§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 35, line 24, to leave out "twelve months" and to insert "three years".
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that it is for the convenience of the House also to discuss the Amendments in page 35, line 26, at end insert:Provided that where application for the renewal of a permit is made not less than one month before the date specified as aforesaid, the permit shall not cease to be in force before the authority have made their determination on the application or the application has been withdrawn.In page 35, line 35, at end insert:4. The local authority shall not refuse an application for the grant or renewal of a permit under this Schedule without giving the applicant or a person acting for him an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the authority or a committee thereof, and shall not refuse an application for the renewal of such a permit otherwise than by reason of the conditions in which amusements with prizes have been provided under the permit or the manner in which those amusements have been conducted.In page 36, line 7, after "refusal", insert:and furnish him with a written statement of the grounds thereof ".In page 36, line 21, after "refusal", insert:and furnish him with a written statement of the ground thereof ".
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
On a point of order. Do I take it, Mr. Speaker, that you will not be calling the Amendment in page 35, line 26, after "specify" to insert a new paragraph 3? If you were, might I respectfully submit that it would also be one proper to discuss with the Amendment in line 35 which, in turn, you have invited us to discuss with the Amendments in line 24, and line 26?
§ Mr. Speaker
No, it is not my intention to call the Amendment in the hon. Member's name in line 26.
§ Mr. Vosper
In Committee we had a difference of opinion about which authority should be responsible for the approval of permits for people setting up amusement arcades and fun fairs. The Royal Commission in its recommendations suggested that this should 331 not be a case for local justices but for the local authority. The Bill as introduced in the House followed that pattern on the ground that this, as opposed to approval of betting office licences, was an administrative matter. But in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) strongly took the view that this too should be a function for the licensing justices.
I promised to consider the matter further and to consult with the trade and with the various bodies who might be concerned with licensing. I have done that, and the Amendments in the Schedule, which go with Clause 22, are the result of those deliberations. I argued in Committee that this was an administrative function and that to ask the justices to decide whether a fun fair or amusement arcade, in a shop for example, should be approved was not a suitable job for them to do and that the local authority concerned with the social needs of the locality should have a say in the matter, as indeed they do at the moment.
As a result of my consultations, the Magistrates' Association has informed me that it does not think that this is a matter which should be transferred from the local authority to the magistrates. It is fair to say that this decision was not taken by the council of the association and therefore is still subject to confirmation. The Council has not met since our last deliberation, but the secretary of the association has supported the Government in their view that this should be the responsibility of the local authority. The local authorities have already said that they thought it was their responsibility, and the A.M.C. has, since the Committee stage, appealed most emphatically that the local authorities should have this power left to them.
I therefore adhere to the original decision which leaves the responsibility with the local authority, but being aware of the doubts and hesitations of the interested parties in this respect I have sought to introduce some safeguards into the Bill to try to allay the fears of those proprietors of amusement arcades and fun fairs who felt that they might be victimised in some way or might not 332 have a fair deal at the hands of the local authority. The Amendments do exactly that.
One safeguard, of course, was already available to the trade and that was that it had the right of appeal. The second safeguard finds form in the first Amendment, in line 24, which extends the period of permits from twelve months to three years. This was a point which we discussed in Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department advised the Committee to reject it, but on reconsideration I think that it would be fair to extend the twelve months to three years.
The second Amendment provides that where the… application for the renewal of a permit is made not less than one month before the date specified … the permit shall not cease to be in force before the authority have made their determination …It provides for any time lag in the proceedings.
The third point, which finds itself in the Amendment to line 35, is that the applicant has the right to appear in person before the local authority before his application is rejected. Also in that Amendment is the further point that the local authority shall not refuse the application for reasons other than the conditions under which amusements and prizes have been provided—in other words, they shall not refuse an application because they think that the big dipper is a blot on the landscape. Reasons in writing must be given after a local authority refuses an application.
