§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 22 (Analysis of intoxicating liquor).
§ On the Motion of Mr. RAIKES, Amendments made by leaving out in page 8, line 26, the words "may analyse the same or," in order to insert the word "shall;" and in line 27, after "time," inserting the words "and by such person."
SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON moved, as an Amendment, in Line 28, after "appoint," insert—
Provided always, That a reasonable notice shall have been given by such officer to the vendor by whom such sample was furnished, to enable such vendor, if he think fit, to attend at the time when such sample is open for analysis.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
thought it was granting too much. Persons ac- 1955 cused of having supplied poison did not receive any notice of when or where the analysis was to take place; neither did the vendor of milk get notice.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the object of the Amendment was simply to secure that the thing should not be decided in a hurry, but that sufficient time might elapse before the analysis took place.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ On the Motion of Sir HENRY SELWINIBBETSON, Amendments made, by inserting in line 36, after "seals," the words "belonging to the vendor;" in line 39, after "seals," the words, "and a corresponding sample sealed by such officer with his own seal shall, if required, be left with the vendor for reference in case of disputes as to the correctness of the analysis or otherwise;" and in page 9, line 3, by omitting from "the vendor" to "officer" in line 5, both inclusive.
§ Amendments agreed, to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Closing Licensed Premises in case of Riot.
§ Clause 23 (Power of Justices to close licensed premises in case of riot).
§ MR. MUNTZ
, in moving an Amendment in page 9, line 16, to leave out the words "or tumult;" and in the same line the words "or is expected to happen," said, he objected to the use of the word "tumult" as too wide in its meaning, and as timid magistrates were the most dangerous men in existence, they would put their own interpretation on it, and if there was a little noise outside a public-house they might be alarmed, and in the alarm do anything—perhaps, even order the troops to fire. But that was not all, for the clause said they were to act in the case of an expected tumult. He would therefore move to have those words struck out of the clause, as he wished to prevent two magistrates having the power of closing all the public-houses in a town or district. Why, if they did want to kick up a row, they could not go a better way about it than by all at once, without any notice, turning into the streets the people who were enjoying themselves in the public-houses; he should therefore move the omission of those words.
pointed out that the clause only recited that which was the law at present, and it was quite necessary in these matters to trust, to some extent, to the discretion of the magistrates.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, that it was also the law in Ireland, and it worked well. It must be assumed that the magistrates were possessed of a certain amount of discretion.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 24 (Times of closing).
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
said, that as his Notice of Amendment stood first on the Paper, and was set at the head of a long list, he wished to intimate that, having given all those proposals the most careful consideration, he had arrived at the conclusion that if the House were to entertain them a second time, it would be impossible they could carry the Bill that Session. However, as he was sincerely desirous to assist the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in making some progress with the measure, he had cast about to see how and where he could help him. It was quite clear they could not all succeed, however much they might hope to do so, and that being the case they were bound to consider what might be a fair compromise. He would not weary the Committee by going over the several proposals; but he thought the best thing they could do in respect to the hours of closing was to follow the advice of the Home Secretary, and rely on the discretion of the magistrates. It was impossible to lay down a hard-and-fast line for all parts of the United Kingdom, and having conferred with several gentlemen who felt an interest in this question, the conclusion at which he had arrived was that the hours of closing as regards London ought to stand as they were. ["Hear, hear!"] He was ready to admit that the case of the metropolis was peculiar, and it could not be expected that what was suitable to a small town would meet the wants of London; elsewhere, however, as the circumstances of each district varied, he would leave it to the discretion of the magistrates to say what should be the hours of closing. 1957 It was, however, desirable that there should be certain limits to hours of opening and closing, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would so define them as to meet with the approval of the Committee. With regard to the Amendments which he had placed on the Paper, he would simply say that he had taken them from the Bill of last year, and he could not understand why what was suitable in 1871 should not be equally so in 1872. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to substitute a population of 2,500 for 10,000 as it now stood in the Bill, but he considered 5,000 would have been preferable. Perhaps the best thing that could be done would be to say that in all towns with a population up to 2,500, the hour of closing licensed houses should be 10 o'clock, and that a discretion to fix within certain limits, between 10 and 12 P.M. for closing, and between two given hours in the morning for opening, should be given to the magistrates. He hoped his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be disposed to come to some such arrangement.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, there were numerous Amendments placed to the clause on the Paper, and amongst the others he also had an Amendment, for he did not at all agree with the provisions in the Bill as to the time of closing. It was certainly in the lateness of the hour to which houses were allowed to keep open that the great evil of this question existed, and he had therefore given Notice to make the hour of closing 11 o'clock all round; but he was not supported in that view, judging from the numerous letters he had received on the subject. Being satisfied, however, that the Bill would be of very little use if no change were made in the hours during which the houses were open, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would consent to the hour of closing being fixed at 12 o'clock at night in the metropolis, 11 in towns and outlying villages beyond large towns having a population exceeding 2,500, and 10 in places comprising a population less than 2,500.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he felt inclined, if in a condition, to move that two objectionable lines be struck out of this clause. ["No, no!"] He said if he felt in a condition; but he did not. He could not but allude to the very "elastic" speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Mem- 1958 ber for Boston (Mr. Collins), who proposed that 12 at night should be the hour of closing in the metropolis, 11 in towns and some outlying country villages, and 10 in other villages—the time of closing varying in proportion to their populations. Now, his (Mr. Locke's) plan would be 12 o'clock throughout all places, with certain exceptions. A publican, however, ought, in his opinion, to be allowed to keep his house open as long as he thought proper. Of course, there would be police regulations. As it was then in London, all public-houses were not kept open till 1 o'clock, the existing prescribed hour, and if hon. Members went into the City of London they would find that almost all public-houses were closed at 6 o'clock in the evening. And why? Because no one wanted to use them. Men of business took their dinners in them at the dinner hour, and when business and its rush were over all were off, and almost all the houses were closed. The London Tavern was of course open; but if a man wanted a chop elsewhere in the evening, within the City, he could not get one, because no chop-house was open. And why? It would not pay to keep them open; the rule being that houses were kept open for the convenience of the public, and that the proprietors closed them when they found the wants of their customers satisfied. He made those observations to show what his own feelings were on this subject. He, however, thought, looking at the existing regulations in force in the metropolis, that they should not be altered, and he sincerely hoped that the House of Commons would not restrict the hours in any case more than was absolutely necessary or could possibly be avoided. There would be, he felt convinced, no advantage gained by altering the hours in the manner proposed by the Government, but he agreed with the hon. Baronet sitting on his left (Sir Robert Anstruther) that they could not have it all their own way. He would, however, add that the interests of London were so great and varied, that if the clause passed as proposed great difficulties would result.
pointed out that there was no specific Amendment before the Committee on this branch of the clause.
