HL Deb 23 August 1907 vol 181 cc1344-51

Order of the Day read for the House to be put into Committee on the Public Health Bill.


Before the Motion is put for the House to put itself into Committee, I should like to explain to the House the action that has been taken upon this Bill. The Bill, as your Lordships will remember, was referred to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. That Committee has sat on three occasions, and the Amendments it proposes are embodied in the Bill that is before your Lordships for consideration this evening. But I want to point out that, owing to the lateness of the session, it was impossible for the Committee to hold as many meetings as, I think, it ought to have held in order to complete its work. Therefore your Lordships will be asked, at this stage of the proceedings, to insert a certain number of minor Amendments which the Committee had not the opportunity of fully considering. There is one Amendment upon the Paper, to be moved by the Earl of Carlisle, with regard to which it was thought by the Committee that the Committee of the Whole House ought to have the opportunity of hearing what the noble Earl has to say, and therefore, the consideration of that question was not undertaken by the Committee to whom your Lordships referred the Bill.

House in Committee (according to order).

The Amendments proposed by the Select Committee made.

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:—


in moving the insertion of a new subsection, providing for the insertion of advertisements in the local newspapers of applications under the Act, said that this matter had been discussed by the Committee; and the proposed Amendment was one which had the approval of Lord Allendale.

Amendment moved— In page 2, line 21, after the word 'place,' to insert the following new subsection: '(2) the local authority shall, one month at least before applying for an Order, give notice of their intention to make such application by advertising the same in one or more of the newspapers circulating in their district once at least in each of two successive weeks, and no Order shall be made under this section until proof of such advertisement has been given to the satisfaction of the Local Government Board, and until at least one month has elapsed after the date of the last of such advertisements.'—(Lord Eversley.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 to 11 agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 48, with drafting Amendments, agreed to.

Clause 49:—


who had an Amendment upon the Paper to insert the words "Provided that within the county of London the administration of ambulance shall be in the hands of the metropolitan police.'" said he did not wish to move.

Clauses 49 to 74, with drafting Amendments, agreed to.

Clause 75:—


in moving to amend the clause so as not to give the heal authorities powers with regard to the sale of intoxicating liquors, said he was exceedingly unwilling to occupy their Lordships' time at that hour of the night; but, as he had put down Amendments, he would like to state his reasons for doing so. It seemed to him that if the clause were passed in its present form, there might be an inducement to some town councils or municipalities to start public houses on their own account. That was a course which he believed every Party objected to theoretically. At the beginning of the session the Leader of the Opposition stated particularly that he hoped the promised Government Bill would not include any scheme of municipalisation. It was a subject on which all temperance reformers agreed, and he had no doubt the Government did not intend it themselves, but he thought there was a danger that some of the many bodies, who would be able to do so under this clause, might be tempted to try the experiment, particularly if they were in financial difficulties. He knew it would be said that there were a number of municipalities and public bodies who already had power under private Acts, and that the fact that they had not availed themselves of the power showed that there was not a real want felt in that direction. But these bodies all represented important towns; and the fact that a few hundred of those had not tried to set up public houses was no proof that if this facility were given to the 26,000 public bodies, some of them might not yield to the temptation. He believed the fact that the magistrates would have to licence such houses was no real safeguard, because it would be impossible, or practically impossible, far a licensing bench to refuse a proposal that was made by a municipality on this subject. Very likely the same individuals who sat as licensing magistrates would themselves be members of the town council or municipality. He hoped that His Majesty's Government might see their way to make this slight alteration, which, he believed, would not be at all contrary to their intentions. Intentions, by themselves, were not sufficient, because both the Education Act and the Licensing Act of the late Government had shown that clauses might be interpreted in a way to lead to difficulties which were never anticipated by those who had brought them forward. They were lately told that in an Act passed two generations ago a clause was introduced which the Government of the day promised to repeal immediately, and that that Act passed the House of Commons on that understanding; yet they were at present engaged in carrying out that Government promise. That showed, in his opinion, that if any mistake—anything that was not anticipated by the framers of the measure—were to take place owing to the vagueness of this clause, it might be an exceedingly difficult and long business to correct it. He hoped, therefore, His Majesty's Government might see their way to accept his Amendments. He begged to move.

Amendment moved— In page 33, line 21, to leave out the words 'either manage themselves, or, if they see fit.' In page 33, line 23, after the word 'years' to insert the words 'provided that such refreshment rooms shall not be licensed for the salt of intoxicating liquors.'"—(The Earl of Carlisle.)


