§ MR. HARRY SMITH (Falkirk Burghs)
I beg to ask the Lord Advocate if he is aware that, at the last Licensing Court for the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, a public-house licence was applied for, for the Tillietudlem Inn, Crossland; that 12 justices voted in favour of the licence, and 10 against it, and 4 refrained from voting; that there was, therefore, not a majority of those present in favour of granting the licence, and that the licence was granted; that, on the same day, at the Licensing Court of the Middle Ward of the same county, a licence was applied for, when 21 justices voted for and 19 against it, and the licence was refused on the ground that it was not supported by a majority of those present; and whether he can say if the granting of the licence in the Upper Ward was contrary to law as well as to the practice in the Middle Ward?
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR,) Clackmannan and Kinross
From the information supplied to me, I believe the facts with regard to the first case referred to by my hon. Friend are correctly stated in the question. Twenty-six justices were present, 12 voted for the licence, 10 against it, and 267 4 declined to vote. In these circumstances the licence was granted. The Clerk to the Justices of the Peace, whose experience extends over 50 years, says that the uniform practice has been to take into account only the justices voting. With regard to the application at the Licensing Court of the Middle Ward, it appears that 21 justices voted for and 19 against it, and 3 declined to vote. The practice followed in that Court until last April appears to have been the same as at Lanark, but the present Clerk has expressed the opinion that a licence should only be granted when a majority of the justices assembled vote for it. It is in his view not sufficient to have a majority of those who actually take part in the voting. The Clerk's ruling and the practice in the Middle Ward which has followed upon it are based upon a different construction of Section 7 of the Home-Drummond Act, and upon an English case in which similar words in the corresponding Licensing Act of 1828 for England, have been thus interpreted. As there may be an appeal to the Quarter Sessions, it would not be proper for me to express an opinion as to which is the sound construction of the statute.