§ MR. COLLINS moved the postponement of the clause.1959
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, the question about the hours of closing was one of the most serious difficulties of the whole Bill to be dealt with, and he hoped it would meet with the serious attention of the Committee. It, however, required the greatest care in handling, lest a reaction should be evoked against their whole legislation. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) said he thought publicans should be allowed to keep their houses open as long as they might think proper; but his hon. and learned Friend seemed to forget that there was already an Act known as the "Public-house Closing Act."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
There was no doubt the feeling was very strong on this question, and that it was in favour of closing, if possible, at an early hour. He had a Notice on the Paper in reference to the question, carrying out a modification of the original terms of the Government Bill; but after some consideration, he believed they would be doing better by adopting the suggestion of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Anstruther). He agreed that it was not easy to draw a hard-and-fast line. There were some towns in which, according to circumstances, houses were kept open much later than in other towns, thus indicating elasticity in the rule. The difficulty was one requiring much consideration to solve. There was one thing of great importance to be considered, that in many places closing the public-houses at 11 o'clock would be more acceptable to the inhabitants themselves and to the local authorities.
§ MR. MELLY
said, he thought if magistrates had a discretionary power they would most probably act together, and come to uniform decisions, not only as to towns, but as to the surrounding hamlets. He knew instances in which the county magistrates fixed the hours at 10, while the borough magistrates in the same district fixed the limit at 11 o'clock.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
Suppose a man were a pilot or a fisherman, would you say that he should not be admitted to a public house before 6 o'clock in the morning?
§ MR. DICKINSON
held it to be of the Utmost importance on this subject to 1960 establish a proper principle—some rule applicable to the publican's trade as to all others, subject only to this exceptional legislation. They should do all they could to encourage publicans, especially in the country, who did not keep late hours. There should be licenses granted at a certain rate for premises closing at 9 o'clock, and for only six days in the week; while those who desired to keep open later, and also on Sunday, should pay for the privilege at higher rates for their license. That would in a great measure leave the publican to carry on his business as he liked, and at the same time keep the hours and Sunday trading within the power of the licensing authority.
§ COLONEL RUGGLES-BRISE
complained that they were legislating on Saturday without due notice on this important subject, in the unavoidable absence of many hon. Members who were most anxious to be present. Nothing could be more objectionable than the hard-and-fast line laid down by the Bill. They could not legislate for all parts of the country irrespective of the circumstances and wants of each locality. As to the hours during which public-houses might be open on Sundays, from 1 to 3 would be found most inconvenient. In country parishes afternoon service generally commenced at 3 o'clock, and it would be most objectionable for families to meet men rolling out of the public-house when service was commencing. He was of opinion that the hours of opening should be such that they would not interfere with the hours of Divine service, and that the magistrates should have a discretionary power to regulate those hours so as they would not come into antagonism. He believed that the people at large felt the greatest confidence in the magistrates, and it would be better to leave the regulations in their hands. The hours of closing on Sundays was the great question of the day, and he hoped that stringent restrictions would be placed upon the opening of houses which gave rise to the largest number of cases of drunkenness in the week.
said, he quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) that this was one of the most important—if not the most important—clause in the Bill; and it was obviously one of great delicacy and difficulty, requiring the most care- 1961 ful and prudent consideration. Without depreciating the desire to legislate in such a manner as would conduce to good order, they must at the same time consider what were the settled habits of the people, and those who were most sensible of the evils of drinking—and they were very great—simply for the indulgence of a vicious habit, must bear in mind that if they carried their legislation too far it might lead to popular discontent, if not tumult, and result in a retrograde policy. It was, therefore, necessary, in dealing with a question of this kind, to give due consideration to the settled habits of the people in different localities, and instead of defering to extreme opinions, they must endeavour to ascertain what would be most acceptable to the great body of the people, consistently, of course, with the main object they had in view. The proposals of the Government were not founded on their own opinion alone; for legislation on this subject was desired and demanded by the country, and by no class more than the respectable working men. Of course, no one could say that occasional inconvenience might not be caused by any limitation of the open hours. Even the Early Closing Act—between the hours of 1 and 6 A.M.—introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) involved a certain amount of inconvenience; but the advantages to public order were so great as entirely to counterbalance it. They must proceed prudently and cautiously, and make such further reductions as were called for, by none so strongly, he must say, as by a large number of respectable publicans themselves. Of that he had received very strong evidence, since a deputation of those gentlemen had waited upon him with reference to a Petition which had been presented containing a number of inaccurate statements. The hours in the Bill were those recommended many years ago by the Select Committee which was presided over by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers), and if the Committee adopted the Amendment which he (Mr. Bruce) should propose, they would, he believed, while retaining these hours in the body of the Bill, at the same time admit the operation of a principle which would be found beneficial in practice by allowing variations as to the hours of opening and 1962 closing which would be in accordance with the habits of the people in different localities, and placed under differing circumstances. By the Bill, 11 o'clock was to be the closing hour as regarded the large proportion of the country, extending to all places, except the metropolis, with a population of over 10,000. That had been for some years the law in Scotland, and he could not suppose that what had been found convenient in a large and busy city like Glasgow, with its varied industries, would be found inconvenient for such cities as Manchester and Liverpool. The Government had, therefore, authority and precedent for what they were doing, and he believed the hours of the Bill might be adopted without any great public inconvenience or dissatisfaction. At the same time, it was perfectly necessary, owing to the representations received by the Government, that the limit within which public-houses might be kept open till 11 o'clock should be extended from a population of 10,000 to 2,500. There would be great advantage, therefore, if there could be some machinery they could trust for adopting those hours which would be most convenient in particular localities. In case of a private Bill for Liverpool or Manchester, they would have to take into consideration the local habits of the population, and adopt hours which might not be the same for other towns. That was the argument in favour of a more elastic system, the hours fixed in the Bill being adopted as the ruling hours. He was bound to say that since the second reading of the Bill he had received representations showing that great advantage would be gained by adopting that suggestion. There seemed a general disposition to accede to it; and it would, at least, have this effect—that it would get rid of a great number of Amendments, the discussion of which would occupy much longer time than the Committee would be disposed to devote to them. He would suggest, therefore, as an alternative scheme, which he should be prepared to introduce if it met with the support of the Committee, that, setting aside for the moment the metropolis, to which the proposal did not apply, in all places where the population was over 2,500, the Town Councils in municipal boroughs, Improvement Commissioners, Local Government Boards, and, in other 1963 places where none of such bodies existed, the justices should have the power of fixing the time of opening between the hours of 5 and 7 in the morning, leaving the hour of 6 in the Bill, and that of closing between the hours of 10 and 12 at night, leaving the hour of 11 in the Bill. The only difficulty that presented itself in connection with that proposal was the disturbing influence it might exercise on municipal elections. To meet that he thought it would be prudent to provide that the hours, when once fixed, should remain unchanged for three or five years, as the House might think best on full consideration. His own view was in favour of the longer period. The reason why he proposed that the municipal councils and other representative bodies should have this power instead of the justices was that the question