HL Deb 28 February 1911 vol 7 cc159-65


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, like the Bill which your Lordships have just read a second time, this Bill has been frequently before your Lordships' House, and on the last occasion it passed through all its stages here. I do not, therefore, propose to reiterate the objects of the Bill. There is only one change of any consequence, and it refers to the supply of liquors to children. An Amendment was necessary in order to meet the provisions of the Children's Act of 1908. The new provision in this Bill is to allow, under a certificate of the justices, particular public-houses to be exempt from the provisions of Section 120 of the Children's Act, 1908. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lamington,.)


My Lords, I gather from the title of this Bill and the Memorandum attached. to it that my noble friend's object is to improve the condition of public-houses. As I have given a good deal of thought and time to this task, I could not possibly take exception in principle to a Bill which has such a laudable object. There is no doubt, as my noble friend pointed out when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill on the last occasion, that in exercising their discretion in licensing matters justices are very often influenced by prejudice, and do exercise their discretion in a manner to prevent public-houses being improved and being used for catering, refreshments, and quite harmless purposes. It is to prevent that that my noble friend has introduced this Bill but I am very doubtful whether it is possible by any legislation to restrict the action of the justices in this one particular without also very seriously limiting their jurisdiction in matters where, in my opinion, it is vital they should retain it. I think my noble friend himself is aware of this danger because he endeavours, by a proviso at the end of Clause I, to give back to the justices the very discretion which he takes away from them by the earlier words of the Clause. I confess I am not at all satisfied with the wording of this proviso. The proviso states that the provisions of this Bill are not to apply in cases where, in the opinion of the licensing justices, any alteration in the premises or fittings would— merely have the effect of increasing the consumption of intoxicating liquors. I think it would be almost impossible to bring forward cases where the premises of a public-house had been improved or enlarged in which it could be said that the chief effect of those alterations had "merely been to increase the consumption of alcoholic liquors," because, even supposing the consumption of alcoholic liquors had been increased by the alterations to the premises, it is almost certain that other effects would also have taken place. Therefore the presence of the word "merely" in the proviso is a serious objection to the whole clause.

Then again, I think there is considerable objection to the new clause to which my noble friend referred. It was not, I think, in the last draft of his Bill. My noble friend said that it was rendered necessary by the provisions in the Children's Act. That, I think, is hardly a correct expression of the effect of this new clause. Your Lordships are probably aware that under the law at present children are admitted to those parts of a public-house where there is no bar. They are only excluded from the rooms of a public-house which contain a bar. The effect, therefore, of Clause 2 of this Bill would be to allow children to be introduced into public-houses in those rooms where there is also a bar. It would, in fact, lead to the creation of a sort of schedule of two different classes of public-houses—those which were merely drinking shops and those which also supplied food and light refreshments; the result of which would be that children would be admitted in one class to all parts of a house in that class, and excluded from another. I feel that the House ought to pause before accepting a Bill with this clause in it. But both of the matters which I have raised are Committee matters. I only mention them now in order to warn my noble friend that some criticism will he levelled against these particular points in his Bill when we get into Committee.


My Lords, I have on previous occasions expressed my strong opposition to this Bill or a Bill analogous to it, and I must say that my sense of almost despair at the prospect which this Bill opens up only increases on further consideration. The noble Earl who has just spoken has treated the very grave objections to the Bill which he indicated as though they were subject-matter for Committee, but there is not a line in this Bill which is not open to the objections—the unanswerable objections—raised by the noble Earl.

There are two clauses in this Bill, apart from the formal clause, and the first of those clauses would destroy the discretion of the licensing justices in most important matters relating to the licensing laws. It would obliterate the discretion of the licensing justices, because if a man hereafter, supposing this Bill to pass into law, were to come and ask for the structural alteration and extension of his premises, and he said that he wanted to do this work in order to provide accommodation for the supply of food or light refreshments, permission could not be denied to him. The justices would be obliged to grant it under this clause. Yet the extension might be used, when it had been constructed, for the general expansion of his business. In the same sort of way, if he wanted an alteration for the purpose of making his premises, or any part thereof, more open, airy, commodious, or comfortable, he would be entitled to enlarge to any extent without the consent of the justices, and over their heads. He could also do so for the purpose of the provision of games, other than unlawful games, newspapers, music, gardens, or any other means of useful recreation, thereby adding to what is essentially a drinking place any kind of attraction which would tend, although that might not be the first and obvious reason, to increase or enlarge the consumption of drink in that place.

There is a proviso, which the noble Earl pointed out, that— no alteration in the premises or fittings, the chief object of which would be, in the opinion of the licensing justices, merely to increase the consumption of intoxicating liquors, shall he deemed to come within the provisions of this section. That is to say, if the alteration has other effects as well as increasing the consumption of liquor, away goes the discretion of the licensing justices. That is a provision which, I am quite certain, in the enlightened days in which we live now in regard to this subject, has not the ghost of a chance of passing the other House of Parliament. whatever majority may sit there, and I sincerely hope that it will not pass this House either. It is, to my mind, destructive. It goes a considerable distance towards destroying the thing upon which we chiefly rely in controlling this admittedly dangerous trade—a trade which, in my opinion, is not half sufficiently controlled already, and the control over which is now sought to be abated by the first provision of this Bill.

