HC Deb 08 October 1912 vol 42 cc174-82

Any person who is in a state of intoxication, or who is drunk, and found in of attempting to enter any licensed premises or any registered club, shall be subject to the same powers and procedure and penalty as provided in Section seventy of the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1903.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

Its object is to assist the publican, as far as may be, in the difficult position in which he is now placed in regard to intoxicated persons who obtain admission to his premises. In the case of an ordinary shopkeeper, if an intoxicated person comes into his premises, he may have him removed; but if the intoxicated person is there the shopkeeper has committed no crime. On the other hand, if an intoxicated person is found on licensed premises, the publican is guilty of a crime, and is punishable. That is a very serious distinction. This House ought to do everything possible to help the man who is managing his business properly, and to enable him to prevent these people from coming into his premises and creating a disturbance there by having to be ejected. I am told that considerable expense is entailed upon the publican by the necessity of having to employ a man specially for the purpose of keeping intoxicated persons from entering his premises. If such a person enters with two or three other people it is very difficult for the man who is guarding the door to distinguish him, and yet the publican runs a very great risk if the intoxicated person is found on his premises. This Clause will help the publican to some extent, inasmuch as it will render the attempt to enter punishable, and it will be a matter for the police and not for the man whom the publican hires to guard the door. There is nothing so detrimental to publicans as having intoxicated persons on their premises. They wish to keep them out, and they require the help of the police in doing so.

4.0 P.M.


I beg to second the Motion. My hon. Friend's zeal in the cause of order and temperance is shown by the fact that he has moved this Clause. If it be accepted, I hope that some slight alteration in the wording will be permissible, as at present it does not read very well. What is the difference between "a state of intoxication" and "being drunk"? In England there is no difference at all; possibly there may be in Scotland. If the Clause be read a second time I shall propose to amend it in that connection. Such a Clause is, I believe, very necessary. If this Bill pass; it is possible that a large number of people living in a no-licence area may migrate, when their work is over, or before, to a more favoured area, and there obtain a considerable quantity of intoxicating liquor. The consequence will be that certain districts will be flooded by people in a state of intoxication, and it will be difficult for the publicans to prevent them from getting into their premises; but if they succeed in getting into licensed premises the publicans will be subject to very severe penalties. It is the greatest mistake to suppose that a policeman can arrest anyone who is drunk in the street, unless at the same time he is disorderly or incapable. The powers of the police, as they are at present, will not be sufficient to meet the danger which my hon. Friend thinks may occur. A similar point to this was dealt with by the Committee upstairs on a former occasion in which the point was raised of people going outside the district on a Sunday to get intoxicants. The question was whether when they obtained the liquor they were drunk or sober. I think, therefore, there is every evidence that it will be necessary in the interests of order alone that this Clause should be inserted in the Bill, and I have much pleasure in seconding.


I am exceedingly sorry not to be able to meet the hon. Gentleman, but if hon. Members will look very carefully at the proposed Clause, they will see that it not only introduces an entirely new legal position as regards intoxication or drunkenness—which I can assure the hon. Baronet opposite are the same thing in Scotland—but it introduces a very curious offence. This matter is dealt with under the Licensing Act of 1903, but as the hon. Baronet very truly said, it does not make intoxication by itself an offence. It is only when intoxication is accompanied by incapacity to take care of oneself or if the man concerned is not under the care of some person; or is disorderly. Under Section 74 of the same Act is an offence for any person, even on licensed premises, to attempt to procure drink for a person who is intoxicated. This matter was very carefully thought out in regard to the Licensing Bill of 1903, and the publican is not without protection, and can refuse admission to an intoxicated person or disorderly person who is at once liable to arrest. It is rather a serious matter to make a new offence. I should like the hon. Member to note the peculiar offence created by his proposal. It is not now an offence to be intoxicated in the streets, but this Clause would make it an offence if an intoxicated man attempted to enter his hotel or club for the purpose of going to bed. I should have thought the latter would be the best place for him under the circumstances. As the Clause stands, a person in a state of intoxication found in, or attempting to enter, licensed premises or any registered club would come under the law I have stated, though he is perfectly free from arrest so long as he wanders about the streets, however drunk he may be, and so long as he is not disorderly.


I do not quite follow the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. The best place for a man to be drunk is his club. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The point the right hon. Gentleman has missed is that my hon. Friend wants to protect the proprietors of licensed premises, and though this proposed new Clause may be worded wrongly, the right hon. Gentleman and the Lord Advocate together can easily put the wording right if they wish to do so. What it is desired to prevent is drunken men hammering at the door of a public-house and trying to get in, and to give powers, either to the proprietors or the authorities on their behalf, to move them on, I should have thought that there was no particular reason why such a Clause should not be passed. Section 70 of the Licensing Bill of 1903 does not really cover the matter. There is nothing in it at all about a man attempting to get into a public-house or being a public nuisance in the street just outside a public-house, the one place where you do not want to see him. I quite agree that a man in the state described is far better at home.