was not so much one of good order and police, which came within the jurisdiction of the magistrates, as of public convenience; upon which, by the very nature of their existence, these representative bodies were likely to be better informed, and more in accord with the public feeling and wants of the locality than the justices could be. The principle of this regulation had been embodied in the Early Closing Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth, and it had worked most satisfactorily. It would be observed that the powers of varying, extending, or limiting the hours of opening and closing were confined within the limits prescribed by the Bill. If his suggestion were adopted, then, the hours of closing and opening would, in fact, stand as they were in the Bill, but it would be for the local authorities to determine whether they should be extended or reduced within the limits which had been laid down in the Act of Parliament. He would propose also that the hours of opening and closing on Sundays should, within certain limits, also be decided by the local authorities. He would take that opportunity of correcting a misapprehension which appeared to prevail as to Sunday drinking. His hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) had said the gravest question in the Bill was that of keeping public-houses open on Sunday, and that the opening of public-houses on that day gave rise to excessive drinking. He could only say that all the evidence before him led 1964 to a very different conclusion. There was, in fact, far less drunkenness on Sunday than on any other day of the week, not only because a very large proportion of the people regarded Sunday with reverence, but also because public-houses were open for fewer hours, and were all closed earlier than on week days. The following were the statistics of drunkenness in Liverpool, which, with slight variations, might be taken as applicable to other large towns. The average arrests for drunkenness on Monday was 96; on Tuesday, 58; on Wednesday, 52; on Thursday, 36; on Friday, 43; on Saturday, 155; and on Sunday, 26. These Returns were sufficient to justify his proposal that the hours should stand as they were in the Bill, subject to the power of varying them according to the wants of each town or district, which he proposed to vest in the local authorities. If the Committee assented to the proposals he had now made, he should be prepared before the Report to lay upon the Table the clauses which the Government would propose to carry the scheme into effect. The principle which he had suggested, guarded as it was intended to be by the provision that whatever arrangement was adopted should endure for a certain number of years, was one which he thought the House would do well to adopt, and he believed that it would do so.
§ MR. STRAIGHT
said, that so far as he was concerned he considered the proposition which had just been made by the right hon. Gentleman very fair and reasonable, and perhaps the best way of getting rid of a difficult question. [Mr. J. LOWTHER: No, no!] The hon. and learned Member for York said "No," but he (Mr. Straight) believed it would be next to impossible to discover any subject on which the hon. and learned Gentleman agreed with anybody. With respect to the district of Shrewsbury, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman applied with especial force, for there some of the markets held at certain periods commenced at 4 o'clock in the morning, and as regarded the hours for closing, it was the local centre of an extensive railway system that brought passengers into the town till midnight. He had been anxious to discover, if possible, some uniform system of legislation for various places, but so far as he could come to 1965 a conclusion he regarded uniformity of closing or opening hours to be impracticable, and even impossible; and he believed it was in that view, and with that conviction, the Home Secretary had made his present proposal. He only hoped that the local authority would not shirk the discretion it was proposed to vest in them. For his own part, he would have preferred to see the power placed with the licensing justices, who would be best qualified to exercise it. Some might think that they were drifting towards the principle contended for by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who unquestionably was an earnest and plucky supporter of the views which he advocated. Now, he altogether differed from the hon. Baronet so far as the principle of his Bill was concerned, and had no desire whatever to drift in that direction, and should not like to take one step that could be considered anything like an adoption of the permissive scheme; but after all, if they acceded to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, they would only be acting on the principle adopted by the House in 1864, and which he believed had been found to work satisfactorily.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, he should like to know what course the Government were going to take with regard to those clauses of the Bill which affected the closing and opening of public-houses? He understood the right hon. Gentleman to indicate his desire that for the present they should be postponed, and that he would bring up other clauses embodying the suggestions with which he had just favoured the Committee. [Mr. BRUCE: That is so.] Well, it was manifest that if they cast the responsibility on other people of settling the question, they got rid of much trouble themselves—but the matter presented itself to him in another point of view. If they could not settle the question themselves, why not leave it alone? It was perfectly plain—it could neither be concealed nor denied—that the proposal of the Government was made because the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary felt that the House of Commons could not settle it. They knew they could not settle it, and they were now going to hand over for settlement by other people that which they could not do themselves. In his own profession it 1966 not unfrequently happened that when questions arose which the Judges could not comprehend, they left the jury to decide them as might be. But he candidly confessed that he experienced some difficulty in remitting this question to the decision of local authorities, and he was afraid that although whatever arrangement they came to was only to endure for a limited number of years, the difficulty would not thereby be either diminished or got rid of. Each year he believed a certain number of town councillors went out of office, and as sure as the elections came round, the question of beer would be raised, and the licensed victuallers' interest mixed up in the affair. The real question was, had they not better leave this matter alone? The difficulties of the subject must have struck everyone. What good could be accomplished by any alteration of the hours. Supposing they succeeded in cutting off at either end one hour of opening or closing, and thereby achieved one of the objects which some people had in view, would the good thus presumed to be secured be in any degree commensurate with the amount of feeling and discontent created? The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Straight) said that in this proposal by the Government they were approaching the principle of the Permissive Bill. They were going far beyond it. In the hon. Baronet's (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) Bill not less than two-thirds of the ratepayers of any district were to determine the question of licensing; but here the decision as regarded hours was to be left to the bare majority of the local body. Why introduce the principle of the curfew bell at all? Why not allow people to act according to the dictates of common sense and their own interest? He repeated that, as the House of Commons was not prepared, and did not feel competent to grapple with the question, or even to pronounce an opinion upon it, the wisest course was not to interfere at all with the present law regulating the hours of opening and closing public-houses.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, the new-proposal of the Government was of such, a serious character, that he was not prepared to give any decided opinion offhand on its prudence or expediency. They should very carefully consider whether it would be wise to introduce a 1967 new element of discussion into the municipal arrangement of large towns, for in his opinion it would be anything but desirable to have a triennial or quinquennial discussion in every large town as to what the hours of closing public-houses should be fixed. There could be no doubt that drinking at late hours was the cause of great demoralization. The evil connected with the present hours of opening and closing was one that loudly demanded remedy, and he hoped the Home Secretary would find some way of solving the difficulty, so that this great question might be settled after the discussions of this Session. He could not allow to pass unnoticed the statement of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Harcourt) that they required no curfew bell. What was the meaning of a curfew bell? Surely, with the large amount of appalling evidence before them, they must come to the conclusion that there ought to be some further restriction placed on the hours of closing, if they wished to abate the evils of intemperance, and check the fatal evils of drinking. He appealed to the state of his own town for confirmation of this view. The justices, stipendiary magistrates, merchants, ministers of religion, all concurred in saying that these evils were to be traced to drinking after 11 o'clock at night. Why did they require a curfew bell? It was not for the benefit of themselves or their families, but of the unhappy ratepayers, who were already crushed down by the weight of heavy taxation.
