HC Deb 18 April 1910 vol 16 cc1685-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the attention of the Government has been directed to a case heard at the Wells (Somerset) Quarter Sessions on 7th April, 1910, from which it appears that the licensing justices for the city and county of Bristol had refused to renew a beer off-licence for sale in retail quantities by a Bristol brewery, on the ground that the brewery in question canvassed from house to house for orders for small quantities of beer which, in the opinion of the justices, was contrary to the spirit of the licensing laws and contrary to public policy, and that, upon an appeal from the justices of Bristol, who had the advantage of local knowledge, the justices of the county, who could not be so conversant with the conduct of the licensees or its effect as the local justices, had reversed such decision; and, if such reversal of decision is in accordance with the law, will His Majesty's Government consider the advisability of introducing a. short measure removing the right of appeal to local quarter sessions where such exist?


The Secretary of State has obtained a report of this case from the Bristol justices and finds that the facts are represented in the question, with substantial accuracy. The questions involved are of great importance and considerable difficulty, and my right hon. Friend would hesitate to say that in such, a case the conclusion arrived at by one bench of magistrates is necessarily right and the different conclusion reached by another bench is necessarily wrong. At the same time, as my hon. Friend will recollect, the Government would have removed the occasion for this difference if they had been allowed to pass the Licensing Bill, 1908, which provided, inter alia, for a new appeal authority in lieu of county quarter sessions as regards licensing cases from large boroughs. The Secretary of State is afraid that he cannot hold out hope of immediate legislation on this single item of the licensing question.