HL Deb 14 June 1934 vol 92 cc1126-33

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee. read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Amulree.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Permitted hours in the evening (validity of directions and decisions as respects parts of the year).

1.—(1) The power conferred on the licensing justices for any licensing district outside the metropolis by sub-paragraph(i) of paragraph (b) of the proviso to subsection (1) of Section one of the Licensing Act, 1921 (which relates to permitted hours Oil week-days) to make as respects their district a direction that the said subsection shall have effect as though eight and a half hours were substituted for eight hours, and half-past ten at night were substituted for ten at night, shall include power, where they are satisfied that the special requirements of the district during a part of the year only (being a part consisting of eight consecutive weeks or more) render it desirable, to make such a direction as respects that part of the year only.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAMEmoved to add to subsection (1) "and it shall be the duty of any licensing justices to consider, at any time before the first annual licensing meeting subsequent to the passage of this Act, a request for such a direction." The noble Viscount said: The same Amendment was moved in another place by Mr. Pike, and was discussed there and withdrawn in order to allow the Government to bring up a new clause to cover the point. When the new clause was produced, however, it turned out that it still left a flaw. Your Lordships will realise that certain licensees applied for extensions which, it turned out from the decision in the Steyning case, were illegal. These applicants will have the benefit of the new clause. Some licensees, however, who acted on sound legal advice, abstained from applying for licences, and they will be cut out from the advantages of the provisions of this Bill. Surely it is a travesty of justice to say that those who have made illegal applications should be brought within the benefits of the Bill, whereas those who did not make those illegal applications are to be excluded from enjoying those benefits. I hope that I shall obtain the support of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, because on the Second Reading he said: This Bill will remove that anomaly without introducing any fresh anomaly. I have shown him that a fresh anomaly has been introduced. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, has a similar Amendment on Clause 2, which no doubt he intends to have more or less the same effect, but I submit that his Amendment does not go quite far enough, because it is merely permissive while mine is mandatory.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 19, at end insert the said words.—(Viscounat Bertie of Thame.)


I hope that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will not accept this Amendment. The Bill has so far proceeded without opposition from any quarter. It deals with an anomalous situation which has grown up owing to the different interpretations of the law given by the justices, and it was felt that a Bill which dealt, as this one does, with the three cases where the justices had granted applications contrary to the existing law, should be passed. An extension was granted in the Steyning case, and that has turned out to be outside the power of the justices. In a second case the application was granted for the full year, and there was a third case when the application was made and "turned down" by the justices, because they had no power to make the order. I do not think it would be wise now to re-open the whole matter and to call on the justices all over the country to hear fresh applications. After all, the matter is of the very smallest importance, because it only refers to this year. We are already in June, and summer time ends, I think, at the beginning of October. If we send the Bill back to the House of Commons with this Amendment we should re-open the whole matter. If this Amendment is accepted others would be moved, and we really have not time to examine them or consider them fully. I hope the Government will keep the Bill exactly in the form in which it has come to us from another place.


I cannot help feeling, as my noble friend has just said, that this is only a question of time. This Bill will not become law for some time, and the ultimate date when the point is to be considered is no later than the first or second week in February, 1935. I feel that there are serious objections to raising the whole issue within the next few months, and in view of the fact that in another place the Bill was passed in its present form without any opposition I also deprecate any alteration of this kind at this stage.


I have an Amendment on the Paper very similar to this, and I am not quite clear what line I ought to take. My Amendment is not mandatory but permissive; otherwise I think the ground is covered by my Amendment. It has been suggested by the noble Lord opposite that the whole question will be raised by this Amendment. I cannot see why this Amendment should raise the whole general issue, because it is a matter of justice which we have to consider—namely, whether or not these licensees who did not make applications to benches because they knew it would be ultra vires should now be put on the same footing as those who ignored the law and did make these applications. It would be a travesty of justice to suggest that those who disobeyed the law should now be put in a favoured position as compared with those who regarded the law strictly.

There are cases of this kind where the licensees, naturally and properly, consulted their counsel. There were other cases where they approached the clerks of the justices with a view to seeing what kind of decision would have to be given under the law, and in those cases the licensees were properly advised that if they made the application it would be "turned down" as being illegal. Therefore the application was not proceeded with. But in view of the proposal in this Bill to enable cases to be reopened, I think it is only fair and right that those who did not make that application for very good reasons, which I have stated, should now be put in a not less favourable position than those who ignored the law. Therefore I venture to support this Amendment, though personally I should prefer to see it permissive rather than mandatory.


This Amendment is in the same terms as an Amendment put down in the Commons and withdrawn in view of the new clause, now Clause 2, moved by the Government. Clause 2 enables the justices to hold a meeting subject to two conditions, first, that a proposal for a direction was considered and negatived at the last brewster sessions; and, secondly, that the majority of the justices make a requisition for a meeting. This Amendment would entirely dispense with these conditions. It would take the initiative entirely out of the hands of the justices, and would compel them to call a special meeting on receipt of any kind of request, however irresponsible or unrepresentative. It would be open to any single licenceholder in any district to force the justices to hold a meeting, even though they had previously refused, not on legal grounds but on merits, to grant a direction, or even where no proposal for a direction had been made at any time since the section in the Act came into operation. The result would probably be a flood of applications for special meetings in cases where there was no possibility of a direction being issued at all. This would entirely alter the scope of the Bill, and in that case it could no longer be described as a Bill to meet an emergency. I have made inquiries into the matter, and I cannot find any statement showing the point which the noble Viscount raised that applications have not been made because the persons concerned knew they were illegal.