said, he had heard with much interest the proposal of the Home Secretary, and he believed he clearly understood all that Government contemplated the local authorities should have power to do as regarded the hours of opening and closing on week days, but the right hon. Gentleman had not stated his views with reference to the time at which public-houses were to be opened on Sunday mornings after church. He understood that his constituents desired there should be some relaxation of the present rule, and he took the opportunity of suggesting that instead of 1 o'clock, public-houses on Sunday might be opened at half-past 12.
§ COLONEL WILSON-PATTEN
said, he could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), that this 1968 question should be left as it was. It was absolutely necessary that some legislation should take place on the subject, and he presumed that the right hon Gentleman the Home Secretary had only submitted his proposal as a suggested compromise for the consideration of hon. Members. He wished that it had been submitted earlier, when the House would have had a better opportunity for discussing it than at the end of July. He would give the proposal his best consideration, with the view of coming to a compromise between the advocates of separate theories, for to a compromise they must come in legislating on this subject. They should not solely consider their own views with respect to the hours of closing, but should also take into consideration what system would, on the whole, command general concurrence on the part of the entire public. No one had a better right than himself to speak on this point, for some years ago he had the honour of carrying a Bill for regulating the hours of opening on Sunday, and he believed that that Act produced the greatest possible good throughout the country; and, indeed, the police returns showed that to be the case. But in the course of one year that Act was repealed by acclamation; and why? Because it happened that in proposing it he had gone somewhat beyond the spirit of the times. He was satisfied that he had made a mistake. He therefore warned his right hon. Friend that if he made a step forward, he should do so in the most cautious and tentative manner; for if he did not do so in the present case, and went beyond what public opinion would sanction, they might depend upon it they would set the country against them.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that his constituents were peculiarly situated in respect to that question. In most of the large steel factories in Sheffield the men employed in them worked at what were called "night shifts"—that was, one-half of the men worked in the day, and the other half at night. Let him mention the case of one of the factories in question, where 6,000 men were employed; of this number 3,000 worked in the day, and the other 3,000 worked at night. These latter men took their dinner, as they called it, at midnight. He mentioned this fact to show the difficulty of legislating upon any fixed prin- 1969 ciple of hours in respect to public-houses being open or shut in Sheffield, and of the necessity of giving to the local authorities power to decide upon the hours of opening and closing those houses. [Mr. BRUCE: This case is provided for in the 26th clause.] He was glad to hear that, for he was satisfied that it was most desirable to settle the question, notwithstanding the observations of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt), and the sooner it was done the better. It was entirely a question of expediency, and should be decided according to the circumstances in which the people in certain localities were placed. Take the case of Nottingham. In that town, within the municipal boundary, there was a population of 90,000 persons; but there was residing in the villages abutting upon the town a population of some 50,000 persons. All these persons worked in Nottingham, where public-houses would be allowed to be open until 10 o'clock, but in the villages in question the closing hour would be 9 o'clock. Now here was a practical inconvenience, which must also be dealt with by the local authorities.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, that the cases referred to by the hon. Gentleman were provided for, as had already been stated, by another provision of the Bill. He was opposed to a hard-and-fast line, and supported the elasticity proposed from regard to the peculiarities of other towns.
§ MR. HOLT
said, that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not agree with the proposal which he (Mr. Holt) had placed upon the Notice Paper—namely, that the fixing of the hours of closing public-houses should be in the hands of the licensing committee. There was a strong reason against the proposition of the Government, because it would add to the turmoil and agitation of local elections, and might lead to frequent changes of the hours of closing. He therefore thought a non-elected body a better authority than an elected body to determine the hours of closing. In some parts of the country they would find licensing justices in favour of total abstinence from the consumption of all liquors, and in others advocates of free trade in that respect; but no objection could be made to the 1970 proposition he had placed on the Paper—that a committee of magistrates be appointed at each Quarter Sessions, to decide on all these questions.
said, that with respect to the hours he was satisfied it would be very much for the public convenience if houses were allowed to open on Sundays at half-past 12 instead of 1, and to close again at half-past 2. With respect to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, he (Mr. Bruce) had thought a great deal about it, and had come to the conclusion that it was not for a number of county magistrates to decide in the cases of boroughs and large towns the hours at which public-houses in them should be open or closed. The system he (Mr. Bruce) was about to propose had existed in Scotland for a very long time, and had given great satisfaction. In his opinion, to leave the local authorities of each district to fix the hours would reconcile all parties, and it had had so good an effect in Scotland that no complaint of any kind whatever was made.
§ COLONEL AKROYD
said, the conduct and proceedings of Members of that House in their legislative capacity were governed by public opinion. He himself had the honour of presenting a Petition from Halifax signed by 20,000 persons, praying that as regards the hours the law should be general and uniform, and that those fixed for the metropolis should be extended to the provinces. He agreed, however, with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that some exceptions should be made in favour of London, but that the law should be uniform in the provinces. Now, would the Committee allow him to say one word respecting the discretionary power left to the licensed victuallers themselves. It was quite a mistake to suppose that houses were kept open during the hours permitted by law, because a very respectable man in the trade told him that when he had no customers he shut up his house in order to avoid the expense of burning gas. It must be remembered that the owners and occupiers of these houses were, generally speaking, men of considerable influence, and therefore worthy of every consideration, and their opinion was that a uniformity in the hours of closing, at least as regarded the provinces, would give every satisfaction.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, the Committee should see the position in which they were placed, and carefully consider it. Here they had a Saturday set aside to consider the most important clause in the Bill, and in his opinion nine out of ten hon. Members came down to the House more or less to discuss the principle it contained. That principle had, he believed, been fully discussed throughout the length and breadth of the land, and, with few exceptions, 11 o'clock was considered to be a fair and reasonable hour. But how stood the case then? Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had withdrawn the clause altogether, and submitted a counter-scheme for the consideration of the Committee. Well, the right hon. Gentleman might be firm enough in writing letters at home, or in his office, but here he was as weak and squeezable as any Minister he (Colonel Barttelot) had ever seen take his seat on the Treasury bench. ["Oh, oh!"] He had no wish whatever to say anything that was in the least offensive to the right hon. Gentleman; but then they were discussing a proposition entirely different from that contained in the Bill. He contended that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) did not find fault with the clause, but with the proposal now submitted to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman which, he said truly, was worse than the Permissive Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, in that it would bring discredit and discontent into every borough in the kingdom. He (Colonel Barttelot) did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to pass the Bill, and was afraid to do so; but he would warn him against the course he was now pursuing. Let him take courage and be firm—as they all knew he could be when away from the House—and allow the Committee to discuss the clause fairly and honestly. If the right hon. Gentleman was determined on the scheme he had just announced, let him make the proposal at once, so that the decision of the Committee might be taken upon it.
