§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I desire to say a few words in explanation of its object. The wholesale granting of licences in Ireland has become a positive scandal. The Magistrates are canvassed, and when licences are to be granted they are brought from all parts of the county. The whole gist of the measure, which has passed the other House with the consent of all parties, is that no licences shall be granted for five years from the time of its passage, with the exception of certain cases in which exemption will be allowed. Under Clause 2 exemption will be allowed in the case of premises which are now licensed or which were licensed at any time since January 1st, 1902; in the case of an hotel containing at least ten apartments set apart and used exclusively for the sleeping accommodation of travellers, and having no public bar for the sale of intoxicating liquors; and in the case of a railway refreshment room. Again, the premises to be licensed in the future must be valued under the Irish Valuation Acts at not less than £30 for the 1245 city of Dublin and Dublin Metropolitan Police District and the city of Belfast; £'20 in the cities of Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Londonderry: £15 in the cities of Galway and Kilkenny; £12 in any other city or town of over ten thousand inhabitants at the census ascertained next preceding the application; and £10 in all other places. Nothing in the Bill, however, will affect the law as to the transfer or assignment of licences from one person to another, or as to the renewal of licences. As I have said, all parties in the other House concurred in passing the measure. It is only a small Bill—a small step, but a step in the right direction. We seldom in Ireland agree upon any Irish Bill, and the fact that we have done so upon this matter will, I am sure, commend the Bill to your Lordships' favourable consideration.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Mayo.)
My Lords, I rise to support this Bill and to endorse the statement of my noble friend that it is a step in the right direction. I wish the measure had gone considerably further, and that means could have been found, not only to prevent an increase in the number of spirit licences in Ireland, but to materially decrease their number. The increase that has lately taken place constitutes a grave public scandal, and I trust that the matter will, before long, engage the attention of the Legislature. In the meantime, this Bill, to which I hope your Lordships will assent, will prevent a further extension of the evil.
THE EARL OF CORK
My Lords, this Bill, though a very small one, will, in my opinion, effect a very great reform. Everyone who is acquainted with the small towns of Ireland must be aware of the fact that the enormous number of these licensed houses is a curse to the country. Personally, I should like to sec passed a measure transferring the power of granting licences from the local magistrates to other hands, but I do not think there is any prospect of that at present. I am convinced that the Bill now before the House will prove a most beneficial Act of Parliament.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, the noble Earl who is in charge of this Bill has informed your Lordships that the measure passed through the other House with absolute unanimity. I think the fact that a Bill containing matters so doubly contentious as that of Ireland and liquor should come to us in so peaceful a garb, is matter for congratulation. I do not wish to strike a note of discord in regard to a measure upon which all parties in Ireland appear to be agreed, but I hope your Lordships will bear with me a few moments in view of the fact that I have, during the past year, devoted a considerable amount of energy and time to the endeavour to erect a ring fence round existing licences in Great Britain by the establishment of powerful Trust Companies which shall be able to accept and manage, in the interest of the community, every new licence which the licensing authorities may think it desirable to create. The provisions which the noble Earl relics upon for securing that the new licences shall come into respectable hands do not, in my opinion, go far enough. I understand that the licensing authorities will have power under the Bill to grant new licences in districts where there has been an increase of not less than 25 per cent. of the population according to the last census. Let us assume that the increase has taken place. The only other provision is that the applicant shall put in one surrender. I call that a most insufficient precaution. It is well known that new licences in growing communities have a very large value; they are worth, in many cases, thousands of pounds, and there is no security that the applicant who gets the new licence shall be a respectable man by the fact that he is required to put in the surrender of a house which may be obtained in the market for a very few pounds. What is wanted is that the law should make it impossible for magistrates to grant a new licence to a private individual for his personal gain. I, therefore, give notice that, in Committee, I shall move an Amendment to Clause 4, which will add a proviso, under which it will be necessary that an applicant to obtain a licence should he nominated by a Trust Company, under whose Articles of Association the man in charge of the 1247 public-house shall have no interest in, and receive no profit from, the retail sale of intoxicating liquors.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
I wish to say, on behalf of the Irish Government, that there is no objection whatever to the Bill. Indeed, as the noble Earl has truly stated, the condition of affairs in Ireland has become so serious that it is desirable the Bill should pass, and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading. I trust that the noble Earl will be prepared to accept some Amendments which will be put forward on behalf of the Irish Government when the Committee stage is reached, and that he will defer that stage till after the Coronation recess.
§ On Question, agreed to; Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday the 3rd of July next.