§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, I will be very brief in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. The object of the Bill is to improve the machinery for the granting of music and dancing licences in those areas of Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire which are within a twenty-mile limit from the City of London or of Westminster, whichever is the nearer to the County in question. The Bill also extends to the County Boroughs of East Ham and West Ham. At the present time these matters are dealt with in the rest of the country, speaking generally, under the Public Health Act of 1890, but the parts of the Home Counties which I have described rely at present on an Act passed in 1751, which is entitled the Disorderly Houses Act. Under that Act licences can only be given for these purposes at one particular time of the year, which now means at the October meeting of the county council. None of these licences can be transferred, and it is definitely laid down that licences cannot be granted at any other time during the twelve months except the particular period I have mentioned.
The process of dealing with offences under that Act, dating as it does from the eighteenth-century, is hardly applicable to the present time. It is very cumbersome. The position with regard to these licences has proved so unsatisfactory that the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey have both been granted Acts of Parliament of their own for dealing with the matter. That for Middlesex was passed in 1894 and that for Surrey only last year. The introduction of a similar measure to this last year resulted 97 in the Home Secretary calling a conference of local authorities within the area I have indicated, and this Bill is, practically speaking, the outcome of that conference. The effect of this Bill is to bring this area into line with the other counties, and, as I have said, to improve the machinery for dealing with these matters. I do not wish to weary your Lordships by going into the details of the Bill, which I understand is not opposed in any part of the House, but I think I should mention Clause 3 which corrects faults—if I may call them faults—in the previous Act by giving the councils of counties and county boroughs power to grant those licences at any time during the year, subject of course to notice being given in accordance with the provisions of the Bill and also according to the regulations which the various councils are empowered to, make with regard to this matter. Further, the councils are enabled to transfer these licences from one person to another and also to delegate their authority to certain large urban district councils. With regard to offences under the Act, a much simpler process has been laid down, similar to that pursued in other directions and in conformity with the practice of the present time.
This Bill comes to your Lordships from the other House as an unopposed measure, it is backed by members representative of all Parties in that House and it has been most carefully scrutinised, as may be readily understood from that which I have already said, by the Home Office. It was at the instance, practically speaking, of the Home Office that in Committee in another place a number of Amendments and modifications were introduced into the Bill. I think, if I may venture to say so, that your Lordships will be well advised to give this Bill a Second Reading. It is a small Bill, but it will effect a very useful purpose, for it improves administration with regard to these licences and will undoubtedly benefit the citizens who are affected by it.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord O'Hagan.)
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, as regards the view of the Home Office on this little Bill, they regard it as a very useful measure. It will bring those parts of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent that are inside the twenty-mile 98 radius into the same regulations that have been found so useful for those parts of Surrey and Middlesex which already receive the benefits of the provisions of this Bill. The Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by a private member. It is viewed with great favour by the Home Office, which took a great deal of interest in the matter, interviewed all the local authorities concerned at the Ironic Office and suggested some Amendments to the Bill, which was unopposed on the Second Reading. I hope that it will meet the same fate in your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I do not wish to raise any kind of objection to the Second Reading of this Bill, which, no doubt, is an excellent measure, but I should like to put one question, for my own information, to the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading. Is it a fact that a publican, let us say, who has a wireless receiving apparatus with a loud speaker, has to take out a music licence because of the music transmitted through that apparatus? I can understand that, where dance music is used in a dance hall and people dance, it may be very proper that he should take out a licence for dancing: but if he has in any part of the licensed premises an ordinary receiving apparatus with a loud speaker, is he compelled now to take out a music licence? If so, that seems to me to be rather a hardship.
I am afraid that I cannot answer the question addressed to me, but I will make it my business to inquire. I do not know if the noble Lord who represents the Home Office can throw any light on that question.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.