best means for its cure. The all but unanimous opinion of the witnesses called before those Committees was to the effect that an excessive traffic in drink was productive of drunkenness. The Church of Scotland, some years ago, alarmed at the spread of intemperance, appointed a Committee of their body to make a like investigation. Their report was equally decisive as to the injurious influence of the public-house. The Lower House of Convocation of the Church of England also appointed, quite recently, a committee, under the presidency of Archdeacon Sandford, to inquire into the question. An immense mass of valuable and trustworthy evidence was collected from all parts of the country, and from all classes of men. Again, the all but unanimous opinion of the persons referred to was, that you could always tell the amount of drunkenness in a place by knowing the number of public-houses. As far as evidence could justify an opinion, therefore, the evidence at their disposal showed that with extended traffic they had extended drunkenness. Now, his (Mr. Cowen's) argument was this—That inasmuch as public-houses caused drunkenness, as drunkenness caused crime, pauperism, and insanity, and as these in their turn threw a heavy tax on the ratepayers, the ratepayers ought to possess the power of regulating and controlling the licensing authority. He did not think that by abolishing all public-houses you would necessarily abolish all drunkenness. A man could drink in his own house, even to excess. No one had ever proposed that the law should interfere with the exercise of this individual right. Intemperance arising in this way was beyond the reach of legislation. All that had ever been proposed was to deal with the open and public drinking. In asking that the power of licensing should be vested in the people, he was simply asking for the extension of a principle that was acted upon in all other local institutions. The men who paid the educational rate voted for members of school boards, the men who paid the sanitary and municipal taxes voted for the members of local boards and town councils. All he was now contending for was that the men who paid the drunkards' rate should control the social mechanism that manufactured drunkards. The licensing authorities now were the magistrates. He objected to them possessing that power for two reasons. First, because they were drawn from a class not fully acquainted with the social requirements of the people, and second, because they were irresponsible. He had no wish to speak with unnecessary harshness of the unpaid magistracy, but he was simply stating what was the fact, when he said that men were put on the Commission of the Peace not because they were qualified for discharging the duties of the office. Before a man was made a Justice, it was not necessary for him to have any judicial training or legal knowledge. If he had a certain social standing in his town or county, if his personal character was moderately reputable, and if he had been a more or less active partizan of either of the two political parties of the State, he could have no difficulty in being raised to the local bench. He knew that the political aspect of the magisterial creations was disputed, but he felt satisfied that facts warranted the statement he had made. They had a phrase in America to the effect that "to the victors belong the spoils," and when a change of Government took place in the United States, every officer, from the President of the Republic to the most obscure postmaster, was changed. They did these things better in this country than that, for whatever changes of Government we had, the permanent officials of the Administration were not altered. But whenever either of our political Parties changed sides in that House, there suddenly arose from all parts of the country a mysterious demand for an increase in the borough magistracy. It was both amusing and instructive to note that requirements for additional magistrates always sprung up just after an alteration of the Government had been effected. When the Conservatives came into office in 1866, in less than three months after their accession to power the magistracy in the county of Lancashire was increased one-fourth. He did not know whether this accession to the unpaid justices had anything to do with the subsequent Conservative reaction that took place in that county. He did know, however, that some inconvenience had been experienced by the list of J. P's. and D. L's. being swollen so rapidly, and so largely. He had heard of some local publisher who had been accustomed to print annually an almanack or county directory, in which were recited the names of the local magnates. The sheets for this publication were prepared in advance, and a little space was left for adding the names of the magistrates. It was found, however, that the number had been run up so largely, that the poor publisher, or publishers, was compelled to issue a supplement, so as to include all the new dignitaries that had been created. When the present Administration came into office a number of magistrates were again made. There were upwards of 3,000 borough magistrates in England and Wales. About one-half that number had been created within the last 10 years, and 300 of them were made in 1874, within seven or eight months after the present Government got office. The late Sir Arthur Helps, shortly before his death, said that he could not recollect during all his varied and extended official career that he ever knew a case of political jobbery. The late Clerk to the Council was not only an able, but an amiable, and unsuspecting man, and he (Mr. Cowen) feared that his opinion as to the absolute purity of either or both Parties in the State would not be con- firmed by anyone who had been engaged in the rough and tumble political life of the last quarter of a century. He did not charge the Tories exclusively with using their power for Party purposes. The other side were also to blame. The only Party that was clear was the unfortunate Radical party to which he belonged. The only difference between the Parties was that the Liberals had been in office almost continuously for a number of years, and their appointments had been spread over a length of time, whilst the Tories had usually been made in lumps. He did not wish to be as hard on the "Great Unpaid" as his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) sometimes was. He believed the magistrates administered substantial justice in a rough and ready way. Whatever might be the political proclivities of the men before they were put on the Commission of the Peace, when in office he believed they fairly and conscientiously strove to do their duty on all general questions that came before them. He would not, however, like to trust to the impartiality of a county bench of magistrates when a game case was submitted to their consideration. Nor would he like to place much reliance on the fairness of either a borough or county bench when they were called upon to adjudicate on any question that referred to trades unions or to labourorganizations. Indeed, the Government themselves, and Parliament also, had taken that view of the magisterial character, for in the Labour Laws Bill of last Session the powers of the justices were restricted by special enactment. The same objection that there was to the impartiality of magistrates in game law and trade cases applied to their dealing with licences. A licence was granted upon the theory that the public required it. The requirement of the people was a very elastic term that could be stretched either way without any great charge of partiality being sustained. He did not accuse the magistrates generally of granting licences improperly, but he did say that without proper consideration, and very often for purposes of obliging a friend, or serving a political partizan, they allowed the interests of the people to suffer. It was true that their authority in this respect had been much curtailed by the continuous criticism that had of recent years been passed upon their proceedings. Still, however, they were amenable to the political and personal influences he had mentioned. It was a settled point of the jurisprudence of this country that judicial authority should be dissevered from the exercise of patronage. In their Judges was vested the appointment of their own assistants and clerks, but beyond that they had no power to dispense offices of trust or value. The patronage of the nation was vested in the responsible Government. The Government had to account for the exercise of their power to Parliament, and Parliament in its turn to the country. In this way a wholesome restraint was put upon the exercise of this privilege. Although this was the general principle, they departed from it in the power they gave the justices. A licence was a piece of property. It was worth £200, £300, £400, or £500, according to circumstances. The law as it now stood enabled the men who had received their appointments as magistrates for political services to give this valuable property to their supporters and adherents without being liable to either criticism or control. They might exercise that power fairly and they might do it corruptly. He proposed to withdraw that authority from them, so as to prevent the suspicion of corruption in persons administering a department of the criminal law. But the magistrates could not only enhance the value of one man's property, but they could also, by conferring a licence, decrease the value of his neighbour's. He recollected a case which occurred quite recently, illustrative of this point. A piece of property had to be sold for purposes of a trust. It was put up for auction, and a certain sum was bid for it, but not being sufficient, the property was bought in. In three or four months afterwards it was again put up, and the price obtained was less by £800 than what had been previously offered. The cause of this difference was easily explained. In the meantime the magistrates had granted a licence for a spirit bar in the immediate neighbourhood. By adding this licence they more than quadrupled the rental of the publican, while they sent the value of his neighbour's house down by the amount he had named. It might be said that the same influence could be used by, and the same objection urged against, the exercise of this authority by Licensing Boards that was urged against its exercise by the magistrates. He (Mr. Cowen) at once acknowledged that this was the case. The members of the Licensing Board would neither be perfect nor infallible. They would be amenable to some of the influences the magistracy were controlled by. But there was this very marked difference between the two. The magistrates were practically an irresponsible body. They were nominally accountable to the Secretary of State, and could be dismissed by the Lord Chancellor for any serious breach of law or duty; but they knew that, in practice, this power was very seldom exercised. The fact was, as a general rule, that a man once a magistrate was always a magistrate. The nature of their appointment being thus, the magistrates might be said to be in office for life, and irresponsible. The members of the Licensing Board, on the other hand, would be directly responsible to the people. If they failed to discharge their duty honestly, when they came for re-election they would be dismissed. The cardinal difference between the two bodies was that the magistrates were irresponsible, and the Board would be a responsible body. In that distinction there was much involved. The magistrates, too, were disqualified for the impartial discharge of the functions of granting licences, because they were drawn from a special section of society. They were all members of one class. The theory on which licences were granted was that they were necessary for the accommodation of the public. The magistrates were members of that section of the community that did not use these houses, and did not want them. They lived for the most part in the country, and in suburbs of towns, and they always took care that they kept licensed houses as far away from the precincts of their dwellings as possible. Public-houses were set down in the most densely-populated parts, and surely the men who lived in these districts would be better acquainted with their wants and requirements than the persons who resided such a distance from them. If some of their magistrates were called upon to reside next door to a gin palace, and to have their sons and daughters brought daily and hourly in contact with the scenes of disorder and demoralization that too frequently surrounded such places, they would probably be more chary in their dispensation of licences, and less given to extol the benefits arising from public-houses. On these grounds, therefore, he objected to the magistrates as the licensing authority. The reasons with which he sustained his position might be unsound; but he had been unable to detect their unsoundness. It was always customary for a man who felt warmly on any subject to speak disparagingly of his opponent's arguments, and possibly to exaggerate the force of his own. He believed the case that he had made out was complete, and his accusations unanswerable. The magistrates had had the power of granting licences in this country for 300 years, and how had they exercised it? What had been the result of their administration? They judged a tree by its fruits, and did not expect figs of thorns or grapes of thistles. What had been the fruits of this magisterial licensing? He learnt by one of Mr. Hoyle's admirable and able contributions to the literature of temperance some facts respecting the growth of our drinking customs. During the last 14 years the population of England had increased 18 per cent. During the same period assaults had increased 48 per cent, breaches of the peace 128 per cent, misdemeanours 37 per cent, prostitution 36 per cent, and drunkenness 110 per cent. Along with this increase of intemperance and crime, they had had an enormous increase in the number of places for the sale of intoxicating drinks. In 1829, in this country, 50,422 places were open for the sale of drink. At that time the population was under 14,000,000 in England and Wales. In 1869, they had 135,720 places open for the sale of intoxicating drinks, and the population was under 23,000,000. He thought whatever else they might say about the magisterial licensing system, they could with justice affirm that during its exercise, even with the modern restraints that had been put upon it, there had been an enormous development of the traffic in strong drink, and along with it a large addition to the crime of the nation. In asking for the transference of the licensing from the magistrates to the local authorities, he was simply asking for the restoration of an old constitutional privilege. For some hundreds of years the power of granting and controlling licences in this country was vested in the local authorities. It was only in the reign of Edward VI., the Tudor King, that the magistrates were entrusted with the powers they now possessed. This principle of local option had been adopted with benefit in different parts of America. He was not in this referring to the operation of the Maine Law, but merely to the exercise of licensing powers by the municipal and parochial authorities. In Canada, and in some of the Australian colonies, the same authority had been granted. In Sweden, too, a very interesting licensing experiment had lately been tried. The details of that scheme had been made known in a very able pamphlet written by Mr. Balfour, of Liverpool, which was well worthy the consideration and attention of hon. Gentlemen. The principle of that scheme was to vest the licensing authority in the municipal councils in boroughs and parochial authorities in the rural districts. In this country, too, the same principles had been assented to. That the House had more than 40 years ago debated, and adopted the identical principle that he was now contending for, hon. Members might not be aware, but it was the fact, that the House of Commons, by a large majority, agreed to the transference of the power of licensing from the magistrates to the town councils. In 1835, Lord Melbourne's Administration introduced into Parliament the Municipal Corporation Reform Bill. In that Bill the change that had been mentioned was provided for. Clauses 52 and 53 of Lord Melbourne's Bill were to the following effect:—
"Clause 52. The Council of every borough to which a separate commission of the peace shall hare been granted, as hereinafter mentioned, or a committee of the Council to be specially appointed by the Council in that behalf, shall hold a special meeting in the month of September in every year, for granting licences to persons to keep victualling houses, alehouses, and canteens, and to sell ale, beer, and all other exciseable liquors by retail within such borough, and after September 1st, 1836, all such licences within any such borough, granted otherwise than by the Council of such borough, or such committee of the Council as last aforesaid, shall be null and void.
This Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by Lord John Russell and Lord Howick, the present Earl Grey, was associated with him in the conduct of the measure. In introducing it Lord Russell made the following remarks:—"Clause 53. That after September 1st 1836, the councillors of every such borough shall act with all the powers, and subject to all the disqualifications and penalties in the matter of granting such licences, enacted concerning justices of the peace by the Act of George IV., for amending the law for regulating the licensing of all houses in England and preventing disorders therein. The town clerk shall act in the same manner as prescribed to clerks of the justices, and all provisions of the said Licensing Act (of George IV.) shall apply to the licences to be granted by the Council."