If the noble Earl will allow me. Of course he would not know; the various people who wish to make applications go to their legal advisers and are not likely to have communicated with the noble Earl's Department.


That is quite likely, but if there had been any large number of people making representations that probably would have come to the notice of the Home Office before now, and no representations of any sort or kind have been received up to now. The honourable Member who moved this Amendment in another place was quite prepared to withdraw as a result of the new clause which the Home Secretary inserted, and I hope in the circumstances the noble Viscount will accept my advice and withdraw his Amendment.


Noble Lords on the Liberal Benches state that there was no opposition to this Bill, but this very same Amendment was moved in another place, and it was withdrawn to give the Government the opportunity of producing a new clause covering the point. My noble friend below me says they did. I am sorry I must disagree with him. When a new clause is produced it is not very easy at once to see whether the point has been covered or not. Whether the honourable gentleman, Mr. Pike, in another place thought the point was covered and allowed it to go through I do not know, but since then this flaw has been discovered. The noble Lord opposite says it is not fair to give these other people the right to apply who have not applied before. I am surprised. I thought as a Liberal he was in favour of free and fair trade. What is going to happen? Trade will be lost because, human nature being what it is, people will take their holiday at a seaside resort, and when on the one side of the street they will be able to get a drink after ten o'clock and not on the other, they will say to themselves, "Very well, whenever we want a drink we are going to the place that can supply us after ten o'clock." However, I do not think we should get this evening a very representative decision on the point. Therefore I ask your Lordships to give me leave to withdraw my Amendment now and consider whether I should bring it up again at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Power of licensing justices to make a direction or decision at a meeting held on requisition within two months after passing of Act.

2.—(1) Where at the general annual licensing meeting of any licensing justices last held before the passing of this Act a proposal to make a direction under the said sub-paragraph (i) was considered and negatived, then, on the requisition of a majority of them made within two months after the passing of this Act, the licensing justices shall hold a meeting for the purpose of considering whether such a direction or decision as they are empowered by this Act to make ought to be made, and may at that meeting make such a direction or decision as aforesaid.

(2) in relation to a meeting held under the foregoing subsection, tine provisions of the rules made by the Secretary of State under subsection (1) of Section twelve of the Licensing Act, 1921, shall have effect as if for references therein to the general annual licensing meeting there had been substituted references to the said meeting, and the clerk shall send notice of the said meeting to the superintendent of Police of the district and to each of the licensing justices.

LORD ELTISLEYmoved, in subsection (1), to leave out "two months" and insert "one month". The noble Lord said: I think that the Amendment on the Paper is more or less self-explanatory. The Amendment proposes that any request made by a majority of the licensing justices to convene a meeting for this purpose shall be made within one month after the passing of this Bill. I would like to point out in support of the Amendment that if the justices do not meet for, say, two months after the passing of the Bill, which is the period provided for in the Bill as it is now before us, that would lead us into the middle of August or to the end of August, and in fact there would not be eight weeks of summer time left. Therefore, I submit, with great respect, one month is quite long enough to give the licensing justices time to reach a decision in the matter. I know the argument can be used both ways and that the more time they have the better, but it seems to me it would be more in keeping with the general question of urgency and emergency represented by the Bill if one month were substituted for two months.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 28, leave out ("two months") and insert ("one month").—(Lord Eltisley.)


This Amendment seeks to reduce the period within which the requisition may be made to one month. The intention is no doubt to prevent any delay on the part of licensing benches in putting the special machinery into operation. There are, however, certain considerations which I would respectfully ask the noble Lord to take into account. Firstly, it is not in fact at all likely that where a majority of the bench are in favour there will be any avoidable delay in holding the special meeting. Secondly, the facilities for part-year extensions afforded by the Bill are not specifically confined to the summer months. It may be that in some district or other there is a case for a period of extension in the later months of the year. If so, it would not be altogether reasonable to force the bench to consider the matter before the middle of July. I would impress again on your Lordships that it is important that this Bill should become law at the earliest possible date. As it stands now it is an agreed measure, and it is most desirable not to risk disturbing the balance at all. In view of these considerations, perhaps the noble Lord will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.


In view of the explanation made I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved in subsection (2), after "foregoing subsection" to insert "in England or Wales." The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, I beg to move the Amendments standing in his name. They are moved in order that this Bill may be applied to Scotland. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 36, after ("subsection") insert ("in England or Wales").—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD TEMPLEMORE moved, at the end of the clause, to insert the following new subsection: (3) In relation to a meeting held under subsection (1) of this section in Scotland, the Licensing (Scotland) Rules, 1921, shall have effect as if for references therein to the half-yearly meeting in April there had been substituted references to the said meeting, and the clerk shall send notice of the said meeting to the chief constable and to each member of the licensing court.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 43, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.