§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry that the Government have brought forward this Bill in this particular form. They seem to me to have made no difference between clubs which are well conducted and clubs which are badly conducted. I do not for a moment wish the House to understand that I am in any way standing up for night clubs. I have no experience of them. No doubt many of them are badly conducted, but I do think it is a great pity that because one or two clubs are badly conducted, a Bill of this sort should be brought in to apply to all clubs, good or bad. I will not take the case which I believe was taken by a friend of mine, when the Bill was introduced, namely, the National Liberal Club. I will take the case of the Carlton Club. Under this Bill, if any member of that club is in his constituency speaking, and he has to come back to London for a meeting of the House on the following day, it will be impossible for him, if he comes back after a certain hour, to obtain any refreshment in the club, because, in a few isolated cases, certain people have misconducted themselves at another club. The whole thing seems to me so utterly unreasonable that I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he should withdraw the Bill for the moment, and bring in another measure which, while it would be very much simpler, would have exactly the same effect, and would not press hardly on existing well-conducted clubs.
I would suggest that my right hon. Friend should bring in a Bill which would 2045 enable the police to go to any stipendiary magistrate, or to any justice of the peace, and on making out to the stipendiary magistrate or the justice of the peace a prima facie case that a given club is not properly conducted, the magistrate should, under those circumstances, give the police a warrant, enabling them to enter the club at any hour. Then the police would be able to enter the club; they would see whether or not it was properly conducted, and if it was found that it was not properly conducted, they could bring an action against it. They could summon the proprietors before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and a penalty to meet such a case could be put in the Bill, if the penalty does not exist at the present time. That seems to me to be a much simpler course. It would deal with the people who ought to be dealt with, and at the same time it would leave properly conducted clubs, who are committing no offence against the law, to enjoy the privileges for which they have subscribed and paid. I earnestly hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—he has not heard what I have said, but no doubt my right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General will tell him—will give my proposal serious consideration. If it is impossible for that consideration to be given I trust that we are not going to have any attempt made to take the stages of the Bill at one sitting, but that the Committee stage will be taken when we have had a reasonable opportunity of considering it.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Little as I like this class of legislation, I think we must trust to the responsible persons who bring forward the Bill. I should like to know why it is that under this Bill clubs are put on a different footing as compared with public-houses. Why is it that the competent naval and military authorities and the Minister of Munitions have not the power to control the clubs in the same way that they have power to close public-houses? Glancing at the Bill, we see that the Secretary of State, the local authority, the police, the justices, the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, and so on, all have certain authority under the Bill, but nowhere is any provision given such as that which I have suggested ought to be given.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I noted Clause 3, to which reference is made. It only provides that the police, or the person authorised for the purpose by the competent naval or military authority, may enter the club. He 2046 may examine it, he may take the names and addresses of any persons found therein, but he has no power, apparently, to close the club. Why is not the same power given by this Bill to the competent naval and military authority and the Minister of Munitions to close the club in the same way that they can close a public-house? There still remains that galling inequality of treatment. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say why that inequality exists.