After the personal attack thus made on me, I trust the Committee will allow me to say a few words in explanation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite the Member for West Sussex has brought a charge 1972 against me of being "weak and squeezable," but I appeal to every hon. Gentleman present whether in my conduct of business in this House I have shown myself at any time to be weak and vacillating. What measure have I introduced in which I displayed weakness or vacillation? Is it in either of the Mines Bill which have just left the House? In this Bill, as in those Bills, I have endeavoured, in the discharge of my public duty, to be as conciliatory and as mindful of great personal interests as it was possible, and on the present occasion it was my duty to ascertain how this Bill would satisfy the people of this country, and to carry it through this House as speedily as possible. The Committee must remember that on this subject alone there are 40 or 50 Amendments on the Paper, and when the hon. and gallant Member proposes to meet at once my alternative proposition, he must surely be aware that it would lead to a discussion of very considerable duration. What I propose to do is to put my Amendment on the Paper for consideration, and have it inserted on the bringing up of the Report, by which means I hope to save half the time, that must inevitably be consumed in the discussion of the Amendments which are now on the Paper with reference to this single clause.
MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, he thought great credit was due to the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) for the very great moderation he had exhibited in dealing with the metropolis as regarded the hours for closing. He must say the hon. Baronet had given them a specimen of moderation and of statesmanlike judgment which he hoped he should see imitated on the Treasury bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, following up the remarks of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire, said the House must take into its consideration the habits and the customs of the people with whom they had to deal; and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Wilson-Patten) freely admitted that his own Bill had been a mistake, and that however beneficial he had thought it likely to prove, it was re- 1973 pealed within a year, from having been in advance of the time. Now, if they took into consideration the habits of the people of London, they could not but be aware that their habits were late, all entertainments and dinners were late, and the consequence was that all public amusements were late. The theatres, for example, were not closed until after 12. How, then, could the House wish an unfortunate person who had come all the way from the East-end of London to enjoy an evening at a theatre in the Strand to be deprived of all means of refreshment after 12 o'clock? Or did they want residents at the West-end, returning from the theatres under the same hard circumstances, to pass under the windows of the club-houses, and there see gentlemen indulging in the coolest drinks that could be supplied to them in this sultry weather? But it was to no purpose discussing the subject. This was legislation of the worst kind. He was anxious that the Bill should pass, and all he would endeavour to do was to ensure that those who wanted reasonable refreshment should have it. He hoped the House would take into consideration the wants of the people of London, who in number constituted one-sixth of the people of England. He said to them—"Leave London as it is; we don't want to be interfered with in the matter of hours." All the Home Secretary said was, that he did not wish to put London under that new scheme. He did not say what he did wish to do with it. If he would state to the House that he did not wish to interfere with the hours at present ruling in London, he (Mr. Harvey Lewis) had no more to say, and should sit down. If he did act upon his own principle of taking into consideration the habits of London, he would find it impossible to close the houses any earlier than they were closed at present. His (Mr. Harvey Lewis's) object was the convenience of the public, and he wanted to know how the public were to be treated. The speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fifeshire evinced much statesmanlike consideration, for the hon. Baronet said they ought to leave London alone, and in that view he (Mr. Harvey Lewis) entirely concurred. Under these circumstances, he appealed to the Home Secretary to get up and tell them that he would leave London alone.
§ MR. CARDWELL
ventured to submit to the Committee that they should discuss one thing at a time. He understood that the question under consideration was a proposal of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the question of hours be postponed, and his argument was this—that, it being found impossible to fix throughout the country a uniform hour of closing, he proposed to lay on the Table a clause that would suggest a mode by which the varying wants of the various portions of the community might be met. Now, was it not more rational that they should let his right hon. Friend know whether the feeling of the Committee was in favour of waiting for that proposal, and in order to do that to agree to the postponement of the clause as to hours, and so enable progress to be made upon other parts of the Bill. It was evident they should make no progress at all, if they resolved to go fully into the question of hours now. His object was to entreat the Committee to dispose first of the proposal of his right hon. Friend for postponing the clause.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
reminded the Committee that they had already reached the 27th of July. They did not know when the new clause would be submitted which was to give a discretionary power to the local authorities, and it might be that no opportunity would be given to any hon. Member, who having already placed Notices of Amendments upon the Paper with regard to the existing clause, might wish to propose analogous Amendments upon the new clause of the Government. He thought, therefore, that those who had Amendments on this subject, or who might wish to move any, should have an opportunity of directing the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to them. And now, as regarded the question of Sunday closing, the clause did not give any discretion to the local authorities to substitute any hours for closing on Sundays in lieu of those named in the clause. He thought that was wrong, for in certain parts of the country there was no afternoon service, but an evening service, and it was a great annoyance that the public-houses should be open at the time when people were going to or coming from the places of worship in the evening. The local authorities should, 1975 therefore, have the power to direct in such cases the public-houses to be closed in the evening, though they might be open in the afternoon. He wished the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to the wishes that had been expressed on the subject in country districts; because he felt that when the clause came up for consideration it would be impossible to have the subject properly discussed. He would now observe that he thought it most unfortunate, if it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to submit new proposals to the House, that he should not indicate their general purpose until the last moment.
said, it was proposed that the clause should be postponed, and it would remain to be discussed at the end of the Bill, if the new propositions to be submitted on the part of the Government should not be considered satisfactory. The Committee would not be deprived, therefore, of an opportunity of discussing any desired modification of the clause.
