HL Deb 06 March 1902 vol 104 cc543-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the object of this measure, which I introduced on behalf of the Hotel and Restaurant Protection Society, was to protect innkeepers and others against fraud. I am informed that the difficulty which an hotel or restaurant proprietor or manager finds in protecting himself against fraud is that the law compels him to prove that the guest who does not pay his account incurred the indebtedness with the absolute intention of defrauding. The section in this Bill would throw the onus of proving absence of fraud upon the defaulting guest, which is the law in America, France, Germany, and all over the Continent. I understand, however, from the Lord Chancellor that this provision is unnecessary, and that he intends to oppose the Bill. In these circumstances I ask the permission of the House to withdraw it.


I think the noble Lord has exercised a very wise discretion in withdrawing the measure, which would introduce a very dangerous principle into the law of this country. If the Bill became law the innkeeper would be compelled to inform his customer that unless he paid his bill he would be liable to be brought before a Criminal Court. This is a little ludicrous, and so far from the Bill being an improvement of the law, the measure is of a retrograde character. What the noble Lord desires to deal with is met already by the Larceny Act, which makes it a criminal offence for anyone to obtain credit under the exact circumstances the noble Lord has suggested. Only recently a man was sentenced to two months hard labour for obtaining food for which he was unable to pay. The Bill, besides being unnecessary, would introduce an absolutely new principle into the law of the country.

Bill, by leave of the House, withdrawn.