Sunday, 24 December 2017

Nationalisation of the Drink Trade

Those temperance bastards made several attempts to use WW I as an excuse to restrict alcohol sales. And just because the war had ended, it didn’t mean they stopped trying.

The sneaky bastards had a few approaches to gradually introducing prohibition. One was the “local option” which allowed districts to hold a poll on whether to go dry or not. They’d been at this one since before the war and there were a couple of attempts to get a bill through parliament. They eventually succeeded after the war, but not for the whole country.

Only Wales and Scotland were burdened with the ridiculous local option. But it didn’t go according to the temperance bastards’ plan. They expected that more and more districts would vote for a local ban until there was full temperance. A few well-heeled districts voted to go dry initially, but these were gradually whittled down over the years as fresh polls overturned the original decision.

A second line of attack was nationalisation.  For which they used the Carlisle scheme as an argument. They seemed to assume that nationalisation would inevitable reduce the amount drunk. Not so sure exactly why they thought that. I’m pretty sure than after a few years there wasn’t any difference between the amount drunk in Carlisle and elsewhere.

Writing to The Times to-day on the liquor problem, Bishop Hamilton Baynes, of Birmingham (formerly, St. Mary’s, Nottingham), says:

The first condition of real reform is to eliminate the element of private profit. Till that is secured no real progress is possible. The Carlisle experiment has shown, beyond all question, what can be done by State purchase. The Labour party have taken up the cause with enthusiasm, and the Government are assured of strong support if they will but take their courage in their hands, and face the big task of buying out the trade.

It is true, no doubt, that many people who were strong supporters of State purchase at the beginning of the war are inclined to hesitate now, partly because, through the great rise in brewery shares, they are afraid that the price now demanded by the trade may be prohibitive, and partly because they fear to add the already vast indebtedness the country.

The answer to these objections is (1) that the principle the excess profits tax may surely be applied to the breweries, and the purchase price fixed on the average of pre-war values; and (2) that the substitution of Government bonds for brewery securities is a measure that need have no influence on the finance of the country.

The Government will, in fact, have made profitable speculation. For Carlisle has shown how, in spite of an immense decrease both in the number licensed houses and the drink consumed, the business is remunerative. We all hope that the consumption of alcohol will be greatly reduced as the result of State purchase and the reforms which that purchase will make possible. But over against the financial loss which such reduction would involve, it must be remembered that immense savings will effected by economies of management and concentration brewing in a comparatively small number of breweries.

When once the motive of private gain has been eliminated, and the monopoly value restored to the State, we shall have the clean slate which we have long desired, on which we may start fresh to inscribe a new and better system. Then, as in Carlisle, we can have something more like the Continental restaurant, where food as well as drink can be obtained — where a better moral atmosphere may reinforce a healthy public opinion and create self-respect.

The Dean Lincoln (the Rev. T. C. Fry) writes in the same journal:

Suffer me as a Churchman, a social student, and abstainer of over 40 years, to support the proposed policy of State purchase. Whatever prohibition can do in comparatively new countries, founded by the more adventurous folk ready to try experiments, in old countries it cannot become an accepted policy for at least two centuries. The only possible road of advance is nationalisation ; then no private interest will load the dice against reform. I only wish the Labour party had made it “plank" in 1915; it would have been carried then. Now the heavier price must be paid.”
Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 17 November 1919, page 1.

What self-righteous git the Dean of Lincoln was. I wouldn’t want to be sat next to him at dinner. Unless I’d had a few pre-prandial cocktails and was in a combative mood.

It’s weird how this idea persisted (and still does in some circles) that no-one in Continental Europe ever got pissed in a pub. They’ve obviously never been to Bavaria or the Czech Republic if they believe tosh like that.

1 comment:

InSearchOfKnowledge said...

Or Belgium for that matter. Do not forget the Wet Vandervelde of 1919, introduced to reduce the cases of public drunkenness.