He begged the House to remember that it was not he (Mr. Cowen) who had made these observations, but the distinguished Whig statesman who was the author of the Reform Bill. The Corporation Bill passed the second reading without a division. Conspicuous amongst its supporters was no less a statesman and orator than the late Lord Derby, who gave it his most emphatic approval. As soon as the measure came for consideration in Committee, however, the late Sir James Graham proposed an Amendment to the clause relating to licences. The right hon. Member for Cumberland was not favourable to the absolute transfer of licensing power to the councils. He proposed to give to the county magistrates concurrent jurisdiction with the corporate authorities. His Amendment received a qualified support from Mr. Sotheron Estcourt—a Gentleman whom hon. Members on the other side of the House would recollect as a recent Colleague. In the debate on the Amendment, Lord Howick made a rather remarkable speech, which he would quote in full—"Then with respect to another part of this measure, which refers to what I consider a part of the police of the town—and a part which has often led to very great abuses—I mean the power of granting alehouselicences, it is proposed that this power shall not be vested in any of the magistracy. We think that it ought not to be mixed up or confounded with the duty of administering justice, but that it should be left to the Council or to a committee of the Council. I think that the Council being elected by the ratepayers—under the popular mode of election now proposed—although no doubt many of the members may have a desire to favour their friends or promote their own private views as a body—will always act under popular control—and be less likely to abuse the power of granting licences than magistrates, in whose case the robe of justice is sometimes employed to cover a great enormity of abuses."—[3 Hansard, xxviii. 555.]
He again begged the House to understand that the observations he had been reading were not his own, but the observations of the eminently Conservative statesman, Earl Grey. The late Mr. Edward Baines, the Member for Leeds, Mr. Parker, the Member for Sheffield, and other Gentlemen, warmly supported the views of Lord Howick, and said harder things against the magistracy than he (Mr. Cowen) now dared to use. Even Lord Sand on declared, in the same discussion, that the publicans were the most dangerous and objectionable political party in the State. Upon a division, Sir James Graham's Amendment received only 166 votes, while the clause proposed by Lord Howick received the support of 211 hon. Gentlemen, thus being adopted by a majority of 45 in a House of 377 Members. He. (Mr. Cowen) believed it was not generally known at the present day—either in the House or in the country—that Parliament had by such a substantial majority adopted the principle of local option with respect to publican's licences. He had had the pleasure of hearing on three or four occasions the Permissive Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle discussed in the House. In each debate he had heard this argument advanced. No, it was not an argument. It ought not to be dignified by that name. It was simply an objection. So much strength appeared to be in the remark that in the course of a single afternoon he had heard it repeated no fewer than three times, by three different speakers. The objection was that hon. Members declined to vote for the Permissive Bill because that proposal had never yet been voted for, or advocated by, a statesman of repute or influence. A more feeble objection he never heard urged. Was it not a fact that men of weight and influence never espoused a cause until it had become too strong for them to resist? It was always the obscure men, and the men of little worldly influence, who championed unpopular truths. They were fishermen and workmen who first embraced the doctrines of Christianity. The abolition of slavery and of the slave trade, the advocacy of political reform, of free trade, and our great fiscal changes, had all been in the first instance battled for by obscure men below the Gangway. It was only when these principles had been preached and popularized, and when the people had been educated to a knowledge of their truth and a recognition of their justice that the dignified occupants of the two front benches lent them their countenance and patronage. The Leaders on the front forms—men of weight and influence—decried and disparaged unpopular causes till the said causes became too strong for them. They then adopted them, and usually ignored the services of those who had advocated them in the day of doubt and difficulty. The only instance he recollected where the services of obscure men were cordially and heartily recognized by an influential personage in the State, was when the late Sir Robert Peel so mag- nanimously confessed his obligations to Mr. Cobden for the conversion he had effected in his mind on the question of Free Trade. But whatever might be the objection of these weak-kneed politicians to vote for the Permissive Bill, they could have no such ground of objection to the Bill now before the House. It had the advantage, or disadvantage, of having had its principles adopted by all the leading Whig statesmen of this last 40 years. The Bill was prepared and introduced by Lord Melbourne's Administration. That Administration comprised many well-known politicians. Lord Melbourne himself, who was the very impersonation of the juste milieu doctrines that received such general acceptance at the presenttime, had associated with him as Colleagues the late Lord Lansdowne, Lord Holland, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, Mr. Spring Rice (the late Lord Monteagle), Lord Morpeth (afterwards Earl of Carlisle), and the Earl of Clarendon. As his Home Secretary he had Lord John Russell, a statesman who earned the confidence and esteem of his contemporaries, and had won for himself the undying praise of history. Then there was Lord Palmerston, a statesman whom hon. Gentlemen opposite were constantly complimenting; Lord Howick, a nobleman of great ability, of large experience, and against whom the charge of extreme views had never yet been preferred; Mr. Thomas Babington Macaulay, our brilliant historian; Sir George Grey, formerly Member for Morpeth; Mr. Henry Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton); and others who had also become distinguished. All these statesmen approved of the principle he was contending for, and the Bill which he had quoted from was introduced with their authority and sanction. Amongst the 211 Members who voted for it were some of the best known and most highly esteemed politicians of modern times. The list included the names of Joseph Hume, General Thompson, Sir John Bowring, George Grote, the historian of Greece, and the lamented Judge Talfourd. The Irish Members had apparently supported it in great force, as there were no fewer than five O'Connell's, including the great Liberator in the number. Mr. William Smith O'Brien also voted for the licensing clause in the Bill, and amongst other names was that of Mr. John Walter, the founder of The Times newspaper, and the late Mr. Edward Baines, whose name was still held in high repute in the North of England. If, therefore, conventional politicians declined to vote for the Permissive Bill in consequence of its only being supported by obscure Members, no such objection, surely, could be urged against the principle he was advocating. It had been sustained by the most distinguished and illustrious names that modern Parliamentary life had furnished. He had tried to ascertain what were the objections that had been made to the Bill. He had found them stated at publicans' dinners, and in the few Petitions against the Bill that had been presented to the House. All the objections reduced themselves into two. The first was with respect to expense. It was said that these Licensing Boards would entail a heavy cost upon the ratepayers. He thought that a very feeble objection; because, if the Boards accomplished the objects that were contemplated, the expense would be a very small matter indeed. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that any large outlay would attend the creation of the Boards. The working expenses would be the same then as the working expenses of the licensing magistrates were at the present time. It was provided by the Bill that the clerk to the justices should render the same services to the Board as he did now to the justices. The probability was that the cost of the Boards would, therefore, be no more, but positively less, than was involved by the existing system. The expenses of the elections would necessarily depend upon the size of the Union. He had had some experience of contested local elections, and he had also made inquiries of persons who had more knowledge of the subject than he had. He found that the probable expenditure that such contests would entail upon the ratepayers would range from a farthing to a penny in the pound. Of course this was a mere estimate. It might be more, or it might be less. If it was a penny in the pound for three years, that could not be termed excessive taxation. A man who paid rates upon £100 would, in three years, be called upon to pay 8s. 4d. He dismissed, therefore, the question of expense, and was a little surprised at its being raised. The next objection was, that the election of the Boards would produce agitation. This he at once admitted. The agitation would be useful popular education. Every year when the election came round the whole question of intemperance would be fully discussed in every Union of the kingdom. The injury that drunkenness inflicted on the community and on individuals would be pointed out, and the election would be made a valuable means of inculcating the truths of sobriety. He confessed that he looked to this result as one of the benefits arising from the establishment of these Boards. Agitation purified the mental atmosphere, and cleared the moral perception of mankind. The surface of a still and placid lake might be pleasant to look upon; but if its waters were stagnant they contained within them the seeds of disease, of destruction, and of death. On the other hand, the water of the mountain stream that rushed ruggedly over rocks, and beneath hollows, carried along with it in its current health, life, and freshness. Fear of agitation! Agitation had been the very stay and bulwark of our national prosperity. If they wished to see the evil effects of the want of agitation, they had but to look across the Channel. For more than 20 years the French people were deprived of the right of agitation. The Press was fettered, and the right of public meeting was denied them. They were allowed to laugh, dance, and be merry, to make money and grow rich; but they were forbidden to take any part in the practical affairs of the nation. For a time this succeeded; but in the end the inevitable explosion took place, and they might have read a few years ago in the ruined cities, the burning hamlets, and the desolated plains of mutilated and dismembered France, a lesson on the folly—the stupendous folly—of trying to restrain the natural and necessary right of agitation which every free people must enjoy. In the mad and sorrowful and criminal excesses of the Commune, they might learn the protest of the French against the unreasoning curtailment of free discussion. The lack of agitation begot indifference, and indifference begot corruption. It would be a fatal day for England when they ceased to allow the fullest and most complete agitation of all questions of popular interest and right. But he was willing to allow that the persons who raised the cry against agitation did not, necessarily, speak against political movements. They had in view the injury that the agitation was likely to do to the liquor traffic. He knew that the first condition of all success in commerce was security, and the publicans felt that if the existence of their licences were insecure, their trade might be diminished. He felt the force of the argument, and admitted that there was something in the objection. But he would beg the publicans to remember that they enjoyed a monopoly which brought them wealth, and influence, and political power. For that monopoly they must pay. Their trade, too, inflicted a heavy tax upon the community. Policemen had to be kept to protect and defend their customers. Asylums and workhouses had to be built to provide for them in their old age. When the publicans had drawn away their brains and their fortunes they threw them for support upon the people. It was only right, therefore, and natural that the people who had to pay for the consequences of this traffic should exercise over it a wholesome and proper control. Another objection made to his proposal was that instead of producing too much agitation, it might probably produce too little. This was rather a contradictory objection. Then there were gentlemen who urged that the licensing power should not be given to special boards, but should be given to town councils. To this principle he had no objection. It acknowledged the right of the ratepayers to control the licensing, and that was what he was contending for. But he thought that the members of town councils had already as many duties to discharge as they could properly accomplish, and every year more were being thrown upon them. Men were elected to be members of town councils in consequence of their knowledge of local matters, of sanitary and municipal affairs. If they vested in this body the licensing power, they would introduce an element of unnecessary conflict. In some places where the licensing party was strong the licensing question would overshadow all else. In others, where they were weak, it would be ignored. The question would be judged and settled often by side issues. He thought this was objectionable, because it was quite possible to conceive a man very fit to be a member of a town council, and yet very unfit to be a member of a licensing board, and vice versâ, a man might be a good member of a licensing board, and a bad member of a town council. Another objection to the town council was that they only existed in boroughs, and not in counties, and therefore if they were to extend these licensing powers to counties, they would have to create boards on purpose for them. Boards of Guardians were spread over both towns and counties, and possibly they might be more acceptable than town councils for granting licences. A better suggestion still would be that, instead of handing over the power to either guardians or councillors, they should have a board composed of representatives from all the local boards. The school board might send two members, the guardians two, the council two, the local board two, the burial board two, and so forth. A board of this kind might easily be chosen. He did not think, however, that any one of these proposals was so good as that he had suggested—namely, that of making a distinct and separate board for the express purpose of granting licences. Any one of the suggestions would be better than the existing plan. The best would be distinct boards, as he had proposed; and the next best would be a board selected from representatives of the other Boards. The cry that had recently been got up against the multiplicity of local boards he did not attach much weight to. He thought there were too many elections, and it would be a saving of expense and some trouble, if, instead of having so many organizations, there was one general municipal Parliament in boroughs, and district boards in counties. If the duties of all the separate bodies could be merged in one general assembly, there would spring a certain benefit; but still it was necessary for them to recollect that those distinct bodies, having only one class of questions to consider, fulfilled their duties better than they would do if they had one great body without the division of labour that now obtained. If there was one principle acted upon more generally than another in modern times, it had been the division of labour. Its soundness was acknowledged, and accepted in manufacturing, in commercial, and in political life. Years ago, when a man went to serve his time to be an engineer, he undertook to learn all the duties of engine building. Now a lad was apprenticed to be sometimes a fitter and sometimes a turner. A youth went formerly to be both a pattern maker and a moulder, at one and the same time; now these were two distinct departments of the same trade. In the minute articles of manufacture, one set of men dressed, another filed, another sharpened the goods that were made. In commerce, too, it was the custom for tradesmen to try to deal in a speciality. In that House the same thing was witnessed. One member mastered Indian affairs, another was conversant with military matters, and another was most at home on social questions. It was impossible for one man to master everything, and by this division of labour and thought they got greater results. The same thing held in provincial towns. Some men took an interest in municipal matters, some in Poor Law discussions, some in educational work, and it would, he feared, be injurious to cause a separation. He thought, too, the difficulty of numerous elections might be overcome in this way. All the local contests might take place in one day in the year. They now had their municipal elections in November, guardian elections insuring, and their school board elections at all times. If the whole of these could be arranged to take place in one day the expenses would be lessened, the interest would be increased, and the division of work that he had described would be maintained. Amongst these contests, the election of members of the licensing boards might also take place. He was asked whether he thought his proposal would have the effect he contemplated. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to believe that it would increase rather than decrease the number of public-houses. This might be so. No one could foretell. There was nothing more difficult and uncertain than political prophecy. Whatever the Gentlemen on that side of the House might think or say, there was no doubt they were astonished to find that the result of the first election under household suffrage and the Ballot had been the return of a large Conservative majority. Possibly the establishment of licensing boards might multiply the number of taverns, and, as a result, the amount of drunkenness. The effect of this, however, would be to rouse the sober and the intelligent in the nation to greater efforts for the reform of this national disgrace. Whatever the result might be, the people by the licensing board system would have the control of their own social future in their own hands. They would have the power, and he believed they would use it for their moral elevation. The great drawback to much of the modern legislation for the people was that work was done for them as a matter of charity, and they were regarded as dependents. This feeling was generated and propped up by the spirit of caste and class. It ought to be broken down. The true way to help the people was to teach them how to help themselves, and to throw upon them the full responsibility of their own actions. The doctrine of independence should be inculcated and enforced. Doing things for the people out of charity created a sentiment opposed to high-toned benevolence on the one hand, and beggar-like subserviency on the other."Lord Howick said, it appeared to him that his right hon. Friend the Member for Cumberland did not properly perceive the view upon which his Majesty's Government had devolved the power of granting licences to the Town Councils. The difference between the views of his right hon. Friend and those of the Government was this, that while he contended that the power of licensing was a judicial function, he (Lord Howick) contended that it was a power which had no relation whatever with the judicial functions of the magistracy. The right hon. Baronet said, that the Crown was the fountain of all authority, and the chief conservator of the peace, and that all the authority of the Magistrates was therefore derived from the Crown. Now one of the great abuses of the present state of the Magistracy was, that it not only was without responsibility to the Crown, but was beyond the control of the people. The Government thought that the Magistrates ought in the first place to be chosen upon the recommendation of the people, but should derive their power from the Crown. It was upon that principle—a principle which he conceived to be perfectly in accordance with the principles of the constitution—that they had introduced this provision. If the distribution of alehouse licences were left in the hands of the Magistrates, it might be made the vehicle of great political power, which would probably be exercised for political purposes. The power was certainly an invidious function, but it was necessary that it should be placed in some hands or other, and they thought it most important that the hands in which it was placed should not be those of the Magistrates who had the administration of criminal justice. They thought, in short, that the administration of criminal justice and political power should be kept as far separate as possible. And it was upon that account that they took the granting of alehouse licences out of the hands of the justices. He admitted that the contrary had been the late practice, by the statute law, but he contended that it was not so by the principles of the constitution. It was only subsequent to the Revolution that the power of licensing was first given to the Magistrates. His firm belief was, that it would be of less mischief to the people themselves, if the power of licensing were not united with the administration of justice."—[3 Hansard, xxix. 212–13.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Joseph Cowen.)