I realise that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and possibly others would still prefer this function to be performed by the licensing justices, and my hon. Friend in the Amendment which you are not calling, Mr. Speaker, sought to do that and to lay down conditions on which justices would determine applications. It would be out of order for me to explain the deficiencies of that Amendment. It would be possible but difficult to frame some conditions upon which justices could determine these particular responsibilities.
I am more than ever convinced that we should, at any rate for the first period, 333 leave this to the local authority. The purpose here is to provide licences or permits for the major fun fairs and amusement parks which grace our seaside resorts and Battersea Park, and not to set up in coffee bars and shops similar institutions which, under this Schedule, could be approved if the licensing authority thought fit to do so.
I made the point in Committee, which I repeat, that if this power were given to licensing justices they would be bound to be more generous in this respect than the House would wish and what is the intention of the Bill. The matter should be left to the local authority, which should determine the needs of the locality that it has in mind. I reaffirm the intention to leave the matter to the local authority but to introduce those safeguards as some protection for the trades concerned.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
This is the last real point in this debate, and I shall not take up much time. I thank my right hon. Friend very much for the great care which he has given to the manifold considerations coupled in these Amendments which we are considering. The first Amendment enables permits to be obtained for a reasonable period of years. The trade will welcome that and I thank him for it.
In leaving it to the local authority rather than to the justices of the peace, he has thought fit to put some grounds for guidance to the local authority in consideration of this question. Would he give in another place an opportunity to reconsider this matter by inviting either the Attorney-General or the Lord Chancellor to give their views on whether this is not a judicial rather than an administrative question? We went into this in great detail. It does depend on whether this is a judicial or an administrative issue.
I am also very glad that he has specifically incorporated what I might call the Minister of Housing and Local Government town planning grounds, and has provided that if a local authority refuses to grant a licence it must furnish a written statement of the grounds for its refusal. That will be a most important matter when the appellate tribunal, which will be a judicial tribunal— namely, quarter sessions—has to consider the question whether there has been a proper refusal. I was afraid that even if an applicant had an opportunity 334 to appear before a local authority, either personally or through somebody appointed on his behalf, if the application were dismissed out of hand with no reasons given the applicant would have no protection.
There is one matter which has still not been included in the series of Amendments. Although it cannot be dealt with here it should be dealt with in another place. When a local authority considers the application it will be given guidance as to the applicant's right of appearance, the necessity to provide a statement of the reasons for refusal, and also the fact that an application shall not be refused other than in respect ofthe conditions in which amusements with prizes have been provided under the permits or the manner in which those amusements have been conducted,but no guidance will be given to the appellate tribunal. Therefore, quarter sessions will be given no guidance as to the considerations which should weigh with it in relation to the granting or refusal of an application. Before putting down my Amendment I spoke to the chairman of a quarter sessions, who said, "I hope that you will not make us responsible for deciding whether or not we should grant a permit without giving us any guidance as to the considerations which should weigh with us".
I submit that this is a matter for the Lord Chancellor's Department. When persons appear before a town planning officer, appointed by the Ministry, he makes a report to his Minister stating the reasons for the refusal of planning permission. The Minister remains an administrative officer. He is merely giving the decision of his Ministry. He is not compelled to do anything more than give the reasons for refusal. No legal guidance is given to him about the reasons for refusal. But if this is to be an administrative decision the proper person to appeal to is the Home Secretary.
We should be logical in this matter. I know that this House detests lawyers and dislikes their sense of logic, but this is either an administrative decision or a judicial one. If, after due and careful consideration, the Government have decided that it is administrative, so be it; I will pack up and keep quiet. But if, on the other hand, they regard it as 335 judicial, the appeal should go to the appropriate tribunal. We cannot have a mixed tribunal, consisting first of a local authority and then quarter sessions. That is wrong.
