HC Deb 20 June 1900 vol 84 cc516-25

As amended, considered.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

Upon Clause 1 I should like to make one remark. We have not been able to ascertain for ourselves what it means. I understand that a material amendment was made in this Bill during the period of its somewhat private passage through the Committee. I do not see the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill in his place, but I believe I am right in saying that words were introduced which rendered this Bill inapplicable to any existing licences, and only applicable to new ones. I think that is one inconvenience of a system which has been allowed to continue notwithstanding many protests which have been made against it.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

Upon a point of order. Is the right hon. Gentleman moving an Amendment?


I understand from the observations of the right hon. Gentleman that he is about to move an Amendment.


I am going to move the elimination of Clause 1. This is one of the instances where material alterations are made in a Bill during its passage through Committee without any intimation to this House, and when we come to deal with the Bill on the Report stage we find it is upon entirely new lines. Although it is ostensibly the same as that which we were called upon to consider in the previous stages, it has been by these alterations considerably limited and restricted. How does the House stand with regard to precedents which have been established in this matter? This Bill has been presented to us under false pretences. We are asked in this Bill to lay down precedents and alter the law in a way which we should have to keep in view when dealing with kindred subjects. My hon. friend and those associated with him propose to alter the law upon lines which have not hitherto commended themselves to the legislators of this country. The subject is one which has engaged a great deal of attention, and it is most important for the House to carefully consider how far it should deal with the various branches of a great subject in a piecemeal fashion. The system of off-licences is a system of which I entirely disapprove; it was a system introduced by the late Mr. Gladstone, and if the hon. Gentleman who supports the Bill would insert a clause repealing the whole of that legislation by the right hon. Gentleman he would have my cordial support. This Bill, in a very limited manner, proposes to deal with only one branch of the subject, and I am told that this very serious modification of the Bill, which we now see for the first time, was the result of an arrangement. Now, I am always very suspicious of arrangements. By exempting all licences already granted, a very serious departure is made, and the clause as it now stands commits this House to a widely different proposal to that which was originally put before us. I would not take exception to the policy of putting all licences on relatively identical terms, but I do not think the grocers should have advantages which an ordinary publican is denied. I think all those who sell intoxicating drink should be placed on the same footing.


In the year 1882 my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade carried through this House a Bill which placed all licences in England in the hands of the licensing justices. The ordinary retail beer licences were also brought under the jurisdiction of the magistrates, and that Act was always supposed to relate to Ireland as well as England; but by a decision of the Judges in the Irish Court of Queen's Bench it was held that that Act did not apply to Ireland, and the Bill now before the House has been introduced in order to assimilate the law of Ireland with that of England.


The hon. Gentleman referred to the Act of 1882. He did not refer to that of 1880, but he confirms me in my impression that nothing in the Act of 1880 or the amending Act of 1882 affected the sale of spirits, and therefore this Act dealing with the retailer of beer for the first time has in it the imported element of spirits. I do not object to that, but I must enter my protest against a subject of this kind being introduced by an irresponsible, or perhaps I ought to say an unofficial, private Member of this House. A subject of this kind, dealing as it does with a largo trade, and, what is of more importance, a trade carried on for the public convenience, should not be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion without strict regard to precedent, but should be introduced by an official Member of the House. I beg to move that Clause 1 be omitted from the Bill.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 8, to leave out Clause 1."—(Mr. James Lowther.)

Question proposed, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."2

MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)

I am extremely glad my right hon. friend has moved to omit Clause 1. It is practically the whole Bill, and his moving its rejection will give us some opportunity of obtaining that explanation which hitherto we have not had given to us in this House as to how this arrangement was come to. An arrangement was come to by which the Second Reading was allowed to be taken, and the Bill then went to the Grand Committee on Trade.


No; it was a Committee of the whole House.


It was smuggled through.


I object to the words "smuggled through."


I was not aware that it was a Committee of the whole House; but there is this to be said against Bills of this kind being brought in after twelve o'clock, that unless hon. Members remain in their seats after twelve o'clock they never hear anything about them.


