HC Deb 28 August 1914 vol 66 cc324-31

2.—(1) In this Act the expression "retailers' licence" means any of the retailers' licences specified in the First Schedule to the Finance (1909–10) Act, 1910.

(2) In the application of this Act to Scotland, the Secretary for Scotland shall be substituted for the Secretary of State, and the licensing court shall be substituted for the licensing justices, and the general half-yearly meeting of the court, or any adjournment thereof, shall be substituted for the general annual licensing meeting. "Intoxicating liquor" means excisable liquor, and "retailers' licence" means certificate as defined in Part VII. of the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1903.

(3) In the application of this Act to Ireland the Lord Lieutenant shall be substituted for the Secretary of State, and the expression "Licensing district" means as respects the police district of Dublin metropolis that district and elsewhere in Ireland the petty sessions district, and the expression "licensing justices" means as respects the police district of Dublin metropolis the chief commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, and, as respects any other licensing district, two or more justices at petty sessions.

(4) This Act may be cited as the Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act, 1914.

(5) This Act shall remain in force during the continuance of the present war, and for a period of one month after the close thereof.


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words, and the expression 'chief officer of police—'

  1. (a) with respect to the City of London, means the Commissioner of the City Police; and
  2. (b) elsewhere in England, has the same meaning as in the Police Act, 1890."

This Amendment is consequential on other Amendments which have been made.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "meeting" ["the general annual licensing meeting"], to insert the words,

"'Sheriff-depute' shall be substituted for 'chief officer of police'. The reference to an appeal to Quarter Sessions shall not apply. 'Summary conviction' means summary conviction in the sheriff-court."


I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way he has met our views in this matter. I should also like to say that I am quite certain the Government have no oblique motive in regard to the Bill, and I have no suspicion even in regard to the motive of hon. Members who support it.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. RUSSELL (Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture, Ireland)

I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the word "district" ["the Petty Sessions district"], to insert the words, the expression 'chief officer of police' means as respects the police district of Dublin metropolis, either of the commissioners of police for that district and elsewhere in Ireland a district inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words "the Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant," and to' insert instead thereof the words, "the Recorder of the City of Dublin."

Question, "That the words" the Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, with the approval of the Lord Lieutenant,' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will say what is the effect of the last Amendment which he moved? No notice was given of it.


We had no notice of the Amendment, and I would ask whether, as a matter of convenience, the right hon. Gentleman could explain to the House what the Amendment means? When it was put through we could not hear it, and we do not know the effect of it.

The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)

We have passed that Amendment. I read it as clearly as I possibly could twice over, and any remarks which the hon. Member desired to make upon it could have been made then.

Words, "the Recorder of the City of Dublin," there inserted.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (5), to leave out the words "during the continuance of the present War, and for a period of one month after the close thereof," and to insert instead thereof the words "until the thirty-first day of March, 1915."

This Amendment would have the effect of altering the period during which the Act will continue. The Bill as it stands proposes that it should remain in force during the continuance of the War, and a month after. While we hope that the War may come to an end in a few months, we know that it might continue for two or three years, and therefore this Act might remain in force during that period, and one month after, what is called the close of the War—a period which is always difficult to define. I propose that these enormous powers—although I think they are necessary—should only be given until the 31st March, 1915, that is to say, for a period during which we shall have seven months' experience of the administration of the Act before it is renewed. At the end of seven months we shall be in possession of a large amount of experience as to how the Act has been operated throughout the country, and I dare say a good many of the fears which have been expressed regarding it may then have disappeared, and if this unfortunate War should still be raging, then I am sure the House would be willing to arm the Home Secretary again with these powers, or larger powers, if necessary, for naval and military or civilian reasons. I think we should have the experience of seven months before renewing the Act. Why should we not have an opportunity of reviewing this Act, and seeing whether it is or is not necessary to renew it in its present form or in some modified form? Then the question of compensation might arise. If the Act is put in force to a large extent, we might have to consider its renewal in connection with the question of some relaxation of the Licence Duties. I think the House should not part with the liberties it now possesses for two or three years, but should make the Act experimental.


The reason why this Bill is introduced is that it is an emergency measure to last as long as the War lasts. If it lasts as the right hon. Gentleman opposite suggests it might last, two or three years, this country during the whole of that time will be largely engaged in the training of troops. If the War comes to an end within a shorter period, the need for the Bill will disappear with it. The reason why we have taken it for the period of the War is to allow for the time we think it would be necessary to have it in force. There is no possible reason why this Bill should have been brought in at all if it is to be brought to an end in the middle of the War. The Bill has met, I am glad to say, with general acceptance in the whole House. Everybody approves of the principle, and the Government recog- nise the advantage of the Amendments which have been moved and accepted. If we find that in practice that it does not work well, a matter which the House will have ample opportunity of ascertaining, we can then amend the Bill, but I do think that it would be unwise to limit the operation of a Bill, which everyone desires, to a period when the War might not be over, and the Bill would still be required. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill practicaly throws upon the Secretary of State the responsibility for any order which might be regarded as unnecessarily drastic, and consequently this House, through criticism of the Secretary of State, will have complete control. In those circumstances it is really unnecessary to ask us to go through the whole process of proposing the Bill again in circumstances when everybody admits that it ought to operate.


