§ SIR WILLIAM WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that in the Findochty Licensing Appeal Case a petition was presented to the Banff Quarter Sessions against the licence signed by 204 out of a total of 245 householders of Findochty, and another petition signed by 526 persons over 18 years of age out of a total population of 1,200; whether Quarter Sessions refused to receive or consider these petitions, and whether such refusal was lawful; 101 and whether he can state to what extent the majority of justices who granted the licence on appeal were connected with Findochty, or had taken steps to ascertain the requirements and wishes of the local community?
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that the local Licensing Authority unanimously refused the transfer of the licence of the only public-house in the village of Findochty, in Banffshire, in compliance with the almost unanimously expressed request of the householders and inhabitants; and that the transfer was then granted in appeal by the Banff Quarter Sessions by a majority of 26 votes to 18; and whether, if the case is as above stated, he can suggest any method by which the inhabitants of Findochty can obtain redress in the matter?
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
In reply to my hon. Friends I may say that I am informed that on the 16th April last, Alexander MacDonald applied to the Licensing Court of the lower district of Banffshire, in which district Findochty is situated, for renewal of a transferred certificate. Notice of objection had been lodged in terms of the Statute; and on the morning of the Court a petition signed by 186 householders of Findochty out of 246 against the application was lodged. No objection was taken to the reception of the petition. The local justices, 12 in number, after hearing the parties' agents, unanimously refused the renewal of the licence. The applicants appealed to the General Quarter Sessions for the whole county, and 46 justices from all parts of the county attended the meeting. The applicant's agent objected to the petition which was received in the court below being read, as also a copy of that petition with additional signatures said to contain over 200 names. He stated that he had a petition in favour of the licence; but he asked the Court to refuse to receive all petitions from any quarter. On a division it was decided to refuse the petitions by 27 as against 15. I cannot say that the Court exceeded their powers in doing so. The Court then sustained the appeal and granted the licence, by 26 votes to 18. I am informed that the petition admitted 102 by the District Court was a bonâ fide one, and was signed by genuine householders who opposed the application; and that a large majority of the householders in Findochty are opposed to the renewal. I am informed, likewise, that there had been an organised canvas of justices on the part of the licensing trade; some justices coming from the upper parts of the county to support the appeal, who had little or no knowledge of the local conditions of Findochty; while the proceedings of the Court were such as hardly to enable them to acquire much knowledge during the hearing of the case. The proceedings at the Quarter Sessions were not (I quote the words of the Sheriff Substitute of Banffshire) "such as to induce respect for the administration of justice," and there were certain additional circumstances which fully bear out this emphatic opinion.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
Has the right hon. Gentleman any information that this man got his licence because he offered to entertain to dinner the magistrates of the county?
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I think the circumstances which I have been able to detail to the House on the highest authority are sufficiently strong, and that we need not enter on any other matter.