The Secretary for Scotland has managed very successfully to dissemble the position he took up in his opening remarks, because I do not think he has advanced a single reason that will be considered by any reasonable person to carry any weight at all against the proposition of my hon. Friend. He tells us that the chief objection to the suggested Amendment is that it establishes an entirely new legal proposition and creates a new offence. I do really think that that is an extraordinary objection to come from a Member of a Liberal Government. It seems to me that we in this House should not shrink—and I hope the House never will shrink—from establishing any such proposition if we think it is for the good of the country or the people. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, if it is a serious matter to create a new offence, how many new offences are being created in the very Act we are considering! If the creation of new offences is necessary, let the House not shrink from creating them. The promoters of this Bill, I think, are anxious to avoid giving offence to those people who support them at the polls, and are anxious to give trouble to and thrust other responsibilities upon licensed holders, who are commonly reputed to vote against them at election times. The right hon. Gentleman told us that this Clause, as it stands, makes it an offence for an intoxicated person to go back into his hotel. I think that kind of argument is quite unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman. If the Clause is not as happily worded as it ought to be, he and his colleague could give it its proper wording, instead of the right hon. Gentle- man formulating an objection so trifling. If the right hon. Gentleman is sincerely grieved that he cannot accept the Amendment as it is worded, the wording can be altered, but I should have thought that difficulty was one which was too trifling to put forward. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite decide that the Amendment is one which ought to be accepted, they can very speedily so amend it as to do away with any trifling objections. On behalf of the licensed holders, who have very great responsibilities, which many hon. Members in this House do not appreciate, and having regard to the difficulties which my hon. Friend has spoken of in discovering on a busy night, perhaps shortly before closing time, with the House full, whether a person is over the border line of intoxication or not, I do think the Government might reconsider their decision and endeavour to relieve licensed holders of one very great responsibility.

Sir F. LOW

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down appealed to us in the interests of the licensed victuallers. But I should like to point out that in the new Clause, as I read it, the licensed victualler who had the misfortune of being overtaken by drink away from his own licensed premises would be committing a penal offence to go home at all. When the interests of the licensed victuallers are being put forward, I think it is only lair that that point should be made.


Does the hon. Gentleman, under those circumstances, wish the licensed victualler to go back and serve liquor to those who are drunk?

Sir F. LOW

I would suggest that the best place for him is to go home and go to bed.


I really hope that the Government or someone on the other side will try to deal with this Amendment seriously. It is a serious Amendment, which represents a policy which is not that, I know, of many hon. Members on the other side, but which, I think, is the right way to deal with this question. The broad distinction between the two policies is this: Hon. Members on the other side desire to put restrictions in the way of selling alcoholic liquor. I believe that to be thoroughly unsound, and an unsound way of approaching this problem. My view has always been that the right way to deal with the question is not to hamper the sale of alcoholic liquors but to make it exceedingly disagreeable, difficult, and undesirable to get drunk. That is a broad distinction. The object of this Amendment is to add to the difficulty and disagreeableness of being drunk. I think it is a very desirable thing to pursue. It is perfectly futile for the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland or the hon. Gentleman who spoke last to put forward verbal criticism of the proposed Clause, and to point out that its effect will be what the Mover does not desire to bring about. That is not the way to deal with an Amendment or with the House of Commons. The Clause ought to be dealt with.

Sir F. LOW

May I ask the Noble Lord whether he suggests that the criticism I ventured to put forward is ill-founded?


I really do not propose to give myself the trouble to consider whether it is well founded or ill founded. It really is a perfectly futile and irrelevant one. The question is whether we shall read this Clause a second time and whether we desire the principle in this Clause to be adopted and inserted in the Bill. Whether that principle is properly carried out by the wording of the Clause is a different matter, which can be raised a little later. What I would like to ask the House to do, and what I have a right to ask it to do, is to consider this Clause on its merits. Do hon. Members think that the evil pointed out by my hon. Friend is a real evil? Do they think it sufficiently dealt with by the Bill? If not, do they not think that some Clause of this kind ought to be put into the Bill to deal with the matter? That is the broad point. I venture to hope that even now we shall have some attempt made by those who oppose this Clause to approach the question properly, and that we shall not be "fobbed off" with miserable verbal criticism.


