§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I think it will be recognised as an undoubted fact that this Bill deals with one of the most important of the social questions that have been before your Lordships this session. The question of the sale of intoxicating liquor and of the amendment of the law with regard to drunkenness is one which has attracted the attention of the country for many years. There has been a prolonged and full inquiry by Royal Commission, and the question has been brought over and over again before both Houses of Parliament. In asking your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading, I feel that my responsibility is very much lightened by the knowledge that many Members of your Lordships' House take a very genuine interest in this question. It has been repeatedly stated in many parts of the House that your Lordships would like to see some of the points with regard to the licensing question settled on reasonable and moderate lines; and, indeed, Bills have been brought forward from several quarters of the House dealing with many parts of the question. Two Bills, which passed through this House, were brought forward last year by the Bishop of Winchester, dealing with several of the points with which the Government's Licensing Bill deals this session. I cannot help remembering that when the Home Secretary was not able, in accordance with the promise made in the Speech from the Throne, to bring forward the Licensing Bill last year, it was repeatedly urged from many quarters of the House that an opportunity should be given to this House for a discussion of the question, and that the measure should be introduced in your Lordships' House. Under these circumstances, I feel I need say nothing by way of apology or by way of argument upon the desirability of some measure of this sort being brought forward.
The Bill deals with three important questions—namely, drunkenness, licences, and better control of clubs. It is practically founded upon the part of the Report of the Royal Commission in 79 which we find a very large unanimity of opinion both from those who signed the Majority Report and those; who signed the Minority Report. Without saying that all the provisions of this Bill carry out precisely the recommendations made in these two Reports, at all; events I feel that I am dealing with questions on which there is no very wide diversity of opinion. The first part of the Bill deals with the question of drunkenness, and contains practically the same provisions as were before your Lordships last year. It will be remembered that the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Winchester last year brought forward a Bill dealing with this question. I think the House is very much indebted to him for the course he then pursued; and I personally, so far from having anything to complain of, am very glad of the opportunity that was then afforded for discussing some of the provisions of this; Bill. At all events, it lightens my task; today, because I feel that those Amendments which I had to propose, and which the right reverend prelate accepted, although they were not discussed at any very great length, at all events received in general terms the approval of your, Lordships' House. The principal part of this Bill deals with the drunken man. The measure does not interfere in any way with the liberty of the moderate drinker, but makes a very effective alteration in the law regarding drunkenness, and specially deals with the man who is a habitual drunkard, and who has shown that he is unable to control himself. By this Bill, he will be able to be dealt with, and will have restrictions imposed upon him.
The first Clause provides that a person found drunk and incapable on any highway, on being apprehended, may be charged under the Bill, and that will be a very useful alteration of the law. At present a man can be apprehended for being drunk and disorderly, and he may be charged with the offence; but if he is drunk and incapable, however incapable he may be, he cannot be charged without a summons being taken out, and the proposed alteration will, therefore, be of very great advantage to the police in dealing with this question. The second Clause is one which will obviously, I think, receive the approval 80 of every Member of this House. It is that if a person is found drunk on the highway in charge of a child under seven years of age, he or she shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine, or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, not exceeding one month. That Clause has already been approved by the House, and I think it needs no words of mind to commend it to the common sense of every Member. The third Clause is a very small matter, but will be found very useful, and has already been made use of by some magistrates. It gives the power to magistrates to order an offender to enter into his recognisances for good behaviour. There is some doubt whether, in this particular case, that is strictly legal; and those who have the administration of the law think that this provision will be of very valuable assistance to them in putting down drunkenness.