I hope the House will not agree to place any obstacle in the way of the passing of this measure. This Bill became necessary because of the Act of 1882 not affecting Ireland, and only applies to new licences. An agreement was arrived at with regard to it by both sides of the House, and I trust my right hon. friend will not insist upon preventing us, on one of those rare occasions when Ireland is unanimous, passing this Bill.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)

I look upon this Bill with a considerable amount of suspicion, because of that very agreement to which the hon. Gentleman has alluded. I innocently took the memorandum as a definition of what the Bill was to do, and I gathered that it was a Bill to assimilate the law of Ireland with that of England, but I now find that is not the fact. It will not create similarity at all, but will create another point of difference in the licensing laws. Another very curious fact is that every Member who holds a copy of this Bill in his hands holds an erroneous copy. There are two Bills, No. 1 Bill and No. 2 Bill, and while one Bill was amended in Committee the Amendments appeared in the copy of the other Bill, so that anybody going to the Vote Office for a copy of the Bill will find nothing in the Bill about new licences. Now the question of old and new licences is one of very considerable importance, and I should like to hear from somebody responsible for this Bill what the position of all beer and spirit licences in Ireland since the decision of the Irish Courts of which mention has been made. There appears to have been a decision by the Irish Courts which held that the Act of 1882 did not apply to Ireland, and that would put all licences in Ireland on a different footing to the licences here. I should like somebody to explain what the position really is. I have no interest whatever in this trade, and have always declined to take any shares in this traffic, but I invite the attention of the House to the words of Clause 1. If hon. Members will look at the clause they will find— 1. Notwithstanding anything in any Act now in force the licensing justices shall be at liberty, in their free and unqualified discretion, either to refuse a certificate for any licence for sale of beer or spirits by retail, to be consumed off the premises, on any grounds appearing to them sufficient, or to grant the same to such persons as they, in the execution of their statutory powers, and in the exercise of their discretion deem fit and proper, and in order thereto shall be at liberty to hear and receive and act upon any objection and any evidence either in support thereof or in aid of the application made or tendered by any resident or owner of property in the parish wherein are situate the house and premises in respect of which such certificate is applied for. Under this Bill the licensing justices are to decide without evidence at all; but they may receive evidence and act upon it, but it is not to be upon oath. I do not know whether that is the law in England, but if it is, it is a very hard law, and I object to it.


Speaking simply as an Irish Member, and not as a member of the Government, I may say the explanation of the unanimity in Ireland between the trade and the temperance party is this: Owing to a recent decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, the country is liable to be flooded with off-licences, which the magistrates would be bound to grant whether they thought they were necessary or not, and the object of the Bill is to give the same right of objection in the case of off-licences as is given in the case of on-licences. This Bill is supported by all the licence-holders, and I think we might be better employed than in prolonging discussion upon this small matter.

*MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

said that if the clause was to stand, it would be desirable that some modifications should be made in this clause. It appeared to him, from the wording of the clause, that the magistrates might act upon any objection without evidence, but it ought to be enacted that they should not be able to do so unless the objection was supported by evidence. He proposed to move an Amendment in order to test that point.


The Amendment before the House is the omission of Clause 1.


I do not wish to stand in the way of my hon. friend if he has an Amendment to propose.


I have already put the question, that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill.


Then if no Amendment can now be moved, it is to be hoped that if this clause is passed it will be amended in another place.


I am unwilling to put the House to the trouble of a division, and therefore beg to withdraw my Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

An Amendment made.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)


I think there has been some misunderstanding upon this, and I strongly object to the Third Reading being taken.


This opens up a question going very far beyond the merits or demerits of the Bill. It is now proposed to accumulate two stages of a measure in this House, and that is a matter upon which Members are entitled to express their opinion and signify so far as they can, according to the light of their judgment, if they have the opportunity of deciding. Either the Bill is to be rejected or it is passed in accumulated stages. I object to the accumulation of the stages of a Bill. We used to have the opportunity on the introduction of a Bill of an explanation of its provisions, and of discussing it oven at the Report stage. The Second Reading existed as it does now. We further had an opportunity of a motion put to the Chair.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman would hardly be in order in discussing the rules of the House.


I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I will not do more than urge upon the House that it should view with grave suspicion the desire to accumulate the stages of this Bill. I do not object to the Bill on its merits, but I do object to its passing this stage without some explanation, and I think a most dangerous precedent would be established if it is allowed to pass to-day.


When the hon. Gentleman speaks about creating a precedent he is mistaken as to a precedent being now created. The same thing has been done over and over again during my time and the time of my predecessor. Two or three years ago the right hon. Gentleman called my attention to this point on a similar occasion, and I then pointed out to him that, in the time of Mr. Speaker Peel, Bills were on several occasions read a third time after a division taken, although a contentious discussion had taken place the same day upon Amendments moved and divided upon. I would point out in this case that the only Amendment that has been made is purely a drafting one.


