HL Deb 15 September 1831 vol 7 cc49-51

Viscount Melbourne moved the recommittal of the Sale of Beer Act Amendment Bill, with a view to introduce some amendments, and proposed that after these should be introduced, the whole subject might be discussed on bringing up the Report on another day.

Lord Suffield

took the opportunity of correcting a misunderstanding that had taken place as to what he had said on a former occasion on the subject of gambling in beer and public houses. The object which he had in view when he before adverted to the subject, was, to remove a doubt as to the competency of the Magistrates to prevent gambling in these beerhouses. He, himself, was of opinion, that the Magistrates had a right to prohibit gambling, both in the beer-houses and common public-houses; but a doubt had been entertained as to their competency to prevent it in the beer-houses. He called on the highest legal authority, therefore, to say whether his view of the question was correct or not, and if that noble and learned Lord should be of opinion that the Magistrates had the jurisdiction in the beer-houses as well as the ordinary public houses, he should be satisfied.

The Lord Chancellor

said, that his opinion was, that the jurisdiction to suppress gambling in the common public-houses was vested in the Magistrates by the Act and the license taken together, and that provision was now extended to the beer-houses. It was of importance that illegal gambling should be suppressed in these houses, if it could be done without producing mischief as great as the evil; for this evil of gambling, as he understood, did exist to a very great extent. Of this he was informed by a worthy friend of his, Mr. Wilberforce, who had, in the course of an extensive tour through the country, had conversations on the subject with a great number of persons the best acquainted with the subject. The Clergy and Magistrates with whom Mr. Wilberforce conversed all concurred with one voice that the evil prevailed to a great extent. The object was, to place the beer and public houses in this respect on the same footing.

Viscount Melbourne

That was done by the Beer Act.

Lord Suffield

ought to have explained that the misunderstanding which he wished to correct was this:—It had been understood that he had called for further powers to be placed in the hands of Magistrates, for the suppression of gambling in the public-houses and beer-houses; that was not the case. His object was and had been, to have it known, that the Magistrates had already the requisite powers for the purpose.

The Earl of Harrowby

thought that it was highly expedient that the powers of the Magistrates should be placed on the same footing in regard to the beer-houses and the ordinary public-houses. By the general Act the Magistrates had the power of considering an offence a second offence if committed within three years of the former, but by the new Act the second offence must be committed within one year after the first. This was a material difference. With reference to the remark of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, he would submit that the powers of Magistrates in respect to the license should be placed on the same footing in all houses that retailed beer.

The Bill committed and the Amendments introduced.—House resumed.