Friday, 22 June 2012

Illegal liquor sales in the House of Commons

This is a weird one. About the bars in the House of Commons.

One of the most annoying aspects about the very limited hours British pubs opened until recently was the situatiopn in the House of Commons. Where the bars stayed open well into the early hours. One rule for MP's and another for the rest of us. Irritating to say the least, bastards who could get a drink anytime themselves voting to limt when we could drink. I'll say it again: bastards.

But take a look at this. Those in charge of the House of Commons bar were up before the, er, bar for selling booze without a licence.

"In the King's Bench Division, before the Lord Chief-Justice, Mr. Justice Humphreys and Mr. Justice MaCNAGHTEN, on the 7th inst., the Court granted to Mr. Alan Patrick Herbert, of Hammersmith Terrace, W., a rule nisi for an order in the nature of mandamus under Section 5 of Jervis' Act, calling on Sir Rollo Graham Campbell, the Chief Magistrate, 15 members of the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons, and Mr. Robert John Bradley, manager of the Refreshment Department of the House of Commons, to show cause why the Chief Magistrate should not hear and determine the matter of two applications for summonses by Mr. Herbert against the other respondents.

Mr. Monkton read an affidavit by Mr. Herbert, who deposed that on May 17th, 1934, counsel on his behalf applied to Mr. Fry, at Bow Street, for process against the members of the Kitchen Committee and Mr. Bradley on two informations alleging contraventions of Section 65 (1) of the Licensing (Consolidation) Act, 1910, by the unlawful sale by retail of intoxicating liquor at a refreshent room at the House of Commons on April 10th, 1934. One of the alleged unlawful sales was to Mr. Herbert himself, and the other to Mr. Victor Cazalet, M.P. On that occasion Mr. Fry said that the Chief Magistrate would like to deal with the matter himself. The application was accordingly renewed before the Chief Magistrate on May 22nd, when he intimated that, on the authority of Williamson v. Norris, he would have been prepared to grant summonses against the Kitchen Committee but for a further difficulty which he felt. That difficulty was stated by the Chief Magistrate in these words: —

Assuming for the purpose of this application that an offence may have been committed, are members of the House of Commons carrying out duties entrusted to them by the House, under the control of the House, in a way long practised and approved by the House, within the precincts of the House, amenable in this matter to the jurisdiction of this Court? Are they not protected by the privileges of the House and amenable only to the House of which they are members?

At the conclusion of counsel's argument the Chief Magistrate said that he was not satisfied that he had jurisdiction to grant the process applied for, but the matter could be raised by mandamus."
Brewers' Journal 1934, page 343.

I love the Chief Magistrate's argument: the normal laws of the land don't apply to MP's in the House of Commons. Basically that they got to try and judge themselves.

Though it sounds like entrapment. Mr Herbert grassed himself up to the authorities. It appears he only bought a drink so he could get the bar into trouble. What's the word for someone like that? I know: bastard.


Matt said...

It's not that the laws of the land don't apply to Members of Parliament but that Parliament as a High Court reserves the right to apply them to its own members.

That's a good thing and stems from the English Revolution, before which Charles I swanned in and arrested members who'd offended him. Although it's more likely to suspend MP's for misconduct now, the House of Commons can still expel members and even imprison them until the end of the parliamentary session - I believe the cell is in the Clock Tower.

The Beer Nut said...

1934 eh? You'd never see that sort of thing these days.

I was a parliamentary servant for five and a half years. I could tell you a few stories about the normal laws of the land not applying...

Martyn Cornell said...

This was the great comic writer AP Herbert, famous for the "Misleading Cases" series of books, which included the case of the man who wrote a cheque on the side of a cow. He was to become, the following year, member of parliament for Oxford University, in the days when Oxford and Cambridge had their own MPs. You'll see that case against the House of Commons quoted in the Wikipedia article on him. AP Taylor was a regular at the Dove in Hammersmith, and his co-complainant in the House of Commons case was George Izzard, the Dove's long-serving landlord: Izzard devoted a chapter in his book on his time in the Dove, One for the Road, to the case, which was partly prompted by the discussions in Parliament at the time on the Licensing (Standardisation of Hours) Bill, which was meant to do away with anomalies such as pubs on one side of Tottenham Court Road having to close half an hour earlier than pubs on the other side.