HC Deb 07 May 1862 vol 166 cc1345-53

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he rose to move the following Resolution:— That, in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient to sanction any further Legislation on the subject of Public Houses in Scotland which does not consolidate as well as amend the present Acts. The promoters of the Bill were not justified in asking for further legislation on the subject, before they clearly stated what they required the House to do. There were several Acts in force re relating to public-houses in Scotland, and the whole of the law ought to be consolidated, for it was almost impossible to con- strue the meaning of the clauses in several Acts of Parliament. It was the duty of the House to take care that their legislation should be clear, so that the magistrates in Scotland might be enabled to understand the law and properly enforce it. The Bill would in its then shape introduce nothing but confusion. As an instance, he might mention that he (Mr. Craufurd) was of opinion that it repealed a certain proviso in the Forbes-Mackeuzie Act. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Mure) said it did not. In that way, then, were two lawyers differing on a particular point; and if they did so, how was it likely that people not learned in the law would be able to construe it satisfactorily. As there was plenty of time left to reconsider the Bill during the Session, ho would suggest that it should be postponed for a week or two, and he would most willingly lend a helping hand to amend the Bill if the hon. and learned Gentleman who had the conduct of it would permit him to do so. But he should be glad to know why the learned Lord Advocate had not undertaken the task of framing a Bill on the subject, instead of leaving the work to an independent Member? Was the Report of a Royal Commission, he would ask, to remain a dead letter? The Government ought to introduce a measure which would do honour to them and be beneficial to the whole of Scotland.


seconded the Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient to sanction any further Legislation on the subject of Public Houses in Scotland which does not consolidate as well as amend the present Acts, —instead thereof.


said, he was convinced that the hon. and learned Member did not wish merely to obstruct the passage of the measure; but the effect of his Resolution, if carried, would be to prevent any legislation upon this subject during the present Session. The Bill was founded upon the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners, who had made no suggestion of consolidation. The Select Committee of last Session had been equally silent upon that point. The measure was one generally approved in Scotland, and calculated to do much good; and having regard to the period of the Session, and the difficulty of a private Member obtaining a day or night for making progress with a measure, he would not consent to postpone this Bill. The Bill had been printed and in the hands of hon. Members since the 7th April, and therefore he hoped the House would go into Committee and proceed with the consideration of the Amendments on the paper without further delay.


said, he thought there was a general admission that consolidation of the laws relating to public houses in Scotland was desirable, if there were only time to carry it out during the Session. He could not help thinking, that if there were not time enough to attain so desirable an object, it was the fault of those who were in charge of the Bill, for some weeks ago he had given notice of his opinions as to the necessity of consolidation —opinions which were shared by many, if not by most, of the Scottish Members. The subject had been discussed in the Select Committee; and although no recommendation had been made, yet the individual members of that Committee had expressed strong opinions concerning it. He wondered, indeed, that such a piece of patchwork in legislation should have been offered to the consideration of the House. Instead of having a clear and lucid state of the law it was proposed that there should be three Acts of Parliament on the subject; and considering the position of the persons who would be most affected by the provisions of the Bill, it would be impossible to expect them to peruse and understand the law, indeed, it could hardly be expected that the justices of the peace who would have to administer the law, but who were not lawyers, should be able to properly construe several Acts of Parliament on the same subject. As one week or two was all that was required to consolidate the law, there would be no danger of the Bill not being passed into law during the Session if that short time was allowed by the promoters of the Bill. He was not unfriendly to legislation on the subject. He wished for an improvement of the present law, but he should like it in the shape of a consolidation of the existing Acts.


observed, that he did not think that the Justices of the Peace were any the worse for not being lawyers. He quite agreed that consolidation was desirable; but if the effect of adopting the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Ayr would be to throw over the Bill from this Session, he could not support it. There had been a general expression of opinion in Scotland in favour of passing the Bill in the present Session, and therefore he hoped the House would proceed to discuss the clauses in Committee.


