HC Deb 07 June 1934 vol 290 cc1120-4

(1) Where, at the General Annual Licensing Meeting of any licensing justices last held before the passing of this Act a proposal to make a direction under the said sub-paragraph (1) was considered and negatived, then, on the requisition of a majority of them made within two months after the passing of this Act, the licensing justices shall hold a meeting for the purpose of considering whether such a direction or decision as they are empowered by this Act to make, ought to be made, and may at that meeting make such a direction or decision as aforesaid. (2) In relation to a meeting held under the foregoing Sub-section, that provisions of the rules made by the Secretary of State under Sub-section (1) of Section twelve of the Licensing Act, 1921, shall have effect as if for references therein to the general annual licensing meeting there had been substituted references to the said meeting, and the clerk shall send notice of the said meeting to the superintendent of police of the district and to each of the licensing justices.—[Sir J. Gilmour.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

5.5 p.m.


I should like to mention one or two points which have arisen. Under this new Clause application can only be made on the recommendation of a majority of the licensing magistrates, and not at the instance of those who desire an extension of hours. It is true to say that, if a majority of the licensing bench were opposed to the making of any such application, it would be hopeless to make it. To my mind, the suggestion that a majority of the magistrates should themselves have to decide upon the question of a reopening, or take the initiative, is one which is not wholly fair to the licensees. For one thing, it is possible that a majority of the justices would be in favour of such an application being granted if it were made. On the other hand, as the Committee well knows, it is very difficult to collect these expressions of opinion from justices who are scattered over a wide area and who are not usually accessible at any time except when they meet for brewster sessions. Therefore, I do think it should be in the power of the licensees to make application to a bench, certainly where the previous application has been refused on any grounds with which this Bill deals.

But I should like to go farther than that, and to say that the principle which is embodied in the Amendment which the House rejected was a better one still—that the application could be made in any case. There were occasions where application was not made to the bench at brewster sessions, because, as some hon. Member suggested earlier in the Debate, the licensees were properly advised by their lawyers that any such application would be illegal. It seems to me that they are being very hardly treated. To say that no application was made is not the same as to say that such an application would not be discussed provided the bench were convinced that they were enabled to do what the licensees wanted, by law. It would only be fair to allow such an application to be made even in cases where no previous application had been made this year.

I was glad to be somewhat consoled by the hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Major Llewellin) who mitigated, I think, the drastic pronouncements of the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) as to whether summer time was a special circumstance or not. I believe the ingenious legal mind of the hon. and gallant Member will be able to produce other suggestions for an extension of hours during the longer days. I hope so, after the hon. Member's remarks about the skilled advocacy which has always been given on behalf of the licensed trade and the simplicity with which the temperance societies always put their case—a simplicity so ingenuou3 that it has hardly ever been successful in having an extension of license refused. That is not quite a compliment to the organisation and efficiency of some of these bodies. After all, we on this side of the House, apparently, have a higher opinion of them than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin. I am sure the Committee will agree that the temperance societies will never be unworthily represented either in Committee upstairs or in Committee downstairs.

I should like to reiterate my plea to the Home Secretary to see if he cannot—possibly in another place if we accept his Amendment here—insert a Clause which would allow application to be made where it has not previously been made this year, even if he does not see his way to remove the initiative from the magistrates themselves and give it to the licensees. In spite of the remarks of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), the other place is a very suitable one for making these minor adjustments. The hon. Member is not, as he says himself, opposed to the principle of this Bill. In fact, in the course of his speech on workmen's compensation he did let drop one remark, referring to this Bill, which indicated that he was prepared to withdraw his effective opposition. I am sure he will agree with me that there is an injustice being done to the licensees who did not apply for an extension earlier this year.

5.11 p.m.


I do not propose to detain the Committee more than two minutes. Unlike other Members I know, I very rarely speak in this House, and it may possibly be that the Committee will give me a little patience for about half a minute. I confess I am profoundly disappointed with the attitude that the Government have taken, because I feel that they, like so many other people, have fallen victim to the wiles and charms of the temperance party. I feel that they have taken as facts the wild stories of possibilities that may arise from a measure of this kind. It is very difficult to resist arguments of this sort. It seems to me the Amendment has watered down what we want. It does not give what we seek to get. I cannot see why licensees who have so far not had opportunity of applying should not at this point get an opportunity. It may well be that the people of the district did not apply because they thought, and quite rightly thought at the particular time, that there was no hope of succeeding; and it seems to me unfair to prevent them now from coming forward and putting their case. There can be no danger, because the licensing magistrates can hear the evidence. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) will get exactly what he wants, because the magistrates can hear the evidence, and, if they come to the conclusion it is not a proper application, they can reject it. If, on the other hand, they think it is a proper one, they can grant it.

A great deal of nonsense has been talked by certain Members of this House who seek to make out, for instance, that the magistrates are not in a position to hear the case properly because the advocacy is not competent. Those hon. Members know perfectly well the temperance societies are well organised. They are certainly exceedingly loquacious. I think no other bodies of men are so loquacious as the temperance societies, and, even if they talk nonsense, they have ample opportunity of doing so. If they want to brief counsel they can do it, and they are in a position to get the best counsel. In the circumstances, I am sorry the Government have fallen victim to the wiles and charms of the temperance party, and I hope that even at the eleventh hour the Home Secretary will think better of it and will grant us what we seek to get: that is to say, justice for those licensees who would have applied in the ordinary way, but who, because they were misled, did not apply.

5.14 p.m.


I only want to say that I think what was asked for is sufficiently given in the Clause now before the House. I understand nothing is done to interfere with the right of the public to make representations. I think there is a case for making a special exception in this instance. In any case, the Government are standing strictly by their arrangement. It must not go out that this is a Bill for which we have asked. We regret the Bill, but we want to see a fair arrangement made to end a confusion for which no one is responsible.


I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the concession. I think it does substantially meet the hard cases we have in mind, and we are grateful to him for having moved it.

Clause added to the Bill.

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

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