I have listened attentively to the remarks which have been made by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) in introducing what I may venture to call the most extraordinary Bill brought into this House for many years. Not only is he not satisfied with introducing the Bill, but he has shadowed out to the House, in case the measure is rejected, another measure which he thinks may be more acceptable than the one which he has introduced. In the first part of his remarks he dealt almost exclusively with the vice of drunkenness—and I venture to think that all in this House will agree that of all vices drunkenness is the one which leads to the greatest amount of crime. But the hon. Member has failed conclusively to show that the measure which he has laid before the House will in any way stop, or prevent, or alleviate that most mischievous vice. I perfectly agree with the hon. Member, and I am sorry to be obliged to make the admission, that so far as I have been able to judge during the last year or two of high wages, instead of the people whom he so much deplores in their drunkenness having thrift enough to lay by something when they are able, have spent all their earnings in waste, extravagance, and drink. If a measure could be submitted to the House which would effectually check intemperance, I should be one of the first to stand up in this House to support it: but when the hon. Member comes down here and says "Alter the whole system under which licences are now granted," he must, I think, first show that the system under which they are now granted has failed. That, I venture to think, he has not done. He has given us certain statistics of drunkenness, but he has not attempted to show, as by his argument he ought to have shown, that since the passing of the Act of Lord Aberdare the increase in the number of public-houses has continued, because it can be shown if they have not sensibly diminished they have not increased; nor has he shown that the magistrates have not endeavoured fairly, honestly, and justly to carry out the principles that were contained in that Act. Speaking from personal observation, I am able to say that throughout the rural districts there has been a steady decrease, or, at any rate, no real increase, in the number of licences which have been granted. The hon. Member now proposes that men may be elected upon a Licensing Board from a Union district, notwithstanding whether or not they have any qualification, whether they possess the respect of the ratepayers in the district, and whether they would be in a fit position to perform the duties and to administer the licensing laws of the country. He proposes that the Licensing Board shall be elected from a union district, and I certainly think that he can know very little indeed about Union districts. He evidently cannot be aware that many of them are situated in more than one county, and that they might be called upon to administer the law in a district in which they were not even ratepayers. He simply provides that there shall be a general Board elected in a Union district. He said that there may be a great many discussions upon the question, and a great deal of agitation, out of which much good may arise. Now the hon. Member knows very well, and so does the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), that where the teetotallers exist they would try to get all the power into their own hands, and that in all probability they would try to carry out a measure even more tyrannical than the Permissive Bill annually introduced by the hon. Baronet. Their first effort would be to close as many public-houses as possible, and the agitation and excitement to which their proceedings would give rise would have to be renewed every three years. Then, again, I think that the local ratepayers would have something to say in the matter; for it is my firm belief that in carrying out the provisions of this Bill, instead of the expense being a farthing or a penny in the pound, as the hon. Member suggests, it would be so heavy that the ratepayers themselves would be the first to cry out against the change. There is another point which the hon. Member partly touched upon, and it is that there is to be no appeal. They are to be perfectly absolute, and they would be perfectly intolerable. The only appeal is to be to the High Court of Justice, and everybody knows what that means. The expense of an appeal of that kind would be extremely heavy, and as it would come out of the rates, there is nothing to prevent these gentlemen, if elected, doing something which might at any time bring them before the High Court of Justice. Then, again, I think that in our legislation in this House we ought to pay some little regard to vested interests. Upon the strength of Acts of Parliament large sums of money have been invested in this business, and the persons who have so laid out their capital have a right to claim legislative protection for the proprietary rights they have created by their investments. Notwithstanding all we have heard, I do not think we have got to that pitch in this House yet—that we are going without a moment's notice or warning to say that a man may be deprived, without having done anything to deserve it, of his business, simply at the will of a Board of this kind. I think there are sound reasons why a Bill of this nature should not be accepted. The hon. Member (Mr. Cowen) rested his case upon some words in an old Act of Parliament, or rather in an old Bill which never became an Act. If the hon. Member had been in the House in 1872, when Lord Aberdare's Bill was passing through, he would have remembered that on one very hot Saturday in July, when we were kept here against our will, Lord Aberdare did throw out a suggestion which had some reference to town councils; but how was it received? It was neither agreed to nor tolerated for a moment. The hon. Member says that his great object is to put a stop to intemperance. That is the wish of every man in this House; but I believe that the hon. Member has signally failed to show that the proposal which he now makes is better than the present system. Prior to 1870 the Excise had power to grant licences, and they did so notwithstanding Memorials and Petitions against them. All the beer-house keeper had to do was to go to another part of the parish at some distance off, and there procure the requisite number of signatures which would enable him to get his licence. This state of things was found to be intolerable, and it was considered necessary to transfer the power of granting these licences to persons who should be really responsible. I think the hon. Member has scarcely done the magistracy justice in this matter. He must remember that all eyes are upon us, and that his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), who sits below him, never loses an opportunity of calling attention to anything wrong on the part of the magistrates. Looking at the magistrates as a whole, and the position which they occupy in the country, I think you will find that there is no body of men more anxious and more desirous of performing their duty to the best of their ability. Is it wise then, when you have a body which is really responsible, to take those duties out of their hands and place them in those of an irresponsible body who are to be the sole judges of their own actions? You on the opposite side of the House know what the charge was which was made against you some time ago—of tampering with these laws, and I venture to think that a similar charge will not be made against this side of the House. I firmly believe that in rejecting this Bill the House will be doing only that which is just and right. I therefore beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.
in seconding the Amendment, said, he could not agree with the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), although he did agree with the latter part. The country might be led to be- lieve, from the early part of that speech, that those who opposed the Bill were not as sincere in their wish to discourage intemperance as the advocates of the measure. Now, he begged to say that he would yield to no man in his desire to do everything, in the House and out of it, to check the sin, crime, and misery connected with intemperance; therefore, in opposing this Bill, he hoped it would not be understood that he in any way desired to encourage opportunities for drink or to strengthen the cause of intemperance. He entirely agreed in the eloquent remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle, in which he appealed to the House on behalf of the independence of the lower orders. He (Mr. Pell) failed, however, to see that the cause which the hon. Member had so much at heart would be really advanced by the scheme which he proposed, and which would give rise to so many inconveniences, that he believed a very short reference to them would induce the House to reject the Bill. First of all, the Bill proposed to create no less than between 600 and 900 new authorities, or new boards, in the country, with all the apparatus belonging to boards, such as clerks, stationery, board-room, and places of meeting. Those officers and this machinery would have to be provided certainly in 648 districts, that being the number of Unions throughout the Kingdom. He thought that was an objection of sufficient moment to cause the House to pause before they gave their support or acquiescence to such legislation. Then there was to be a new election every third year, and it was to take place in the month of July—in the busiest period of the season, and the hottest, at a time when beer was most sought for relief in heat and dust. The expense of creating these boards would fall upon the ratepayers. In the case of the Burial Boards in England, the Acts which established them were founded on good reasons; but they had failed in realizing the purpose they were intended to effect, although they cost from between £134,000 and £140,000 a-year out of the rates. These boards were not very numerous in the country, but the House could judge from them what would be the expense of creating and maintaining the boards proposed by this Bill in from 700 to 900 districts. The clerk would have to be paid, the returning officer would have to be paid, and it was provided in the 14th clause that all law costs—and he presumed those connected with the damage of existing interests—should come out of the rates. Then there would be the expense of the poll, which would be forced on the inhabitants of every little village; while the polling itself was a very objectionable proceeding. The hon. Member had not suggested how and where these elections were to take place, but would throw this disagreeable duty upon the Home Office. He had, however, put a certain limit to the licensing board. It was not to consist of less than five members, nor more than 21, and every adult might insist upon his right to be heard and claim a poll if he chose. But that was not all. A provision was made for filling casual vacancies caused by disqualification, and the disqualifications were specified, bribery, corruption, and bankruptcy; and to these was added a very remarkable cause of disqualification, which at once proved what the hon. Member considered might possibly be the character of the board, and that was, any member of the board who should be imprisoned for any crime"—which he supposed might possibly include drunkenness—would be disqualified. So that it was anticipated that even the Chairman of the new board might be apprehended under the warrant of the very authority which it was sought to displace, and sent as a prisoner to the county gaol. Amongst the persons disqualified from serving on the board were all beer sellers, brewers, and dealers in malt, whether wholesale or retail. Why, he would ask, should not the coffee seller and tea-dealer be equally handicapped? With regard to what the hon. Member had described as mechanism for the manufacture of drunkenness, as far as his experience as a magistrate extended, he (Mr. Pell) thought the action of the present licensing authorities must be admitted to be one rather of undue restriction than extension of the number of public-houses; at all events, the restriction was a general one, and the justices knew what they were about. He had been a great walker in his life; but that pleasurable recreation would be rendered unenjoyable, if he found himself in a county in which this proposed law had come in force. Unions were very large areas, especially in the North of England, where some of them were open, wild, inhospitable tracts, and it would be necessary to have something like a geological map, which instead of indicating the alluvial and other kinds of soil, it would indicate the districts where the travellers would have no chance of getting anything to drink. That would not only be a great inconvenience, but it would have a bad effect on the people themselves. It was either right or wrong that the people should have an opportunity of obtaining a glass of beer. If it was not wrong to refresh themselves, and if it did them good to drink a glass of beer, it must be wrong to put an absolute estopper upon the means of obtaining it. In such a matter as regulated opportunity for procuring that which it was not wicked to drink, it would be unwise to let the control pass out of the hands of the justices. He knew that in many cases property rose in value by the establishment of decent inns, and it was just the same with churches. In the great towns—take Leicester, for instance, which was remarkable in the Census for a large increase of population—directly a suburban field was brought into the market it was bought and parcelled out into building allotments—and what was the first thing that rose up? The first thing, he was proud to say, was a church. What was the second thing? A public-house. The beer and the Bible were brought closely together; and, let him observe, not an unholy connection. Churches might be used for wrong purposes as well as public-houses. It was the use which sanctified. It was the spirit of devotion with which you entered the one, and the spirit of temperance with which you entered the other, that gave the true character to the building. What was true in this populous country with reference to the church and the public-house seemed to be true in the case of Robinson Crusoe, who, when cast on the desolate island, Defoe tells us, took a dram and prayed. He could not give his assent to the preposterous proposals of this Bill, which would lead to results so entirely different from those which the hon. Member anticipated; and he trusted the system of licensing public-houses under Lord Aberdare's Act would receive a much longer trial before any alteration of it was seriously contemplated.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—( Sir Walter Barttelot.)