said, the Royal Commission appointed in 1859 sat at ten different places, and took evidence in open court. The evidence so taken was published from day to day in the local papers, and thus all Scotland was made acquainted with the action of the Commissioners. The result of an investigation so conducted had been to silence the clamour that had arisen against the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. The Report of the Commissioners was based upon the evidence, and thus it might be taken as an echo of the general opinion in Scotland. The Commissioners individually might have thought consolidation would be an advantage, but it was not within their province to make any recommendation upon that point. He approved of consolidation; but as delay would be fatal to the passing of the Bill during the Session, he hoped the House would proceed with it, and consider the subject of consolidation in the next Session. The Bill itself was not intended to increase restriction, but was a defensive measure to enable a majority of the people of Scotland to protect themselves against the iniquities which were the results of intemperance.


said, he fully admitted the advantages of consolidation, but as he believed the Bill to be a good one, the question with him was whether, if postponed, there would be a chance of losing it altogether. It was well known that there was great danger from delaying Bills in the hands of private Members. He should therefore vote for going into Committee, on the understanding that a consolidation of the law would be attempted next Session.


said, he also would admit the convenience which would result from consolidation, but there was always a difficulty in combining new legislation with a consolidation of the existing law. If they had to go over the Forbes-Mackenzie Act again, there would be no chance of passing any Bill on the subject in the Session; and that being so, it would be better to defer the work of consolidation for another year.


said, he was willing that they should go into Committee, on the understanding that the Consolidation Bill should be submitted to them subsequently.


intimated, that according to his opinion the clauses only that were indispensable should be passed, and that they should go no further.


said, he wished to know whether the hon. and learned Member for Bute (Mr. Mure), who had charge of the present measure, was prepared to give a pledge, that if it were passed this Session, he would next year bring forward a Consolidation Bill.


said, it would be a very unusual proceeding to exact a promise from a private Member of the House that he would introduce a particular Bill in the course of another Session.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (Regulating Period for granting Certificates).


said, he would move the addition of words, providing that all appeals from the decisions of the Magistrates and Justices should, from and after the passing of the Act, be taken to the Sheriff of the county.


said, that the opinion of the Royal Commissioners was against the appointment of the sheriff as an appeal judge in these cases. Their report recommended that a selection should be made from the justices, who should be chosen by their own body to act as a court of appeal. The granting of licences was not exactly the kind of cases which a sheriff was best able to determine, for the question involved was not one of law, but of discretion.


said, he thought it highly desirable that the appellate jurisdiction, as embodied in the clause, should be altered; and although the sheriff might not be the best possible person to determine such appeals, yet there was no doubt that, being the equivalent in Scotland of a stipendiary magistrate, he was in a perfectly independent position, and would not be subjected to any canvassing, while, from his legal knowledge, he was more fitted to interpret Acts of Parliament than the ordinary magistrates.


, as an abstract question, was entirely in favour of the Amendment. There was no doubt that every care ought to be taken to pre- vent an appeal being determined by the same magistrates who had determined the question in the court below; but, perhaps, the object which they all had in view would be better served by leaving appeals to be determined by a general committee of magistrates, appointed by the magistrates themselves.


said, that the sheriff had been described as the local stipendiary magistrate in Scotland. But in England no one thought of giving an appeal to the stipendiary magistrate from the justices, and why should a different practice prevail in Scotland?


said, that the sheriff in many instances was a member of the licensing court, and therefore an appeal to the sheriff would be in those cases an appeal from the sheriff to the sheriff.


said, it appeared to him that it was not desirable to impose upon the sheriff the petty task of inquiring into the expediency of licensing a public-house in any particular district. The best mode of dealing with the subject would be, in his opinion, to give the appeal from the justices who had already decided upon an application for a licence to some select committee of their body.


said, he thought it would be a great mistake to make the stipendiary magistrate superior to the other magistrates upon, not a legal question, but a social arrangement.


