§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. RODWELL
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he might explain in a few words that this little measure was simply an extremely small development of the Amendments which he and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) had submitted to the House on the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). It spoke for itself, and, therefore, he need not weary the House with any explanation. It simply rendered it incumbent on the Justices before they granted a new licence that they should be satisfied that the licence was necessary on public grounds, in the words of the clause of the Bill, that the application for such licence was supported by a requisition sufficient to satisfy the licensing authority, and that it was sustained by evidence taken on oath that such licence was necessary to supply a present want. At present there were only two matters about which the Justices were bound to concern themselves—namely, the respectability of the tenant and the capacity of the house. These two matters were prominently brought forward, but frequently nothing further. He did not say the Justices did not sufficiently inquire into the facts brought before them; yet he thought the Bill would carry out the principle, at any rate, of a qualified local option to such an extent as to be a safeguard against the multiplication of unnecessary public-houses. The subject 190 had been already so fully discussed that; he would not go into it further than to say that those who agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) seemed to be satisfied with the Bill, as well as many of the advocates of a Permissive Bill. Indeed, he believed that there was no serious opposition to it, and that it met with universal favour. He should be glad if the Secretary of State for the Home Department would say one word as to the views of the Government; and with that remark he would ask the House to read the Bill a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second, time."—(Mr. Rodwell.)
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he hoped the House would consent to read the Bill a second time. He was quite sure the action taken by the magistrates throughout the country of late years was very much in the direction in which the House wished to move; but he did not think they had received that appreciation to which they were entitled for their conduct in this matter. What was laid down in this Bill had been for some time past the practice of the magistrates; and if anyone looked at the record of the licences which they had lately granted he would be struck at the small number of them. This Bill, then, proceeded upon the right lines. The great objection which he entertained to the proposal of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle and similar projects was that they made the granting of licences the subject of a popular vote which ought to be a matter of judicial decision. Judges so elected would be elected either to refuse or to grant licences just to suit the wishes of their constituents; but under this Bill the magistrates would act judicially, and judge for themselves whether a licence was required or not, and the Bill would bind them to take notice of certain things before they decided whether a licence was or was not wanted. In reading this Bill they would strengthen the hands of those magistrates who had hitherto acted up to their duty, while they would, at the same time, compel the others to do what they ought all along to have done. He was rejoiced to find the Bill introduced, and hoped it would be carried.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, it had been said that there was no necessity for this Bill, inasmuch as the magistrates did all the Bill required them to do. That was to some extent true; but what the magistrates did, they did without the authority of the law, and their inquiries were consequently irregular and uncertain. This Bill, by imposing a legal obligation upon them, would make the inquiry, he hoped, effective; for it would be what it was not now—a formal solemn judicial inquiry; and there could be no reason to suspect what was called jobbery in the granting and refusing of licences. When magistrates were found deciding such questions in the teeth of the evidence before them, there got abroad the idea that they were actuated by improper influences. He believed that the effect of the Bill would be, in the course of time, without injury to any interest, to bring the number of licensed houses within reasonable limits, and more in accord with actual public requirements.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, he did not wish that it should be for a moment supposed that the magistrates had not done the work committed to their charge with that amount of care and supervision which was required of them. They had done so in such a way as entitled them to the commendation of the public. He knew that for the last 20 years the Yorkshire magistrates required to have three things proved to them before they granted a licence—First of all, the character of the applicant; secondly, the suitability of the house; but beyond everything, that a public-house was required in the neighbourhood. He believed that that had been done in other parts of England; and where it was not done, there could be no objection to make the tribunal more strict in requiring proof for the necessity of the licence.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, he had, as a Scotch Member, placed his name on the back of the Bill, feeling that it would be of great advantage to Scotland, an idea which had been confirmed by inquiry. If the Bill went into Committee he should move an Amendment extending it to Scotland, and, if necessary, he should bring in a separate Bill for the purpose. In Ireland, whenever a new road was proposed to be made, the magistrates had six persons sum- 192 moned to advise them as to the need for it. If such a course should be adopted in reference to a road, it was reasonable that it should be done in reference to a licence. He hoped the Home Secretary would use his influence to have the Bill extended to Scotland.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday.