HC Deb 21 May 1860 vol 158 cc1552-60

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.


said, it would greatly expedite the despatch of public business if the House would consent to consider the Amendments on the Refreshment Houses and Wine Licences Bill. If there was any desire on the part of any hon. Gentleman that the Bill should be recommitted he would not oppose the Motion, but there was great delay and inconvenience attending that course. All that he had to propose was a small number of Amendments of a verbal character, together with one, the object of which was to assimilate the notice to be given by applicants for wine licences to those now given by persons applying for licences to become licensed victuallers, and these might be considered with equal convenience on the Report. He moved that the Amendments be now received.


expressed his surprise at the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked them to adopt. A number of important clauses were agreed to at a late hour the other evening, pro formâ, which required discussion. The Bill, as it stood, was full of errors and anomalies. For instance, the duty to be levied on the sale of wine to be consumed on the premises was mentioned in the clause as if applicable only to foreign wines, while the licence included both British and foreign wines. It was also necessary that the House should know whether the measure was to extend in any respect to licensed inns and ale-houses, and if not, how the duties now applicable to innkeepers' licences were to be harmonized with the new duties payable under the Bill.


said his right hon. Friend was ready to go into Committee to discuss the new clauses, but it would not be desirable to rediscuss all the clauses which the Committee had already adopted.

House in Committee. Mr. DEASY in the Chair.

Instruction to the Committee on the Bill, that they have power to make provision for the amendment of the Acts 5 & 6 Will. IV. c. 39, and 10 and 11 Vict. c. 89.

Clauses 1 to 3 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 4 (Who shall be deemed to keep a Refreshment House),


wished to know whether shops at which tobacco was sold would come under the operation of the Bill, as houses for the sale of refreshment and places of public resort?


thought that tobacco-shops ought to be included, as they would thereby be brought under the superintendence of the police, in common with other shops open at night. The Bill would be, in his opinion, defective if it did not include tobacco-shops; but the clause had better be loft as it stood, without expressly naming these shops.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 (Confectioners and Eating-house keepers entitled to take out Licences to sell wine to be drunk on the premises).


said, there were persons who might wish to take out a licence to sell foreign wines whose rent was under £20 a year. He did not gather from the clause whether they were permitted to do so, or whether if they did so, they would have to pay the same rate as those whose rent was above £20 and below £50.


was understood to say that there was nothing in the Bill to forbid such persona selling foreign as well as British wines to be consumed on the promises. The rate would be according to the rent— namely, £3 13s. 6d.4 under £20; £4 4s. between £20 and £50; if above £50 of course they would have to pay £6 6s. the maximum rate.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 (Penalty for keeping Refreshment House without Licence, £20).


suggested, with reference to the powers of mitigating a penalty, the addition of the words "a sum not exceeding £20."

Amendment agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill, as were also Clauses 9, 10, 11.

Clause 12 (Notice of First Application for a Wine Licence for a Refreshment House, to be given to Justices, who may object to the granting thereof, on grounds to be stated).

MR. HUNT moved the insertion of words providing that the applicant should not within three years preceding have been convicted of any offence, or have been refused the renewal of his licence for any common inn, ale-house, or victualling house.


begged to assure the Committee that the clause had been drawn in as full and effectual a manner as was possible to embrace the views of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament which had sat upon the subject, who had held it to be of consequence that the characters of the keepers of these houses should be looked into. The clause, he believed, would supply all reasonable tests of character, and afford such facilities for rejecting persons of bad character as were capable of being practically applied.


did not believe the clause was worth the paper it was written on. Any person happening to fall within the personal disqualifications which it contemplated, and being what was called in "Queer Street" would feel some difficulty in forwarding his real name and place of abode, and would therefore be just as likely to send in "John Man-in-the-Moon, of Wakefield, Sudbury, Gloucester, and elsewhere," as any other. But he would be sure to look out a "mother;" such persons were always to be had for a consideration, who would manufacture pork pies one day, beef pies the next, and tripe and onions on the third. With a couple of "nice young ladies" to hand the pies, the establishment would make quite a respectable appearance; but he feared that whenever the policeman sent to make inquiries, pressed to see "the son" who had applied for the licence, he would be told that he had just stepped out, or perhaps that he had gone to the funeral of one of his wife's father's family, "either in or near Birmingham." Under such circumstances how would it be possible for the Magistrates to be certain of the identity of the man who had presented the requisition? He thought it would be a great advantage if this clause were expunged altogether.