I think I may treat these two Amendments as one for the purposes of my reply, as they are practically bound up together. I regret it is not possible for His Majesty's Govern- ment to accept the Amendments of the noble Earl. It is perfectly true, as Lord Carlisle has said, that Parliament has granted these powers before by certain local Acts, and during the session of 1904–06 there were at least seventeen cases in which powers were given in this way to local authorities to provide and maintain buildings in recreation grounds and public resorts, and in several of them refreshment rooms were sanctioned. I can assure the noble Earl that nothing can be further from the intention of His Majesty's Government than to encourage municipal authorities to undertake the management of refreshment places, and especially those licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors. On the other hand, nothing in this clause indicates that there will be any compulsion or any encouragement for local authorities to enter upon any such undertaking. There is nothing either to compel them to do so, or to give them any encouragement. But I think it would, on the whole, be rather a strong measure to exclude every form of intoxicating liquors from all the parks and recreation grounds to which the clause would apply. There is another reason why His 'Majesty's Government cannot accept this Amendment. The question was raised before the Standing Committee in another place, and there was a good deal of objection taken to it, and it was largely on account of His Majesty's Government giving way with regard to this point that the Bill was allowed to go through and to pass the House of Commons. This, and a good many other controversial questions, were struck out of the Bill in order that the Bill should not be lost during this session. I am advised that it would be to some extent a breach of faith with Members of the other House who let this Bill go through if this Amendment was inserted, and I fear that at this period of the Session it would end in the Bill being altogether lost. I very much regret, therefore, that, much as I sympathise with the noble Lord, His Majesty's Government cannot see their way to accept the Amendment.


Perhaps the Committee will permit me to say a few words on this subject, although I am in the Chair. The proposal is simply to allow local authorities to establish refreshment rooms in their open spaces; and that has been taken advantage of by a great number of local authorities whose accounts are not at present audited by the Local Government Board. I ought not to say that they have the power, but they exercise it as a matter of fact. If the Amendment were inserted, they would be deprived of this privilege. I confess I cannot see upon what grounds the noble Lord urges the omission of the words "sale of intoxicating liquors." I remember not many years ago that those who were very enthusiastic in favour of temperance reform believed that what was known as the Gothenburg system—in other words, the control of the sale of intoxicating liquors by municipalities and local authorities—was the best remedy for intemperance. The noble Lord shakes his head, but I well recollect that my right hon. friend Mr. Chamberlain, in those days which I think the noble Lords on this side of the House call his unregenerate days, was a very strong advocate of that form of licensing reform. And, when it is borne in mind that the magistrates will have exactly the same powers in granting licenses for these places as elsewhere, I cannot think that your Lordships would be well advised in interfering specially to say that magistrates should not have a right to grant such licences I think myself that much less flange] is likely to arise where a refreshment place is conducted by a local authority than where it is conducted by public house, when the sole object is gain to an individual. I think we may safely leave it to the magistrates to grant licences in this, as in all other cases. I very much hope your Lordship will not do anything to imperil the fate of this Bill, and I am very much afraid that if this Amendment is accepted by your Lordships the Bill will be likely to be lost in another place.


said that he was not anxious to make another speech but he might say that, though he was not one of the party which bad bees referred to, he was perfectly certain that that important party who favoured what was sometimes called the Gothenburg system, did not approve of the municipalisation of public houses. Theirs was a perfectly different idea, namely, that the management of public houses should be by a disinterested body; but their exponent, Mr. Sherwell, who had a right to speak for them, insisted particularly that the profits should not go in aid of the rates. That they considered to be particularly objectionable. Sir Thomas Whitaker, who, he believed, was the representative of the party in the House of Commons, expressed his strong disapproval of this clause, as he thought it would tend to increase the number of public houses, which was a state of things which both the late and the present Governments objected to. He did not wish to press the Amendment if it would really endanger the Bill. He noted with satisfaction that the Government had distinctly said that they had no intention of promoting what he dreaded. He begged leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 75 agreed to.

Clauses 76 to 93, with drafting Amendments, agreed to.

Clause 94:—


in moving to insert a proviso that the local authority should not undertake certain works calculated to create nuisance except after inquiry by the Local Government Board, said: I do not know, my Lords, that this Amendment needs any explanation from me, but its effect is that on any lands appropriated the local authority should not permit any nuisance, and that certain works, such as the construction of cemeteries, destructors, sewage farms, and so on, should not be undertaken without local inquiry and authorisation by the Local Government Board.

Amendment moved— In page 44, line 2, after the word 'Act' to insert the words provided that the local authority shall not on any lands so appropriate I create or permit any nuisance, and that the local authority shall not on any such lands sink any well for the public supply of water or construct any cemetry, burial ground, destructor, station for generating electricity, sewage farm, or hospital for infectious disease, unless after local inquiry and consideration of any objections made by persons affected the Local Government Board, subject to such conditions as they think fit, authorise the work or construction.'"—(Lord Allendale.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Drafting Amendments agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Standing Committee negatived.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX. having been suspended): Amendments reported. Bill read 3a with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.