said, that in rising, as he did with very great pleasure, to support the second reading of the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle, he would state at the very outset that he had no sympathy with those who clamoured for the total suppression of the drink traffic. He was one of those who believed it to be a fair and legitimate traffic, within proper limitations; that with such limitations it might be made to conduce, as it was intended, to the convenience of the public. Nor could he see that it was just that those who, from the circumstances in which they were placed, could at their own convenience and at their own time enjoy in moderation such a supply of wine and beer as they might think necessary from their own well-stocked cellars, should seek to bar the poorer man from that which was his only representative of the cellar—the public-house. Therefore, it was that though he had always voted for the second reading of the Permissive Bill, inasmuch as it embodied, and because it embodied, the principle of local option, which he thought a right principle, he had never hesitated to state that he believed the extreme to which some of the promoters of that Bill would go for the total suppression of the liquor traffic, was un-English, arbitrary, and never likely to be carried into effect in this country. Therefore it was that he was able to give his support to the measure which had now been so ably introduced by his hon. Friend, because he believed it to be moderate and just, and because it was one which from the soundness of its reasoning, the justice of its conclusions, and the correctness of its principles, ought to commend itself to the judgment and approval of all right thinking men in this country. What did this Bill propose to do? It proposed to make no change whatever in the licensing law as it stood at present, except that it proposed to transfer the power of dealing with licences from the magistrates to an elective Board. He should be the last person to suggest that the magistrates did not carry out their duty now to the best of their ability. On the contrary, he believed that under circumstances of great and almost unparalleled difficulty they did in the main administer that power which was entrusted to them impartially, and for the benefit of all. But the question was not as to the spirit in which they administered the law—the question raised by this Bill was, he took it, whether or not they were the people of all others who were best calculated to understand the wants of the community, from their knowledge of their wants and necessities. That was the principle which lay at the root of the demand which had caused the introduction of this Bill. The magistrate, as had been already said by his hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen), was in some respect the person of all others who was least suited to know from personal experience the evils and horrors of drunkenness. He lived, it might be, in his pleasant residence, far removed from the slums and narrow lanes of towns. Vice came before him never except in the shape of the prisoner in the dock. But what was the position of the ratepayer, whom it was proposed to entrust with this power? In every particular his position was the very reverse of that of the magistrate. He lived in crowded neighbourhoods; he had often thrust upon him without his consent a public-house where there was no necessity for one; he knew from experience the great pecuniary loss of having his property depreciated in value, and the moral loss of having his family, his servants, and his children exposed night and day to the evil example of foul language, blasphemy, and all the evils of drunkenness. Therefore he said it was absurd and anomalous that the dealing with this question, which was thoroughly and entirely a question of the wants and necessities of the people, should be left entirely to a class who, from their circumstances, whatever might be their virtues, could have no knowledge at all of the requirements of the case; and this was one of the greatest, if not the principal, argument in favour of this Bill. But there was another matter in which the present system had evils which could not be hidden; and that was, that in the whole question of the renewal and transfer of licences the people who were principally concerned—the ratepayers—were absolutely unrepresented. They had no voice in the matter. At brewster sessions and on other occasions when licences were dealt with, the whole matter was treated as though it concerned two classes alone—the publicans who received and the magistrates who granted the licences. The ratepayers who were vitally concerned—for whose conveniences these licences were supposed to be granted—the people on whom fell the whole burden of the evils of drunkenness—were absolutely ignored and left out of the question altogether. ["No, no!"] Well, he dared say it would be left to some speaker who might follow him to show in what respect that was not the case; but it appeared to him to be so. There was a certain amount of representation he knew, but what did it amount to? Why, the arguments of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) were in themselves the very best reply to that. He argued that the present system, though it would admit of improvement, was pratically sufficient for the purpose; and what did he say? That public-houses had diminished and that licences had decreased in number; but he never contested the fact that in spite of all that which might be attributed to the happy results of magistrates' efforts, crime and misery, and especially such crime and misery as were directly traceable to drunkenness, had increased in the large degree given in the figures quoted by his hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen). He (Sir Henry Havelock) did not hear him attempt to contradict that. It remained for him to show that his arguments did not answer themselves on that point. It was, then, an open question; but they did believe, and their belief was supported by a very large majority of thinking men of this country, that the best way of dealing with that question would be to put it in the hands of the people principally concerned. He admitted that that was experimental; they went from experiment to experiment in all those matters, but they had heard nothing adduced from the other side to disprove their view. One objection which had been made with considerable force was that their proposal would increase the number of elective Boards. No doubt that might be the case. The elective Boards had been enumerated, and their number was considerable; but he would ask those who used that argument whether they supposed that any one of the existing Boards could be competent to deal with this matter? Would it be desirable, for instance, to put the question of licences in the hands of the School Boards, or of the Local Boards of Health, or of the Highway Boards; or, though last not least, in the hands of the Burial Boards? He thought it had been proved to demonstration that if any amendment were required in this matter, and if it was desirable that the power of dealing with this question should be transferred from the present hands—a point for which there was a popular demand—then it was also true that if it was to be dealt with by different hands it must be by Boards specially formed for the purpose. Should this Bill be passed into law it would remedy a grievance of very long standing. They hoped that before long they might have County Boards formed; and, when that was the case, he did not see why those duties should not be transferred to them; but for the present separate Boards should be formed, and then when the County Boards were formed they would have valuable experience already gained for them to go upon. Another objection which had been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot), struck him as a very peculiar one. He objected to this power being transferred to other hands because he wanted to know whether the Boards would have the respect of the public. But he (Sir Henry Havelock) thought the very fact of their being selected for that serious and responsible duty by large majorities was an evidence that they would be respected. The hon. Baronet asked also whether their position would be such as was desired, but their selection by their fellow-citizens for such a position was an evidence of that. It would be quite as good an evidence of their power to deal with this question as the nomination of a magistrate whose appointment was made without any selection whatever. Then, it seemed singular to him that the hon. Baronet should be wrong in his facts as to these rating Unions, for he was unaware of the fact that the rating Unions extended into more than one county, and were partly urban and partly rural, but dealt with common funds. [Sir Walter Barttelot denied that he had so stated.] Then there was another objection against these Boards, and that was as to the expense of them; but he did not think that that expense would be very large. His hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen), who had worked longer than himself in this matter, had fixed the limit of the expense, and it was very trifling. He (Sir Henry Havelock) thought that probably his estimates and conclusions in this matter were correct—at all events there could be no question that, if in as mall degree they should succeed in reducing crime, in reducing drunkenness, and in reducing police and prison charges, the expense of these Boards, even if three-fold more than was estimated, would give a very large balance to our benefit. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) said some things which he heard with considerable regret. He thought when he spoke of the possibility of leading members of these Boards being locked up at the time they might be wanted he betrayed a levity, if he might use the term, which contrasted painfully with the gravity, the solidity, and the force of the arguments adduced by his hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen) in support of the Bill. This, no doubt, was an exceptional measure; but the Bill was brought forward in response to the earnest desire of men who had given attention to this question for many years past, who knew the facts, and who, while being desirous of doing full justice to the merits of the magistrates, told them plainly that no solution of the question had yet been arrived at, and no means devised for dealing with drunkenness in its worst forms. It was sometimes said—he (Sir Henry Havelock) would not say with what truth—that there was a sort of natural alliance between the Conservative Party and the publicans. He did not think that need be the case; but, at all events, there was now an opportunity for the Conservatives to show how hollow and baseless was the charge, and that in this matter they were above all Party considerations, and had at heart only the true interests of the country. He thanked the House for the patience with which it had listened to him. His only excuse for intervening was that in his borough, he believed, the question was originally initiated. He knew that at large and crowded meetings, where the alternative claims of the Permissive Bill and some such measure as this had been discussed, there had been a considerable preponderance of opinion in favour of the measure now proposed. It had its objections, certainly, but he thought it also had advantages which had been well stated, and which deserved more consideration than they had received from some of the speakers on the other side. This sad fact, at all events, remained: that up to the present time nobody had been able to devise means of dealing effectually with drunkenness, which was the moral canker of the country; which was paralyzing their vast industrial energies; which was extending its ground, and which, unless some means were taken to check it, would continue to lower the moral standard and social tone of this great country.