It is not fair to compare the situation with the case of the licensing justices at the brewster sessions, who carry out an administrative function. Although they are appointed administratively they seek to carry out their function judicially. They regard their work in this connection as judicial. This is no time for me to say more than that the matter should be considered again, but I take the view that this is probably a judicial matter. If I am wrong, the right person to reconsider the decision is the Home Secretary. If, in the end, it is to be a kind of mixed marriage between local authorities and quarter sessions, some guidance will have to be incorporated in the Bill in order to give chairmen of quarter sessions some guidance as to the considerations which they must bear in mind. Broadly speaking, the fitness of the applicant, and other grounds contained as guidance to the local authority, would be the sort of guidance which we ought to give to the appellate committee in determining whether the permit should be granted or not.
I may add that a great many thousands of pounds are involved in whether these permits are or are not granted. This is one of my reasons why I prefer to bring it into a judicial rather than an administrative atmosphere. We know that all our local authorities are not perhaps quite so good as one another, or even as independent as they might be, because they vary in different areas, and they vary from year to year, whereas the bench goes on unaffected. For these reasons, I hope that the matter will be further considered, and particularly the question of the appeal and of guidance to the committee on appeal.
§ Mr. Ede
I join with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) in his disappointment that what we pressed on the Government during the Committee stage has not been granted.
I am not at all impressed by the fact that the Magistrates' Association said that it did not want this job. It would do it a great deal of good if on occasions it condescended to consider the feelings 336 of men of low estate and to understand how some of the people coming before magistrates actually live. I have for long drawn a sharp distinction in my own mind between those magistrates who think for themselves and those who put their thinking out to the Magistrates' Association. I am not surprised that the Magistrates' Association came recently to the view which it has expressed.
I object to this matter being dealt with by the local authorities, because I want to keep all this kind of thing out of local politics. I do not think that there should be an issue at a local government election as to whether the council should grant permits in this kind of case, or as to whether it has rightly considered the applications that were made during the past year. These are not things with which the local sanitary authorities ought to concern themselves. They are eminently matters to be judged judicially, and the magistrates are the right people to conduct any inquiries that might be necessary before a licence is granted.
I hope that in another place, where judges generally stand up for things being settled in court rather than by local authorities or administrative tribunals, they will on this occasion exercise that point of view in a good cause as they have so often done in the past in bad causes.
§ Mr. Vosper
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who I know does not like this decision, for his approval of the Amendment which we put on the Order Paper. Of course, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor will have a great interest in this Bill when it goes to another place, and this point will not escape him. So far as the point about appeal is concerned, I see the force in that argument, and should like to look at it further.
I would say to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that when I said that the Magistrates' Association did not want this, I said it because I had promised to ask its opinion, but the decision to retain it as an administrative function is taken for reasons other than that. It is merely a subsidiary reason which I thought I ought to put before the Committee.
§ Amendment agreed to.337
Further Amendment made: In page 35 line 26 at end insert:
Provided that where application for the renewal of a permit is made not less than one month before the date specified as aforesaid, the permit shall not cease to be in force before the authority have made their determination on the application or the application has been withdrawn.—[Mr. Vosper.]
§ Mr. Vosper
I beg to move, in page 35, line 34 after "Act". to insert:then, unless the premises were so used without any planning permission required in that behalf under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 to 1959, or the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Acts, 1947 to 1959".This is a very small point. Under paragraph 3 of the Third Schedule a permit is to be granted as of right in respect of premises used for the purpose during the period of twelve months ending with the date of the coming into force of the Schedule, which is expected to be later this year. It is possible that under the Schedule as drafted a fun fair which started to operate this spring or summer could benefit by the Schedule. That would not be the desire of the House, and these words make it quite clear that it will be excluded.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In page 35, line 35, at end insert:
4. The local authority shall not refuse an application for the grant or renewal of a permit under this Schedule without giving the applicant or a person acting for him an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the authority or a committee thereof, and shall not refuse an application for the renewal of such a permit otherwise than by reason of the conditions in which amusements with prizes have been provided under the permit or the manner in which those amusements have been conducted.
In page 36, line 7, after "refusal", insert:
and furnish him with a written statement of the grounds thereof ".
In page 36, line 21, after "refusal", insert:
and furnish him with a written statement of the grounds thereof ".—[Mr. Vosper.]