With regard to the other part of the Bill, dealing with habitual drunkards, I should like to call special attention to Clause 6, which is known as the "black list" Clause, and which deals with the man who is not only a habitual drunkard, but who has been convicted in such a way as to render himself liable to detention in an inebriates' reformatory. I think your Lordships will admit that this is a necessary corollary of the Inebriates Act which passed this House some four years ago. Clause 6 of this Bill prohibits the sale of liquor to persons declared to be habitual drunkards, and puts a penalty on the publicans serving such persons. I am, of course, aware that in very populous places the Clause may not be so effective as to enable the police to put their hands on the particular offenders, but it will be found very useful in less populous parts, where the habitual drunkard will be well known and easily recognised. Clause 5 allows a woman to get a separation order on the ground that her husband is a habitual drunkard; and the same provision is extended to a husband whose wife is a habitual drunkard. This Clause is precisely the same as the one approved of by your Lordships last year. There is another Clause on which I wish to say a word, partly because it is an important Clause, and partly because the wording of it was subjected to criticism when brought forward in your Lordships' House last 81 year. I refer to Clause 4, in which the burden of proof in the case of a publican permitting drunkenness in his house is transferred. As a matter of fact, the convictions of publicans for permitting drunkenness have been extremely few, and practically, the law as it stands has been an entire failure. There has been an enormous number of convictions of people for getting drunk, and it may be presumed that almost the whole of that drunkenness was caused in public houses, and it is admitted that an enormous amount of serious crime and violence is caused directly by drunkenness. What this Clause enacts is that a publican must undertake the responsibility of seeing that his house is properly conducted, and that drunkenness is not allowed. All that the Clause does is to provide that, if he is brought up and charged with permitting drunkenness, it shall lie on the licensed person to prove that he, and the persons employed by him, took all reasonable steps to prevent drunkenness on the premises. No doubt those words are wide; but discretion will be left entirely to the Court, who will have all the facts of the case, which can be proved before them. I must say that it seems to me that any man who has taken reasonable steps, and has done his best, either himself or through his servants, to prevent drunkenness, will have little difficulty, when called on to do so, in proving that he took due precautions. This provision will bring within the limits of the law many who have not conducted their houses properly, but who have escaped hitherto owing to the unsatisfactory state of the law. Those are the main provisions of the first part of this Bill; and I think your Lordships will see that, although they may be in themselves alterations which may seem small, the effect of them may be very far-reaching, and they may do a great deal, without interfering with the ordinary man who abides by the law, to improve the present state, not only of our streets, but also of many of the public houses in this country.
I come now to the second part of the Bill, which deals with a number of different questions relating to the amendment of the licensing law. Many of these provisions, although of importance, are matters of very great and intricate detail, which, perhaps, had better be left to the Committee stage to be dealt with. 82 I should like to call the attention of your Lordships to Clause 8, which deals with the endorsement of licences. Your Lordships will remember that this provision was brought forward last year in the Amendments which I moved to the Bishop of Winchester's Bill. By this Clause as it stands, read with the schedule, the present system of endorsement of licences is done away with, and in its place it is enacted that when a licensed person is convicted of any offence, committed by him as such, it shall be the duty of the clerk of the Licensing Justices to enter notice of every such conviction in the Register of Licences. As a matter of fact, the system of endorsing licences has been unsatisfactory. Different magistrates have taken different views of it, but in a large number of cases endorsement has not taken place, and justices called upon to give a licence may be left totally in the dark as to the previous character of the house. It is proposed now to establish a record of this kind by means of a register, which shall show the character of the house; and the justices have full power to act on their own discretion in dealing with these convictions. There was a provision in the Bill of last year to which some exception was taken. It will be remembered that a section in the clause stated that where there had been five convictions of drunkenness the magistrates could ask for reasons for granting the licence, and use their discretion accordingly. Considerable objection was—I do not think unnaturally, —taken to the wording of that Clause in this House, and it also met with criticism in another place. The mere fact of stating, in a Clause dealing with this subject, that certain steps should be taken in the case of five convictions made some people think that it was a suggestion that a licence should not be refused unless there had been five convictions. I think your Lord-ships will agree that it was wise to omit that section from the Bill, and to leave entire discretion to the magistrates to deal with the matter as they may think fit.