said, that in rising to oppose the Bill he thought it desirable, in the first instance, to clear away one or two fallacies which had been imported into the question by hon. Members opposite. In the first place, he maintained that this Bill, wherever it might be put into force, contained within itself the very worst and most objectionable features of the Permissive Bill. If it were right to place in the hands of the ratepayers, and of the ratepayers alone, the power with which this Bill sought to endow them, who would be safe from the most unreasonable and unreasoning form of election that could possibly be imagined? He had never approved of the method of election involved in the Municipal Corporations Act. He thought it was wrong ab initio, and it remained wrong now; and so long as that statute continued unrepealed it would stand out as a grave error of legislation. The same objection prevailed, with even greater force, against the present measure. If ratepayers, as distinguished from both owners and inhabitants generally, were the only persons to be called upon to elect members of the proposed licensing board, that would have the effect of excluding what he called the better element in almost every one of our large communities, and would undoubtedly take the matter out of the hands of a very large body of the population. Nobody in that House had any desire or wish that temperance, reasonably carried out, should not have its full strength, its full influence, and its full effect in the country; but temperance did not mean teetotalism, and he knew no body of men who were more intemperate, at all events in their language and in their views, than teetotalers were; but if this Bill became law, a contingency of which he was happy to say there was no probability, it would provide that while teetotalers might by the manipulation of an election be put upon the licensing board, every brewer, licensed victualler, and maltster, who entertained different opinions was to be excluded from a seat on the board. Was that fair or even reasonable on one side or the other? Indeed, would it not be certain to provoke the worst passions and call out, in all probability, the most riotous elements of a contested election? But that was not the only point, for no distinction whatever was made between counties and boroughs. Some hon. Gentlemen, and even the proposer of this measure himself, went so far as not only to mix up counties and boroughs, and county and borough representation, but they confused them as well as mixed them up; for he saw that it was provided by one section of the Bill that the area should be precisely the same as it was now for Poor Law purposes. In the borough which he (Mr. Wheelhouse) represented there were no less than four areas for Poor Law purposes; and one of them having lately been extended, took within its limit a large number of out-townships in the county. What was to be done with the licensing board under such circumstances as these, since the borough authorities had no jurisdiction in the county, nor vice versa? They had been told that day that drunkenness was considerably on the increase. He gave his emphatic denial to any such statement, at least with regard to England. He believed it to be on the decrease, and it was of course the interest of every one of the community to use every means to assist in its abatement. He (Mr. Wheelhouse) had heard this allegation about the increase of drunkenness iterated and reiterated, but that did not make it any the more true. No reliable evidence could be adduced in support of it. On the contrary, he asked them to go into the large towns of the country, into the great centres of industrial activity, into places where the people mostly congregated, and they would find, if they took the trouble to inquire, that drunkenness was constantly on the decrease there, and for the best of all possible reasons, the drunkard could find no one to employ him. He found, moreover, that by the machinery of the Bill they were to have yet another election. They had now, as it was, elections almost innumerable, and the rage for elections was still so great that they were threatened with being eaten up by elections of one kind or another. The so-called advocates of economy in that House were always saying—"Cut down expenditure;" but they found that on all questions of this kind those same "economists" were always the very first to cry out—"Tax the people," "Throw it on the rates," "It is a public question," "They will bear it," and so on—nevertheless "by all means you must at the same time cut down your expenses." He merely dealt with questions of this kind in a plain, practical, conscientious manner, and he trusted from a common-sense point of view. How many elections had we now? We had school-board, local-board, burial-board, and other elections. He did not know what was the cost of school-board elections, borough or district ones; but he believed it was very great. He did not know either what the cost of local-board elections was, but he knew it was very large. He did, however, know what the cost of an election for an enormous borough constituency was, and it was by no means small; and still they were now asking again to throw upon the shoulders of the ratepayers an election—for what? Merely to take out of the hands of the justices—a class of gentlemen who, he believed, whether in the counties or the boroughs, formed a most impartial tribunal—to put into the hands of a body of men who should be elected once a-year, or every two or three years, subject to all the vicissitudes of change in the feelings and in the ideas which permeated our town council and ward elections, and were, he ventured to think, the worst forms of elective bodies that ever were maintained. That was not all, by any means. They were told they were also to give power by this Bill to appoint clerks and officers, not merely almost without limit, but according to the views of the board when it should be elected. This was an expense which, he thought, ought not to be put upon the ratepayers, and he trusted they would hear no more of it. He did not look, however, only at the matter of cost, serious as that was. He looked at the effect which, perpetually recurring elections for this purpose would have on the community. He looked at the almost constant bickerings to which they would give rise, and which it was assuredly wiser to allay than to foment. He looked, also, at the fact that there was a particular class of persons who made it their business to stir up questions of this kind continually, and he felt there was no other course open to the House but to reject this Bill. These boards, as proposed, were to consist of from five to 21 members. In the case of a board of five members, with a quorum of three, the chairman's casting vote would decide on questions involving the domestic convenience of an entire locality. And in a case where a quorum of three attended, two of whom were teetotallers, the same result would happen, and the licensing or the non-licensing power would be vested practically in one person. To that provision he offered his strongest opposition. It might be said that that could happen only in a sparsely populated district. That might be so, but the fact proved his case. Exceptio regulam probat. If they went into large and populous districts, he wanted to know where they could get a board of 21 members who could more satisfactorily perform their duties than the magistrates to whose hands they were now entrusted? They would have a great and cumbrous board, elected probably in a manner anything but satisfactory, instead of a body averaging nine magistrates, competent to do the work impartially, and upon the whole efficiently. To such a board, however, those powers were to be transferred from the justice of the peace. The election of the board would be by cumulative voting, to which he entertained no very strong antipathy per se. He took, however, a preliminary objection, and maintained that there should be no board and no election; and as the present licensing boards, whose decisions were reviewed by the confirming committees, were amply sufficient to deal with the questions referred to them, the turmoil and contention to which the elections would give rise would far more than outweigh any good that could possibly result from them. At present, was there any distinct allegation that the justices did not do their work thoroughly well? The only complaint he heard made of them, was that sometimes they were too restrictive in their action. All through the North that was the opinion that was commonly pronounced upon them. He much wished that the old course of legislation on these questions had never been departed from. Was it quite clear that the innovations caused by grants to wine sellers and grocers had not given rise to much which did not proceed from the licensed victualler; but for which he was most unjustly made to bear the whole of the blame? When they looked at the character of this Bill, they would perceive that it did not reveal any purpose of doing real good but that it proceeded on that everlasting Radical intention of "doing something or other." Every one of these boards was to be an utterly irresponsible tribunal. According to the Bill, the moment a board was formed—and it was to be formed compulsorily—there was to be no appeal from its decisions, though they might be come to by the casting vote of one person in the manner he had described. Was there any justice—was there any reason in that? And what was sought to be done was (as he had said before) simply to put into the hands of an irresponsible board that which was now in the hands of gentlemen, and reasonably and satisfactorily performed by them. Then the entire cost of these boards was to be guaranteed out of the rates. Provided they could satisfy some competent tribunal that they had acted in conformity with the powers given them under the Act, the ratepayers would have to indemnify their members for any costs and damages in which they might be cast in an action at law. The inhabitants, therefore, were not only to be saddled with the expense of the elections, but any member of these boards was to be indemnified for an act of his, no matter how wrong-headed or how stupid it might be, provided it turned out to be in accordance with the Act. Could anything be more objectionable than that? He was quite aware that there was a class of persons which was constantly talking about the trade of a licensed victualler as if it deserved nothing short of utter annihilation; but he was quite sure the day was far distant (if, indeed, it ever should come) when such an extreme view would find acceptance either in the country or in that House. In addition to what had been said with regard to this Bill, he was somewhat amused by a statement made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock), in which he rather assumed that his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Pell) was afraid somebody might be unable to perform his duties because he might be imprisoned during his term of office. He found that the provision was not introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, but was in the body of the Bill itself. In Section 29 it provides, in the language of the section, at the instance, he supposed, of the hon. Member for Newcastle himself, that in the event of any member of the licensing board…."being punished by imprisonment for any crime, he shall cease to be a member and his office shall thence from be vacant. "Does that not show the Bill to be cumbrous? If a magistrate were convicted of crime, we know perfectly well that his seat would be vacated. An elected member of a board was just as unfortunate; but in that case he was to be gibbeted again, after his punishment for the offence he had committed, before the whole world, because he had done something, was convicted of a crime, and suffered imprisonment. What about that state of things? They were told that this licensing board, when constituted, was to be an utterly irresponsible tribunal; whereas; at present, if justices did wrong, their decision, generally speaking, in all such cases, could be appealed from in the Court of Quarter Sessions. In the old Act they knew that under the licensing laws of George IV. that appeal was granted. Justices, if doing wrong, might be set right, and, surely, that was fair, and just, and reasonable; but under the proposed Bill the moment there was a board formed there would be no appeal from its fiat; that decision was to be final. Was there either reason or justice in such a state of things? One man might harass the whole trade of an entire county or province. He hoped he had now shown the House that such an attempt was utterly unreasonable. If any one looked at this Bill, to see to what extent it was proposed to lead them—he did not care in what light they regarded it, the House could not fail to find it so thoroughly impracticable that whether it emanated from Sunderland, or whether the honour of its birthplace were accorded to Newcastle-on-Tyne, or, indeed, wherever it came from, he, at least, hoped it would never find a foothold for a single day in the House of Commons.
said, that, with the permission of the House, he should like to state the reasons for which he supported the second reading of the Bill, and, at the same time, to make a few observations upon the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. This was the first time he had taken part in any debate in the House upon this subject; and therefore he desired to say that he felt the present position of this question to be such—and such the state of ideas as to the remedies which were necessary to meet the terrible position—that it only remained to those who, like himself, were anxious in some way or other to meet the evils that existed, to support any and every proposal which appeared to give any possibility, however remote, of leading to a practical solution. But with reference to the Bill immediately before them, he might say that his objections to it would not be such objections as had been urged by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Wheelhouse). They would be that the Bill did not go far enough to meet the terrible and portentous evils which existed. If they analyzed the speech of his hon. and learned Friend they would find that he fell back upon the true old Conservative principles. In the first place, he denied that any evils existed—[Mr. Wheelhouse: No, no!]—in the second place, he denied that there were any persons who perpetuated those evils; and, in the third place, even supposing the evils to exist, he objected to placing in the hands of the people the control of the remedy. Here they had exhibited in the purest and most unaffected manner the method of Conservative thought and argument. It was hardly worth while, and it was not necessary in this House, after what had taken place here, and after the significant vote of last Friday, to demonstrate to hon. Members on either side how great were the evils; and he was only surprised to find that even the hon. and learned Gentleman could manage so far to blind himself to the actual facts of the case as to get up in this House and make such affirma- tions as he had done. He (Mr. Jenkins) did not think it necessary to meet that. He thought the evil was admitted by the action taken by the House, and by the facts proved; and, he might add, the responsibility for these evils were brought home to the clients of the hon. and learned Gentleman who generally spoke as the representative of the publican interest. The main criticisms of the hon. and learned Gentleman simply referred to details of the Bill, which would be much better treated in Committee—they had to join issue with him simply upon one question, and that was as to the advisability of changing the present method of licensing, and of adopting some plan by which a more direct and immediate popular control should be brought to bear upon the granting of licences. When they came to that question, they at once saw what a difference there was between the view that the hon. and learned Gentleman took of the state of the matter and that which we took. He said that in granting the power to the ratepayers by popular election to select those who were to grant these licences, they were excluding from representation the interest which was most concerned. But what he (Mr. Jenkins) wished to point out was that there was a certain fallacy in that argument; because he did not look upon the publican interest as he did upon the other interests of the community. He looked upon it as an exceptional interest, demonstrated to be in the main not in harmony with the general interest of the community—nay, which was hostile to those interests. If they were to look upon it as they did upon other interests—if it were the agricultural interest, or the shipping interest, or any interest of that sort, which had its footing upon the same basis as other classes and interests in the country—the case would be different: but it was admitted, by the exceptional legislation which this House had adopted with regard to it, that it was an interest which did not coincide with the general interests of the community—that it was an interest to be exceptionally treated; and therefore he did not acknowledge the force of the argument used by the hon. and learned Gentleman against the principle of popular control by that particular point. He (Mr. Jenkins) said that his objection to the Bill was that, in his opinion, it did not go quite far enough. He must confess he should have preferred some Bill intermediately between the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and the Bill now brought forward by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen). But he thought it must be admitted that the question had arrived at this position: that it was found that that body which had been so lauded by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, which now had the power of granting licences, had done its work so inefficiently and so little to the benefit of the public [Mr. Wheelhouse: No, no!]—When the hon. and learned Gentleman said "No," he would ask what he thought of a body which in Salford licenced one public-house to 134 of the inhabitants—whether he thought that was a body entitled to the confidence of the public? He would ask him whether he thought that in over-supplying a district with the means of intoxication in the way in which they were over-supplied in Liverpool, in Salford, in Manchester, and in innumerable towns throughout this Kingdom, they had sufficiently won the public confidence by the method in which they had discharged their functions? They went a little deeper than that, and they said this was one of those questions in which they might properly ask that there should be popular control. Who were the men most concerned in this matter? Was it the publican who made money out of the people, or was it the people for whose benefit the publican was established? Surely it was the people who were to enjoy the benefits of a State-established bar who ought to have something to say with regard to the number of licensed houses which are to be supplied. They came down to this point—that as it was the people who were most interested in the establishment of these houses, so it was to the people that the right should be granted by saying how many of these houses there should be. And here he might say that he was not disposed to go the whole length with his hon. Friend behind him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and allow total prohibition in every locality of the sale of intoxicating drinks. They must reserve the rights of minorities: but they could be reserved in a way, as he believed, consistent with the public interest, and yet in a way which would be consistent with the establishment of this most important principle contained in the Bill—the principle of popular control; and because that was the main principle of the Bill, and because he believed that upon that principle, however developed, this question was to be settled, that he intended to give his vote with his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle.
in opposing the second reading, said, it had been stated in the course of the debate that the Bill chiefly affected the boroughs; but he had looked through the Bill and he could not find the word even mentioned. But he wished to look at the Bill from a practical point of view; and, first, he would ask what were the objections to the licensing authority, and whether any improvement was likely to be effected by the proposed change. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Jenkins) had complained that in certain places too many public-houses had been licensed. But the hon. Member forgot that up to 1869 the justices had very little control over the number. The chief question that arose on the licensing day was not whether an additional licence should be granted, but whether certain beer-houses should be brought under the more immediate control of the magistrates by granting spirit licences to them, and up to that time beer licences were granted by the Excise, without any reference to the requirements of the district around. He thought a more reasonable objection to the present system would be against the present largely-increased facilities given for the sale of spirits by grocers and wine-licensed tradesmen. Much more drunkenness was occasioned by the sale of spirits than by the sale of beer. The Act of Lord Aberdare provided for the appointment of a licensing committee of the court of quarter sessions, and he believed the proceedings of the licensing Committees had proved most satisfactory. The magistracy in counties were appointed by the Lords Lieutenant of the counties respectively, who would select them on account of their general fitness, and in pursuance of the Act of 1872 the licensing committees were selected on a broad basis, irrespective of politics. In boroughs the election of magistrates was in a larger degree determined by political considerations, but as the Lord Chancellors for years past had been, in general, members of the Liberal party, hon. Gentlemen opposite ought not to have much now to complain of them. If it were desirable that the elective element should be introduced he was willing, but he should like to see the change made on the old foundations. He should not object to a licensing committee composed partly of magistrates and partly of ratepayers, as he had known such a mixed body work extremely well during the cattle plague. The bill proposed that every Union should be made the area of an electioneering contest every three years. Hon. Members opposite appeared to be quite mistaken as to what the effects of that would be. In the first contest the Temperance and Permissive Bill party from their superior organization might have the best of it; but their restrictive measures would have the sway only for a short time. The pressure of the temperance party, which was not, after all, very temperate, would be found intolerable, a reaction would follow, and at the second election the publicans might gain the day, and there would be free trade in licences on every side. Therefore, even if it was desirable that the ratepayers should have more influence, the mode proposed by this Bill was the worst possible that could be devised for bringing it to bear. He would not enter into the subject of increased cost thrown on the ratepayers, as the hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had very ably dealt with that point; but he would only point out that it was from the opposite party that proposals for increasing the burden of local taxation were always made without any circumstances to render it necessary, though they were also the individuals who extolled the virtues of economy, and who made retrenchment their cry. There were many practical objections to the working of the Bill which he could easily anticipate; and one of them was that these Boards being made subject to the Home Office would often find themselves involved in conflict with the Poor Law authorities, and no Home Secretary would very much care to be charged with the duty of reconciling their differences.