Then I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. James Lowther.)

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

desired to call attention to the fact that the hon. Members who were so greatly concerned with the passing of the Bill were entirely absent, and that if the Bill were to be read a third time it ought to have the support of those whom it most concerned— the Irish Members. He thought, in the interests of Ireland itself, it would be un- wise to prematurely pass the Bill through the House.


This Bill was brought on at a time when, I regret, I was unavoidably absent from the House, but, so far as I

know, this is an absolutely unopposed Bill. Up to within a few months ago the law of Ireland with regard to this matter was assumed to be the same as the law of England, but owing to the decision of the Irish Courts it was held not to be so, and therefore it became necessary to assimilate the law of Ireland to that of England, and so this Bill has already got to a very advanced stage. I trust the House will now read it a third time.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 26; Noes, 147. (Division List No. 149.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F Gold, Charles Richards, Henry Charles
Baldwin, Alfred Goldsworthy, Major-General Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)
Banbury, Frederick George Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter Sharpe, William Edward T.
Bullard, Sir Harry Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Lawson, John Grant (Yorks) Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)
Fletcher, Sir Henry Maclean, James Mackenzie Wrightson, Thomas
Flower, Ernest MacIver, Sir L. (Edinbu'gh, W.)
Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk) Marks, Henry Hananel TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Galloway, William Johnson Nicholson, William Graham Mr. James Lowther and
Gedge, Sydney Nicol, Donald Ninian Colonel Kenyon-Slaney.
Allan, William (Gateshead) Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez E.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)
Arrol, Sir William Duckworth, James Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth
Ashton, Thomas Gair Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart Kitson, Sir James
Bailey, James (Walworth) Edwards, Owen Morgan Lafone, Alfred
Balcarres, Lord Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Langley, Batty
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds) Ellis, John Edward Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'land)
Banes, Major George Edward Emmott, Alfred Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)
Barlow, John Emmott Farquharson, Dr. Robert Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'nsea)
Bartley, George C. T. Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Fenwick, Charles Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne MacIver, David (Liverpool)
Bill, Charles Fisher, William Hayes Maclure, Sir John William
Billson, Alfred Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond M'Crae, George
Blundell, Colonel Henry Forster, Henry William M'Kenna, Reginald
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Fry, Lewis M'Killop, James
Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur Gibbons, J. Lloyd Middlemore, J. Throgmorton
Broadhurst, Henry Goddard, Daniel Ford Monk, Charles James
Burns, John Goulding, Edward Alfred Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Burt, Thomas Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley Moulton, John Fletcher
Buxton, Sydney Charles Graham, Henry Robert Murnaghan, George
Caldwell, James Gretton, John Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Gull, Sir Cameron Nussey, Thomas Willans
Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow) Gunter, Colonel O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Cavendish, V. C. W.(Derbysh.) Gurdon, Sir William Brampton Parkes, Ebenezer
Cawley, Frederick Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William Philipps, John Wynford
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Hardy, Laurence Pilkington, R. (Lancs. Newton)
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r) Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H. Powell, Sir Frances Sharp
Channing, Francis Allston Holland, William Henry Pretyman, Ernest George
Coghill, Douglas Harry Horniman, Frederick John Pryce-Jones, Lt -Col. Edward
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Howard, Joseph Purvis, Robert
Colville, John Hudson, George Bickersteth Renshaw, Charles Bine
Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W. Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Richardson, J. (Durham, S.E.)
Cubitt, Hon. Henry Jacoby, James Alfred Runciman, Walter
Dalkeith, Earl of Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Dewar, Arthur Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Rutherford, John
Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.) Willox, Sir J. Archibald
Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert Tollemache, Henry James Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)
Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)
Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) Tritton, Charles Ernest Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire) Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid).
Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh.) Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Soames, Arthur Wellesley Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent) Wilson, John (Govan)
Souttar, Robinson Warner, Thomas Courtenay T. Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)
Spicer, Albert Warr, Augustus Frederick Woods, Samuel
Steadman, William Charles Wason, Eugene Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Stone, Sir Benjamin Wedderburn, Sir William Yoxall, James Henry
Strachey, Edward Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunt'n) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.) Mr. William Johnston and
Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath) Williams, John Carvell (Notts.) Mr. Maddison

Original Question put, and agreed to. Bill read the third time, and passed.