The next Clause is a new one so far as this House is concerned, and it deals with that rather important question of persons who sell intoxicating liquors by 83 retail for consumption off the premises. As a matter of fact, the law with regard to selling liquor off the premises is in a very anomalous position. A man who sells beer off the premises is required to get a justices' licence, and the justices can refuse it at their discretion. If he chances, however, to sell wine and spirits, practically speaking it comes to this; that the magistrates have no discretion except to conform to some statutory conditions which only enable them to refuse a licence in the case of bad conduct. This Clause now proposes to put the off spirit licence and the off-wine licence in exactly the same position as the off-beer licence. A great deal of discussion on this question took place in the House of Commons, and no doubt different views are taken with regard to the advisability of this Clause, but it has been felt that where Justices are seriously considering the question, and diminishing the number of public houses and beer houses in districts, they should have some control over the places where wines and spirits are sold for consumption off the premises, and where those who are unable to get drink otherwise may procure it. It does not follow that a very large diminution of these licences will take place, but the Clause gives magistrates absolute control and discretion in the matter. There is one important proviso to this Clause. In the other House a great effort was made to exempt from these two provisions all the existing off-spirit licences, in the same way as the existing off-beer licences were exempted by the Act of 1869. This was not granted by the Government, and the Amendment to the law put forward to exempt those houses was so far modified as to make it refer only to those individuals at the present time holding off-retail licences. This concession has been treated as if it was a very serious one, and one which will do serious damage to the Bill, but I do not think that will be looked upon as the effect of it. It gives the magistrates full control over any new houses that are started, and it recognises no vested interest whatever in the house, but only the fact that the present holder of the licence, so long as he himself continues to hold it and occupies the house, shall be able to get the licence on the same terms as he did previously.
84 There are other clauses in this Bill with which I will not trouble your Lordships. There are clauses which deal in great detail with questions connected with licensing. One of these clauses alters the date of the licensing meeting; and there are other clauses which deal with notices, and the time which shall elapse between the different stages. These clauses may have to be considered further before they become law, but the only one to which I will now refer is Clause 16, which deals with occasional licences. At present, the application for these licences may be made before a single Justice, and it is felt to be a great scandal, where Justices in Sessions have taken a great deal of care with regard to the issuing of licences, that a single Justice should have sole control in the case of occasional licences. This Clause provides that an occasional licence shall not be granted except with the consent of a Petty Sessional Court, provided that where there is no sitting of a Petty Sessional Court within seven days of the time when the licence is required, the consent may be given by any two Justices acting for the division and sitting together, but only after proper notices have been given with regard to the application. Clause 11 removes the disqualification of Justices interested in railways, and Clause 12 deals with the disqualification of Justices' clerks. Both provisions were in the Bill which passed your Lordships' House last year, and the one removing the disqualification of magistrates who are interested in railways has been repeatedly before you, and has always received unanimous approval. Clause 12 enacts that no solicitor or other person being a clerk of licensing Justices shall, by himself, his partner, or clerk, as solicitor or agent for any person, conduct or act in any application for or in respect of a licence or any other proceedings whatsoever under the Licensing Acts, except so far as relates to the preparation of notices or forms, and I do not think that is a very controversial point. I am quite aware that this Clause does not go so far as some of your Lordships would like to see it go. Its provisions are not so wide as some of the recommendations that were made in the Report of the Commission, but the matter has been carefully 85 considered by the Home Secretary and in the other House, and it is thought that, in this present form, the Clause hits a most substantial part of the evil. At any rate, the provision goes as far as the Home Secretary thinks it is desirable to go in this matter. I do not think I need say any more with regard to the second part of the Bill.