I thoroughly approve the idea of the Bill, that we should put an end to various institutions known as night clubs, which are detrimental both to society and to the morals and health of young gentlemen who form the greater proportion of the patrons of these clubs. My objection to the Bill is founded on the same grounds as those of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury). My objection is to our tarring with the same brush—to use a colloquial expression—the great political and Service clubs of London, in order to get at and to destroy these night clubs. I quite agree with the hon. Baronet that in other institutions, like the great political clubs and Service clubs, those members are taken away by their patriotic work, or their professional work, to various parts of the Kingdom, will be precluded from getting any refreshment after certain hours of the night. It is perfectly true, for I have made inquiries on the subject, that many of the big clubs close of their own accord at 12.30 at night, but that does not relate to all of them. It refers to a number of clubs which nobody uses after certain hours in the evening. I understand that the reason for the inclusion of all clubs in the Bill is owing to the difficulty of defining a night club. I would suggest that if a register of clubs, whether they sell intoxicating liquor or not, was made compulsory, and if there was power to refuse registration to any club which is believed to be a disreputable place, that would have the effect of meeting the case sufficiently without going to the extremity of saying that all clubs must be included in this Bill, because there are certain disreputable places where disreputable scenes take place in London. I think it is a great slur on the great clubs—clubs, for instance, like the Athenæum, which is frequented by bishops. That club, which is frequented by bishops, is to close at 12.30 at night, because there are certain places where the bishops do not go to, 2047 that ought to be closed at that time. I appeal to my right hon. Friend that these places should be dealt with in a simpler and more comprehensive way. We should have a register of all clubs in England: no club should be allowed to exist unless it is on that register, and we should have power to strike off that register any club misbehaving itself or any club where there was an assembly of people who created a disturbance or whose presence there was detrimental to the well-being of the State. I do not object to the Bill, and I shall be glad to see it passing if I could only see it limited to the places which it was meant to destroy.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I am entirely out of harmony with the speeches to which we have just listened. First of all, let us acknowledge that there is an evil here, which must be grappled with in some form. There is no doubt that the evil is rampant, not only in London and on the South Coast, but also in the Midlands. Everyone agrees to that proposition, and the only question is what form the remedy should take. My hon. Friends refer to this evil as existing in only one or two isolated cases. Reference has been made to the Carlton and the Athenæum, and it has been said that this Bill is not intended for bishops; but I think that it would be a good thing for all bishops to be in bed at half-past twelve o'clock. The difficulty, of course, is to give a comprehensive definition of night clubs. My complaint of the Bill, if I have one, is this: We make it a statutory obligation that every club of every kind in London should be closed at 12.30 o'clock. This is a time of war, and I cannot say that I agree with what my hon. Friend said as to the lateness of hours. I think that in a time of war it would be a very good thing that every club in London should be closed at half-past twelve. If a stray person comes to the Carlton and wants food, I think that he must suffer. The real truth is that these clubs do such an amount of harm that if a few people suffer in other places they must only suffer for the general good. There have been, I think, lately about sixteen clubs closed—drinking, gambling, and dancing clubs—and my complaint is that this legislation, like many another example of legislation, has come very much later than it ought to have come.
I believe that as far back as February last the Bishop of London pressed for such legislation as this. What has come out is 2048 this, that in these clubs drinking and gambling go on with the collusion of moneylenders. A great deal of drinking goes on. I have seen myself letters from the fathers of young officers who complain of the physical and moral wrecks produced by these clubs. Therefore the only question is, What is to be the remedy? My hon. Friends have taken a somewhat hostile attitude to this Bill, basing their opposition, as I understand, upon the impossibility of defining a night club. I think that a night club is a club that is open after certain hours. The Home Secretary, in introducing this Bill, said that one of the difficulties with which he had to contend was the difficulty of defining clubs and the difficulty of defining night clubs. I think that you are proceeding in the only way in which the difficulty can be met by saying that all clubs must close not later than the licensed premises in the neighbourhood.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
They must not be closed later than half-past twelve in London. For my part, I say that they should be closed at half-past ten in London, the same as the licensed premises. However, the Bill, I think, meets the situation fairly; it does not press hardly upon any club in London. If some of us belonged to clubs in London—I happen to belong to the Athenæum myself—for my part I am perfectly content that these clubs should be compelled to close at half-past twelve, or whatever hour the Home Secretary thinks right in order to safeguard our young officers. [A laugh.] The right hon. Member may laugh, but it is no laughing matter. I have seen correspondence from the fathers of young officers which would make Members of this House very anxious to find some remedy for a crying evil. Something must be done; something ought to have been done many months ago. Now, when my right hon. Friend brings in this Bill, my hon. Friends say. "We believe that something should be done, but let it be done in a different way and not in the way proposed by this Bill." That is not a fair attitude towards this Bill. If we believe that there ought to be a remedy, that this Bill provides a remedy, and that there is no alternative remedy, as I understand it, the House will adopt this measure. How can you really, according to the suggestions of my hon. Friend, shut these 2049 clubs? How are you going to find out night clubs? My hon. Friend says that if there was a club which was suspected you should go to a stipendiary magistrate, swear an information and get a warrant to go there. That is one of the difficulties of the present Clause, the difficulty of getting sworn information. What have we got to say? We have got to say that the club is habitually used for this or that purpose. But these people are clever enough. They know the law as well as my hon. Friend, and perhaps they are more clever than my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London. They move their premises from day to day, and it is impossible for anyone to say that the premises are habitually used. The best provision of this Bill is that it enables representatives of the police to go to a club without warning. These applications for warrants become known. Under this Bill an inspector of police will be able to go to these clubs without any warning and see how they are carried on.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Not being a lawyer, perhaps I did not make my meaning quite clear. When I said a prima facie case, what I meant was, that if a magistrate was satisfied that the police had reason to suspect he would not want them to produce evidence or anything of that sort, but he could give a warrant which they could execute at any time within the next fortnight or month, and therefore they would have the opportunity of going in without warning.
