HC Deb 27 June 1879 vol 247 cc839-40

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it has been brought to his knowledge that two of the Southampton Borough Justices—not acting at the time in Petty Sessions, and without the knowledge of the other members embers of the Bench—granted thirty-two exemption licences, enabling thirty-two Southampton publicans to prolong the time during which they might sell drink on the Saturday preceding, and the Monday following Whitsunday; and, whether he proposes to take any action in cones- quence of the proceedings of these two magistrates?


, in reply, said, he had received a letter from the town clerk of Southampton on the subject, and the facts were better in one respect and worse in another than was indicated in the Question. As far as ho could make out, the magistrates, with the Mayor in the chair, met on the Monday before the transaction took place, and came to an unanimous resolution that, on the days in question, exemption licences should be granted to all applicants against whom no complaint had been made. The result of the resolution was that in the course of the week no less than 70 persons applied for and obtained exemption licences. On the next Saturday morning 32 persons who had not applied in time came to the Bench. There were two magistrates then present who did not approve the general resolution of the previous Monday, and they left the court without granting the applications. He was told that, in consequence of this, the Mayor and a magistrate who had acted with him, in signing the licences granted on a former occasion, thought that those 32 persons were not being fairly dealt with, and granted them exemption licences in the belief that they were carrying out the unanimous decision which the Bench had previously arrived at. That exempted them from the charge of dealing with the matter behind the backs of the other magistrates; but he felt bound to say he thought that the principle on which those particular magistrates had acted was at variance with the spirit of the Statute. There were plenty of opportunities of indulging in intoxicating drinks at a holiday season without extending the hours of opening. The discretion intrusted to magistrates by Parliament, in the Statute, was not intended to enable them in a wholesale way to extend those hours beyond those recognized at present.