But there remains another part to which I must ask your Lordships' attention for a few minutes. It has reference to the question of clubs. Whilst it is admitted that there is an enormous number of clubs in this country which are properly conducted and very desirable institutions in themselves, and which, perhaps, have had the result rather of diminishing drunkenness than the reverse, there are some clubs which are open to very strong objection. For instance, it has been asserted that ofttimes when a licensed victualler has forfeited his licence for some misconduct he at once opens a club, which is practically a bogus club, to which he welcomes his old customers, and in regard to which there is no possibility of dealing with him. A great many of these clubs are kept open for immoral and illegal purposes, and it was recognised by the Minority Report of the Royal Commission, which dealt with this matter at no me length, that it was extremely desirable to have a system of registration of clubs. The principle of this part of the Bill is that every club where liquor is provided for the members should be compelled to register, and that if a club without registering provides liquor for its members then it shall be subject to very stringent fines and penalties which will practically put a stop to anything of that sort going on. The effect of these clauses—Clauses 22 and 23—is that every club, good, bad, and indifferent, will be put upon the register. That is the principle on which the clauses are drawn, it is laid down that the register shall be in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State, and that it shall be obligatory on the part of a secretary of a club to forward all the particulars required for the purpose of registration. The register will be open at all reasonable hours for inspection by an inspector or superintendent of police, or an Inland Revenue officer, or any other person 86 who chooses to pay a very small fee. Under that provision you will get all these clubs on the register, and you will have a knowledge of the way their business is conducted, their rules, the number of members, the terms of subscription, the rules governing entrance, and also the hours of opening and closing, and other matters of that sort. But the whole point turns on Clause 26, which provides that, where a club has been registered in pursuance of this Act, a Court of summary jurisdiction, on complaint in writing by any person, may make an order directing the club to be struck off the register on all, or any of the following grounds, namely—That Clause ought to be, and I believe it will be, sufficiently strong to ensure all clubs being properly conducted, and also to ensure their being struck off the register where offences are committed. This method of dealing with clubs is somewhat different from that recommended by the Minority Report of the Royal Commission, which was to the effect that clubs should not be placed on the register unless they conformed to certain conditions. It does seem to me that such a course would be rather in the nature of licensing clubs. The object of the Home Secretary, however, is by this Bill to get every club on the register, and, if complaint is made against them, that complaint will be 87 dealt with judicially, and by a judicial authority. In addition to this, there is also the power of search, if there is reasonable ground for supposing that a club is improperly managed, and with that safeguard I think the system will ensure, at all events, that bogus clubs will cease to exist. The Bill will certainly not interfere in any way with the management of good clubs—the clubs used by your Lordships in the West End, as well as the properly-conducted work- men's clubs throughout the country.
- (a)That the club has ceased to exist, or that the number of members is less than twenty- live; or
- (b)That it is not conducted in good faith as a club, or that it is kept, or habitually used for any unlawful purpose; or
- (c)That there is frequent drunkenness on the club premises; or
- (d)That illegal sales of intoxicating liquor have taken place on the club premises; or
- (e)That persons are habitually admitted to the privileges of the club who are not members, or entitled under the rules of the club to the privileges of members; or
- (f) That the club occupies premises in respect of which, within twelve months next preceding the formation of the club, a licence has been forfeited, or the renewal of a licence has been refused, or in respect of which an order has been made that they shall not be used for the purposes of a club; or
- (g) That persons are habitually admitted as members without an interval of at least forty-eight hours between the nomination and admission of members; or
- (h)That the supply of intoxicating liquor to the club is not under the control of the members or the committee appointed by the members.
I hope I have said sufficient to make the measure intelligible to the House, and that I have been successful in commending it to your Lordships' favourable consideration. No doubt many of your Lordships would have liked the Bill to deal with a large number of other questions. I will not enter into the policy of that. All I will say is, that this Bill has gone through all its stages in the other House, and has come up to your Lordships at a reasonable time, when we can give it fair consideration, and that if the Bill had dealt with a number of those thorny questions which not only create great difference of opinion in the country, but which divided the Commission by a very prominent dividing line, I doubt, whether there would have been any prospect of passing it in a single session, even with an Autumn session tacked on. Though this Bill does not contain provisions of this sort, yet it is not a small measure. It is an important Bill, and one which I believe will deal in a very effective and far-reaching way with a number of questions which, for a very long time, have attracted the attention of Parliament and which are of the greatest importance so far as licensing reform is concerned. I ask your Lordships to give the Bill that sympathetic consideration which it has received in the other House, and, if your Lordships do that, I feel confident that a useful Amendment of the law will be placed on the Statute Book.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Belper.)
*THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I fear I must plead guilty to having intruded perhaps too frequently during the past two or three years in discussions on this subject, but my excuse must be that there is no matter 88 of practical politics in the discussion of which it is more appropriate for those who sit on the Episcopal Bench to take part. I wish to express my appreciation and thanks to His Majesty's Government for the thorough-going endeavour they have, made in their Bill to deal with some parts of this great and complicated question. I can speak as one who knows the difficulties of the problem, and I can perhaps appreciate better than some of your Lordships at their true value the efforts, deserving of all praise, made by the Home Secretary in the other House when dealing with this subject. More than two years have passed since in this House I moved that it was desirable that legislative effect should be given to those portions of the Report of the Royal Commission on which all its members were agreed. That Motion did not meet with full acceptance at the time, and I ventured the following year to introduce three small Bills dealing each of them with one part of the subject which the larger measure of the Government deals with today. Those Bills dealt with three subjects—the first related to habitual drunkards, the second to the qualification of licensing authorities, and the third to that most unmitigated of all shams—the bonâ fide traveller. The first of these Bills reappears practically in the present measure, and the second Bill has been largely, though not wholly, incorporated in the Bill now before the House, whilst certain other departments of the subject, with which I, as a private Member, could not adequately deal, have been grappled with by the Home Office, which, in the first place, has fuller information at its command, and, in the second place, has machinery for making the provisions of such a Bill clear and effective. The third Bill which I introduced had reference to the bonâ fide traveller, and I am sorry to say that it perished in this House, but I hope that it may be possible at some future time to revive it, as I am convinced that the question is a much larger one than many of your Lordships who voted against the Bill supposed.
Of the first thirteen Clauses of this Bill, I find that ten are taken from the measures which were introduced last 89 year, and I need not therefore express, the approval which I entertain of the provisions therein made. Then we pass to other subjects which could, I think, only have been effectively dealt with by His Majesty's Government, and some of which have been dealt with very effectively in the Bill now before the House. The question of clubs seems to me to have been thoroughly well handled, and, as far as I am able to judge, the proposals which the Bill; contains are in every way deserving of acceptance by your Lordships. They do not correspond exactly with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but they deal with the subject in a way which I believe to be more satisfactory than that recommended either in the Majority or Minority Report. I am not able, however, to congratulate the Government so cordially as to their treatment of grocers' licences. It does seem to me that a good proposition and a good Clause has been marred in the last resort by the insertion of a provision which will not merely hinder what has been proposed from becoming effective, but will establish a new set of people with a vested interest which may hereafter turn out to be the cause of great difficulty when the time arrives to deal with the question. The subject calls for serious attention, and I have reason to believe that Amendments will be moved in Committee. I will not go into the details of those Amendments now, but I am certain that the matter ought to be thoroughly thrashed out before the Bill is passed into law. Another provision which calls for notice is the protection afforded to a husband as against an inebriate wife. That was an addition brought in by the Government to the proposals contained in the original Bill which I introduced a year ago. We confined the provision at that time to an endeavour to protect the wife against the husband without endeavouring to protect the husband against the wife. The subject is a most difficult one, and it is excessively hard to steer the right course among the various shoals with which it is surrounded. I believe that on the whole the decision at which the Government has arrived, and which is embodied in this Bill, is the right one, though it is with some hesitation that I arrive at that conclusion; for we may run the risk of a great peril by turning loose on the world a large number of inebriate women 90 who have been turned out from their husbands' homes without any means of supporting themselves, and who may be unable to obtain from their husbands the money which the law compels them to pay. The subject is an intricate and perplexing one, and though I think the conclusion arrived at is the right one, I am not prepared to say so without some hesitation and doubt.
From this Bill has disappeared the provision we tried to carry into law last year with regard to the disqualification of members of Watch Committees who are interested in the liquor trade. There, again, we have to deal with a most difficult subject. Prima facie it seems clear that the disqualifications which render a magistrate incompetent to sit as a licensing authority if he is interested in the liquortrade oughtequally to disqualify him from serving on a Watch Committee, and controlling the police in their dealings with public houses. I think it right, however, to say that, having considered the matter in great detail, I have come to the conclusion that I was mistaken in thinking last year that legislation to that effect was practically possible without unfairness. I believe that the decision which His Majesty's Government has come to on that point is the right one, and that, though desirable, it is impracticable to introduce the provisions I formerly desired. There are several small points in the Bill upon which I propose to suggest some Amendments, but none of them are very formidable. When the time comes, I shall be prepared to defend them. I would merely say, in conclusion, that I hope that the Government, encouraged by the success which has attended this brave and persistent endeavour to grapple with our difficulties, will go a little further still, and endeavour to do what is urgently required, namely, to consolidate the law upon the whole subject. We want to prevent its being necessary, as it is now, for anyone concerned in the administration of licences to plod through statute after statute, which seem to the uninitiated to be almost contradictory in themselves, and which require an expert hand to reduce them into shape and form. Meanwhile, I desire to tender my cordial thanks to the Government for the successful endeavour which has been made to deal with one of the thorniest questions in English politics.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill said he believed there were many noble Lords who desired to see moderate and sensible licensing reforms. I agree with him. I believe there are many persons, not merely in your Lordships' House, but throughout the country, who are strongly of opinion that real improvements in the licensing laws must be made. I am glad to be able to congratulate His Majesty's Government on this Bill. It is, truly, not an ambitious Bill, but it deals with a number of practical questions, some of small, and others of greater importance, in a way likely to produce a considerable effect on the administration of the law. The noble Lord rather apologised, at the end of his speech, for the Bill not dealing with more subjects.
