HC Deb 09 May 1922 vol 153 cc2094-101

Considered in Committee.

[Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to abolish certain rights and privileges of the City of Oxford and of the City of St. Albans in connection with the sale of wine and the granting of licences there for and for purposes incidental thereto, it is expedient to authorise, in connection with the abolition of rights and privileges under the said Act,—

  1. (a) the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, to the Corporation of the City of Oxford of the sum of three thousand two hundred pounds, together with the amount of any costs which may appear to the Treasury to have been properly incurred by the Corporation in connection with the said abolition; and
  2. (b) the payment, out of moneys provided by Parliament, to the Corporation of the City of St. Albans of the sum of one thousand two hundred pounds."


The Resolution which it is my duty to propose to the Committee is a Money Resolu- tion of a familiar type, to lead to a Bill which it will be equally my duty to introduce to the House at a later date should this Resolution be accepted. The necessity for the Money Resolution is due to the circumstance that the Bill will involve the issue of a small sum out of the public funds. The purpose of the Bill is to carry out an agreement made between the Treasury and the Corporations of Oxford and St. Albans, under which those two Corporations will part to the Treasury with some ancient rights which they hold to grant wine licences within their boroughs and to receive certain fees in respect of their rights. The history of these rights is a very long and ancient one. At Oxford the rights have the following history. They were originally the rights of the University, starting from the time of King Edward III. In later times, in 1888, the University parted with those rights to the Corporation of Oxford. In 1890 the agreement by which the University parted with its rights for the sale of wine licences to the Corporation of Oxford was confirmed by Statute. At St. Albans the exclusive rights of the Corporation to grant these licences date back to the days of Queen Elizabeth, when a concession to the municipality was conferred on the borough in order to provide a salary of 4 marks to the headmaster of the local grammar school, a remuneration which I am glad to say has long since ceased to be paid.

This Measure is an agreed one. In fact, it was undertaken originally on the motion of the Corporation of St. Albans, who themselves approached the Government with a proposal that they should part with their rights. Therefore, we approached the Corporation of Oxford, and they agreed to a similar transfer. This Measure fulfils the admirable purpose of obtaining a reasonable unity of the licensing laws and of avoiding all the trouble and confusion to the local licensees and the licensing authorities which arises by these concessions. There is a very practical purpose to be achieved in that respect, and great convenience and more efficient administration of the licensing law. As regards the finance of the scheme, the income derived by the Corporation of Oxford has been, in the last year for which I have figures available, £139, and in respect of that we propose to pay £3,200 for the purchase of the licensing rights. At St. Albans, the income for the last year available was round about £63. For that we propose to pay £1,200. In both cases we shall bear the cost of this legislation necessary for the transfer. Finally, one word about procedure. This Bill is a hybrid Bill, which means that after the Second Reading, if the House grants it, the Measure will go to a private Committee, where all particular interests will have an opportunity of being heard. It is not anticipated that there will be any opposition. However, as it involves a charge, it will come down here to a Committee of the Whole House. Therefore there will be quite adequate opportunities for avoiding any dangerous and hasty legislation in this valuable measure of reform.


It seems curious that we should select the period of the present financial stringency to interfere, at a certain expense to ourselves, with an arrangement which has proved satisfactory, in one case since the days of Edward III, and in the other case since the days of Elizabeth. If this arrangement has subsisted during all this length of time, why should we spend over £4,000 of the State's money in the acquisition of rights which are not really in any way of very material use to the State or even necessary to the working of our licensing system? In addition, the hon. Gentleman seems to be getting a very low rate of interest for the money which he is investing. He is buying the right of the Oxford Corporation for a sum of over £3,000, and it only provides an income of some £139 per year. As yet another instance of State enterprise in a business sphere, this is not a very happy one. It may sound trivial to take exception to a Measure of this kind, but it is by cheeseparing and the saving of candle ends that our financial position can very largely be remedied. Savings of this kind, in their cumulative effect, amount up to a very considerable sum, and until the Treasury revert to the sound old Gladstonian position of weighing every penny of expenditure and examining with meticulous care all proposals, even of such a small nature as this, we shall not restore our finances to a proper basis. I greatly deplore that the hon. Gentleman should select such a moment as this to invest nearly £5,000 of the public money in a concern which is in no way relevant to the conduct of the licensing laws.


Will the licence duties under the control of the local authorities produce an annual sum greater than the loss of interest on the capital sum which you are giving away?


I want to utter a word of protest against this modern craze for uniformity. I like these little odds and ends and by a ways in the development of our history. I do not care what they pertain to. I like to imagine that the Isle of Man and other parts of the country with which I am acquainted where conventional laws are supposed to be in force, are different from the rest of Great Britain. I like these little bits of variety. I know my hon. and gallant Friend has imagination, and I am surprised that he should not exercise his historical imagination in leaving these things as they are. This custom that is to disappear began in the reign of Edward I., who was defeated at the Battle of Bannock-burn.

Mr. T. DAVIES (Cirencester)

It was Edward II who was defeated at Ban-nockburn.


It was an Edward, anyhow. I appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to reconsider this, and not make this country of ours one uniform colour, red, green, or any other colour. Let us have variety.


I must congratulate the last speaker on the sound Toryism he has displayed. I entirely agree with every word he has said. Here are perfectly harmless ancient privileges to two of our most august cities, and for no adequate purpose the House is asked to devote a capital sum of money to buying them out. Of course, it is a mere bagatelle—£2,000—tout they do absolutely no harm. They simply tend to preserve a historic sense and make local antiquarians discuss them and go into their various histories, and they have associations about them which it is to the interest of everyone to maintain if they possibly can. I hope that when the Second Reading of the Bill comes hon. Members will be here in rather larger numbers, and we shall get a good big vote against this entirely unnecessary legislation.


I, too, feel a little shocked at the reckless vandalism of this Measure. My hon. Friend, as far as I heard him, did not suggest any single reason of public importance why this Bill should be passed. What is the objection to the system that at present exists? He tells us that the City of St. Albans was anxious for an agreement of this kind. I have the greatest possible respect for the City of St. Albans, and I am quite sure they had an excellent reason, from their point of view, for doing it. Still, we do not know what it was. I do not know, and the right hon. Gentleman has not told us what it was. Surely before passing even this small Bill there ought to be some public reason given for it. Mere uniformity is not a reason. In that point I am entirely in agreement with the two last speakers. One of the great glories of this country is that we have preserved links with the past wherever we can. It has given to our people a historical imagination, a historical background, by which they consider all proposals which are made to them, and it is not a thing lightly to be diminished if we can avoid it. This is not a question of party Conservatism or Radicalism. It is a matter on which the greatest leaders of both parties have been agreed. No one was more tenacious of this kind of connection with the past than Mr. Gladstone, except perhaps the leaders of the Tory party of his day. Both sides believed in maintaining these ancient relics of the past unless they were doing harm, in which case, of course, they must be swept away, but, so far, we have not been given any reason to suppose that the ancient rights in this particular case are really a public disadvantage, and I hope before even the Debate on this stage concludes, my hon. and gallant Friend will explain what is the public reason for this Bill.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir E. Cornwall)

We have had the Second Reading of the Bill. This is only a Money Resolution.


No, we have not had the Second Reading.


It was passed on 4th April.


That makes it all the more reason why we should have an explanation now.


The amount of income which His Majesty's revenue will derive from the issue of these licences will undoubtedly be no less than those figures I mentioned which have been derived in the past by the corporations which have hitherto had licensing powers. Nay, more, it is a reasonable expectation that under the administration of the ordinary law the revenue may be increased. It has not shown very much tendency to increase in the past in comparison with other places, but it may be expected that it will increase and that we shall do better on our investments than the figures I referred to. As to the balance between the advantages of historical associations and the public welfare, I need not say the former also require some consideration, but it is a mistake to suppose that in the case of Oxford those rights which we are purchasing have any remote historical tradition behind them. The old historical rights of the University of Oxford were extinguished in year 1888, when the University itself murdered them. I did not amplify the matter in explaining this little Measure. Perhaps I took it too much for granted. Under the present state of affairs you have a double licensing authority in these cities. You have the ordinary licensing authority and this special

licensing authority exercised by the corporation in respect of wine licences. There is a very great advantage in observing the principle that there should be a single licensing authority for a city because there is a policy of licensing which ought to be uniform over the whole city and over all liquor matters connected with the city. I think that is a real reason of public policy, and I am sure hon. Members who are interested in licensing questions will agree that that is a practical reason of such importance from the point of view of administration that it should weigh against the rather less ponderable influences of historical tradition.


