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PUBLICANS AND PHARISEES. I Mr Acland's amendment to the first clause of the Local Taxation Bill was rejected on Friday last. It is to be hoped that the remain- ing clauses may be disposed of with less waste of time. The only practical result of the debate has been to show the chameleon character of Mr Gladstone and the other leaders of the Liberal Paity. The elasticity of their views upon the compensation clauses is marvellous, and fully bears out the remarks made by Professor Tyndall, that whatever Mr Gladstone utters is adopted and repeated by the Liberal Press and Party with the unfail- ing accuracy of a phonograph. When it suited his purpose Mr Gladstone told us in speaking of publicans, that "considering the legislative, title thetj had acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings uf the House Jor (t long series of gears, they ought not to be placed at a disadvantage on I account of the particular impression we may entertain in relation to the mischief connected with the present licensing system." Again in 1SS0 Mr Gladstone said that "We ought not to allow our prejudices with regard to this particular trade to cause us to deviate by a hair's breadth from the principle that Parlia- ment has always acted upon, namely, that when a vested interest has been created, the question of compensation should be considered when such vested interests are proposed to be dealt with by Parliament." The oracle hav- ing spoken, it is not surprising that his followers, not only endorsed the principle, but went further and enlarged upon it. Sir William Harcourt declared that Some people wanted to meddle with the rights of the owners of public houses, and unless we set our faces against the whole system, liberty itself would suffer." Mr Morley went further, and wrote that lie should strongly oppose any legislation which should overlook the fact, that immense capital has been embarked in the trade, in the ordinary expectation that the trade would not be interfered with." Compensation for dis- turbance was the avowed principle of the Liberal Party ten years ago, how do they justify their sudden change of front ? A Conservative Government in 1890 brings in a Bill that embodies, in a mild form, the very principles so strongly advocated by Mr Gladstone, Mr Morley, and Sir Win. Harcourt in 1880; we naturally expected these gentle- men to prove their consistency by helping to pass the Bill into law, but they are in deadly hostility to it. Sir Will. Harcourt is no longer prepared to stand up for liberty; and Mr Gladstone is prepared to deviate widely from his principles when the opportunity presents itself for hampering or obstructing his political opponents. Mr Gladstone professes himself satisfied with the present law of licensing, but com- plains that it has been administered with too lavish a hand. May be that it has. Magistrates like other persons have individual views, and there are not wanting some who extend the principles of free trade into the business of the publican, with the I eSlllt that licensed houses have multiplied in localities where they are not perhaps absolutely required. It is the fault of the law that it did not limit the discretionary power of the licensing authority, yet when it is proposed to improve that law by prohibiting the issue of new licenses, Mr Gladstone is prominent in opposition. Mr Gladstone is anxious to throw the onus of the suppression (without compensation) of public houses upon the County Councils, fondly imagining that they would at once enter upon the task—would they ? We have a higher opinion of our Council members and ot their sense of justice than he has, we do not believe that they would compass the ruin of any particular class of the community. There is, however, another factor that would reflect with peculiar strength upon the members of the Councils the liquor interest is a powerful force, and embraces many interests outside its immediate circle, these would all have to be taken into account at the triennial election, and might well cause the heart of the stoutest candidate to quail. If injustice is con- ternplated to their body, the liquor interest properly organised and set in motion will im- peril many a seat. Theoretically the Councils ought to be the licensing authority, and no I doubt in time will be, but that they, an elected body, will exercise their powers, when the time comes, in a more stringent manner than the magistrates, is extremely doubtful. It was always open to the interested public to oppose the granting of licenses, and if they did not avail themselves of their opportunities they have themselves to blame. At the present moment Bung and his fortunes arc the sport of political parties, and form a convenient field of battle, but putting aside political exigencies it is impossible to argue with any sense of justice, that it is right to withdraw a license, and to ruin a well conducted publican, who has invested capital in his business on the strength of Mr Gladstone's assurance that he had a vested interest in his trade, and should be compensated if disturbed, having acquired a legislative title; or of Sir Wm. Harcourt's declaration that to interfere with the publicans rights would be to interfere with liberty. There are, however, a vast number of publicans who have invested little or no capital, who derive a very precarious income from their business, and whose interest could be acquired at small cost. Under the provisions of the present Bill, the Councils might do much to lessen the number of these houses, and if such action proved beneficial it should not be beyond the power of our legislators to devise an equitable plan for further reduction. The opposition to the tentative scheme of the Government savours too much of intolerance and oppressiveness. tA

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