Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

to read the provisions of the Bill. It is distinctly provided in the First Schedule that 'modifications may be made in the strict application of the scale of proportion of licences to population where the number of persons resorting to the place during special seasons of the year or special times of the day' is greater than the census population.

Mr. Pratt deprecates vigorous reduction, restriction, and control of public-houses, and he dislikes the proposals of the Licensing Bill. He advises us to seek the improvement of the public-house, and his ideas run out in the direction of promoting the sale of beer and thereby diminishing the consumption of spirits, and he is accustomed to point to Denmark as the object-lesson of the operation of his theory. Unfortunately for him, he is from seventy to one hundred years behind the times. His views are practically those which led to the passing of the Beer Act of 1830 and the refreshment house and grocer's licence Acts of a generation later, which were admittedly great legislative blunders. The promoters of those Acts agreed with Mr. Pratt in thinking that increased facilities for obtaining drink did not and would not promote its consumption. In 1830 they had similar ideas to his as to improving the public-house and promoting the consumption of cheap and wholesome' beer. The results of their policy were disastrous. The Beer House Act came into operation in October, 1830, and by the end of the year 24,000 additional licences had been taken out under it. Within a fortnight Sydney Smith wrote, “ The new Beer Bill has begun its operations. Everybody is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state.'

A Select Committee of the House of Lords, reporting on this experiment in 1850, said:

[ocr errors]

The Committee have no hesitation in saying that the expectations of those who proposed the existing system of licensing have not been realised. Their object was to create a class of refreshment-house, respectable in character, brewing their own beer and diminishing, by the supply of a cheap and wholesome beverage, the consumption of ardent spirits. But it appears that, of these houses, only one-twelfth brew their own beer. A large proportion of publichouses are the actual property of brewers, or tied by advances to them. These houses are notorious for the sale of an inferior article, and the consumption of ardent spirits has far from diminished.

We owe the serious increase of drinking among women largely to Mr. Gladstone's legislation of the early sixties.

The experience of Denmark is instructive. The consumption of spirits there is nearly three times as great per head as it is in the United Kingdom and from 25 to 100 per cent. more than in any other European country. In France, where the facilities for obtaining drink have been practically unlimited, the consumption of alcohol is three times as great per head as here, and intemperance is rapidly

being recognised as one of the most pressing problems the nation has to face. On the other hand, the restrictive and controlling policy of Norway has had precisely the opposite effect. There temptations have been diminished and facilities reduced with the result that there has been a marked diminution in the consumption of alcohol and a most gratifying change in the habits and social condition of the people. But the defenders of the methods of the liquor trade ignore facts and experience and go on spinning theories out of their own imagination.

For more than a century the liquor trade has been developing a mistaken policy, and during the last twenty-five years brewers have rushed headlong in a direction which has proved disastrous to many of them. When they departed from their ordinary business as brewers and wholesale traders supplying retail dealers, and commenced the policy of acquiring licensed properties and tying publicans to their breweries, they made a fundamental mistake. It was a departure which involved an abuse of the licensing system and an evasion of the obvious intention of the law. It, undoubtedly, was and is contrary to public policy. When the system was in its infancy its evils were recognised by Parliamentary Committees, and some of them expressed strong views with regard to it. A Select Committee of the House of Commons which reported in 1818 said :

The Committee view with apprehension the spread of proprietary public. houses.

The abuse of the licensing system is in progress in the country, and seems to be producing still more injurious effects there than in the metropolis.

It further appears that not only brewers, but maltsters and spirit merchants also purchase public-houses ; and brewers bind their proprietary houses to the spirit merchants, who, in turn, perform the same service for the brewers. The liquor then becomes inferior.

They described the system as 'a confederacy which is injurious to the interests of the poor and middling classes,' and 'earnestly called on the magistrates in the country to lend their aid to break it down.' They concluded by making the following recommendation, which is of peculiar interest in view of the proposals of the Bill which is now before the country : The committee suggest the enactment of some prospective law which, at a given period, shall direct the magistrate to refuse licences to such houses as shall be shown to be in substance the property of a brewer.'

One object of the Beer House Act of 1830 was to break down the tied-house system and the monopoly of the brewers by establishing free trade in beer. Had an adequate licence duty been charged so as to keep the number of licensed houses within reasonable limits and yet allow anyone to have a licence who was willing to pay the price, the monopoly would have been destroyed without flooding the country with beer-houses and drunkenness. VOL. LXIII--No, 375

3 B

The difficulty which was growing up a hundred years ago has attained serious dimensions during the last quarter of a century, and, if it be not grappled with, will become greater and more formidable as licences are reduced in number and the population grows. There cannot be any effective control of the liquor trade unless the State is in a position to exercise.full dominion over its own licences. It cannot do that unless it is in full possession of them, and it cannot be in full possession of them if the holders of them are in any way recognised as having any financial interest in or other claim upon them beyond the term for which they may be issued. If a licence be granted in return for a payment which is enormously below its actual value to the person who gets it, it becomes equivalent to a large monetary gift to him; and not only is an injustice done to other members of the community, but the State must inevitably find its hands tied when it desires to deal with that licence as it may think best in the public interest. One of the chief objects of the present Bill is to abolish that anomaly and thus remove the great obstacle which at present blocks the way to all effective temperance reform. The State must resume full possession of and control over its own licences, and it can only do so by requiring that their proper value shall be paid for them.

