HC Deb 20 April 1891 vol 352 cc913-5

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the published reports of a case heard on the 9th instant, at the West Bromwich Police Court, in which the applicant for the transfer of the licence of a fully-licensed house at Lyndon was a brewer at Birmingham, who admittedly intended to put a manager into the house, and in which the Magistrates' clerk stated that the name of the holder of the licence was " given as John Cotterill, who had been dead several years," and that he had Received a letter from the Home Secretary that morning requesting that they " (the Justices) " should be very careful about the ownership of licensed houses; and in such report it was further stated that upon the refusal of the Justices to grant the transfer of the licence, the solicitor who appeared for the applicant gave notice on his client's behalf that he should again apply for a transfer of the licence, granted in the name of the person who had hen dead many years, to the manager of the brewer; whether the report is accurate in so far as the statement of the clerk to the Magistrates that he had received a letter from the Home Office, with reference to the duty of Justices, to make full inquiry as to the real ownership of houses when dealing with the transfers of licences is concerned; and, if so, whether a similar letter has already been sent, or is intended to be sent, to all clerks of Justices; whether, if such letter has been sent from the Home Office, he would be willing to state the precise terms thereof; and whether he can state if the circumstances, as to the renewal of the licence in question for several years in the name of a deceased person, are altogether exceptional; and if they are not, what. steps, if any, he would propose to take to put an end to the renewal of licences in all such cases?


I have not seen the published report of the West Bromwich case; but it is the fact that I have recently issued a Circular Letter to the Licensing Justices of every Petty Sessional Division, calling their attention to the fact that there was reason to believe that in many cases the register prescribed by Section 35 of the Licensing Act, 1872, incorrectly states the name of the owner of the licensed premises, and asking them to take steps to rectify, if necessary, the existing register, and to secure the due observance of the statute in future. I shall be happy to show the Circular to my hon. Friend. I cannot think that the facts referred to as to the renewal of a licence in the name of a deceased person during a long period of time, if accurately stated, can be otherwise than exceptional, but I have asked for a full Report as to all the circumstances of this case, and I will then consider what action, if any, it may be necessary to take in the matter.

MR. J. WILSON (Durham, Mid.)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be willing to give the letter as a Parliamentary Paper?


I do not think it would be worth while to give as a Parliamentary Paper a Circular Letter which any hon. Member may see.


Will it be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give a correct Return of the real owners of licensed houses?


Yes, Sir; if I can get the materials. That is the object of my letter.