The second provision is, to my mind, although not so serious in effect, in a sense more serious in principle. There is in the Children's Act of 1908 a law preventing children from being admitted to a bar—and who is there who cares for children and for the community at large who is otherwise than anxious to maintain a provision of that kind? What does this Bill do? I will read the Clause— Where licensed premises are not merely places for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, but contain adequate provision for the supply of food and light refreshments, and are airy, commodious, and comfortable, the licensing justices shall, on the application of the holder of the licence, certify— It is, your Lordships will see, compulsory upon them to do so— certify to that effect, and any premises so certified shall be exempt from the provisions of Section 120 of the Children's Act, 1908. That is to say, children may be allowed, notwithstanding the Act, to go into the bars if the licensed premises are not merely places for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, but contain certain adequate provision for the supply of light refresh- ments. That is undoing an Act which is only two months more than two years old, and which was passed for the protection of little children in this country. I decline to believe that your Lordships will agree to give such a Bill a Second Reading.


My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in reply. I fancy that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack thinks that this is an insidious attempt on the part of those interested in the liquor trade to get greater facilities for their trade. The whole intention of this Bill is exactly the reverse. The noble and learned Lord said that in these days it would be absurd to pass legislation of this character. As a matter of fact, the object of the Bill is to improve the tone of public-houses, to make them more respectable, to bring about a higher principle so that they should not be mere drinking dens. I do not know what will pass in another place, but I trust that your Lordships, having given a Second Reading to this Bill on a previous occasion, will again read it a second time. The whole object of the Bill is the reverse of what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack tries to make out. The Children's Act is rather vague as to which part of the premises children may enter. The definition in that Act of what is an open bar is as follows— In this section the bar of licensed premises means any open drinking bar or any part of the premises exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors. Surely that is very vague. All that is sought in this Bill is to define more closely what parts of public-houses children may enter. I would point out that children

go to large places like the White City and the Crystal Palace, in many parts of which there are open bars. The only operation under this Bill is that there should be a certificate given to those places where children may go.


That is not the effect of the clause.


I am very sorry if that is not so.


I am sure I need not say that I never suspected the noble Lord of other than the most honest intentions, but I do not think he appreciates the effect of his clause. Let me read it— Where licensed premises are not merely places for the consumption of intoxicating liquors, but contain adequate provision for the supply of food and light refreshments, and are airy, commodious, and comfortable, the licensing justices shall, on the application of the holder of the licence, certify to that effect, and any premises so certified shall be exempt from the provisions of section one hundred and twenty of the Children's Act, 1908. Once you get the first condition, children may go into any part of those premises—the bar or anywhere else.


If that is the interpretation, I am quite prepared, in Committee, to accept any alteration in the wording. It certainly is not the intention of the Bill. Children go at present into such places as I have already named.

On Question, That the Bill be now read2a

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 48; Not-contents, 51.

Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.) Plymouth, E. Belhaven and Stenton, L
Marlborough, D. Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Ellenborough, L.
Verulam, E. Estcourt, L.
Hertford, M. Waldegrave, E. Farnham, L.
Lansdowne, M. Wharncliffe, E. Gwydir, L.
Salisbury, M. Hindlip, L.
Churchill, V. Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)
Cathcart, E. Goschen, V. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Cromer, E. Hampden, V. Lamington, I. [Teller.]
Dartmouth, E. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Halsbury, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Kilmorey, E. Iveagh, V. O'Hagan, L.
Londesborough, E. Knutsford, V. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Lovelace, E. Sackville, L.
Lytton, E. Ashbourne, L. Stanmore, L.
Macclesfield, E. Ashtown, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Malmesbury, E. Avebury, L. (Teller.]
Northbrook, E. Balfour, L. Willoughby de Broke, I..
Canterbury, L. Abp. Falkland, V. Ilkeston, L.
Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.) Lldandaff, V. Kinnaird, L.
Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Lilford, L.
Bangor, L. Bp. MacDonnell, L.
Bedford, D. Bristol, L. Bp. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Wakefield, L. Bp. Pentland, L.
Spencer, E. (L. Chamberlain.) Reay, L.
Beauchamp, E. Allendale, L. St. Davids, L.
Carlisle, E. Armitstead, L. St. Levan, L.
Carrington, E. Boston, L. Sandhurst, L.
Coventry, E. Brassey, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Craven, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Haddington, E. Shuttleworth, L.
Liverpool, E. Colebrooke, L. Templemore, L.
Portsmouth, E. Denman, L. [Teller.] Tennyson, L.
Russell, E. Devonport, L. Trevor, L.
Westmeath, E. Furness, L. Weardale, L.
Granard, L. (E. Granard.) Willingdon, L.
Cross, V. Herschell, L. [Teller.] Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

Resolved in the negative accordingly.