§ MR. CHARLES ROBERTS (Lincoln)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he can explain the fact that the figures of on-licences issued for the years 1903–1904 and 1904–1905. as given in the Annual Reports of the Inland Revenue Department, show a total diminution of 1,727 on-licences, from 102,757 to 101,030, while 361 new on-licences were in fact granted in those two years, whereas the Home Office Blue-book, Licensing Statistics, 1906, page 1, shows only a net diminution of 1,288 on-licences in those two years; whether the Parliamentary Returns of licences refused, 194 of 1903 and 230 of 1904, and this Home Office Blue-book, have ignored some hundreds of licences given up in those two years in Birmingham and elsewhere under surrender schemes, which were not technically licences refused by the justices; and whether, therefore, the total gross diminution of all on-licences got rid of on all grounds, allowing for the grant of new on-licences, was 2,088 in the two years preceding the passing of the Licensing Act, 1904.
(Answered by Mr. Secretary Gladstone.) The figure 102,757 appears to refer to the year 1902–1903, not 1903–1904. Subject to that correction the explanation of the difference between the various figures quoted is as follows. The figures given in the volumes of licensing statistics represent premises in existence on a given date and in possession of justices' licences authorising them to take out Excise licences. The figures in the Reports of the Inland Revenue Commissioners represent the Excise licences issued during 1359 a period of twelve months. More than one Excise licence may be taken out in respect of the same premises; so that the abolition of one licensed house may involve the disappearance of more than one Excise licence, or the expiration of an Excise licence may leave the premises to which it related still in existence as licensed premises. On the other hand a holder of a justices' licence does not always proceed within a fixed time to take out an Excise licence. Facts such as these necessarily cause differences between the two sets of figures. Differences wall be found both before and after the Act of 1904 came into operation. Again, as regards the statement in the Question that "361 new on-licences were in fact granted" in the two years 1903 and 1904, it is to be observed that, in the volumes of licensing statistics from which these figures appear to be taken, it is stated that they are "only approximate." Moreover, the figures represent justices' licences, and cannot be used for the purpose of subtraction or addition in connection with the figures of Excise licences, e.g., so as to convert the figures 1,727 into 2,088. As regards the old Parliamentary Returns of Licences Refused, which are indicated in the Question, it would be wrong to say that they ignored licences given up under surrender schemes, seeing that they did not profess to deal with such cases or with more than was required by the terms of the Orders of the House of Commons to which they were returned, viz., the licences actually refused by justices for certain reasons. The licensing statistics have not ignored such surrenders, for without them, and without lapses of licences from other causes also, the difference between the figures shown for 1903 and for 1905 could not be obtained. The figures in the licensing statistics have been obtained by inquiry into the actual facts separately for every date and for every area for which they are given. If, therefore, any licensed premises have, in fact, ceased to exist as such by reason of refusal, surrender, or lapse, the result appears in the figures shown for successive years. Every care has been taken to make these figures represent accurately the premises in existence on a given date which afford facilities (actual or potential) for obtaining liquor for consumption on the premises. 1360 No similarly practical end appears to be served by a calculation of the "gross diminution" of licences, if that phrase means the mere number of licences which may have ceased to exist, irrespective of the new licences which may have been granted by justices and actually come into working existence.