HC Deb 21 April 1826 vol 15 cc534-5
Mr. Hobhouse

presented a petition from the Licensed Victuallers of St. James's Westminster, complaining of the present system of closing public-houses at night. According to the existing law, the magistrates had the power of punishing publicans for keeping their houses open at what were called "unseasonable hours," the definition of which they themselves had to decide upon. It was a great hardship that, under that regulation, publicans were liable to be punished, upon the statement of a common informer, without having any riot or disturbance in their houses. Tradesmen in general were unable to leave there business before ten or eleven at night, and it was too bad that they should be deprived of that fair recreation which they were in the habit of indulging in the parlours of public-houses. The publicans had no objection to clearing their tap-rooms, the place most likely to be visited by idle or disorderly persons, at the prescribed hour; but it was a hardship to close their doors and empty their parlours at that time. And to this they were subject; while oyster-shops, coffee-shops, saloons, and other disorderly places, were allowed to remain open all night. If the present system was persevered in, it would ruin the best part of the trade.

Mr. Estcourt

said, that the hon. member must be aware, that some such regulation as the present was necessary to preserve the quiet of the community; besides, there was, in those cases, an exception in favour of travellers. In the present state of the session, it would be ridiculous to think of carrying such an effective bill upon this subject as ought to be placed upon the Statute-book. He should therefore proceed no further with his measure this year. The most advisable course would be, to bring in a short bill to continue the present law for another year, and in the next session to make a new law altogether.

Mr. Hobhouse

regretted, that the hon. member did not mean to press his bill. As to the petitioners, they were anxious to be placed more under the inspection of their respectable neighbours, and less at the mercy of common informers.