In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


It would be within the recollection of the Committee that an Amendment was carried without any explanation in reference to the application of this Bill to Ireland. It probably is all right; it may be consequential to something that was carried before, but I should like to hear some explanation of the immediate effect of it, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture of Ireland will give some explanation.


Acting for the Chief Secretary, who is unable to be present, I have moved two Amendments. The first defined the police authority in town and country, and the second defined the Recorder of Dublin as the licensing authority for the Metropolitan Police district. I was unable to give notice of the first of these Amendments because it was consequent upon an alteration in the body of the Bill which was made during the day.

"Where the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor is suspended as regards any premises under the provisions of this Act the holder of the licence for such premises shall not be liable to pay the whole Duty which would otherwise have been exigible in respect of such premises, but shall be entitled to have deducted from his net payment a sum in proportion to the hours during which such sale or consumption has been so suspended."

Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move "that this Clause be read a second time."

It must be evident that there is a possibility of a grievance under this Bill which may be serious grievances, and I think that this Clause is a remedy for that grievance. Assuming that the War lasts two or three years, as has been mentioned, there are large districts of the country where the Bill will be put into operation to a very limited extent, but there are certain parts of the country where for long periods there will be large numbers of troops, and in those districts you may have very serious injury done, for the national interests we will agree, to particular interests. I do not see why you should penalise these individuals any more than you should penalise the man whose house you blow up for military reasons. The State compensates him, and I do not see why in principle the State, should not, compensate in this case also. I agree that there may be some difficulty as to the method of assessing the injury done. I have tentatively adopted the measurement of a sum in proportion to the hours during which the sale is suspended. Of course all hours are not equal in importance to the vendor, but it is the simplest method of doing justice that I could think of. If, with the resources and advice at the disposal of the Government, they can think of any better method, it is obviously easy to substitute some other words. There are other methods, but they all seem to me to be so complicated, at any rate, from the drafting point of view, that I venture to adhere to this simple method, and in that form I beg leave to move the Amendment.


I hope that the hon. Member will not press this Amendment. In the very case in which he is supposing that this Bill has been put into operation, and the houses in a district are closed at ten at night instead of eleven, what would be the effect upon licensed premises in the district? There has been brought into this district a large number of men who will consume intoxicating liquor during the day. Most probably the sale of these houses in the district will be greater than ever they have been before. Though the sales will not be as great as they would be if the full-licensed hours were allowed, they would still be much greater than they are under the ordinary trade. Taking such a case as that, does he think that that is a proper case for money being made out of a national emergency? On the one hand greater profit is being made, and on the other hand there is less Licence Duty to be paid.


I agree that the case which I put is open to that reply, but there are other cases.


I quite agree, but I want to take the Amendment as it stands. That case, which will be the usual case where the Bill is in force at all, is not a case for compensation. There may be other cases where a loss may occur. Under this Clause the right to compensation or reduction could not take place until next year. I have promised frequently to issue Returns from time to time as to Orders under this Bill, and if the hon. Gentleman, before next year's Finance Bill, can make cut a case to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show that men have suffered severely under this Bill, I have no doubt that it will be taken into consideration. It must be understood that I am not in any way committing the right hon. Gentleman, but that is a matter which should be brought to his notice. Clearly it is not a case for what the hon. Member would consider rough and ready justice under this Bill, or what I should characterise as rough and ready injustice. In many cases the person would not be entitled to any reduction of Duty, and in other cases they would not be given anything like adequate compensation for loss of trade.


I presume that my hon. Friend does not mean to press this to a Division? In any case it was only determined to raise the point which we thought ought to be kept in view. What the Home Secretary says about cases being considered on the next Finance Act may, of course, meet it, but we only put this case to the Home Secretary because it is a probable case. My hon. Friend and myself had most in mind that you have already passed for Scotland a Temperance Act which definitely limits the hours of trade from ten o'clock in the morning until ten o'clock at night. The Act is working admirably in many respects; but the English trade is entitled to open at six o'clock in the morning and close at half-past twelve o'clock at night. [An [HON. MEMBER: "Only in London!"] That is what I have in my mind. But at any rate the hours in England are longer than they are in Scotland, which, however, has to pay the same Licence Duty as other sections of the trade which are entitled to keep open during longer hours. I do not think there is going to be excessive drinking during the period of the War. On the contrary, one might have a great deal less drinking, because people have less to spend. The trade is supporting every kind of effort that has been made in these emergencies, and I think the Home Secretary ought definitely to tell us, on the occasion when we next consider the Finance Act, that those material facts will be taken into consideration in determining the Licensing Duty. If he gives us that general assurance, which I think is all we can ask, then I think my hon. Friend and myself should be content with the position.


Under the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, and thank the right hon. Gentleman for the words he has used, which, I think, will afford a good deal of reassurance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed.