§ Mr. SPEAKER
With regard to the Amendments to Clause 2, I should like to know if the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) has any choice to make of those standing in his name. I do not know how far they hang together, but I shall select whatever one he wishes to move as covering his point.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I beg to move, in page 3, to leave out from the word "the," in line 23, to the end of line 26, and to insert instead thereof the words,county court judge for the division in which the moneylenders' business is to be carried on.This Clause makes it necessary for every moneylender to take out a certificate, and every certificate is to be the basis of a licence. It will therefore be seen that if there were three partners, each would have to take out a certificate, and, if there were 10 branches, a certificate would have to be taken out in each branch. These certificates would 770 be taken out in different places at different times and before different Benches of magistrates, and, in considering whether a certificate is to be granted or not, the tribunal has to decide whether there is satisfactory evidence that the applicant is of good character, whether there is, on the other hand, satisfactory evidence that he is not a fit and proper person, and, finally, whether he has complied with the various rules.
These are questions that really open up a latitude for the exercise of a good deal of preconception and prejudice. What is good character? Is it good moral character, is it good commercial character, is it not being a rowdy person? Different benches will take different views on all these questions, and it is in the interests of uniformity that a county court judge should grant the certificate in the first instance, and that every certificate afterwards required should be obtained from the same county court judge. But the Amendment does not go so far as that. It goes only so far as saying that the certificate ought to be granted by a county court judge. The advantage is that the decisions of a county court judge become authorities that bind other county court judges. They are men who have had the same training and the same ways of appraising evidence, and before such tribunals what is good character, what is a fit person, what is compliance with the various rules and requirements would soon become crystallised into well understood propositions, and it would, therefore, bring about uniformity.
If you leave the matter, as it is now, to the magistrates, you may have a bench of magistrates in one district saying they are not satisfied that an applicant is of good character, because of the views they have on the question of character, whereas a bench in another district may take an entirely opposite view. Again, at one time when a man applies for a certificate he may have one lot of magistrates, with one set of views, and at another time, in the same district, when he applies for another certificate, he may go before another bench, with different views, and the whole thing would result in chaos, quite apart from the fact that it is well known that these are very frequently to be found on lay benches men who are rather subject to 771 prejudice and preconception. The moneylender, in my opinion, has been a very much maligned person, but that is neither here nor there. I think a great number of things are attributed to him that are very unjustly so attributed and there is, therefore, in my view, a great deal to be said for my Amendment to substitute a county court judge for a petty sessional court.
§ Mr. BURMAN
This proposal is one to transfer the granting of a certificate of good character to a moneylender from the petty sessional court to the county court. I submit that that alteration would be very difficult to carry out. For one thing, the county courts have no facilities for this kind of work, and, moreover, they are unsuitable in a variety of other respects. The granting of certificates of good character for many years was done by the petty sessional courts under the Act of 1872, but subsequently, by an amending Act, a part of these duties was transferred to the district and borough councils, so that now They are partly granted by the district and borough councils and partly by the petty sessional courts. It seems to me that, as the magistrates are very accustomed to this kind of work, and constantly have it before them, and have all the necessary facilities, it would be a great mistake to impose duties of a novel character on the county courts, who have had no previous experience of them.
It has been found from experience that anyone who makes an application for a licence would rather go before a bench of magistrates than before a popularly elected body, where men change every year, it may be, and where political partisanship might arise, whereas, in the case of the petty sessional courts, that would not be the case. Therefore, I submit that the best policy would be to give to the petty sessional courts this power of granting certificates of good character to moneylenders, especially when we bear in mind that by the control and assistance of the police, they are enabled to accumulate a, mass of evidence with regard to applicants which it would be quite impossible for the county courts to have. Therefore, I hope the House will not accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. HARNEY
On a point of Order. What I have moved is that the County Court Judge should take the place of the magistrate, for this reason, that one of the things that would have to be decided would be whether there was satisfactory evidence of a person being of good character. That point is dealt with in one of the subsequent Amendments in my name to this Clause, and I wish to ascertain whether, when we are dealing with these omnibus Amendments, I shall have an opportunty, in case the first Amendment is lost, of saying something on the two subsidiary Amendments.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understood that the hon. and learned Member in his speech moving the first Amendment would cover the other Amendments on this Clause, and I was not proposing to call upon the subsequent Amendments in his name.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
May I suggest this, that the hon. and learned Member would have a right to reply to the discussion on this Amendment, as this is a Bill that has been taken in Committee upstairs, and he might, in his reply, take the opportunity of referring to the other Amendments?
§ Mr. DENNISON
This point seems not to have been dealt with either by the Select Committe or upstairs, and it appears to me that there is some sound sense in it, because, whether or not we like it, the fact has been accepted that the profession of moneylender, if you call it a profession, is a very important profession, particularly to those who borrow and do not want to pay back. But, generally speaking, there is a considerable amount of prejudice against the moneylender, and petty sessional courts and benches of magistrates are not always impartial, as some of us know. The promoter of the Bill says that the benches are free from political bias, but I am not going to accept that view. Hon. Members on this side know perfectly well that on many occasions we have had to express our views here about the political composition and the prejudices of many of the benches up and down the country, so that I think there is something to be said for this Amendment, and that it would be much better to transfer this 773 duty to a County Court Judge, who obviously, in these particular cases, would be above suspicion from the paint of view of local prejudices, and might bring to bear his experience as a lawyer on the evidence that might be submitted by a superintendent of police or a police constable as to the character of an applicant for a certificate. I happen to be a magistrate of a bench; in fact, I have been a magistrate of two benches in my short life. I can say that the individuals I have met on the magisterial bench are excellent persons socially, but most of the people who compose our magisterial benches, even in these days, have been appointed by the party which may be in power for the time being, and an examination of the magisterial benches will show that they are packed to-day with people of a particular colour and belonging to a particular class of the community. Many of the magisterial benches are drawn from tradespeople, and so on, some of whom have had to have recourse to moneylenders, who, I understand, at times treat their clients very badly.
This Amendment deserves further consideration, and I regret very much that the promoter of the Bill did not wait to hear some other Members speak on it, before giving his decision, because I appreciate the difficulty of giving way now. But I do ask him and those associated with him to examine this point, because it was never discussed in. Committee upstairs. I wish I had had the foresight and intelligence when the Bill was upstairs to bring the Amendment forward. I should like to hear some of the legal Members on the Front Bench opposite give their views on this Amendment.
§ Mr. SCURR
I very much regret that, although I am in agreement with a number of statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Dennison), I cannot draw the same conclusions. As far as we are concerned with this case, we are not dealing with a question of law. If it were a question of law, I should be one of the first to say that such a matter should not be referred to a Petty Sessional Court, but here we are dealing with a question of character. Everyone who has been a member of a bench of magistrates knows the great care which is taken in the investigation 774 of the characters of persons who apply for public house licences. There is the police evidence, and there are all kinds of other evidence. I have sat on a bench of that kind, and I know the great care taken to be absolutely fair. But I have known cases where there have been licences granted which I, personally, would not have granted, and where the balance has all the time been weighted in favour of the applicant.
We have to discuss not only this Amendment, which would transfer the granting of certificates from the Petty Sessional Court to the County Court Judge, but also the other Amendments in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney). The hon. and learned Member desires to strike out paragraph (a) of Sub-section (6) and to substitute the words "a certificate signed by three responsible householders." I submit that that Amendment would really be playing with the whole question. After all, it is always possible to get certificates of good character from responsible householders. Every householder is responsible. Every one of us, I think, has sufficient friends to secure at least three, to testify as to good character. When a person is going to carry on a business of this kind, his character ought to be examined; he ought not to be afraid of coming before a public tribunal the same as other people with regard to their business. For these reasons, I oppose the Amendment.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Commodore Douglas King)
The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Dennison) regretted that he had not longer time in which to study this Amendment.
§ Commodore KING
I was only going to remark that, of course, the promoters of the Bill, the Government and other Members of the House have only had the opportunity of seeing this Amendment on the Order Paper this morning, but I think there are very obvious objections to it. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney), I think, overlooked the fact that, except in the 775 London area, if the duties were transferred to the County Court, they would only be sitting about once in three months, and, therefore, there would not be the ready access to the authority that von have under the Bill.
Is that correct? In all the districts with which we are acquainted, the county courts meet monthly.
