HC Deb 23 June 1890 vol 345 cc1640-3

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the unanimous judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland, of the 17tli instant, upholding a decision of the Justices at Lurgan Quarter Sessions on 28th May, refusing to grant a transfer to Patrick Blayney of a licence for the house, 49, Church Street, Lurgan, held by his brother, the late James Blayney, on the ground of the "unfitness of the applicant" and "the unsuitability of the premises"; has he observed that it was proved in the case as follows: that the house in question was licensed for 70 years, and no objections had been made against the persons who held the licence during that time; that Patrick Blayney died in March, leaving the house to James Blayney, who got a protection order enabling him to carry on the business until the Quarter Sessions; that on the case coming before the Quarter Sessions, six Magistrates voted against the transfer, and five in favour of it; that the County Court Judge (Judge Kisbey) made it a rule not to vote on these eases, but intimated that if he did vote he would have voted in favour of the transfer; that the police made no objection to the transfer, but it was opposed on behalf of the Lurgan United Temperance Association; that there was no other opposition of any kind; that the house was largo and commodious: that the applicant resided a mile and a half from the house, but his son resided on the premises, and was 30 years of age; that Chief Justice O'Brien said the police appeared to have rather supported the application; that the only suggestion as to the "unfitness of the applicant" was that he was a Catholic, while the majority of the Justices were Protestants; and that, nevertheless, the Queen's Bench felt constrained to refuse even a conditional order to quash the Justices' decision on the ground that the matter was purely within their discretion; was Probate Duty charged on the licence-asset in this case during the 70 years the licence lasted; and will orders be given after this decision, and that of "Sharp v. Wakefield," that Probate Duty shall no longer be levied on licensed property; or will a test ease be taken to decide whether a licence is a mere precarious asset or a practically permanent property?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question may I ask whether it is not a fact that the "large and commodious" premises in question were only 13 feet in front, and 26 feet in depth, that they were old and dilapidated, had a thatched roof and an unenclosed garden, that was open day and night?


I cannot answer that question. With regard to the question on the Paper I have to say that, if the facts are as described by the hon. Member, it would appear that the Queen's Bench Division refused the application for a conditional order to quash the Justices' decision on the ground that the matter was within their discretion, and that they had found the applicant unfit and the premises unsuitable. So probate was charged on the will of the late Mr. James Blayney (not Mr. Patrick Blayney), who died in March of this year, as the gross assets were sworn under £100, and the licence was not accounted for an asset, being probably considered of no value, as the concern is a very small one. The same circumstances have probably applied to the licence in question during the last 70 years. This decision, and that of "Sharp v. Wakefield" do not convince me that Probate Duty should not be levied on licences. When the goodwill of licences ceases to be bought and sold for valuable considerations, then the time will come to consider whether Probate Duty shall cease to lie levied on licensed property.


Is it a fact that after a licence had been attached to the premises for 70 years it rests with the Magistrates to take it away. Will the Government allow a test case to be taken to see whether it is legal to continue to charge Probate Duty under the circumstances detailed in the question?


Probate Duty is not in the first instance assessed by the Government. It is brought in in the schedule of assets by the executors of a deceased person. If there is no value put on the licence asset, there ought to be.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he will lay upon the Table, as Parliamentary Papers, the following documents in connection with the licensing case of "Sharp v. Wakefield;" the statement of the case, and the judgments delivered in the Court of Appeal?


I have made inquiries as to the case of "Blunt v. Byrne," which was cited by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton as a precedent for the hon. Member's proposal. I find that there was no authorised record of that case until the Report revised by the Judge was printed as a Parliamentary Paper, it not being the practice to include Jury cases in the Irish Law Reports. There is, therefore, a clear distinction between that case and the case of "Sharp v. Wakefield." But, apart altogether from any question of precedent, I remain of opinion that in the latter case there is no good reason to supplement the authorised Law Reports in the manner proposed.