HC Deb 17 April 1822 vol 6 cc1458-60
Mr. Tierney

presented a petition from the land-owners of Maidenhead, in Berkshire, praying for a speedy change of regulations in the mode of licensing public-houses. The petitioners complained of the bad quality and needlessly high price of malt liquors; and suggested the propriety of granting licenses to individuals rather than to signs and houses; the effect of which would be to give a free trade to the publican, and enable him to change his brewer, if he found it convenient.

Mr. Wynn

thought, that the giving licenses to persons intead of houses would be attended with mischief. It was part of a magistrate's duty to say where a public house should be as well as who should keep it. If licenses were made personal, the holders might remove their residences at pleasure, and so two or three public-houses might be situated close to one another.

Mr. Grenfell

said, the intention was, not to interfere with the discretion of the magistracy, but to put the licenses into the hands of individuals, instead of affixing them to buildings.

Sir R. Wilson

doubted whether any licenses ought to be granted to such houses as were the property of brewers.

Mr. Bennet

trusted, that the House would not run away with so important a question. A proposition such as that, which his gallant friend had just hinted at, and which would put millions of property in jeopardy ought not to be looked at hastily. He intended, if he could find time in the present year, to bring in a bill for recasting the laws relative to the licensing and the regulation of public-houses.

Mr. Brougham

was happy to hear of his hon. friend's intention. The licensing system stood in lamentable need of a revision. Not only was the very large and wholly uncontrolled power held by magistrates over publicans most liable to abuse, but in some cases abuse of it had been proved. In many instances of complaint he was disposed to trace the fault rather to bad judgment in the licensing justice than to wilful abuse; but abuses had been shown; and he could not help thinking, that magistrates, in their discretion, were disposed to restrict the number of public-houses too far. To allow a monopoly to one house in each district, and that monopoly to a house belonging to, or connected with, a brewer, led immediately to the sale of an inferior commodity; and the result was an evil far greater than that against which the magistrate, in his caution, intended to provide: persons who, in other circumstances, would have drank good ale or beer, were compelled by the ill-quality of those beverages to drink bad spirits.

The petition was ordered to be printed.