§ LORD BELPER
I did not apologise on that ground. I said I thought that perhaps there were some Members who would like to see the Bill deal with more subjects than it does.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I agree that the number of questions already dealt with is so large that it would be unwise to endeavour to introduce any more subjects into the Bill, which might possibly wreck it. I hope, however, that the noble Lord will not relax his energies in the future. There are many burning questions which are wisely left to the last, but which will require some solution. The Bill consists of three parts. I consider that it would be difficult to add much more to Part I. of the Bill, which deals with drunkenness, but it is possible that some objection may be taken to Clause 4, which provides that where a licensed person is charged with permitting drunkenness on his premises, and it is proved that any person was drunk on his premises, it shall lie on the licensed person to prove that he and the persons employed by him took all reasonable steps for preventing drunkenness on the premises. I believe that to be a very necessary and very useful Clause. Some exception may also be taken to Clause 9 in Part II., relating to the power of the justices as to retail and off-licences. That is the only Clause in which there is at all an important alteration of the law of licensing, 92 and it gives the justices complete control over retail off-licences. As the Clause originally stood it was a good Clause, but it is now provided in Sub-section 4 that all existing persons who hold these licences are to have a life interest in them. I believe there are some 11,000 of these licences existing, and the result will be that magistrates will have no power over any of these off-licences except the new ones. That Clause creates a vested interest in the person holding the licence, although it does not create a vested interest in the house, and the justices will be unable to deal with any of the persons except on certain understood conditions. I desire to know why the Clause was altered after the Bill had passed the Second Reading and the Committee stages, and why the Home Secretary at the last moment accepted an Amendment which practically puts off the working of the Clause for twenty years. The noble Lord alluded to a precedent for that in the case of what are called the anti-1869 beer-houses. In the year 1869 a law was passed giving magistrates authority over all licences with the exception of the then existing beer licences. What has been the result? At the present time there are some 35,000 of the licences in existence, and when the magistrates will obtain any right or discretion to deal with them goodness only knows. When we come to the Committee stage, I shall venture to submit an Amendment to leave out Sub-section 4 of Clause 9. The question is, after all, has the Government any confidence in licensing authorities? If they believe that the licensing authorities are going to act in a tyrannical and unjust manner, why do they make a Clause giving them a nominal power which is absolutely taken away for practical purposes by a proviso which has been added? I shall certainly ask your Lordships to reject that proviso. I am glad that the Government had dealt so thoroughly with the question of the registration of clubs. When I read that part of the Bill it did seem to me that some means might be devised to prevent an objectionable club being put on the register. That, however, is a matter of detail on which I cannot say I feel very strongly. I 93 thank the Government for the Bill, because I believe it is a good Bill, and proceeds on right lines. They have taken up questions about which there is a general harmony of opinion, and have proceeded to deal with them thoroughly. That is a course which has been suggested several times to the Government, and I am glad they have taken that mode, which I am sure they will find successful, of dealing with the question.
