HC Deb 23 June 1874 vol 220 cc339-43

Order for Committee read.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 11 (Power to Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council to fix times for grant of certificates).


moved, in page 6, after line 2, to insert a new sub-section preceding present sub-section 1. The hon. Gentleman said, his reasons for proposing this clause were that there were certain towns and boroughs in Ireland in which the licensing authority was vested solely in the recorder, without allowing the justices the slightest authority in the matter. There was not, he ventured to say, in all Britain a justice placed in such a position as the justices in Ireland were placed in this respect, and if they were gentlemen of such intelligence, character, and position as to be entitled to sit on the magisterial bench, they certainly ought to have a voice in the granting of these licences in their respective localities. Some gentlemen from Ireland had suggested to him that he should not restrict the number of justices to five, and he was, personally, willing to adopt that suggestion. He believed that in England the whole of the justices were entitled to attend the Licensing Courts, and he saw no reason why they should not do so in Ireland. This was not a party question in any shape, but one in which local information and knowledge of the wants the people were most valuable. In such places as Dublin, Belfast, Cork, and other large towns, the authority was vested entirely in the Recorder; but surely in each and every one of them could be found gentlemen of position and character against whom there could be no reproach, and he hoped that the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Committee would agree to what he considered not only a moderate, but a practical proposal.

Amendment proposed, in page 6, after line 2, to insert as a new subsection preceding present sub-section 1— Wherever in any city, town, or borough, the licensing authority previous to the passing of this Act was vested in the recorder of such city, town, or borough, the licensing authority henceforth shall be vested in a licensing court consisting of the recorder and five of the justices for such city, town, or borough, said five justices to be elected annually for such purpose by the general body of justices for such city, town, or borough, and two in number of the said five justices shall along with the recorder be a quorum of the aforementioned licensing court."—(Mr. Sullivan.)

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


opposed the Amendment. He had never heard a complaint against the manner in which the Recorder of Dublin exercised the trust committed to him in this matter during the 40 years he had held his office. There had been no Petition presented from Dublin or any other place where the Recorder exercised this jurisdiction, and so long as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was unable to show that there had been any default, the House ought not to interfere with the present system.


said, he agreed that the consideration of this question might be approached entirely apart from party feeling. The real question the House had to consider was, how they could secure the best licensing tribunal in Ireland. He quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Mr. Vance) that nothing could be alleged against the manner in which Sir Frederick Shaw, the Recorder of Dublin, exercised his discretion in this matter. He was a gentleman who had at one period been an eminent Member of that House, one eminently distinguished for his talent and ability—and who had devoted great attention to this matter, and it was only on the previous day that, in answer to a Question put to him, he had had the pleasure of stating that during his tenure of office, that right hon. Gentleman had, greatly to the advantage of the cause of temperance, reduced the number of public-houses in Dublin. He did not think that associating the Dublin magis- trates with him in the granting of licences would militate against the cause of temperance; but still the Dublin magistrates were somewhat like the Middlesex magistrates, inasmuch as they did not exercise judicial functions, that duty being performed, as in London, by divisional or stipendiary magistrates.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had not said or insinuated anything derogatory to the impartiality of Sir Frederick Shaw, who was a gentleman whom everyone respected; but still, he had now filled his high office for 42 years, and, at his time of life, could not be expected to give that attention to the matter which he formerly did. He had reduced the number of public-houses in Dublin from 1,400 to 800, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland referred to that to show how much Sir Frederick Shaw had done in the cause of temperance; but did he mean to say that the Dublin magistrates would not also act in the cause of temperance? Surely, if they were gentlemen entitled to be placed on the Commission of the Peace, they were entitled to have that confidence placed in them. He knew not of an instance of any individual having such a power entrusted to him. He had, by reducing the number of licensed houses from 1,400 to 800, created a monopoly in the liquor traffic, and that was a power which no man, however eminent his character, however great his ability, ought to have. The Amendment was a most reasonable one, and he regretted the Government should oppose it.


supported the Amendment, as he could not conceive why, if the Magistrates of Dublin were worthy their position, they should be denied this confidence in a function which was germane to their office. He thought this was an attempt on the part of the Government to keep up an unworthy distinction between Irish and English magistrates, and should certainly support the Amendment. He did not say anything against the Recorder of Dublin, but the next incumbent of that office might be a man of an enterely different character.


opposed the Amendment, as he considered Ireland had the advantage of a perfectly impartial tri- bunal in this matter; which was not the case in England, where the magisterial bench was on licensing days generally packed.


said, he thought this a matter in which the Irish Members, as they were denied Home Rule, ought to be allowed to legislate for themselves.


said, the Argument against the Amendment might be employed to support an aristocracy in this country. It might be that they could find a man who would govern the country better than Parliament did; but could they always count upon getting for him a successor of the same ability? The next Recorder of Dublin might share the views of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson).


said, the Dublin magistrates were merely ornamental, and it was time they should have something to do.


opposed the Amendment, as it would, after the turn the discussion had taken, be construed as a reflection upon the Recorder of Dublin, who had in every branch of his duty given the most entire satisfaction to all classes of the community. The Dublin magistrates were not appointed for magisterial duties, and had no magisterial experience.


hoped sincerely that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would not yield to this Amendment.


said, that while the number of residents in Dublin had enormously increased during the last 20 years, the number of licences had been diminished. He was not prepared to state that that might not be a happy thing for society; but it must not be forgotten that it showed they were granting to the trade in Dublin a certain monopoly. The power of granting licences ought not to be entrusted to any one individual, however highly he might be spoken of in that House. If for no other reason, he should support the Amendment.


said, the clause made a most invidious distinction between county and borough magistrates. Sitting in petty session in Dublin, the Recorder had no power to grant a licence without the assistance and advice of the magistrates; but the same individual, when he got to Belfast, had the sole power of granting or refusing a licence, and no justice had a right to dictate to him in the matter.


disclaimed any intention of casting a slur upon the Recorder of the City of Dublin. There was not a Recorder in all England who was permitted to have a voice in the issuing of licences, and no English Member of that House during the debate on the Intoxicating Liquors Bill rose to propose that such power should be conferred upon Recorders in this country. By this proposal they brought an indictment against the magistracy of Ireland, for they proposed to strip them of the power which they at present possessed. He, for one, protested against the imputation of favouring drunkards, which had been hurled against the magistrates of the City of Dublin in this debate.


said, he thought some better reasons for the proposal to confer this power upon the Recorder of Dublin should have been given by the Chief Secretary.


argued that if it was not right to place the granting of licences in the hands of the magistrates, who were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, with the consent and sanction of the Lord Chancellor, it was not right to give them the Commission of the Peace.


said, the proposal seemed to be equivalent to giving the power of licensing to the Lord Chancellor. He would oppose the Amendment, as he saw no reason for altering the present system.


said, the Dublin Recorder had reduced the number of licences and given such general satisfaction, that he (Sir Arthur Guinness) would oppose the Amendment.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 133: Majority 70.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Friday.