§ Commodore KING
It varies in different parts, but, whatever the period may be, there is not the ready access to county courts that you have under the Bill to petty sessional courts. Another point of importance is that the magistrates already deal with the granting of pawnbrokers' licences, and, there fore, it is undesirable that the licensing should be divided, and that you should have one authority granting licences to moneylenders and another authority granting licences to pawnbrokers. Again, the petty sessional courts are in very close touch with the police, whereas the county courts are not. Being in close touch with the police, it is very much easier for the magistrates to obtain evidence of character than it would be for the county courts. Shortly, for these reasons, I hope the House will oppose this Amendment, as I think the present arrangement in the Bill is far better.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I sincerely trust that the hon. and learned Member will see his way to withdraw the Amendment, now that it has been discussed. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has given us an explanation of the Amendment, but I want to induce the Home Secretary, who is with us for the first time on this Bill, to give us some information as to his attitude towards the Amendment. He is very eloquent outside the House, and I have read his speeches with great delight, especially his speech of last evening; but I think we ought to have his musical voice exercised in this House also. Though I am not going to press him to enlighten us further on this 776 Amendment, because the hon. and gallant Gentleman has done very well in explaining the position, I trust that the Home Secretary, who did not show his face in the Committee upstairs, except on one occasion when he came in order to make a quorum, and then departed as swiftly as he arrived, will later give us the benefit of his advice. He is the chief of the Home Office, the Department which will have to administer this Bill, and I think it would be courteous if, at a later stage, he were to assist us in dealing with the intricacies of this problem. Some part of the eloquence he displays outside ought to be enjoyed by Members in this House.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
May I thank the hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for his kind references to myself? He must riot think I have been neglecting my duty because I did not attend this particular Committee. I have had the privilege of toe assistance of my lion. and gallant Friend the Member for South Paddington (Commodore King), who has conducted this Bill through the Committee with conspicuous ability, as I am sure all hon. Members will agree. I have had reports from time to time as to the progress of the Bill, and I have been quite satisfied with the work which my hon. and gallant Friend was doing. I had to attend other Committees, but I have taken a close interest in this Bill, and I have the privilege of being here to-day.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I rise to say that I cannot support this Amendment. The position of pawnbrokers has been referred to as analogous to that of moneylenders in regard to these certificates. From a long experience in these matters I wish to say that the granting of certificates by petty sessional courts has proved very satisfactory indeed in the case of pawnbrokers. There is easy access to such courts, whereas in the provinces a county court judge may come to a town only once in three months. It is to the advantage of an applicant that he should get a quick hearing and a speedy decision. In my opinion the promoters of the Bill have dealt very fairly indeed with moneylenders in regard to the conditions under which these certificates will be granted. 777 Before a certificate can be granted to a pawnbroker an application has to be put in 24 days before the date of hearing. For 28 days the applicant's name and address and the nature of his application are posted on the church or chapel doors of the parish in which he resides, so that everybody may see the application, and any person has an opportunity of entering an objection to the granting of the license. Further, the applicant has to give satisfactory evidence as to character, and has to show that his place of business, and any adjacent place, is not frequented by thieves or persons of bad character. Conditions have been made much more easy for moneylenders, and in the interests of moneylenders themselves this Amendment ought not to be pressed. Speaking, as I said before, from actual experience, I am certain that one gets far more consideration from a bench of magistrates, They know the local circumstances, and so does the chief of police, who can give evidence. It will be more to the advantage of moneylenders to apply to the magistrates for certificates than to apply to county court judges.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I rise to support the opposition to this Amendment. I listened with some impatience to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) in moving it. He implied that petty sessional courts were chock full of prejudices mid free conceptions. I hold no brief for the magistrates who sit in the ordinary police courts, but I do not think they are quite such a bundle of prejudices as he tried to make out. In order to establish his point he suggested, by implication, that county court judges were above all human frailties, and without any prejudices or preconceptions whatsoever. I have had some little experience of county court judges. Some of them may be estimable persons, but I have seen judgments given by them which have been chock full of the most bitter prejudices. I am certain they are just as human as magistrates, and would be just as likely to allow their own prejudices and preconceptions to enter into questions of this sort.