My Lords, having introduced a Licensing Amendment Bill myself last year, perhaps I may also be allowed to express my satisfaction that His Majesty's Government have dealt with this great subject this year. I confess that the Bill which I introduced last year, and which was read a first time— I never asked your Lordships to read it a second time—did not, as this Bill undoubtedly does, follow the line of least resistance. As well as dealing with the registration of clubs, which I am glad to see is part of this Bill, my Bill raised one or two highly controversial points, such as the constitution of licensing authorities and the diminution of licences. The Government, in the present Bill, have taken those points on which there is no great difference of opinion, and I confess they are likely to accomplish much more than I could have hoped to do with my Bill. There is one point on which I venture to think an Amendment, if introduced, might improve the Bill, and that is in regard to the obligation in Clause 4 now laid upon the licence holder to prove that he and the persons in his employ took all reasonable stops to prevent drunkenness. I venture to think that the Clause might be improved by enacting in some way that there should be a regulation ordering the police, if they see a drunken person about, to enter licensed premises, to warn the licence holder. I do not suggest for a moment that it is the intention to lay traps for publicans, but I think it ought clearly to be understood that it is the duty of a constable, if he sees that a crime is about to be committed or likely to be committed, to do what he can to prevent it, and not to be content with bringing the offender to justice. I will, therefore, venture to move the insertion of a Clause which will have that effect. The importance of this was, I may mention, recognised by evidence given before the Royal Commission by 94 MR. De Rutzen, who stated, in answer to a question, that he could not think that anything would be productive of greater assistance to the licence holder, or of greater protection to the public, than for a policeman, in all cases where he saw a man staggering into a public house, to give the licence holder information to that effect. With regard to the Bill as a whole, I am extremely glad that the Government have introduced it, and that they have also been able to pass it through the other House at a time when it can be dealt with without hurry by your Lordships.
§ LORD HENEAGE
My Lords, I have still the same objection that I had last year to Clause 4, which deals with the burden of proof in case of drunkenness on licensed premises. I do not like the Clause as it now stands, although it may be very much improved by adopting the suggestion made by the noble Lord who has just sat down. Then, with regard to off-licences, I entirely sympathise with what was said by Lord Camperdown. I do not like the idea of a vested interest in the present off-licences, for it will create some difficulty. I am glad to sec the Clause which proposes to give magistrates greater power over public houses. With regard to Clause 16, I find that in future all occasional licences are to be applied for at petty sessions, except that when no petty sessional court is to be held within seven clays they can be obtained from two magistrates. I quite agree that it is far better that the licences should be signed by two magistrates rather than by only one, but the Clause may prove a hardship in country districts. In. the case of all ordinary occasional licences for fairs and events of that public character, the publican as a rule makes the application at petty sessions, but in the case, for instance, of cricket matches suddenly arranged he could not know of the event long beforehand. It would be very hard if licences could not be obtained because a petty sessional court would be held within seven days of the application. For instance, if there was a petty sessional court next Monday, it would be impossible for a man to get an occasional licence from two magistrates for next Saturday. That is how I read the Clause, but I shall be glad to find that it is not so. I heartily congratulate the 95 Government upon bringing in the Bill. It will, I am sure, prove a very valuable measure, and I sincerely trust, with the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, that no attempt will be made to overload it, and in that way prevent its passing into law this session.
§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, I have taken part on I previous occasions in discussions upon this important subject, and I think it is due from me, having criticised His Majesty's Government for not having legislated upon this question, that I should express my gratification at the way in which the Government have dealt with it in this Bill. I also congratulate the right Rev. Prelate upon the success of his efforts, because, as he told the House, the greater part of the Clauses in the Government Bill now before the House came from his proposals. That, I think, is very satisfactory. This Bill, no doubt, cannot be called an heroic Bill, and some of us would have preferred legislation that went farther. But, at the same time, I think it is a very useful Bill, and we must rejoice that it has been introduced and carried through the other House. I shall not say much to-day as to the details of the Bill. I quite agree with what has been said with regard to the Clause dealing with off-licenses. I would have preferred the Clause as it was first introduced, and before the Amendment was put in. At the same time we must keep an open mind on the subject, and I think my noble friend Lord Camperdown rather exaggerated the difficulties which would have to be faced. I think the magistrates have considerably more power with regard to refusing or not renewing licences than the noble Earl has suggested. That is a most important part of the Bill and will have to be fully considered. I should like to see the provision with regard to the petty sessional clerks extended. I regret that nothing has been done with respect to the point raised by the Royal Commission as to persons interested in the liquor trade sitting upon Watch Committees. I know there are difficulties in the way, but I think they ought to have 96 been overcome. When the Bill is in Committee, further discussion may be raised upon some of the points that have been alluded to. I sincerely hope that the Bill will pass its Second Reading tonight, and that when it reaches the Committee stage all these matters will receive more consideration.
§ On Question, agreed to; Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.