Mr. Pratt appears to think that we are getting on very well as we are. He tells us that there has been vast improvement,' and that progress is now, being made' rapidly.' Indeed, the outcome of it all, apparently, is that Parliament need not do anything. We cannot forget, however, that the Majority Report of the Royal Commission on the Liquor Licensing Laws, which sat in 1896-9, declared : It is undeniable that a gigantic evil remains to be remedied, and hardly any sacrifice would be too great which would result in a marked diminution of this national degradation.'

Both Reports, representing the findings of the Commission as & whole, differed from Mr. Pratt. Even the Majority Report did not take the view which he so persistently preaches as to the needlessness and uselessness of reducing the number of licensed houses. It said :

The habit of needless indulgence in luxuries of all kinds, including superfuous drinking falling short of actual drunkenness, has probably increased...

It is generally admitted that the number of licences in a great many parts of England and Wales is in exoess of the requirements. ...

Where an excessive and unnecessary number of licensed houses are crowded together in a limited area, more drinking does probably prevail and a large reduction is much to be desired. ...

We regard a large suppression of licences as essential.

When we remember that this Report was signed by the eight members of the Commission who were personally directly engaged in the liquor trade, and sat on the Commission as its chosen representa

tives, the importance of these pronouncements and of many of the recommendations which followed it is accentuated.

Do facilities and temptations promote drinking? It would be contrary to almost universal experience if they did not. The increase of facilities for travelling in London by means of trams, tubes, and motor-'buses has very largely increased the number of those who ride instead of walk. The multiplication of Aerated Bread Company's, Lyons’, Slater's, Pearce's, Lockhart's, and other shops has enormously developed the consumption of non-alcoholic refreshments. The great increase in the supply of, and the facilities for purchasing newspapers and periodicals has developed a sale which was deemed impossible years ago.

Does not the action and policy of brewers and publicans prove that they know that facilities and temptations do promote consumption ? Why do licence-holders continually make new entrances, and open doors in passages and back-yards, when the licensing justices do not prevent them? Why do they obscure their windows, construct snugs, screens, and partitions in their bars, so that their customers may not only be hidden from the view of passers-by, but may also avoid observation by each other? Is it not that they know that many people will drink, if they can do so unseen and can slip in unobserved, who would be ashamed to tipple in public? Why do they want singing and dancing licences, and why do they get up goose clubs, poultry, pigeon, rabbit, flower and vegetable shows, and all manner of competitions? If as much drink would be sold in fewer houses, why do they not arrange amongst themselves to close some of the houses in congested areas, and increase their profits by doing as large a trade in fewer houses, and consequently at a smaller working cost? Why press for new licences if as much drink will be sold in the houses already licensed ? Why do they oppose Sunday closing and decline to have the enormous boon which a day of complete freedom and rest would be, if they really believe that their customers would buy their drink on the Saturday and take it home for Sunday? If they thought they would sell as much in six days as they do in seven, is there a sane man amongst them who would decline to join in general Sunday closing ?

If the prevalence of temptations to drink, in the form of facilities for doing it, do not promote drinking, how is it that publicans are heavier drinkers than any other class of the community and die of alcoholism and the diseases which drinking causes and promotes to an extent which is as astounding as it is terrible? The trade of selling intoxicating liquors by retail is the deadliest occupation in which men can be engaged in this country; and it is deadly because it presents unequalled temptations to take drink and constant facilities for getting it.

Every ten years the Medical Superintendent of Statistics in the office of the Registrar-General of Births, Marriages, and Deaths reports on the mortality of men who are engaged in a number of selected and representative occupations. The last three of these decennial Reports have borne repeated and emphatic testimony to the fact that alcoholic liquors are deadly to those who make and sell them. The last of these Reports was published in 1897. The next one is now due. The 1897 Report showed that during the three years for which the particulars were compiled, the comparative mortality of men between twenty-five and sixty-five years of age in England and Wales being taken as 1000, the deaths among publicans of those ages in industrial districts were 2030, or more than double. If publicans, hotel-keepers, spirit, wine and beer dealers, and the barmen and other servants employed by them be combined, their death-rates, as compared with men generally and with occupied men, is stated to be as follows, the death-rate of all males (between twenty-five and sixty-five) being taken as 1000 :

Publicans

Occapied Vales

In London.
In industrial districts
In agrioultural districts

1838
1948
1348

1147 1248 687

The appalling mortality of publicans and their employees between twenty-five and sixty-five years of age is further illustrated by the following comparative mortality figures, all males being taken as 1000 : Publicans and their servants, 1659; fishermen, 845; railway engine drivers, 810; carpenters, 783; ironstone miners, 774; shipwrights, 713 ; agricultural labourers, 632.

File-makers, lead-workers, potters, cutlers, glassworkers, tin, lead, and copper miners and workers, seamen, and chimney sweeps are engaged in notoriously deadly or dangerous occupations, but it is safer to be employed in them than in a public-house in London or in the industrial districts.

To what is the terribly excessive mortality of the liquor trade due ? A table in the Registrar-General's Report supplies the answer, by showing that the deaths from alcoholism amongst publicans as compared with deaths from that cause amongst occupied males, the latter being taken as 100, were as follows:

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

These figures show that publicans in England and Wales die seven times as fast from alcoholism as do occupied males.

« AnteriorContinua »