I do not think there is the least reason why we should accept this Amendment, nor the other Amendments to which the 778 hon. and learned Member was referring at the same time. The Amendment dealing with the question of satisfactory evidence might lead to very unfortunate results. If we eliminate the words "satisfactory evidence," as the hon. and learned Member desires, and insert instead the words "three responsible householders," we shall be taking away the one safeguard there is as to character. As an hon. Member has pointed out, it is possible for any man, even the most disreputable man in the district—[HON. MEMBERS: "Members of Parliament"]— yes, Members of Parliament, and others even more doubtful even than Members of Parliament, to find three responsible householders who will say his character is satisfactory. I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman meant by "responsible householders." He did not give us any definition of the word "responsible."
§ Mr. THURTLE
We are supposed to have a responsible Government at the present time, but I very much doubt whether any of us on this side of the House would accept that adjective as applied to the present Government. Anyhow, it seems to me there is no real point in this Amendment and no real grievance to be removed, because I notice that further on in the Clause provision is made for dealing with a case where a person feels aggrieved. If a petty sessional court refuses to grant a certificate the applicant may appeal to the court of quarter sessions in the manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts. That is provided for in sub-section (7) of this Clause. That provision safeguards the right of people who apply for these certificates, and, therefore, I think all of us ought to resist this Amendment.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I have no desire to persist in an Amendment which has not some chance of being carried. My object in putting down these amendments was not to be obstructive, but to try to improve the Bill. I was not very much impressed by the argument that magistrates are more ready of access, because I do not see why you require readiness of access. Off and on, they can be found certainly for one half of every month, and there is no great hurry about it. I was more impressed by the argument that 779 was used about pawnbrokers. It would, perhaps, be a little anomalous that a pawnbroker should go to the magistrates for a certificate of character, while the moneylender should go to the county court judge, but I would like to point out, as bearing upon the subsidiary part of these Amendments, that that distinction between pawnbrokers and moneylenders really arises from the very quotation that was made by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), to the effect that, before a pawnbroker can obtain a certificate, he has to post up his application on the church door, and some inquiry has to be made as to whether the place in respect of which he is applying is a resort of thieves, or whether he is familiar with thieves. The House will see at once that a pawnbroker, although a highly respectable man, has to carry on his business just at a spot for which receivers of stolen goods would make a bee-line. He cannot help that, hut it is so. If there were no pawnbrokers' establishments, receivers of stolen goods, or thieves themselves, would not know where to go with their spoil. Therefore, it is very essential that a person carrying on business in such an establishment as that of a pawnbroker should be a person of the very highest character. A moneylender, however, has no establishment to which thieves or persons of that kind can resort. He does not carry on business at a place over which it is necessary that the police should have a surveillance; he merely carries on the business of moneylending, just as a banker does, although he charges a higher rate of interest.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I would like to ask the hon. and learned Member whether he is aware of the fact that for sums over £;10 a moneylender can take security just as the pawnbroker can—either stolen goods or goods belonging to the borrower.
§ Mr. HARNEY
What I was pointing out, not at all adversely to the pawnbroker, was that., on principle, there is a difference in the case of a person who carries on business in an establishment that is abused by thieves and receivers of stolen goods. It is no fault of the pawnbroker, but that is the nature of the establishment, and, therefore, it is essential that such an establishment should be carefully guarded by having in 780 control of it a person who is undoubtedly of the highest integrity, as I am glad to say most of them are. In the case of the moneylender, there is no such need for this safeguard. No cue resorts to his establishment except persons wanting a loan of money. No thief would go there; no person of bad character would go there; they would have nothing to gain by going there. However, as regards the general Amendment, I see that there is no chance of its being carried, and, therefore, I am not going to waste time over it, but, as regards the subsidiary Amendments, I would ask the promoter of the Bill whether he could not see his way to leave out Sub-section (6, a) altogether, because, after all, Sub-section (6, b) gives what is wanted. Paragraph (a) says that the person applying for a certificate must give affirmative evidence of good character. Paragraph (b) says that he is not to get the certificate if anyone is able to give evidence that he is not a fit and proper person, and, surely, that is quite sufficient. After all, why should a man who applies for a licence, or a certificate on which to obtain a licence, to carry on what is avowedly a legitimate business, be forced to go to court and prove in advance that he is a person of good character? Is it not quite sufficient that he should get his certificate unless someone is able to come forward and say that he is not a man of good character? I think it would be quite sufficient if paragraph (a) were struck out, leaving paragraph (b).
§ Mr. HARNEY
I should like to hear from the promoter of the Bill whether there is any chance of striking out paragraph (a).
§ Mr. BURMAN
I am sorry not to be able to oblige the hon. and learned Member. We consider that both of these paragraphs are necessary. The one is the positive and the other is the negative.
§ Mr. THURTLE
This Amendment, I understand, has been duly moved and seconded. May we rot insist upon its going to a Division?
§ Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 24, to leave out the words "may, if it thinks fit," and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."
I hope that, after all the eulogy we have had as to the efficiency and the good services rendered by benches of magistrates, this Amendment will be accepted. Otherwise, the position would be that, where a moneylender's licence had been taken away and his business stopped, and where the conviction was quashed on appeal, the moneylender would have no recompense whatever in respect of any stoppage of his business in the meantime. To my mind, his business should not be stopped until it is definitely decided that his licence is to be taken away. Seldom have I seen the iron hand shielded so ingeniously as it is in this Clause. It is full of hatred, contempt, and everything else. I have already said, both in the Standing Committee and in the Select Committee, that there are bad moneylenders—I have had some experience of them; and there are also very bad borrowers. Why should the moneylenders be singled out—
No; you take good care on that side of the House to protect the landlord. If you gave the moneylender half the justice and equity with regard to carrying on his legitimate business that you give the landlord, it would be all right, but my quarrel is that you single him out more than any other trader.
If the hon. and learned Member will put his objection in an intelligible form I will deal with it. I desire to compress what I have to say into as short a time as possible, but I want to ask the promoters of the Bill to look at the matter in this light, that, even in the case of the worst 782 forms of crime—even up to the degree of murder—the sentence is not put into operation if an appeal is lodged—
I dare say not, but my argument is that I want to make it a direct—I do not know exactly what the word is; my difficulty is that I have to think in Welsh and speak in English, and the proper word does not readily come to my lips. [Interruption.] I dare say that would put me in a further fog still. The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) has gone out, so he cannot help me out of the difficulty. The magistrates may regard it as a direction to them to consider and, if they think fit, not suspend the work of the moneylender if an appeal has been lodged. I hope this will meet with a better fate than my other Amendment. It is a very small one, but it will do something to show that there is no desire to single out these people for special treatment.
§ Mr. DENNISON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I feel it is only justice to any person who may be deprived of some right, or perhaps feel that some injustice has been put upon him, that he should have an opportunity of appeal. That is only fair. Whether he is a moneylender, a borrower or an ordinary Member of Parliament or whatever he may be, he ought to have an opportunity of appeal, particularly from a lower Court. The case for the Amendment is considerably strengthened by the refusal of the House to agree that the County Court Judge should be the person who should deal with the licence. If the promoters are not prepared to accept the Amendment I hope they will give reasons for their refusal. Up to now we have had very few reasons why they could not accept this, that and the other. They have made general statements, about which they have submitted very little evidence indeed. I associate myself with the Amendment in order to give hon. Gentlemen an opportunity, if they cannot accept it, of showing their reason.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I had not the advantage of being on the Committee of this Bill, but unless there are some better reasons 783 than those brought forward by the last two speakers, I hope the Clause will be allowed to stay as it is. To accept the Amendment would be to destroy the discretion that is vested in the magistrates and compel them to do something they are not compelled to do in any other case so far as I know. In some cases the magistrate has certain powers, and exercise them. In others he has certain discretions, and exercises them. But, in this case, if the Amendment is accepted the discretion would be taken away from him. In a very bad case it would be very wrong not to suspend a moneylender's licence simply because he had a right of appeal, and unless there are some very good reasons to the contrary I hope the Amendment will be resisted.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I hope we are going to hear from the promoters what their view is on this point. They seem rather reluctant to let the House know where they stand on the matter. I support my hon. Friend in resisting it. It seems to me the court would not decide to suspend a certificate unless it had very good reason for doing so. We may assume that suspension moans that in the view of the court the business has been conducted in an improper and illegal fashion. If that is so, there seems to be no good reason why it should he allowed to continue in that fashion for an indefinite period of time. I am not a lawyer, and I do not pretend to know very much about how much time is taken in getting through an appeal of this kind, but we hear a lot about the law's delays, and there is no telling how long a period will elapse between the order of the court and the hearing of the appeal, but it might be several months, and if the business is conducted in an improper and illegal fashion, that seems highly undesirable in the public interest. The Clause provides that the Court may exercise its discretion and may, if it thinks fit, allow the business to be carried on. That is quite an adequate safeguard, and it seems to me we certainly ought to resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. BURMAN
I hope the House will not agree to the Amendment. Under similar conditions, a pawnbroker who is refused a certificate has no right of 784 appeal and the Court has no discretion to allow him to continue his business. It is no hardship that this matter is left to the discretion of the Court. If you take it away they will be compelled to allow the moneylender to continue his business though there may be a serious conviction.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
I am not quite satisfied with the explanation of the promoters. They seem to attach a great deal of importance to the discretionary power of the magistrates. Personally I would prefer to see the County Court Judge come into this matter. I am not satisfied that magistrates are strong in these eases. It seem s to me that if a case has been sufficiently made out, the granting of a right of appeal should be compulsory instead of optional.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
It seems to me that there is very great force in this Amendment. It is somewhat unfair to carry out a sentence upon a man before the litigation is finally concluded. It is somewhat unusual, because in this case you may destroy a man's business between the time of conviction and his licence being taken away, and the appeal. It is all very well, if he is successful in his appeal, to give him back his business, but you have damaged it very severely in the meantime, and the man is innocent if he succeeds in his appeal. Comparison has been made with the taking away of a man's motor licence. I do not see that the eases we parallel at all. Merely to take away a man's licence, does not hurt him very much, but here you are taking away his business, and, after that, you hand it back to him, because you have found him to be innocent. As to the length of time before an appeal can be taken, it is an appeal to Quarter Sessions and Quarter Sessions are held quarterly. Therefore, an appeal cannot be outstanding for more than three months, and, in all probability, in most cases, would be outstanding for a very much less period. I think there is great force in this Amendment, and I shall support it.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
As one strongly in favour or this Bill, I think there is very great force in this Amendment, and I should like to hear a great deal more argument from the other side before I decide to vote against it. A good many Members of the House are rather 785 surprised to hear some of the Members above the Gangway expressing such views about magistrates, in view of what has been said in recent weeks in this House about those same bodies in another connection. I have got myself thoroughly mixed up as to the views hon. Members above the Gangway take concerning magistrates, but it seems to me that, if a bench of magistrates gives a decision against a moneylender who then wants to appeal, it is certainly very hard that his business should be closed down before the final appeal is settled. There is very great force in this Amendment, and I should like to hear more about it. We regard this Bill as a Measure to deal with the devil, but there is a proverb that even the devil should have his due, and this Amendment does tend to give even the devil his due.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. W. Watson)
It is quite familiar in practice and under Statute in case of either offences or crimes that after a right of appeal is given a deferring of the sentence should operate in some way or of her. I think it is equally familiar that in and because of lesser crimes or offences a discretion as to what is to happen pending an appeal is given to the inferior court that gives the sentence. In the case of the more serious crimes, the sentence comes into operation at once, but you are entitled to go to the Court of Appeal to get relief such as liberation from prison pending appeal. Undoubtedly, the present class of case falls under the minor class of cases, certainly, so far as Scotland is concerned. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about England? "] I shall be very surprised if it is any different in England, and certainly the instance given of the motor car applies to both and is a parallel instance. No instance has been stated where the sentence automatically is deferred without any discretion in the Court of Appeal or inferior court. It is quite different in civil matters, but I am talking of cases of offences or crime. One of the reasons for that undoubtedly is that it is advisable to give a discretion in such matters to prevent frivolous appeals. There may he, of course, a very bad case where a licence is refused quite rightly and an appeal is obviously hopeless, but the man will appeal in spite of 786 that, and, having under this Amendment, if it be accepted, the right to carry on his business, he will carry on that appeal as long as he can.
The only point that remains to be dealt with is whether this discretion is, in practice or experience, likely to be fairly exercised. The words "if they think fit," I should think, make it obvious, even to the most obtuse magistrate that to shut down a man when he is going to appeal is bound, in most cases, to have a very serious effect upon his business. I think for the most part they undoubtedly would act in that way, and they would not prejudice a man if he had any reasonable grounds of appeal by causing the suspension of the licence at once. On the other hand, there may be cases where an evil is going on which it is the purpose of the proceedings to stop, an evil which is affecting the community generally or particular persons, and which ought to be stopped at once. Are you going to exclude the court from a right in cases of that kind from saying, "No, we shall not suspend the cancellation of this certificate pending appeal." Undoubtedly, that is the exceptional case. For these reasons, the Government are against the acceptance of this Amendment. They believe the provision in the Clause is right and fair, always hearing in mind—and it is not an unimportant point—that the pawnbroker gets no right of appeal at all. It is in favour of moneylenders, and it is quite proper that we should allow it to be administered under the ordinary safeguards and discretions.
§ Mr. MARDY JONES
It is very interesting to hear from the Front Bench for the first time an original statement—
§ Mr. HARNEY
Yes. I would like to make a few observations in reply to the very clear statement made by the Lord Advocate. It certainly is so, that when a right of appeal is given the period between the first judgment and the final conclusion of the appeal has to be dealt with in some way as regards the operation of the suspension. In civil cases, what is done in this. A discretion is given to withhold the operation of an appeal. That is called a stay of execution. My experience is, that when a Judge gives a judgment he is very loth to exercise that discretion in favour of the person. In most cases persons have to go to the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Appeal generally allows the status quo to be preserved on money being paid into court. There is a distinction drawn in the quasi-criminal cases between the severe ones and the lighter ones. I do not think there is any principle governing the distinction between major and minor offences. I think it is entirely a matter of degree. The rule undoubtedly is this, that where, in a criminal judgment, there is anything that really very largely affects a man's liberty or right of action, he is permitted to carry on as if the judgment were in his favour until the final result, namely, the Court of Appeal. In fines such as fines in connection with motor cars, undoubtedly the discretion is left to the magistrate. In this case, what we have to consider is, having regard to the effect of the magistrate's judgment, ought we the House of Commons, say, "This is one of those cases where the operation ought to be suspended until the final and conclusive decision has been given"? In my opinion, it is just one of those cases, because what is done is most serious to the man. The man's livelihood in that class of business depends upon his possession of the certificate.
The withdrawal of the certificate by the judge or the magistrate means that his business is stopped. Every week or month that passes, his goodwill is passing away, and ultimately there may come 788 a judgment restoring something which has died in the interval. That ought to be guarded against. Of course, there are possible abuses, and we have to weigh one thing against the other. One possible abuse may be that there may be a case where the certificate was perfectly properly taken away and an appeal was hopeless, but where the person concerned says: "I will appeal, and I shall get a couple of months grace until the appeal has been heard." Compared with the number of cases there may be of that kind, there will be an infinitely greater number where the hardship would fall on the man who may ultimately succeed in his appeal. On the balance, I submit that it is fair to bring this class of case into conformity with what the Lord Advocate rightly tells us is the rule in regard to sentences or decrees of a really serious character.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I was in favour of this Amendment until I heard two arguments against it. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) would have led the House to believe that in motor car cases there is no penalty at all on the person whose licence is cancelled, that all that happens is that the licence is taken away, and that the man's livelihood is not taken away. I always understood that there are many men who e tan their livelihood by driving motor cars; and if you take away the licence you take away the man's livelihood too. Consequently, that argument falls to the ground. The motor car licence falls into the same category as the licence about which we are talking. A further argument which makes me think I ought not to support this Amendment. is that the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment said that all he was doing was to substitute the word "may" for the word "shall." That is not what he is doing He is proposing to remove the wordsmay, if it thinks fit.If the result of his Amendment would be to provide thatThe Court shall, if it thinks fit.I might support him but that is not his Amendment. If we carry the Amendment, the position would be that the court would be bound, however bad a case may be, however definite the conviction may be, to allow the business to 789 be carried on, in spite of the fact that the case is as clear as daylight and a conviction has ensued. I should have thought that if a conviction had ensued in a case of this kind, the man could not carry on his business. When this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and a conviction has ensued under it, the man's business will, I imagine, have finished, in spite of any appeal. I do not know as much about this kind of business as other hon. Members.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I know very little about the intricacy of either borrowing or lending, but I should have thought that in a business of this kind, when a moneylender was convicted in a court of law, and a report of the proceedings appeared in the press, that his business would have been damaged for a long time to come, in spite of the fact that he had an appeal pending. For the reasons which I have given, I shall vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The last speaker expressed what may be said against this Amendment. Frivolous appeals, or appeals merely for delay should be discouraged. With respect to the question of appeals, I remember on one occasion being briefed by a man who was prosecuted and convicted with respect to milk adulteration. He instructed me to intimate an appeal in court. I asked him: "Why are you making an appeal? You have not a dog's chance if you do, appeal." After leaving the court I stated the grounds against his succeeding in the appeal, and he replied. "Never mind, it will get into the newspapers, and when people see that I am appealing, and the appeal does not come on for perhaps six months, we will drop it, and the offence will be forgotten. I felt that my leg had been pulled in the matter, and I would not have intimated the appeal had I known why it was being done. An Amendment of the Clause in these words might meet the case with which the Committee seeks to deal:The Court shall, pending an appeal, unless cause be shown to the contrary, defer operation of the order.790 That would show that the Court must have some reason for taking away the certificate. There must be some good cause shown.