replied that it would be impossible to place it upon the Notice Paper before Monday evening or Tuesday morning, and that would be long before they could arrive at the discussion of the postponed clause.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made a distinct proposal to the Committee, excluding London from the general regulations as to the time of closing. That being so, he wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would favour the metropolitan Members by stating what hours he proposed should rule in London. He hoped they would let them know that; for this was not a licensed victuallers' question, but one which affected the accommodation and the wants of the public. The question had been argued very clearly and at great length by the hon. Members for Southwark and Marylebone, and he did not intend to go into it afresh. He hoped, however, that if they were to be affected by the proposed arrangements they might at once be put out of their pain, and told their position. There was no occasion for their waiting for the information until Tuesday—they might be told now. He quite approved of what 1976 fell from the hon. Member for Northeast Lancashire (Mr. Holt) that the local body should be the licensing body; and he would say this from his own experience and observation in rural districts—that he thought public-houses in the country might be shut up at an early hour; but he would not have any great severity proposed with reference to the hours of opening. There were many agricultural labourers who were obliged to be at their work as early as 4 o'clock in the morning, and they should be enabled to get their beer before that time. It had been said that they might get their beer overnight. Of course they might, but then the probability was that they would drink it overnight, or that the beer would be flat and undrinkable. He again appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to announce his intentions on this part of the subject; but he would add that it was the opinion of hon. Members around him that it would be better to negative the clause at once.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he believed that the Midland district agreed that 11 o'clock should be the hour for closing. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was a great difference of opinion on this point. At any rate, by the course he was pursuing, he would defeat the agreement which had been arrived at after great labour in the Midland district.
remarked that so far as that district was concerned, the Bill would fix 11 o'clock as the hour of closing.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then the wish of that district would be so far acceded to, and he thanked the right hon. Gentleman for meeting the wishes of his (Mr. Newdegate's) constituents. The people there distinctly objected to any variation between the hours of closing in the great towns and those of the suburbs. They wanted a uniform hour. He thought the course taken by the Government in calling the House together without Notice for a particular purpose, and then withdrawing the clause they were assembled to consider, perfectly indefensible, and he hoped the Committee would refuse to allow the clause to be withdrawn, because it embodied an agreement arrived at after a great deal of trouble. He entertained the same view as that taken by the hon. Member 1977 for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt), believing that the power of relaxation given by the Bill should be administered by a non-elected body. He hoped that if the right hon. gentleman set up an authority within the boroughs for deciding the hour of closing, it would be an authority containing a magisterial element, and only that element; for the magistrates were responsible for the maintenance of order, and the other inhabitants were not.
§ MR. LEEMAN
said, he would be sorry if the Committee should part that day without coming to some decision on the all-important question which had been raised before it that morning—namely, whether they should draw a hard-and-fast line, or adopt the principle which was contained in the proposition made by the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt). The appalling list of Amendments on the Notice Paper of that day exhibited the utter contrariety of opinion which existed in the House on the subject. The hon. Baronets who sat on each side of the House (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson and Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had admitted that even since they put their Amendments on the Paper their views had undergone considerable change; and the same admission had been made by other hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Bill as it originally stood contained the words "10,000 inhabitants," and now it was proposed to reduce the figures to 2,500. He hoped the Committee would not consent to the proposition to postpone the clause; but, on the contrary, that it would determine at least whether there should be a hard-and-fast line, or whether there should be placed in the Bill that elasticity, the importance of which the right hon. Gentleman now admitted. The hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee (Mr. Newdegate) had said that he trusted they would not part with the present clause. He (Mr. Leeman) trusted they would not part with it; but surely before they separated that afternoon they could determine principles. In order to effect that object, he would ask the Committee to allow the Amendment of the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire to become a substantive Motion, when it would be competent to the Secretary of State to bring forward his own proposition for 1978 consideration. He thought, however, that the Committee would come to the conclusion that the proposition of the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire was far preferable to that of the Government. He (Mr. Leeman) was a member of a municipal body, and had had some experience of the action of such bodies. He was quite sure that if the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was adopted, at every municipal election the publicans would be ranged on one side and the Permissive Bill men on the other upon the question of the hour at which public-houses should be closed, and he thought that was not desirable. The licensing power was at the present time vested in the hands of the magistracy of the borough; and he asked wiry it should be taken out of them. A similar objection applied to the local boards of smaller places. He saw no reason for depriving those bodies of that authority, and he would advise the hon. and learned Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) to withdraw his Motion for postponing the clause.
§ MR. COLLINS
thought there was a certain amount of inconvenience in discussing at that time whether the question of the hours of closing should be left to the licensing magistrates or put into the hands of municipal bodies. He rose to suggest something that might mitigate the evil which would result from vesting the power in elective bodies—namely, that to avoid having a triennial election on this point, the hours named in the Bill should be the hours of closing, unless a majority of two-thirds of the Town Council should decide otherwise. He had no objection to withdraw his Motion to postpone the clause, for the purpose of considering the proposition of the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Holt). The first question raised on the clause would be quite sufficient to occupy the remainder of the Sitting.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
suggested that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should now draw up a provision of the nature which had been suggested. The proviso might read as follows:—Provided always that in all places where the population is over 2,600 the local authority of any licensing district, as defined in the 26th clause, shall have power to vary the hours of closing and opening as fixed by the Bill between the 1979 hours often and twelve at night, and five and seven in the morning.That would practically carry out the discretionary power, and it would vest in the same authority to which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to give the power of increasing the hours on special occasions, such as markets.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
trusted that before the Motion for the postponement of the clause was withdrawn, the Government would state their intention with regard to the further progress of the Bill. They lived in a period of surprises, and perhaps he would not be justified in entering any protest or complaint against the conduct of the Government, in suddenly throwing out without the slightest preliminary notice a proposition of such gravity. He sympathized with the Government in their desire to relieve the House of Commons of the responsibility of fixing hours of closing public-houses when that House had shown its great preference for the utmost elasticity with regard to its own hours and even days of meeting. He should like to point out that if the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt) brought forward his Motion and the Committee should be asked to commence the discussion of it, they would be obliged to discontinue it in a broken condition. ["No, no!"] It was an easy task to disagree with everybody, but the Government would find that it was a difficult and almost impossible task to try and please everybody. He must add his protest against what they were now asked hastily to adopt. The Government invited them to sanction what was the very worst element in, and even an exaggeration of, the Permissive Bill. The proposal was, that they should hand over absolutely to the Town Council or other local authority that most difficult question. He considered that it was the duty of the House of Commons to fix the hours of closing, and not to relegate to the local authority that most difficult and perplexing question. He entertained great objection to going into the proposal of the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire. It was evident that the Government had not made up their minds on the question; and the proposition of the Home Secretary bore traces of its own want of preparation, when it was not applied to the metropolis.
said, it was not from want of consideration that the proposition of the Government was not applied to the metropolis, but from this circumstance—that there was no local authority that, consistently with the principle of the clause, could be adapted as the instrument for applying it to London. He hoped the Committee would proceed at once to a division on the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) to postpone the clause, and the division might be taken as the decision of the House on the question whether they should adopt fixed hours of closing, or whether they should adopt the more elastic principle proposed. It would bind no hon. Gentleman as to the exact terms of the proposition of the Government; and the question whether the local authority should be the Town Council or the licensing authority would be open for future consideration.
asked the hon. and learned Member for Boston whether he asked leave to withdraw his Amendment?