said, that the great question was whether the existing system was hostile to the public welfare. If it were, why endure it? If not, why restrict it? Now, as it seemed to him, the trade was licensed because it was deemed to be beneficial, and it was restricted for the prevention of abuses. The restrictions were imposed because a monopoly was given, and those restrictions were all in favour of the public interest. Of course everybody was prepared to denounce drunkenness, but in this case there was very often exaggeration. Then what constituted drunkenness? As to the outward and visible signs of drunkenness, he saw much less of it in the streets of London than when he first came to the metropolis. Crime and pauperism were not on the increase; drunkenness he had believed to be the great cause of crime and pauperism: then, if crime and pauperism were not on the increase he inferred that drunkenness was not on the increase. He drew from the fact of the diminution of crime and pauperism that there was a diminution of drunkenness. But the question was, was this Bill better as a remedy than the existing state of things? Would this Bill tend to a diminution of drunkenness? What effect would this Bill have on the boroughs? He could not conceive a more direct incitement to corruption and contention than such a measure as this. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) asked how could magistrates appointed under the present system be expected to do their duty in granting licences, considering the manner of their appointment? Had he considered from what class the licensing magistrates in boroughs were generally taken? Why, they were generally selected from members of the town council—a body elected by the ratepayers—and these men retained their appointments under successive Governments. Generally speaking, it was rarely that a borough justice did not owe his appointment to popular election. But a question of this kind could not be settled on such grounds. He would ask any man to consider for himself what would be the character of an election for a licensing board? How would it be conducted? There would be great excitement and corruption of every kind; you would have the pecuniary interest of a particular trade engaged on the one side, and their opponents on the other. It was impossible to have such an election conducted without excitement and corruption. Would not all the publicans, feeling their fortunes at stake upon the issue of such an election, spend their money and distribute their beer to promote their own cause? Would not the supporters of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) act in a similar spirit to advance a cause which they believed so just? At all events, this was a question above all others respecting which there was the greatest temptation for agitation and corruption, directly influencing the community in the most prejudicial way. That was simply the ground on which he could not support the Bill. If the Bill were enacted it would create more drunkenness during an election than it could ever put an end to. It would offer a temptation to a powerful party to make the whole of the electors drunk for one month in order to make them sober for the other eleven. Every publican would open his house and invite the ratepayers in, and say, "Vote for the present system." How could you expect him to do otherwise? He had great pecuniary interests at stake. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) said he was prepared to sacrifice everything for the great principle of popular representation. But we were not suffering from any defect of popular representation in this country. The attention of Parliament was constantly occupied with all kinds of popular questions. We had municipal elections, school boards, religious questions, and now a new element was proposed to be introduced—a licensing board. Did anyone think that a more popular system of representation than the present could be found? The licensing magistrates were men brought into public life by popular election, and appointed and retained by successive Governments; could a Board be composed of more popular materials on any other system? The advantages of the proposed system were not apparent, the disadvantages were as clear as noon-day. The Bill would create great excitement and confusion, turning on the question of beer every November. The sole end and object of the election must be beer.
Sir, I do not share the horror which has overwhelmed my hon. and learned Friend (Sir William Harcourt) who has just sat down at the bringing in of this Bill. On the contrary, I am exceed- ingly glad that this House is now beginning to turn its attention to what I consider to be useful and practical legislation. I was getting very much tired of the subjects we have been discussing lately. I am glad we have got out of the mud of the Suez Canal, the mysteries of blending Irish whiskey, the curiosities of the Royal Titles debate, and Central Asia, and matters of that kind, and are now discussing a Bill brought in by my hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen), which is intended to do something to increase the happiness of the people of this country. [Laughter.] Well, hon. Members seem to laugh when I say this Bill is intended to produce happiness to the people of this country; but I presume that that is its object, and that it ought to be the object of all our legislation in this House; and with the object which this Bill ostensibly sets before us—that of reducing intoxication in this country—we are all agreed. I am perfectly sure that everyone who has spoken has said that—why, I think even the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) said he was a great enemy to drunkenness. I remember there was a meeting in the winter of some association in Leeds, and he wrote a letter, and said at the beginning of it—"No one hates drunkenness more than I do"—and, strange to say, his constituents received the announcement with roars of laughter. But the question is not, I venture to say, to-day, whether drunkenness has increased or not. We might argue till 6 o'clock on that matter without coming to any satisfactory conclusion. I think it is bad enough, whether it has increased or not—and individual evidence does not go for much on that point; even the evidence of so good a witness and so admirable an advocate as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) does not weigh very much in the matter. He told us that he did not see many people drunk when he walked about the streets. What streets does he walk in, I should like to know? It all depends upon that. There is a very old story told of Dr. Johnson that he said he went through Scotland without seeing a tree; but that was because he kept the blinds of the carriage down. Some people do not see drunkenness in this country because they take care not to look in the right place. It is bad enough, both in Eng- land and in Ireland. I was reading in a newspaper the other day what a man saw in Dublin on a Saturday night. He said he walked with the police down a place called Bride Street. He described the horrible state of the evil of drunkenness, and he said to the police—"Do you take up everybody who is drunk?" The policeman, said—"Sir, if my Superintendent and I were to draw a rope across the street and sweep the whole street before us, I do not think we should have caught many people sober enough to tell us that they were not drunk." Surely that is a state of things which in any civilized country should cause horror in the mind of any man, even of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. It causes much more horror in my mind than the introduction of this Bill. The evidence on all hands ought surely to satisfy us that the Bill is needed. We had the opinions of the Irish Judges quoted the other night; and if you choose to read the remarks of the English Judges when on circuit you will find they give evidence equally strong that drunkenness causes the greater amount of crime and wickedness in this country. Then the question arises, is nothing to be done at all? We have had two Governments which have tried their hands at reforming these licensing laws. There was the late lamented Liberal Government. Well, Mr. Bruce, the present Lord Aberdare, did his best. Then came my right hon. Friend whom I see opposite, and he did his worst: and both Parties, and the leading men of both Parties, having tried their hands at it, I suppose, looking at it simply in a political point of view, we are to be told, both on that side of the House and on this, that we may now sit quiet as there is nothing more to be done. But I am happy to say that is not the opinion of the country; whatever we politicians may think sitting here in the calm and security of this House, that is not the opinion out-of-doors. I do not know whether hon. Members noticed a very remarkable circumstance that took place last week, when a memorial was presented to the two Archbishops of the National Church, signed by upwards of 7,000 of the clergy of this country, calling the attention of those Prelates to the evil state of things in this country, and urging them to do something or other, and, I am happy to say, giving a pretty straight hint at the end of that memorial that the Permissive Bill was the proper thing to do. What did the Archbishop of York say only a few days ago? I must mention this, because during the latter part of the debate there has been an attempt to minimize the evil, I think, by some of the speakers. He said in Westminster Abbey, only the Sunday before last—
That is pretty strong language from one of the heads of the National Church. And then what does my hon. Friend propose in this Bill? It is a very simple change, I think. He says—"And was it to be supposed that all this flood of poison"—as he called it, using much stronger language than I dare do—"left England and the English race where it found them? If so, then physiology might as well burn all her books, and religion admit that her first premises were unsound."
Surely these places where drink is sold are set up for the good of the people—if they are set up for any other purpose, then it is a sin and a crime. Surely they are set up for the good of the people, and you who have been elected by the people might surely trust them to come to a decision in such a small matter as this. Sir, this is not the Permissive Bill—I wish it was—but it is very like it. What I have proposed in this House at different times—perhaps I may be allowed to propose it again at some future time—is simply that the people shall have a veto on the granting of licences by any authority which may be appointed to grant licences. I think that it is a simpler plan than that of my hon. Friend. I know it has been very greatly opposed. It is very difficult to fight against the powers that be—against vested interests; it is very difficult to fight against that great power whom my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Walter Barttelot) described—the interest of the licensed publicans—the other night as men who were as respectable, as industrious, as honest as any other class in the community. That is my point—they are too industrious. But, although I have suggested a way of attacking the evil, I am not going to find fault with my hon. Friend for bringing in a similar Bill, which runs on rather different lines. I hope I shall never be so bigoted as to reject what is good in any one else's measure because I do not think it quite so suitable as that which I have ventured to propose; but, as I am speaking on the Bill of my hon. Friend, will he allow me to point out one or two defects—although they have already been pointed out? I think that it will be unnecessary to elect these boards which he proposes all over the country in certain parts, because there you have already the benefit of prohibition. You have these parishes and districts where there are no public-houses, and there you have the greatest comfort and the greatest blessing arising from that state of things; and I do not see why my hon. Friend should set them to work to elect Licensing Boards when they have all the blessings of being without licences already. I quite admit that there is force in the arguments used by Members on the other side against this Bill. There would be a good deal of confusion, perhaps, and conflict, in electing these boards—although not nearly so bad as an election at Oxford, which my hon. and learned Friend seemed to have in his mind when he spoke of the danger. There will be a certain amount of confusion, perhaps, and the thing may resolve itself into a fight between the Good Templars and the Good Tipplers; but, even if that should take place, my hon. and learned Friend need not be so much alarmed. It would only come once in three years; whereas the existence of these drink shops creates confusion, tumults, riots, murder, and misery every night in the year throughout this country. Although, Sir, I greatly prefer my Bill—the simple veto, making no change whatever in the licensing authorities, making as little alteration in the law as possible—though I greatly prefer that, and shall have the opportunity of advocating it soon—still, I cordially support this Bill of my hon. Friend, which is more ambitious, more comprehensive, more extensive than mine, but which, I hope, if carried out, will prove equally useful. I do rejoice very much at this debate, and at much that has been said in it. I think the hon. Member who spoke last but one, representing one of the divisions of the great county of York (Mr. Spencer Stanhope), said, and said truly, that no question at the present day was exciting so much interest as this question of how we are to promote the temperance of the community; and, if the House will allow me, I will refer to what has taken place at elections lately, and I will mention instances of Gentlemen sitting on both sides of this House who have found that what the hon. Member stated in his speech just now is perfectly true. I do not see the hon. Member for East Aberdeen shire (Sir Alexander Gordon) in his place. He sits on the Conservative side—oh, I beg his pardon, he is there—he will correct me if what I state is untrue. I am informed that at the election he declared to those whose votes he was soliciting that he was in favour of this principle of local option, which is embodied in the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle, and the consequence was that, although a staunch Liberal politician opposed him, he was himself considered Liberal by the people of Aberdeen shire, and there he sits to represent them at this moment. Turn to this side of the House, where is my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), lately returned amongst us? He can tell us, if he speaks, what was the most absorbing question at his election, and who worked the hardest for him—the men in favour of local option. The same at Burnley. Well, I was taking part in an election the other day in which my right hon. Friend the Judge Advocate was interested, and I know he made a speech there—not in my presence, but in my neighbourhood—in which he said that he had been for 20 years electioneering in that county in which the election took place, and he could say from his own knowledge that there was no question which interested people so much as that question which we are now discussing—the question of giving the people the power to get rid of these places which afflict them so much. And to come to the very latest election that has taken place in the United Kingdom—I am told that both the Liberal and the Conservative candidates for West Aberdeen the other day declared that they were in favour of this principle which gives my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford so much horror and despair. It seems to me that the time is approaching when this matter, having taken hold of the hearts and the minds of the people, will produce some great changes. I believe that slowly and surely there is forming in this coun- try what I may call a party of national sobriety who say that they will put that before everything else—that they will make that the first question in their political creed; because they hold that Mr. Cobden was right when he said years and years ago that the temperance question lay at the foundation of every social and political reform. And I am quite confident that even in a party point of view the day is coming when that political party which declares in favour of the public as against the publicans will obtain the greatest amount of support in this country. I wish my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) would take the lead of that party. He has two favourite subjects in this House—namely, orthodoxy and intoxication. I am sometimes inclined to think that he might be called "The Lord Protector of Protestants and Publicans." I wish he would take up this question, because I am satisfied that whatever party—whether it be on that side or on this—shall first take it up will find that it will consolidate their own power, redound to their credit, and in the end confer great blessings on the people of this country."Trust the people who suffer from the evils which arise from these places where drink is sold—trust the people to say whether they will have them or not."
