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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

If Compensation Granted, by Whom, and to Whom to be Paid

If Compensation Granted, by Whom, and to Whom to be Paid.

But if after deliberate consideration it should be decided that compensation must in equity and good conscience be paid to somebody, three questions arise:—(i) To whom, and (2) by whom is it to be paid? (3) Where is it to stop?
a.To the first of these questions the usual answer would be, "the publican." But if we are correct in stating that he is at best only the temporary holder of a license, which has already expired before his claim arises; that he has no shadow of a right to a renewal in any court of law or equity; that in 80 cases out of 100 he is not the owner of the house, nor even of the furniture in it, but only an annual tenant from some brewer or other capitalist who really owns it and all that is in it, the tenant included; it is by no means evident that the publican is the man to recover the compensation.page 10
b.Is it then the owner of the house, the brewer, wine and spirit importer, or other capitalist? It is not easy to see where his claim comes in. It is not his name that is in the license, nor over the door; it is not he that is watched by the police or punished by the magistrate for breaches of the law; he has never been heard of in the transaction; there is no "privity," as the lawyers say, between him and the State. In fact we know nothing of this gentleman who moves in the higher spheres. What claim can he have? If he built the house and got its value doubled or trebled by his tenant having a license, does that give him a claim to compensation, when it is reduced to its cost value by his tenant's loss. He knows well enough the risk he runs when he builds the house. In the first place he knows his tenant may never get a license for it. In the second place he knows that as the law stands the tenant's license may at any time be forfeited for the tenant's misconduct, or he may fail to get a renewal at the pleasure of the Committee. He runs these risks for the sake of the large probable profits, and, like all gamblers, must bear the loss if he take the winnings. It was a mere speculation. The law has not been silent, but has given the same warning to him for years, at least since 1873.
c.But another question must be asked: If you begin to compensate where are you going to stop? If the brewer and publican are to be compensated, why not the barman, the barmaid, and all others who get a livelihood, often the only one they are fit to get, by the publichouse? The pawnbroker might put in his claim, for it is certain that if the publichouse were closed, his business would be gone. Half the police force might be discharged. The empty gaols, lunatic asylums, and hospitals, and pauper refuges, and reformatories would no longer require warders, nurses, or keepers. You would have all these on your hands. Nay, the poor wretched nightbirds, who shun the streets by day, and swarm in them under the flickering gas lamps, would cry out for compensation, for their miserable trade could not be carried on (so they tell us themselves) without the publichouse and its surroundings.