said, he believed the general opinion of the Committee was, that the appeal should be to a committee of the justices named by themselves. He hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would introduce some provision into the Bill which would give effect to that view of the matter.


said, he would endeavour to frame a clause to that effect.


then said, he would not press his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Forms of Certificates).


moved a proviso, enabling any retail dealer, who was also a wholesale dealer, to send out on permit the articles specified in his certificates at other hours than were specified in his certificates. It would be a hardship if the wholesale dealer were prevented from sending out two gallons or a puncheon of whisky to his country customers, except in the hours during which a retail dealer was allowed to open.


said, that if a wholesale dealer, who was also a retail dealer, were allowed to open at any hour for the supply of his wholesale customers a wide door would he open to abuse.


said, there were two points involved. One was, that without the addition it would be impossible for those living at small distances from country towns to get liquors at the same time that they got their other provisions, and to have them delivered by the same vehicles. The other point was, that the proposed change would affect the present law against the opening of public-houses for retail purposes before eight o'clock in the morning. He must say that a greater boon could not be conferred on Scotland, because the working man would not now be able to procure spirits before eight o'clock in the morning.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 3 to 5 inclusive.

Clause 6 (Chief Magistrate or Justices on special Occasions may grant Permission to keep open during particular Times).


moved additional words, providing that nothing contained in the clause "should authorize the sale of any exciseable liquor, at any place not specified in an Excise licence, granted in that behalf."

Clause, as amended, agreed to; as was also Clause 7.

Clause 8 (Form of Applications for Certificates).


said, he wished to insert, after the word "annexed," the following proviso:— That the Justices in quarter sessions, to whom any appeal shall be made from a deliverance, granting or refusing, or otherwise disposing of any application for a certificate, may by themselves or any one or more of their number inspect the premises for which a certificate is applied, and make the said report.

Proviso agreed to.


said, he begged to move the addition of another proviso, requiring— The town clerks of those Parliamentary burghs, the magistrates of which were not authorized to grant certificates, to pay to the clerks of the peace of their counties two-thirds of the fees received by them in respect of licences during the time such clerk of the peace shall continue to hold office.

Proviso, by leave, withdrawn. Clause agreed to.

Clause 9 omitted.

Clauses 10 to 12 inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 13 (Power to Constables to enter Eating-houses, &c., and Penalty for Obstructing them).


said, he must insist that licensed victuallers and hotel-keepers ought to be placed on the same footing, and that the police ought not to be allowed to enter the premises of the one more than of the other, unless they had reason to believe that a breach of certificate was being committed. He would therefore move the insertion of the words, "in which he has reason to believe a breach of certificate is being committed," in order to place both upon the same footing.

Amendment proposed, In page 7, line 39, after the word "situated," to insert the words "in which he has reason to believe a breach of certificate is being committed.


said, that the clause was founded on the recommendation of the Commissioners, who had considered the point very carefully.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 109: Majority 86.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 14 to 18 inclusive.

Clause 19 (Persons found in Shebeens may be taken into Custody).


said, he thought the clause should be more definite. If a man were to entertain, his friends in his own house, and any of them were to leave in an intoxicated state, which, perhaps, was not so uncommon, the penalty would be incurred. He objected to a house being ticketed by a policeman a shebeen "from habit and repute."


said, he trusted that intoxication in private houses was not so common as the hon. Member talked of. At any rate, "habit and repute" could not be proved from one or two isolated occurrences.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 20 to 22 inclusive.

Clause 23 (Persons found intoxicated and incapable of taking care of themselves guilty of an Offence).


said, he objected to the provision rendering any person found intoxicated in a public-house liable to be taken into custody by the police. The clause was quite unnecessary.


defended the clause.

MR. E. BLLICE (Kilmarnock)

said, he thought the clause a very valuable one.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 24 to 32 inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 33 (Form of Review provided).


moved an Amendment requiring the appellant to deposit with the clerk of the justices the amount of the penalty and costs awarded against him.

Amendment negatived.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Friday.

House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.