approved the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He thought there was too much magisterial influence in the Bill already.


said, as the clause stood a man might be a ticket-of-leave man, and yet obtain a licence under this clause. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in thinking that this clause was perfectly illusory, and that it was intended to be illusory by the framers of the Bill. He should be sorry it should go forth that the justices of the peace were only disposed to do that which was convenient and agreeable to themselves.


said, it appeared to him, so far as he could understand the discussion, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) in remarking that the clause was illusory, had rather understated the case. He (Mr. Bentinck) believed the clause as it was framed to be one to enable persons of the worst description of character to open houses of this kind, which would lead to all sorts of disorderly practices, and tend to the discredit and immorality of the country. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had rather anticipated those objections, inasmuch as he understood him to say that it was a mere matter of opinion whether the man obtaining the licence be a man of good character or not. At all events, the right hon. Gentleman was bound not to leave the question in so vague and uncertain a state as it then was, but to take care that the class of men to be licensed must possess a character not dependent altogether upon mere opinion, but upon fact. What was wanted was some effectual check upon men of bad character being allowed to obtain licences for those refreshment-houses. If any hon. Gentleman chose to move the omission of the clause he should be glad to support him.


considered that the clause, as it stood, would be perfectly useless.


said, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had not done justice to the magistrates in supposing that they were only inclined to act in cases that gave them little trouble. The magistrates were not a body who were disposed to shrink from any duty because it might be a little unpleasant. What they complained of was that duties were placed upon them which it was next to impossible they could perform. How was it possible that they should obtain such a knowledge of every applicant for a licence, as would enable them to exercise their veto with propriety and justice? Then if anything went wrong great blame would be thrown upon the magistrates for a state of things it was impossible they could provide against. He thought it would be much better if these houses were put on the same footing as regarded their licences as beerhouses.

Clause, as amended, agreed to, as were Clauses 14 to 19 inclusive.

Clause 20 (What shall be deemed Foreign Wine, and what deemed Spirits),


said, this was a clause which afforded a remarkable illustration of the difference between the Bill and the reasons given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for its introduction. They had been told that the object of the measure was to encourage the consumption of French wines, and thereby to promote temperance amongst the people. But the clause now under consideration referred to an article it called wine, containing 40 per cent of proof spirits. There was no such wine manufactured from the grape. There were compounds made abroad composed of wine, brandy, elderberries, and sugar, and which came back to this country under the name of wine; because the duty was so high it was thought desirable to have the spirit as strong as possible. The clause, therefore, would have the effect of introducing into this country compounds of a vile character, and calculated to produce intemperance rather than to discourage it. He thought that, instead of 40 per cent of proof spirit, the clause ought to say 18 or 20 per cent of proof spirits, so as to accord with the natural production of wine.


thought the hon. Gentleman suggested lather an arbitrary Amendment when he spoke of 18 per cent. The old law of England with regard to wine was, that it should have 23 per cent of spirit; but the limit had now been raised to 40 per cent in the Customs. The hon. Gentleman must see that it was impossible to have one law for the Customs and another for the Excise.


said, that the professed object of the right hon. Gentleman —namely, that of encouraging the sale and consumption of light wines—had been totally lost sight of, because the required per centage of proof altogether did away with it. He (Mr. Bentinck) had no doubt that the Bill would increase the profits of the vendors of liquors; but he felt convinced that it would not promote the health and morality of the people. On the contrary, he believed the effect of the measure would be to increase drunkenness and immorality. The right hon. Gentleman had shown, with the perspicuity which distinguished all his proceedings, that he, too, foresaw clearly what the result of his scheme would be; but he seemed to be perfectly indifferent to those results so long as it was successful in producing an increased revenue. The substitution of the word "liquor" — which substitution the right hon. Gentleman had agreed to— would cover the Bill with disrepute. It would be a disgrace to the statute-book.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pledge himself that he would at the earliest moment reduce the maximum amount of proof spirit to 30 per cent. Even that amount seemed high, and he should be surprised to find that naturally so much would be produced by any grapes.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 (Licences to be void on Conviction of Felony, or selling Spirits without Licence).


said, he thought that no man who was well known to be of bad character ought to be permitted to have a licence under this clause. He would, therefore, propose to introduce the words, "or be of notoriously bad character," after the words "convicted of felony."


thought this question had been disposed of in an earlier part of the evening. If the Amendment were agreed to, there would be no locus penitentiœ to any man who might have been a bad character, but who had become reformed.