If this Clause goes to a Division the hon. Gentlemen opposite will, I am sure, get some support from this side. Obviously this Clause means, if the words do not quite express it, that a person in a state of intoxication, found in, or attempting to enter, any licensed premises or any registered club, shall be subject to the same power, and procedure, and penalty as provided in Section 70 of the Licensing Act of 1903. Obviously the man goes for the purpose of securing more drink, not for the purpose of securing rest or sleep. That man ought to come under this Section. Anyone who has gone out, say, on one of the busy nights of the week, and has watched the efforts of the publican to prevent certain people entering his place, must have been struck with the degrading aspect of it. Probably what you would find would be, especially near closing time, a man of a muscular type near the door of the public house employed very frequently in the work of forcing people into the premises. I do not see why a respectable publican trying to conduct his business respectably inside the law should not be protected from this type of man, any more than the general public, both in the streets and on his stairs very often in Scotland. I hope that on a small point of this kind obviously designed to promote the efficiency of the licensed Clauses in Scotland, we will get a more sympathetic answer than that already given from the Front Bench.


I see a point in this Amendment to which I am sure the Secretary for Scotland will give his full consideration. As to the objections put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Scotland, and by the hon. Member for Norwich, I do not think there is any great force in the first, but I think there would be great force in the second if the conditions in England and Scotland were the same. I want to say a word upon both these things and also a word about what I understand really to be the point which this new Clause raises, because I think it is a point of importance in view of the legal conditions that surround licences in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman says, as the Clause stands—and, of course, we are only on the second reading of the Clause—it would mean that a man who was drunk could not get into the hotel or the club where his bed was and where he lived at the time. So far as that objection goes I do not want to depreciate it at all, but I think it is answerable. It seems to me that the Clause would require to be amended in some way to prevent that result, and I think the real mischief would be remedied by substituting for the expression "licensed premises or any registered club" the expression "public-house." That is really the mischief which the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind, but with regard to the point taken by the hon. Member for Norwich I believe it to be true that in England, in country towns and districts, the public-house and the premises of the public-house proper are very often not only directly connected, but that you cannot get into one without getting into the other. In Scotland, if that is ever so, it must be very rare. I cannot remember any instance in which I ever knew it was so. I do not want to profess special acquaintance with the interiors of many public-houses, but one gets to know these things in other ways. I do know that, although it is not the law of the land in the sense of being statute law, it is the law of the justices in Scotland that if a publican lives on the premises which, as a rule he does not at all, that there shall be not only complete separation—I do not mean that the publican cannot get in by one of the doors and the like—but the residence must have a separate entrance. The licensing law of the land in that sense differs from that of the justices.

What I ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to is this: it is quite true that, under the Act of 1903, an offence is committed if the person is on licensed premises and complies with the double qualification (a) that he is intoxicated, and (b) cannot take care of himself and has no one to look after him. Therefore, to a certain extent, expressing my own view, this Clause goes a little bit too far, because the Clause would make it an offence simply for a person intoxicated to be found on licensed premises. I think there would be difficulty in amending the Act of 1903 in that way, but then it must be remembered that this is not in any Act in terms or in any of our Statutes directly, but it is in the statutory terms of the public-house certificate: it is an offence even for the publican if a man be drunk upon his premises, or for the publican to promote any drunkenness upon his premises, and, if he does so, his certificate is brought into peril and he has committed a breach of the certificate which involves forfeiture if he promote drunkenness upon his premises and the charge is proved—if you proved against the publican that so-and-so was on his premises drunk—and although this is not statutory, it is in the terms of the certificate, and it is really a very important affair for the publican, and also for the public, whom we want to protect, and it is important that if there are people whom it is dangerous for him to admit into his premises at all, to strengthen the law of the land in protecting the publican in this matter. Therefore, I do think, there is a point in helping the publican to keep these people out of his premises who ought not to go there, by making it an offence for a person who already has more than is good for him to try and get into the public-house. It seems taking a certan amount of liberty with this new Clause to try and bring it into harmony with what is in my mind, and although I cannot propose any Amendment now, it is only fair I should suggest what my Amendments would be. My Amendments would be to omit the words "or who is drunk"—I cannot understand how a person can be in a state of intoxication and not be drunk—and to leave out the words "in or" ["and found in or attempting to enter"] and to leave out the words "licensed premises or any registered club," and to insert instead thereof the words "public-house" so that the Clause would then read: Any person who is in a state of intoxication and found attempting to enter any public-house shall be subject to the same powers and procedure and penalties as provided in Section 70 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1903. I think that would give effect to what I have said, and therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman may consider my suggestion and allow the Clause to be read a second time, and if that is done then I should move these Amendments.


If the House will allow me, I wish to say I accept the suggestions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I do so because he has agreed with all my criticisms and put forward an entirely different Clause, and I think it is desirable to see that the publican's position should not be made too onerous.

Amendments made: Leave out the words "or who is drunk" ["any person who is in a state of intoxication or who is drunk"].

Leave out the words "in or" ["and found in or attempting to enter"].

Leave out the words "any licensed premises or any registered club" and insert instead thereof the words "public-house."