HC Deb 21 May 1828 vol 19 cc855-9

Mr. Estcourt moved the second reading of this bill.

Mr. Heathcote

said, he highly disapproved of the clause which gave county magistrates a concurrent jurisdiction with the magistrates in cities and boroughs, where there were not six qualified. His constituents of Boston complained, that it would interfere with their chartered privileges. In two cases out of three there was no occasion for this bill, and it would frequently have the effect of punishing the innocent. To the clause which disqualified magistrates who were interested in public-houses, he was also averse. Such a provision would, in many places, incapacitate every lay magistrate on the bench: and with all due respect for the clergy, he thought that the subject ought not to be left entirely at their disposal. He was of opinion, that magistrates in general were too much disinclined to grant licenses.

Mr. Bernal

said, that the clauses alluded to, involved the whole principle of the bill. The hon. member for Oxford, by attempting too much, would be likely to fail altogether. Abuses might have crept into the licensing system; but that was no reason why the magistracy, as a body, should be aspersed. With respect to the clause which required the concurrent jurisdiction of county magistrates, no compulsory attendance was to be enforced by the bill. Nor did his hon. friend appear to consider the jealousies and rivalries that an occasional co-operation like this would most probably produce. To infer that all connected with public-houses were necessarily corrupt, was a harsh and unwarrantable conclusion; yet the bill conveyed this imputation. It would place county magistrates in a most embarrassing situation; as they would naturally feel a delicacy at coming into a corporate town, where they had not exercised any previous jurisdiction.

Sir R. Heron

was of opinion, that no benefit could arise from an increase of public houses. They tended to promote vice of every description, and encouraged a wasteful expenditure of money amongst the poor. He had had in his employment a hundred labourers for several years, and he seldom knew of any drunkenness among-them, in consequence of the neighbourhood being almost free from public houses.

Mr. Jones

considered the bill an infringement on chartered rights, and introduced magistrates where they hitherto had had no jurisdiction.

Mr. Slaney

wished to state the evils resulting from the present system. He would not put into the hands of any individuals a power affecting the price of what, in England, was considered the second necessary of life: such a power was contrary to the principles of free trade; and bethought that the general principle, that the demand of goods ought to regulate the number of venders, should be applied to this trade as well as to every other. Every man who could give security for good conduct was unquestionably entitled: to seek his livelihood as a publican. That the existing system had produced many evils was sufficiently evident from the returns which he had obtained. By the return of last; year, it appeared that in sixty collections of excise, into which England and Wales I (London included) were divided, there; were forty-nine thousand five hundred publicans, of whom twenty-three thousand, being above half the country publicans, brewed their own beer, the rest being served by brewers. In the London district, there were four thousand four hundred; and thirty publicans of whom only thirty-nine brewed their own beer. The second district comprehended Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hants, Berks, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Essex, in which there were nine thousand nine hundred and eighty-four publicans, of whom only eight hundred and twenty brewed their beer at home. The third district comprised Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Durham, and extended across the kingdom to Manchester and Liverpool: in this there were five thousand eight hundred and seventy-one publicans, of whom only five hundred and eighty-seven brewed at home. Of the whole twenty thousand two hundred and eighty-five publicans, only one thousand six hundred and thirty-six brewed at home. This vast district, containing between four and five millions of people, was supplied by eight hundred and twenty-five; brewers out of London, and one hundred and three in it; making but nine hundred and twenty-eight in all. In the districts comprising part of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Salop, all Wales, part of Somersetshire, Lancashire, Devonshire, &c, there were about fourteen thousand eight hundred j and ninety two publicans, and twelve thousand five hundred and forty-three brewed at home. The beer so provided was decidedly the best, as the trade was not injured by monopoly. By the duty on hops, maltsters, brewers, and publicans, the taxes arising from this exclusive system amounted to 8,737,000l. He did not see why more security should be required from the publican, than the guarantee for his good conduct; as the license could be taken from him when forfeited by misbehaviour. Thus the people were driven from the use of beer to spirits. It was an alarming fact, that whilst every other trade was increasing in the same period, the manufacture of malt, which, in 1787, was estimated to be thirty-four million of quarters yearly, continued nearly stationary, notwithstanding our increased population.

Mr. G. Bankes

considered the clause in the bill respecting the concurrent jurisdiction of county magistrates with corporate magistrates so objectionable, that he would rather the measure should be lost, than that this clause should form a part of it.

Lord Sandon

also opposed the clause.

Mr. Hume

thought the clause the best part of the bill. He was for opening the jurisdiction in such cases, as well as for taking oft" all restrictions on the trade in beer. In other countries, no injury resulted from allowing the sale of wine to be unrestricted.

Mr. C. Wood

, as he was aware of the evils of the present licensing system, would support the bill.

Mr. Calcraft

wished the bill success generally, although this clause certainly went to deprive corporators of their chartered rights. If this were not withdrawn, he should certainly oppose the bill.

Sir J. Sebright

considered the clause of such value to the public, that if passed as a separate act, it would be a greater boon than all the rest of the bill.

Mr. Secretary Peel

considered the public owed a debt of gratitude to the hon. member for Oxford. Although the general principal of throwing open trade was good, it should however be controlled by forethought and caution, as to the practically injurious effects likely to follow. If, as a matter of police, it was necessary to exert this control, it was the first duty of the legislature to see that it should not be liable to abuse. The power of the magistrates in regard to licensing was not a corporate right, or derived from charter, but from acts of parliament. He hoped the House would not throw out the bill, as the period had not arrived for considering the clauses separately.

Sir. J. Graham

concurred in the sentiments of the hon. member for Oxford, and j supported the bill.

Mr. Curteis

said, that as the bill was to come into operation mainly through the instrumentality of the high constables, and there was not such an officer in the county of Sussex, it would require alteration to adapt it to the licensing system in that particular county.

Mr. Estcourt

said, it was his original intention to have proposed the doing away with the licensing system altogether; but he had received such accounts from those best acquainted with the mischiefs to which it would probably lead, that he was induced to alter his course. As to the particular clause, he had no objection to postpone it to the committee.

Lord Belgrave

thought the clause calculated to lower the magistrates in the eyes of the people.

Mr. Baring

thought it would be better to do away altogether with the jurisdiction of the corporate magistrates, than to take from them the respect which they ought to possess.

The bill was read a second time.