said, that before he saw the names on the back of that Bill he formed the opinion—which he had not got rid of—that it was intended to increase drinking, for he was certain that the Bill instead of decreasing would very greatly increase drunkenness. The Bill provided a succession of elections; and he had never yet known elections in which the quart pot had not come into free play. The end would be that the question would become a struggle between the saints and the sinners, and between the two the public interests would be sacrificed, the one party trying to make the people all teetotallers, and the other to make them all drunkards if they could. He did not believe that drunkenness depended on the number of public-houses. For instance, in the Midland and Northern police districts, it was shown that drunkenness existed in an inverse ratio to the number of public-houses. The real cause of intemperance in this county was that the humbler classes, stimulated by the high wages given them in order to make a profit from their labour, were led to work beyond their strength, and conse- quently took to drinking to recruit themselves. If they drove a horse for 15 miles continuously along a road they would find that they could not keep it from the water trough unless they tied up its head. So if they still drove the working classes at the rate they were now doing, they would not diminish drinking.
thought the House would come to the conclusion that the state of things in the county of Oxford must be different from what he apprehended it was in other parts of the country. Neither the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Henley) nor the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) seemed to be able to trust their constituencies of a popular body with their having anything to do with the granting of licences. They were all agreed in one thing, and that was the desire to put down the excessive drinking which took place in the country, and which was such a disgrace, but he must confess that he was surprised and somewhat pained by the speech of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), in which he stated that in his county there was never a church built but a public-house came close to it. He hoped the hon. Member was in jest when he stated that, and not in earnest, and that he did not mean to insinuate that it was a thing which the people of Leicestershire approved of. The two things, the church and the public-house, seemed to him to have very little to do with each other. With regard to the Bill before the House, there had been some criticisms passed upon it, which he thought it would thoroughly bear. In the first place, the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) had spoken of the large number of boards existing in the country, and the disadvantage of adding another to the number. Anyone who had any knowledge of those local boards would be aware that there were far to many of them. He himself lived near a country town where there were only 4,000 or 5,000 inhabitants, but yet they had their local boards of health, a burial board, a school board, a highway board, and a board of guardians, and his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle would add another to the number. That was no argument, however, as to the principle of the Bill. It was a matter of detail which he had hoped his right hon. Friend opposite would have taken steps to deal with. The local organizations in the country required limiting, for, directly they were established, they had the power of taxing the ratepayers. Were they going on with the creation of those boards, or was it intended ultimately to amalgamate them? This, however, was a matter of detail entirely, whether they were to appoint one board, in districts such as his own, to take all those local matters in hand. The main argument against the Bill seemed to be that while they allowed certain persons to act on the burial board, on the board of health, on the school boord, on the highway board, and on boards of guardians, they were not prepared to go a step further and allow them to look after those public-houses. The county which he had the honour to represent, and which he was sorry to say stood very high in the annals of drunkenness, had been referred to, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had stated that the drunkenness there was owing to the manner in which men were employed, and that long hours of toil led to exhaustion; but that was not so; it was because that wages at one time ran high, and at the same time the hours of working had decreased, which gave the men much longer time for drinking. Thus there was more drunkenness on the part of the men who were drunken, but the drunkards were a small portion of the men. In that county building socities and other provident institutions had gradually prospered during the time of high wages, but at the same time drunkenness had gone on increasing. It was the fact also that the magistrates in the county granted fewer new licences than were granted generally in the country. He believed they stood lower in the number of public-houses, and higher in drunkenness in proportion to the population, than in any population in the country. But the people of the county generally were in favour of the Bill before the House, and had petitioned extensively in its favour. They said that although the magistrates might have been perfectly zealous in the past, and might have done what they thought right, yet the law should be more stringently enforced and the number of houses limited. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for West Sussex spoke of vested interests. Well, he believed that any board they might appoint would look well after those interests. They knew the publicans as neighbours. They knew their characters, and the character of their houses, and whether they were properly conducted or not, and he had no hesitation in saying that local boards would find out a great deal more about the public-houses and perform the work of granting licences quite as efficiently as would the magistrates, who, as a general rule, might not be so well acquainted with the district and the characters of the people. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) opposed the Bill because he said it was too much like the Permissive Bill, but he (Mr. Pease) would support it because it was very different from the measure on two points. The first point was that the Permissive Bill placed no power whatever in the hands of the ratepayers of dealing with licences, but said that either all public-houses should exist as at present, or they were to have none at all. The present Bill, however, gave a discretion to the ratepayers. When they came to look at the action of the Bill, he did not think they need tie themselves to the details of the measure, for those might be altered in Committee. For his own part, he thought some of the details would work very badly; but the principle of the Bill was that the representatives of the ratepayers should have charge of those public-houses, rather than the magistrates appointed by the Crown. He believed that the more they confided in local authority the better the law would be carried out. He had great confidence that if they allowed the representatives of the ratepayers to exercise discretion in this matter, it would be exercised very wisely. He would not take away the public-houses altogether, but would make them what they ought to be—houses of call for proper refreshment; and by doing that they would be helping to do away with drunkenness, which they all so much deplored.
said, the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who had entertained the House with a very amusing speech, said, although he did not like the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) as much as his own Permissive Bill, he approved of it as a step in that direction. The hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Pease) said he did not like the details of the Bill, and yet he was prepared to support it. But what the hon. Member called the details were, in fact, the principles of the Bill. What were they? It was a Bill to disestablish the power of the licensing magistrates, and to establish a licensing board in their stead. The question for the House to consider that day was not whether they were in favour of sobriety or intemperance, but whether they were prepared to take away the licensing power from the magistrates of England, who had exercised with discretion the power imposed upon them by Parliament. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) said, the people of the country were satisfied with the magistrates; then why disurb them? but he added that the inhabitants of Durham had petitioned in favour of this Bill. The hon. Member surely knew that there were always persons going about the country getting up Petitions, and that when most people were asked to sign them they did so without knowing exactly what they were signing. He (Mr. Talbot) submitted that there would be no security whatever that the county of Durham would not be a great deal worse off than it was at present if this Bill passed. What, he asked, was to prevent the publicans from bringing their forces to bear upon the electors of such a board as that proposed by the hon. Member for Newcastle? And were the magistrates who had done their work so well in the county of Durham to be removed by a Bill of this sort? For his part he could certainly not give his support to such a Bill.
said, the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had stated that he had promised his constituents to vote for the Bill. He had promised nothing of the kind.
I said I had been informed to that effect on good authority.
said, he had agreed to support to a certain extent the principle of election of county boards very much the same as had been mentioned earlier in the debate by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. S. Stanhope). He had agreed to sup- port the principle of the Bill of the hon. Baronet, but not the Bill which was now before the House, against which he would certainly vote, as he thought it would be most injurious.
said, as his name was on the back of the Bill, perhaps he might be allowed, in a very few words, to explain the reasons which induced him to support the measure, especially as during the several years he had been in the House he had never taken part in a licensing debate. His own feeling was to view with considerable jealousy any attempt to interfere with individual liberty in matters of this kind: and he had not yet had sufficient courage to record his vote for the Permissive Bill. With regard to the observation made by a preceding speaker, to the effect that the Permissive Bill and the present measure were identical, he took a very different view of the matter. He could not support the measure of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, because it did not trust entirely to the popular control as did this Bill. It gave the public merely a veto in the issuing of licences, whilst this Bill took a wider and more practical view, and gave general control to the parties most interested—namely, the ratepayers. Representing, as he did, a large industrial town in the North of England, he could say that the question was one daily growing in strength, and was receiving every day more and more attention. It was a peculiar fact that hon. Members who had introduced the measure represented large constituencies in the North of England. It appeared to him that, of all the propositions that had been made as to this question of licensing, this was the most reasonable. What was there unreasonable in permitting the ratepayers of districts to have this power? Was not intemperance a fruitful source of the increase of the rates—of poverty, crime, and insanity? Then as to the proposal to transfer from the justices this power of granting and controlling licences, the Legislature, in other cases, had seen the importance of taking work out of the hands of the local justices. Stipendiary magistrates had been appointed, because it was found that the local magistrates were liable to be influenced by local circumstances. It was, for instance, found in his own neighbourhood, that some magistrates were too lenient to the seamen, and that some were too much the other way, and that the solicitors who had cases of this kind used to arrange accordingly. Then it was notorious that the power the local magistrates possessed at the Brewster Sessions was used for political purposes. It was said that the plan of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) might not work satisfactorily. If it did not, no one was to blame but the people themselves. There was another reason why the Bill should be accepted—namely, that the ratepayers were the only persons who knew the requirements of the districts. Although in the original Licensing Bill power was given to the justices to fix the hours of closing, and in his own borough that power was used satisfactorily, the present hard-and-fast line was adopted in the amending Act. He supported heartily the principle involved in the Bill. The details might not be altogether perfect, but he was sure that the working population of the North of England were determined before long to have this power of control over the sale of intoxicating liquors.
I entirely agree with the promoters of this Bill in thinking that the mode of licensing is unsatisfactory. I think it indefensible that it should rest with a few sitting magistrates, acting as they have to do with no clear acknowledged principle to guide them, to give away a monopoly privilege which is worth £100 to £300, aye, in some cases as much as £2,000. But, on the other hand, every step we have taken so far in the licensing system seems only to be followed by an increase of drunkenness. But I will not enter into that question here. All that I wish to urge upon the House is this—that such having been so far the result or want of result of our legislation, we ought not to legislate further without facts upon which to found our legislation; and if the House will lend me its attention for a very few minutes, I think I can show that the facts and experience, not only of this country, but of other countries, are different from what they are supposed to be by the great bulk of those who are at present advocating legislation, and those who are resisting it. I have taken the utmost pains to get at the truth, for having shared the popular delusions on this subject, I am most anxious not again to act or speak on in- sufficient grounds. It has generally been assumed almost as an axiom by licensing reformers that the amount of drunkenness bears some direct proportion to the number of houses open for the sale of drink, and it is almost invariably assumed that the few experiments tried in the contrary direction have been entire failures. Now, I have analyzed carefully, the statistics of this subject, so as to minimize the danger of error arising from the fact that in different towns drunkenness is treated with a different amount of severity. The statistics given in a recent letter in The Pall Mall Gazette, had been (I think not unfairly) criticized, because, in the first place, the writer went further than can be proved by statistics when he stated that the statistics in question proved the inverse of the popular delusion; and also because it so happened that the towns which have the fewest public-houses are situated in the North of England, those with the most public-houses in the South of England. Their circumstances, therefore, are very different. But in order to compare towns as nearly as possible under the same circumstances I have divided them into North and South, so that wages and climate may correspond, and according to the population, so that the kind of town compared may correspond, and the result will prove to any man, and has proved, I think, to all whom I have shown the figures, that there is no direct proportion whatever between the number of the public-houses licensed for the sale of drink and the amount of drunkenness. I will merely state to the House the result as to the 19 towns North of Birmingham which have a population of over 50,000. I have arranged them in order, two ways—first taking as No. 1 the town having the fewest apprehensions for drunkenness in proportion to the population. I then, in fresh order, take as No. 1 the town with the fewest licensed houses in proportion to population, and I find that the numbers which attach to a town in its order of merit as to drunkenness and as to licensed houses, do not in the least correspond. For instance, of these 19 towns, Norwich has the fewest apprehensions in proportion to population, but the most licensed houses. Leicester comes second as to apprehensions for drunkenness, but eleventh as to the number of licensed houses. Sheffield, third as to apprehensions for drunkenness, is fourteenth as to licensed houses. Bradford, fourth as to apprehensions for drunkenness, is fifth as to licensed houses. Leeds, fifth as to apprehensions for drunkenness, is second as to licensed houses; and so on. And, taking the other end of the list, Manchester is the only town whose position as to drunkenness and the number of licensed houses corresponds. It has more public-houses than any other town but one, and it has a greater number of apprehensions for drunkenness than any other town, one alone being excepted. The one town, I regret to say, is Liverpool; but I wish the House to mark this—it has been assumed of Liverpool by those who know not the difficulties with which it has to contend that the cause of the amount of drunkenness which prevails there is the excessive number of licensed houses. But what is the fact? Liverpool has fewer licensed houses than any of the 19 towns over 50,000 inhabitants in the North of England except six. I need not trouble the House with further statistics, I shall be happy to show the tables to any hon. Member; but I will only say that, taking the towns with between 50,000 and 40,000 inhabitants, the towns with between 30,000 and 20,000 inhabitants, and the towns with between 20,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, as well as those with under 10,000 