Amendment negatived.


then proposed that before the words "clerks of the peace," the words "clerk of assize or" should be inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 22 to 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 (Hours for opening and closing Houses licensed for Sale of Wine by Retail),


made a suggestion that words should be introduced placing shops licensed to sell wine in bottle under the same restrictions as public-houses in respect to opening on Sundays,


said, that the statute of Charles, prohibiting the sale of commodities on Sundays, would apply to wine sold in bottle, which was a commodity. If the special restriction suggested by his hon. Friend were inserted in the Bill now under discussion, such restriction would have the effect of giving the keepers of refreshment houses an advantage over persons who would sell wine in bottle.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 27 to 30, inclusive.

Clause 31 (Penalties for Offences in Refreshment-houses).

MR. AYRTON moved the insertion of words which would have the effect of leaving eating-house keepers not having spirit licences in the position in which they were now placed as regarded being obliged to send out for any wine which a customer might call for.


thought that if the Bill was to pass, it would be better to leave it as it now stood in this respect.


mentioned that one of the largest eating-house keepers in the City had been asked why he did not take out a spirit licence. His reply was, that he preferred being without one. He did not want young men to remain after their dinner to drink, and his telling them that he had to send out for wine or spirits had the effect of making them leave immediately after dinner.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 32 to 39 inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 40 (Covenants against Houses, & c, being used as Public-houses to extend to Persons licensed to sell Wine under this Act).


said, be believed it was the constant practice in leases granted by the highest personage in the realm, and by such large landowners as the Duke of Bedford, Earl Fitzwilliam, and Viscount Palmerston, to insert covenants that public- houses should not be erected upon their property. That was, in his opinion, a very proper proceeding, and as the clause before the Committee confirmed these distinguished persons in its exercise, he saw no reason why a corresponding power should not be vested in the country at large. He therefore proposed to strike out this clause and to insert one of a more comprehensive character, giving the power of preventing public-houses being opened in any locality to the rate-payeers of the district.


said, there was nothing in the present clause incompatible with such a clause as the lion. Gentleman suggests, if he thought proper to propose it to the Committee.


expressed a hope that the hon. Member would not oppose a clause which was inserted in the Bill for the purpose of preventing the violation of covenants.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.


proposed that, as they had gone through this Bill, and they were pledged to give consideration this evening to another very important Bill—the Bankruptcy Bill—the new clauses should be discussed on bringing up the report.

Upon the Question that the Chairman report the Bill to the House,


asked the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to a clause he wished to introduce, repealing section 7 of the statute of the 5 & 6 Will. IV., chap. 39. It was introduced into an Act for a totally different purpose, and was never acted upon till the year 1858. The Act in question was passed to meet a legislative error with reference to spirits.


rose to order. It was not then competent for the hon. and learned Member to discuss the clause. He must do so on the bringing up the Report.


said, he was in an unfortunate position, because when he was just now about to rise to put his question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer relative to the clause, he was told he could not say anything then, but must wait till the Chairman moved that the Bill be reported, and immediately on his proposing to do so, he was again stopped. He wished to ascertain the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the clause he wished to propose.


said, the hon. and learned Member was not at liberty then to discuss the provisions of his proposed clause. He must give notice of it if he wished to bring it before the notice of the House.


said, the clause he complained of crept into a former Bill, and it gave powers to the Excise to grant licences without the intervention of magistrates to theatres. Great abuses had arisen from it, and former Governments had consented to an alteration of the law with respect to that power. He therefore wished to know if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would oppose the introduction into this Bill of a clause repealing the one he had referred to.


said, the question involved in the clause the hon. Member sought to repeal was really one of police and good conduct, not of revenue, and therefore came under the consideration of the Home-office. If it was the opinion of the Home-office that the clause ought to be repealed, he should offer no objection. But whether it should be repealed by a clause introduced into the present Bill was another matter. He did not think it germane to a Bill that dealt with wine licences.

House resumed; Bill reported; as amended to be considered To-morrow.