The Financial Secretary is really going to pay £3,300 for a right which is only a concurrent right with someone else's right to issue wine licences for the City of Oxford. If the other authority choses to grab all the licences and issue them this right is not worth anything at all.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now going into the merits of the Bill, which will come before the Committee if this Resolution is passed.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 144; Noes, 86.

Division No. 99.] AYES. [7.43 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Clough, Sir Robert Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Amery, Leopold C. M. S. Coats, Sir Stuart Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard
Armitage, Robert Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Hope, Sir H.(Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)
Baird, Sir John Lawrence Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A (Midlothian)
Barlow, Sir Montague Cralk, Rt. Hon. sir Henry Hopkins, John W. W.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals) Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Barnett, Major Richard W. Dawson, Sir Philip Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere
Barnston, Major Harry Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend) Howard, Major S. G.
Barrand, A. R. Doyle, N. Grattan Hudson, R. M.
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Edge, Captain Sir William Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark) Jameson, John Gordon
Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell Evans, Ernest Jephcott, A. R.
Birchall, J. Dearman Falcon, Captain Michael Jesson, C.
Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester) Farquharson, Major A. C. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Blair, Sir Reginald Fell, Sir Arthur King, Captain Henry Douglas
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Forrest, Walter Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)
Bowles, Colonel H. F. Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)
Breese, Major Charles E. Frece, Sir Walter de Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Lyle, C. E. Leonard
Briggs, Harold Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.
Broad, Thomas Tucker Gilbert, James Daniel Macquisten, F. A.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Maddocks, Henry
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.) Marks, Sir George Croydon
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E. Marriott, John Arthur Ransome
Carr, W. Theodore Hailwood, Augustine Martin, A. E.
Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington) Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.
Cautley, Henry Strother Hamilton, Major C. G. C. Middlebrook, Sir William
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hancock, John George Molson, Major John Elsdale
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.) Haslam, Lewis Morden, Col. W. Grant
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood) Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston) Moreing, Captain Algernon H.
Morrison, Hugh Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) Taylor, J.
Murray, C. D. (Edinburgh) Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor) Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Murray, John (Leeds, West) Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford) Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Neal, Arthur Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund Tickler, Thomas George
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. I., (Exeter) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Tryon, Major George Clement
Parker, James Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)
Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur Weston, Colonel John Wakefield
Pennefather, De Fonblanque Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray Shaw, William T. (Forfar) White, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G. Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.) Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)
Purchase, H. G. Smith, Sir Harold (Warrington) Worsfold, T. Cato
Raffan, Peter Wilson Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney) Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Randies, Sir John Scurrah Stanton, Charles Butt Young, E. H. (Norwich)
Rankin, Captain James Stuart Steel, Major S. Strang
Ratcliffe, Henry Butler Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Rendall, Athelstan Strauss, Edward Anthony Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. McCurdy.
Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend) Sturrock, J. Leng
Richardson, Lt Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D. Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Gritten, W. G. Howard Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Atkey. A. R. Grundy, T. W. Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth) Rae, H. Norman
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Gwynne, Rupert S. Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Barton, Sir William (Oldham) Hallas, Eldred Robertson, John
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk) Halls, Walter Rodger, A. K.
Bramsdon, Sir Thomas Hartshorn, Vernon Shaw, Thomas (Preston)
Bromfield, William Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Sitch, Charles H.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Cairns, John Hirst, G. H. Spencer, George A.
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield) Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Sutton, John Edward
Casey, T. W. Hogge, James Myles Swan, J. E.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Holmes, J. Stanley Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hurd, Percy A. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Ccwan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Irving, Dan Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe) John, William (Rhondda, West) Waterson, A. E.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Johnstone, Joseph Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Wignall, James
Devlin, Joseph Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E)
Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Kennedy, Thomas Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)
Entwistle, Major C. F. Lort-Williams, J. Windsor, Viscount
Finney, Samuel Lunn, William Wise, Frederick
Foot, Isaac Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Galbraith, Samuel Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D, (Midlothian) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gillis, William Mosley, Oswald
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne) Myers, Thomas Mr. Ormsby Gore and Dr. Murray.
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Newbould, Alfred Ernest

Resolution to be reported to-morrow.