§ MR. COLLINS
said, that he wished to withdraw his Amendment, because he thought it was desirable that the clause should come on at their next Sitting, and not be postponed to the close of the Bill.
said, that the question before the Committee was, whether the Amendment should be by leave withdrawn? ["No, no!"]
§ MR. COLLINS
said, in that case, in the event of a division, he should vote against his own Motion.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, that he was sorry if he had spoken too severely about the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. It was not his intention to say anything offensive to him or to the Government,
§ MR. CAWLEY
declined altogether to accept the suggestion of the Government that a division on the postponement of the clause was to be taken as an expression of opinion as to whether they were to adopt the principle of elasticity or not. He was prepared to support the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt).
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, there was a general feeling that there should be some elasticity with regard to the hours of closing; and if the Amendment were 1981 withdrawn, the Government would accept that general expression of opinion. They were not, however, bound as to the particular mode in which that elasticity should be given, and they could consider whether it should be the licensing authority or the Town Council. If they divided on the Motion for postponement, they would divide on a false issue, and instead of promoting the progress of the Bill, would delay it.
said, that on Monday morning they would all be wondering what on earth had induced the Government to bring them there that day at great inconvenience. It was something amounting to sharp practice to ask them to meet that day. The Amendments on this clause—and he did not pretend to say that there were not plenty of them—were on the Paper before; and therefore the right hon. Gentleman must have seen all these difficulties before he adopted the sharp practice which brought them there that day. [Mr. BRUCE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook has head. He (Mr. Henley) knew that it was quite regular, but sometimes things that were most regular were most unjust. Summum jus summa injuria. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman should not have announced yesterday his intention of postponing this clause. They had a discussion of about an hour and a-half just to warm people up a little; but no opinion was elicited, and no division taken on any one point. In fact, they were now in the same position as they were at the beginning, and had wasted nearly the whole day. The Government brought in a Bill to bring about public-house reform, and so important did they consider it, that they had brought them all down that hot day to consider it; meeting, however, with plenty of pressure from without, they suddenly chopped and changed about, and here was a precious example of it. When hon. Members were looking forward to a few hours' repose, they were brought down and thrown together for no earthly use whatever. As to postponing the clause, they might postpone it for seven years so far as he cared.
said, he trusted the subject would be discussed calmly, and in a friendly spirit, for everyone would admit that this was a most important and difficult question, which could not be settled 1982 without full discussion. Before he got up to state what the Government would accede to, several hon. Members had risen suggesting proposals somewhat similar to that proposed by the hon. Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt). In fact, no one objected to the principle of elasticity; and the only point on which there did seem to be a difference of opinion was with respect to the body in whom the power of fixing the hours was to be lodged. Government had then, as it was their duty to do, ascertained the wishes of the House on the main point. [Mr. LOWTHER dissented.] The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for York shook his solitary head; but he thought the great majority of the House was in favour of elasticity; at all events, that question might be decided if they went to a division on the Motion for postponing the clause. He was prepared to postpone it, or withdraw it altogether, in order to bring it up remodelled on the Report, when the question who was to have the power of fixing the hours, could be raised. The hon. Member for North-east Lancashire (Mr. Holt) could then bring forward his plan, and the two could be discussed together.
§ MR. COLLINS
declined to have the question of elasticity or no elasticity decided on the Motion for the postponement of the clause, which he was willing to withdraw, that the clause itself might be considered now.
§ COLONEL BERESFORD
wished to add his opinion in favour of the principle of elasticity; and as to who should have the dispensing power, he was decidedly in favour of voting it on the magistrates, as they had more knowledge of the requirements of the people than any elected body could have.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
thought the discussion had very clearly shown what were the feelings of the Committee with respect to a dispensing power, and the only question was, who was to exercise it. It would smooth away all difficulty if the right hon. Gentleman would accept the magistrates as the dispensing body.
thought if the Motion were withdrawn they might at once take into consideration the first paragraph of the clause, which applied to the metropolis, and he would, before they sat next, place on the Paper what he proposed to do with respect to the closing hours in the country.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that he would ask the attention of the Committee to the course he proposed to take with regard to the hours of closing in Ireland, and to direct attention to the Amendments he had placed on the Notice Paper affecting Ireland. At first, he did not propose to make any alteration in the hours of closing in Ireland; but it appeared that there was a very general concurrence of opinion in favour of restriction. At present, on Sunday and week-day, the hour of closing was 11; he proposed that on Sunday the closing hour should be, in towns 9 o'clock, and in the country 7 o'clock; on week-days he proposed to leave the closing hours as at present, 11 o'clock in towns and in the country districts 10 o'clock. If, however, the Committee should adopt the elastic principle, he should be prepared, if it were the wish of Irish Members, to adapt it to Ireland.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HOLT
, in moving as an Amendment, in page 9, line 26, to leave out "subject as hereinafter mentioned;" and in line 28, after "closed," to insert—During such hours as the county or borough licensing committee within whose jurisdiction such premises are situated shall direct; Provided always, That such licensing committee shall not authorise any such premises to be opened—said, that he would not now detain the Committee with many observations, because there seemed to be an agreement with respect to some exercise of power by the local authorities, and the only question was as to who those authorities should be. His opinion was still in favour of the Quarter Sessions. With reference to London, however, it was possible that some alteration would be required in the terms of his Amendment, and he should be willing to give authority to the Metropolitan Board of Works, or some such body, to fix the hours of closing in London.
- "1. On Sunday, Christmas Day, Good Friday, or any day appointed for a public fast or thanksgiving, before half-past twelve of the clock in the afternoon, nor between the hours of three and six of the clock in the afternoon, nor after eleven of the clock at night;
- "2, On other days, before six of the clock in the morning nor after twelve of the clock at night,"
said, with regard to the Amendment just proposed, the question 1984 of Sunday being settled, Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday would be similarly observed.
§ MR. RODEN
said, he was a member of two boards, the Town Council and the local magistracy of his borough, and he should be very sorry if the right hon. Gentleman were to leave the power of deciding on the hour of closing in the hands of the licensing magistrates. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would fix the hour of closing on ordinary days, instead of leaving it in the hands of the licensing magistrates; and with regard to the carrying out of the other provisions of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman had already admitted that the matter had better be left in the hands of the local authorities.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, there were two questions to be considered; the first of which had reference to the powers proposed to be vested in the local authorities, and the second what they had to do.
§ MR. LEEMAN
hoped the Committee would take a division on the words of the clause under consideration before proceeding further. ["Withdraw, withdraw!"]
understood the issue to be, whether there was to be a dispensing power on the part of the magistrates. ["No, no!"] Well, then, let them settle that point before they proceeded further. There was nothing definite on the point in the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Holt).
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, that whatever might be the subject before the Committee—and no one seemed to know—he hoped the Committee would divide at once, and settle the matter in some way. They had been pulled out of their beds and deprived of their holiday, and therefore he hoped they would do something, and not carry out their bats with a round O.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the Government had put into the Bill clauses which dealt with the metropolis first, and afterwards with the country. In the Amendment they were asked to deal first with the country, and afterwards with the metropolis. No doubt the hon. Member had a technical right to frame his 1985 Amendment in that way; but he (Mr. Childers) thought it would be wrong to ask the Committee to adopt that course. In consequence of this transposition the Amendment was also ungrammatical. It ended with the words "twelve o'clock at night, as follows." What he asked the Committee to do was to proceed in the usual course—to deal with the metropolis first and afterwards with the part of the Bill applicable to the country. The Amendment of the hon. Member opposite would then be in its proper place.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that this showed how inconvenient it was to alter the order in which the discussion was proposed to be taken. He hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn, and that they would be allowed to go on with that part of the clause relating to the metropolis.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, they must deal with this question in some way or other. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce) had told them that he would bring in a clause, but that was not before them. He did not know that there was any distinct question before them, and as he thought it was desirable they should know where they were going, and what they were doing, he should move that the Chairman report Progress.
said, the right hon. Gentleman had entirely misapprehended what he said. They were taking the Bill as it stood, and the question before the Committee was that of the metropolis, as dealt with by the first part of the clause. When they came to that part dealing with the country, he should propose the Amendment which he had outlined to the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
hoped, as the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) had withdrawn his Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) would consent to withdraw his Motion, and allow the Committee to proceed with and decide the question relative to the metropolis.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ MR. DENISON
, who rose to Order. The question before the Committee was the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) for reporting Progress, and until that was disposed of the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) was out of Order.
said, he had no desire to prevent Progress, but he did not see his way to Progress, under the circumstances in which they were placed.
SIR HENRY SELWIN IBBETSON
appealed to the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire not to press his Motion for reporting Progress. If he did so, they would now, as the ground was in some degree cleared, be able to proceed.
said, it seemed to him that for more than half-an-hour there had been nothing but desultory conversation, and when he saw that it was within a short time of the hour at which they had arranged to adjourn, he considered that it would be as well to have Progress reported, in order that two or three other matters which were on the Paper might be disposed of. However, if it was the wish of the Committee to make some practical progress he would not stand in the way, but withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, it would be unnecessary now, in consequence of the alterations in the Bill announced by the Home Secretary, to move his Amendment in the first sub-section of the clause—namely, the omission of the lines— 1987If such premises are situated within the City of London, or the liberties thereof, or the Metropolitan Police District.Twelve o'clock was now to be the hour in London at night when public-houses were to be closed, and they were not to be opened before 5 o'clock in the morning. He, however, preferred that the hours should be the same as they were at present, and his object was to make the law, whatever it was, the same in all places. He hoped sincerely that the hon. Member behind him (Mr. Hard-castle) would not press the alteration which he intimated an intention of moving, as its purport would be productive of the greatest inconvenience. As regarded Sunday evening, he intended, by his second Amendment, moving that public-houses should be opened at 5 o'clock, and not 6 o'clock, as was contemplated by the Government Bill.
§ MR. A. JOHNSTON
said, if the hon. and learned Member for Southwark withdrew his first Amendment, then the Amendment which he had taken up—namely, the omission of the words "Metropolitan Police District"—would take precedence of the Amendment having reference to the alteration of the afternoon hour from 6 o'clock to 5 o'clock.
said, he was not by any means of opinion that the first part of the clause should be struck out. He was disposed to accede to the proposal that public-houses should be opened on Sundays at half-past 12. He believed that the desire was almost universal on the part of the licensed victuallers themselves that the hour of closing at night on week days should be 12 o'clock. It would be in the power of the Home Secretary to extend, in certain cases, the time for keeping open public-houses till 1, and, as was the case now, between 2 and the usual opening hour in the morning. That was now done in the case of markets and other places, and the privilege might be extended if the necessity for doing so was proved. It was not intended by this Bill to interfere with the requirements of the working classes. The matter was, however, fully dealt with in the 26th clause, under which the authorities mentioned in it had the power to grant the necessary permission to licensed victuallers to enable the working classes to obtain 1988 the refreshment they required. He would add that if the provision in the Bill was found to be not sufficiently explicit upon this point, he would make no objection to its being so amended as to carry out the object desired.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he deprecated any alteration of the hours at which public-houses were opened and closed on the Sunday in the metropolis. The present system worked well, and he saw no reason for any alteration of it. Why, he asked, should public-houses be opened at half-past 12 o'clock, and why should they be closed up to 6 o'clock? It would be a great inconvenience to the public if that was done. Many respectable persons went out for a walk after dinner into the suburbs, and why should they be prevented from taking the necessary refreshment which they required at 5 o'clock, instead of having to wait for another hour before they could do so? The alteration as proposed seemed to him to be wholly unnecessary, more especially when they considered how much later the habits of the people of London were than the country.
§ MR. WATNEY
said, that while advocating re-opening at 5 o'clock on Sundays, he was in favour of public-houses in the metropolis being closed on week nights at 12 o'clock.
MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, he could not see any reason for interfering with the present system by which licensed houses in the metropolis were kept open until 1 o'clock in the morning. It had worked well, and to alter it as proposed by the Bill would tend to great inconvenience in the neighbourhood of the Strand and such like localities.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that there could be no doubt the great mass of the people of this metropolis wished the hour of closing should be 12 o'clock. Even licensed victuallers themselves looked upon that hour with favour, because they were thus relieved from the very heavy pressure of business entailed upon them, and an end put to a competition which must of necessity entail upon them great labour, anxiety, and trouble. He was very glad to perceive that by a subsequent clause the Commissioners of Police and the Home Secretary were empowered to grant licenses for a later hour in localities where they were required by circumstances; but, generally speaking, he believed that 1989 closing at 12 o'clock would give general satisfaction.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of Mr. A. JOHNSTON (for Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) Amendment made in page 9, line 30, by leaving out "Metropolitan Police District," and inserting "parishes mentioned in Schedule A and B of the Metropolis Local Management Act."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 9, line 33, to leave out the word "six," and insert the word "five,"—(Mr. Locke,)—instead thereof.1990
§ Question put, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 150; Noes 66: Majority 84.
, in moving as an Amendment, that 5, instead of 6, be the hour for opening on week days, in all places where the population exceeds 2,500, said the Amendment was perfectly optional, and that landlords would not be compelled to open if such was not their wish.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next, at Two of the clock.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Four o'clock till Monday,