inhabitants, the results are similar. The statistics, when taken for so large a field, show, if thoroughly gone into, there is no direct proportion whatever between the amount of drunkenness and the number of licensed houses. But what has been the experience of other countries? I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Carnegie, for a translation of the report of the committee of the municipality of Stockholm on drunkenness, which I have no doubt has been seen by other hon. Members. The report is a most admirable one. They have gone carefully into everything—such as good harvests, prosperous times, new police regulations—which might distinguish the comparisons they draw, and they show that their deductions are borne out by the real significance of the statistics. They have had in 1855 a reform in their licensing laws, and in 1864 a change in their police regulations. They have reduced the number of dealers in alcohol "bran vin," their drink. From 1,200 in 1793 they reduced them to 700 in 1847, to 500 in 1850, and there are now only 280 houses licensed to sell for consumption on the premises, and 30 retail shops for consumption off the premises, the last in quantities not less than three-tenths of a gallon; and the question they set themselves to answer was this—"Have these measures attained, or at least brought us nearer, the attainment of the desired object? The result is, that they come to the conclusion that they have not, for they show that the amount of cases punished for drunkenness has increased from 1 in 88 of the inhabitants in 1851 to 1 in 46 in 1874. They go on to propose the adoption of the Gothenburg system, by which the monopoly of the sale of drink is practically in the hands of the public and for their benefit. Now, I am not disposed to express any dogmatic opinion on this subject. I repeat, what I think we want is such careful inquiry as shall give us facts, and not public notoriety, as the foundation of our legislation. That notoriety, as far as I can judge of it, is marvellously unreliable. Just let me give another and a most striking instance of this, because it is a case which I should really have supposed impossible had I not known it to be true. I have no doubt that a great part of hon. Members present believe that the system of open licensing in Liverpool was tried, and proved a failure, and that, as has been stated, it led to such an enormous increase of drunkenness that the magistrates recoiled from their experiment. The Liverpool experiment was upset after only three years' trial, on the universally asserted, and as far as I remember the then un contradicted, statement that drunkenness had enormously increased; and it has now been assumed that the drunkenness of the town since has been to a great extent owing to Liverpool being exceptionally provided with public-houses, instead of having fewer than most other towns, or most other large towns. There has seldom been a more curiously generally received popular fallacy than the Liverpool experiment. Two years after it had been given up, on an investigation into the state of crime it turned out that drunkenness, instead of increasing enormously, had actually decreased in proportion to population during the experiment, and some of the young magistrates, who, against the experience and against the wishes of the older magistrates, upset the experiment, have since become convinced of the error of their ways. But, let me add, the experienced magistrates in Wool ton and Prescot, a suburban district of Liverpool, were not then led away without investigation to upset a system which they had commenced. They persisted in it and persist in it now, and are perfectly satisfied with the results, which is more, I think, than any other body of magistrates in the Kingdom will say. In consequence of my having stated this, the temperance party in Liverpool sent their worthy agent, Mr. Smyth, to collect the facts, and I hold in my hand the results of his inquiries, as taken down in his presence. In 1867 there were in Wool ton 35 licensed houses. In 1876 there were in Wool ton 35 licensed houses. During the interval four licensed houses have been shut up and four licensed houses have been opened. In 1876 the licensed houses are of the same character as they were in 1867. They are not more magnificent in 1876 than they were in 1867. He found that some of his friends did not agree with him in this; but, at any rate, I can speak myself as to there being no such development into the dangerously magnificent gin-palaces as has taken place in Liverpool under the restrictive system. He also stated that there was much less open drunkenness in 1876 than there was in 1867; that the place in 1876 was more orderly than it was in 1867; but that the ministers of religion did not believe that there was any diminution (in 1876 as compared with 1867) in drunkenness, but that it was not so visible. He considered that this was in consequence of the repressive power of a police barracks in the middle of the population, and he said that a lawyer who had been in the habit of coming over to the police court to defend prisoners charged with drunkenness had ceased to do so, because there was not so much open drunkennesss. In other words, under the free licensing system not one single additional public-house has been opened. The mere fact of the magistrates steadily refusing to renew licences wherever a house was in the least disorderly has kept them down to their original number, even with an increase of population, and has prevented them creating the dangerous gin-palaces to which a large number of the houses in Liverpool have during the last few years been converted. And this brings me to the point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the House. I do not hesitate to say that the magistrates and police of England, if they would only enforce the existing laws, have ample powers in their hands to shut up one-third of the public-houses, and reduce, by at least a quarter, the crime of the Kingdom by simply refusing to renew the licences of any houses doing a disorderly trade. They did this in Luton, and they are, I am happy to say, taking steps in the same direction in Liverpool, and I believe also in Birmingham. When I was in Liverpool in January a man consulted me about a friend of his, who was anxious that his son should go in for the Civil Service examination. I found that the friend about whom he wished to consult me was a licensed victualler, that he was evidently a respectable man, anxious about the character and welfare of his children. His public-house was in a most respectable neighbourhood, and, presumably therefore, both from the character of the man and position of the house, doing a more respectable trade than I fear many public-houses in Liverpool. His friend told me that he was tired of the trade, and wanted to get out of it, for he could no longer carry it on with the same advantage as before; that since the new inspectors had been put on the police had increased their vigilance, the magistrates had become stricter, and the publicans were no longer allowed to sell drink to men who had had too much, without fear of an endorsement on their licences; and that this alone had reduced his takings by £700 a-year. Consider what an amount of evil and demoralization preventible under the present law, if strictly administered, that £700 a-year represents. Consider the benefit of such strictness applied to those parts of the town where drunkenness prevails and a drunken trade is more unscrupulously carried on. If the exertions of the friends of temperance were directed to force on magistrates this efficient execution, our present laws then would be able to accomplish much; and I would further urge that a strict, thorough, and complete examination of the facts, and experience of this and other nations should precede further legislation on the question. I think I have said enough to show that the loose but generally received popular impressions which have been so broadly asserted and so easily accepted are popular fallacies, and an unsound foundation for legislation. The Swedes seem to believe that their system of monopoly, of which the profits go to the community, is the right one. There is, on the other hand, a growing opinion in this country that the best system is what has been described as freedom with responsibility—namely, limiting the number of public-houses, not capriciously, but by preventing them from doing a drunken trade, and shutting up those that do it. Let both, be carefully examined, as well as the result of our present system—that strange system, enormously and artificially increased by the monopoly profits of the liquor traffic, the temptations to those that carry it on, their wealth and means to tempt others, and their power to make the enforcement of the law against drunkenness and disorder almost impossible.
Sir, I may say I am glad, at all events, that this Bill has been introduced to the House by the hon. Member. I have observed that some of those hon. Members who have expressed themselves ready to support him also say they are not prepared to go to the length of supporting all the details of the Bill. Therefore, I am glad to find the supporters of the Bill do not advocate entire suppression of the liquor traffic. I can assure them they will find that the Party which favours national sobriety is not limited to one side of the House—the object of all of us is to abolish as much as possible the amount of drunkenness in the country, and the only difference between us to-day is as to the best mode of carrying out that object. Then will the Bill of the hon. Member for Newcastle effect the purpose he has in view? If you take the power of control away from the justices, and transfer it to an elected Board, then I am very much inclined to think that the results will be the other way. I confess that I regretted in the early part of the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle to hear him make remarks which I think were unjust and unfair on the magistrates of the country. I venture to say that our magistracy do not use their power in licensing matters simply for the purpose of promoting Party or political interests. I believe that the great majority of them approach the subject of licensing quite as earnestly as hon. Members opposite, and are equally with them desirous to promote temperance. But when speaking of the magistrates we must remember what they have done, and judge them by their efforts during the last 300 years. It must be remembered that there have always been limitations to their power. In the present day the law has practically placed a restriction on them which has destroyed their power to deal wisely and judiciously with cases in their own localities as they arise. If we are to proceed to deal with the licensing system, would it not be better to improve so far as possible the machinery which already exists, and the working of which you know, and give to the magistrates their full powers, and see if they will notuse them with discretion and enforce them for the benefit of the country, and use their best endeavours for the diminution of the vice of drunkenness? Now, we have heard a variety of arguments used to-day to show why we should adopt the principle of this Bill, and we have been told that if we go to Sweden we shall see the advantages of investing Local Boards with this power. But I would remind hon. Members that the system in Sweden is very different from the system which is proposed under this Bill. For under this Bill you will have a perpetual change of licensing authorities accompanied with all the excitements of an election, and by the influences which we know are brought to bear on such elections. When elected, the Board will have the power of destroying the vested interests of a particular trade, and would place that trade in the future at the discretion of the newly-elected members of this Board. In my opinion, the main object of legislation on this subject would be destroyed and the trade lowered if the principles of this Bill were adopted, for no man with capital and respectability would like to go into a trade which is liable to be destroyed every three years. This is a point which has been lost sight of during the debate to-day. I believe that if you were to improve the character of those who carry on this trade, you would do more towards lessening the evils which you seek to check than you could possibly do under this Bill. If you have a Licensing Board this might occur:—a majority of one, holding temperance views, would destroy the whole trade of the district for three years, and then, where there is such an uncertainty, you would not get persons of character and respectability to come into the trade. Although the hon. Member for Newcastle has said that drunkenness has increased according to the facilities given to obtain licences, I do not believe that is a proposition which he would be able to support. We have heard the direct opposite from the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who quoted from statistics he himself moved for as to the number of public-houses and the number of convictions in towns. I will only mention one case. Out of the whole of these Returns the county to which the hon. Member belongs (Northumberland) stands at the top of the list for convictions for drunkenness, and the county which I have the honour to represent (West Essex) stands at the bottom. I will take two examples—in Durham there were 11,671 convictions for drunkenness, and 1,766 licensed houses. In Essex—and I do not forget the difference in the population—there were 507 convictions and 2,259 licensed houses; therefore, in Durham you have 10 convictions for every public-house, while you have 4½ public-houses in Essex for every conviction. If we look at the Bill which the hon. Member asks us to read a second time to-day, I confess that to me it bristles with objections. I see in that Bill a prospect of nothing but agitations. The Bill provides that the country should be divided into small electoral districts—practically about one-fourth or one-third of a Parliamentary district—and an election is to take place in them not less than once every three years. But the elections are not confined to three years, for there is to be a fresh election when any member dies or is incapacitated, or when a member caring so little for the honour done him neglects to attend the Board for six months. These elections must be carried out according to certain provisions—and supposing, as is most likely, the voting is to be by ballot, in each district only one-third the size of a Parliamentary district there must be polling-booths erected, and you must have all the machinery that is necessary for the election of a Member of Parliament; and, though the expense has been made a light thing of, yet I think the ratepayers will find it no slight burden. The Boards will have their paid officers, and the only restriction as to their salaries would be the approval of the Secretary of State. All expenses are to come out of the local rates. Now these local Boards are to be entrusted with powers which you do not give to your magistrates, for you give them power to decide cases without appeal. The magistrates of this country, supposed to be influenced by local circumstances, are to be succeeded by a body of men, who, as I think, would be a great deal more open to local influences, for they are living amongst the people and in daily intercourse with the people on whose application for licences they have to decide, and it is not to be supposed that private interests will not be brought to bear upon them. As an example, we had it in evidence from an Inspector of Police before the Select Committee that in the borough in which he resided it was impossible for the police to obtain convictions against disorderly houses in consequence of the Watch Committee refusing to allow cases to be brought before the magistrates; and this would show how local influence could be brought to bear against the promotion of temperance. If the magistrates instead of the Watch Committee had the power to deal with such matters in that borough, then drunkenness would not have been so rife in that borough. Any attempt to upset the present system should be approached more carefully than, as I think, it has been approached by the hon. Member. I do not think this Bill will carry out its object and the object which we all have—namely, the diminution of the vice of drunkenness, and for that reason it does not deserve to be read a second time.
said, he would not trouble the House with many observations in reply. He had only to say that the Bill had been discussed on points of detail—the issues that had been raised were side issues, and no attempt had been made to grapple with the principle of the Bill. He desired, therefore, to point out clearly the question upon which he asked a division. At the commencement of his observations he distinctly stated that the details of the Bill were of small consequence, were matters for future consideration, and if needed could be altered and amended; but the principle on which the Bill was founded was the principle of local option—the principle that the control of the licences should be left to local bodies popularly elected, and responsible to those whom they represented. All sides of the House were agreed that this trade must be regulated. At present the magistrates regulated the licensing. The magistrates were not popularly elected; they were an irresponsible body to a great extent; they held their offices for life; they were to a large extent drawn from a section of the community not affected by public-houses; and he thought, therefore, they were not the best to be entrusted with these powers. On the contrary, a body specially elected for the purpose of discharging these duties by the ratepayers, responsible to those who elected them and affected by their decisions, seemed to be the best qualified for the purpose. That was the principle of the Bill, and upon that and not upon the details he went to a division.
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 274: Majority 165.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Second Reading put off for six months.