HC Deb 22 April 1914 vol 61 cc953-6

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Law relating to the rate of Charge for Compensation Levy in the case of certain Hotels."

I desire to draw attention to what I think will be generally admitted to be an unjust anomaly in the Licensing Law. It arises in connection with the levy for the fund for compensation for licences—licences which the justices decide shall not be renewed, and in respect of which the licensees are entitled to compensation under the provisions of the Act. Hon. Members are aware that the Compensation Fund which was first established by the Licensing Act of 1904 is now re-enacted by the Act of 1910. It is maintained by imposing an annual charge on all licensed premises. The charge is created according to the full value of the premises, the rates, for instance, on premises of the annual value of £900 or over being £100 a year. The new Schedule provides for a reduction in certain cases, namely, in the case of a hotel, restaurant, and other places of which the holding of a licence is merely auxiliary. It is in connection with this reduced charge that the anomaly which I wish to draw attention to arises. The Schedule in the present Act states, first of all, that "The rate of charge in the case of hotel as defined for the purpose of this provision shall be one-third of the full charge; secondly, that the rate of charge in regard to premises other than hotels which are certified by the licensing justices to be used only as public gardens, picture galleries, exhibitions, restaurants, and so forth, or for any other purposes for which the holding of a licence is purely auxiliary, shall be at such reduced rates as the justices think proper under the circumstances, and this reduced rate is not to be less than one-third of the full charge."

There are a number of hotels all over the country which do not conform to the definition. A decision which has been made in the Courts as to this meaning shows that they do not come within the provision either one way or the other. The definition of a hotel for the purposes of the provision means "premises of the value of £50 and upwards, which are proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise to be structurally adapted for use as an inn or hotel, and are mainly so used, and for which no portion of the premises is used or set apart and used as an ordinary public-house for the sale and consumption of liquor, or which portion used or set apart does not exceed the annual value of £25." The effect of the wording of this provision in regard to an hotel which comes within the definition is that the charge is automatic- ally reduced to one-third. In regard to premises other than hotels as defined, power is given to the licensing justices to make the same reduction—that is, by such amount as they think proper—to the same extent of two-thirds. But it has been decided by the Courts in connection with a similar provision of the Licensing Act of 1904 that they must either come within the definition or pay the full charge. Any licensed house, although structurally adapted for use as an hotel, and actually so used, is not within the definition if it has a bar of the annual value of £25 and upwards, yet because, though not according to the definition, but as a matter of fact and in reality it is a bonâ-fide hotel, it does not come within the provision relating to other similar premises, the licensing justices have no power to grant any reduction at all.

Perhaps the point will be plainer if I give an example. Take the First Avenue Hotel, London. That is excluded from the definition of an hotel because it had a buffet bar that is worth more than £25 per year. It is really and in fact an hotel, but, as I have pointed out, it is excluded from the discretion of the justices, while premises perhaps close by, exactly of the same kind with a buffet bar, are entitled to and do apply to the justices for a reduction of the charge. The only difference between the hotel and a restaurant is that the hotel has bedrooms and the restaurant has not. By reason of these bedrooms such an hotel, as I have mentioned, is obliged to pay three times the amount of the contribution to the compensation fund than it would have to pay if it had no bedrooms and was classed as a restaurant. This very point was brought up by the Government in the Act of 1908. The anomaly that I have referred to was remedied in that Act, and it was done without any opposition from any quarter of the House. The Bill which I am asking the leave of the House to introduce does exactly the same thing as the provision in the Government Bill in 1908, namely, merely gives the discretion and the right to the magistrate to grant the same abatement in the case of a bonâ-fide hotel, although it does not strictly comply with the definition given, as in the case of a restaurant and other places which hold a licence merely as an auxiliary. There is only one more thing for me to add, that this Bill has the approval of the Home Secretary, who has undertaken, if it is sufficiently successful on the Second Reading, that he will do what he can in the subsequent stages to enable it to become law.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Viscount Duncannon, Mr. Goulding, Sir Robert Price, Mr. George Roberts, and Sir George Younger. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 200.]