I do not wish to show special favour to moneylenders. I know that they have no friends. No man who lends money has friends. It is said that the man who lends money loses his friends. It is the same with a landowner who lends a house to a man for a rent, which is another form of money lending. Both these classes of "lenders" are unpopular members of the community. The moneylender ought to get justice, however unpopular he may be, and it seems to me that this provision would operate harshly unless the Court has the power pending an appeal to defer operations unless it has reasons for not doing so. It would be open for the prosecution to say to the Court: "This is a very bad case, and for that reason the licence should be suspended.' Some such provision as I suggest would probably meet the case better than the words in the Bill.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) when he said that he had been neither a borrower nor a lender. I am not ashamed to say that I have been both. It is a remarkable thing that a Member of this House can say truthfully that he has never been a lender of money. My experience is that when people come to you to ask for charity they also ask you to lend them half a crown. The hon. Member argued that if the certificate happens to have been suspended, the man cannot carry on business, and that the business must necessarily cease. There is a considerable difference between the business of a moneylender and other businesses which may be closed down by order of the Court. In the case of the moneylender, the business does not consist merely in lending money. The money has to be received back. What is to happen in regard to a man whose certificate has been suspended, if he cannot continue to carry on business of any kind and receive back the money which is justly due to him from the people to whom he has lent it? His office ought to be open to receive back the money. If the magistrate had the discretion to be able to say that pending the appeal no further business of 791 lending money should take place, I would agree; but if we say that he shall not carry on any business at all—it will be found that it would be interpreted in that way—the man will be in the position that he cannot receive back the money that is owing to him. That would be very unfair.
We have had learned opinions given this morning. The Lord Advocate has given his opinion, and the hon. and learned Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Grotrian), who is the Recorder of Scarborough, and has had considerable experience as regards appeals at Quarter Sessions, has given his opinion. Then we had an expression of opinion from the hon. and learned Member for South
§ Shields (Mr. Harney), and as a layman I am going to submit that the weight of argument from the legal side is in favour of the Amendment. If you take into consideration the practical difficulties which will arise if you close down a man's business altogether I think the promoters of the Bill should accept it. It is not a vital point to them, but it is to the man who may have his certificate suspended, and during the time he is making an appeal his business is entirely closed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left wit stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 134; Noes, 29.793
|Division No.235.]||AYES.||[12.38 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Ramsden, E.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hall, Capt. W. D'A.(Brecon & Rad.)||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sandon, Lord|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Savery, S. S.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Scurr, John|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Holt, Captain H. P.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumb'l'nd, Whiteh'n)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jacob, A. E.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Couper, J. B.||Kennedy, T.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Stephen, Campbell|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lawrence, Susan||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Loder, J. de V.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lumley, L. R.||Thomson F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Macintyre, Ian||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Ellis, R. G.||McLean, Major A.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Elveden, Viscount||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Vaughan Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Merriman, F. B.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Fermoy, Lord||Nelson, Sir Frank||Westwood, J.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Oliver, George Harold||Windsor, Walter|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Paling, W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Goff, Sir Park||Penny, Frederick George||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Mr. Burman and Mr. Wells.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Batey, Joseph||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Groves, T.|
|Bromley, J.||Dennison, R.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Dunnico, H.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Compton, Joseph||Grotrian, H. Brent||Harney, E. A.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Naylor, T. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hirst, G. H.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Wright, W.|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Snell, Harry|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stamford, T. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Kelly, W. T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Lieut.-Col. Watts-Morgan and Mr.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Townend, A. E.||Womersley.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.