These are the dilatory tactics with which my hon. Friend has often been associated in this House. But that procedure takes time. What this Bill does is, it enables the inspector of his own initiative to go into these premises and see how they are carried on. The next provision is an exceedingly good provision. It enables not only the inspector of police, but also the representatives of the military authorities, by order of the Commanding Officer, to visit these clubs. However much the police may know about these clubs, I have reason to know that the military authorities know much more. The military authorities are equally urging upon this House to provide some such remedy as that which is contained in this Bill. I hope that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading, because I am quite sure that of the many duties that have been imposed upon this House recently, there has been no more urgent or no more 2050 necessary duty than the passing of some such Bill as this to put an end to institutions all over London, in the Midlands, and on the South coast, which have done immeasurable harm to the young officers of our Army.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Frederick Smith)
My hon. and right hon. Friends object to this Bill on the ground that it applies not only to disreputable clubs but also to very reputable clubs. The extent of inconvenience to which respectable clubs are put is extremely small. Really, having regard to the fact that we find ourselves in a time of war, having regard to the further fact that an overwhelming case is made out by the military authorities as to the great injury which is done to young officers in many cases, those of us who belong to what are described as more reputable clubs have very little to complain of if the Home Secretary says that a club will not be closed until half past twelve. No other course is open. No other suggestion has been made in the course of the Debate except the suggestion of the hon. Member for the City of London of going to a magistrate, where there was a prima facie case, swearing information as to the grounds of suspicion, and obtaining a warrant to be executed within a fortnight or a month. The evils which are dealt with in this Bill, the evils which satisfy soldiers, who are certainly men of the world, that these things require to be dealt with, are evils which require to be dealt with at once. These are not clubs which ought to be allowed to go on for a fortnight or a month, as is suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London. You may suspect and you may not be able to offer evidence which will justify asking for a warrant; but then what harm is done by seeing the club? If it does turn out that gambling is proceeding in the club, then there is something gained by the visit. But, if not, no harm is done. If these things are found to be going on, a remedy will be found. I am convinced that the more the House contemplates the position of these clubs, and the more the House reflects on the position of these young men who are for the first time let loose in London with their cheque books and also the appetites of youth, the more resolutely will the House set itself, even if it involved far greater inconveniences than any which are suffered under this Bill, to the work of providing a remedy. And I say to the House deliberately that this is the remedy 2051 which after most careful and deliberate consideration has been adopted alike by the military authorities, the naval authorities, and the Home Office.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I confess that I am not altogether satisfied with the reply of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Nobody denies that there is an evil, and an evil that ought to be dealt with. The question which has been submitted to the House by some of my hon. Friends is whether this Bill is really the right way in which to deal with that particular evil. But it is also admitted that the evil in question is limited to a very small number of clubs.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
Not large in comparison with all the clubs in the country which are dealt with under this Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that this Bill is intended to deal with anything beyond a very small proportion of the clubs in the country.
§ Sir F. SMITH
My right hon. Friend originally said that he understood that the evil applies only to a small number of clubs. That statement is not correct. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that taking the total number of clubs, this Bill applied only to a small proportion. Of course, that is so; but the number of clubs in which these practices go on is very large.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
Let me say about other clubs that they are immensely numerous in all parts of the country. There is a vast number of working men's clubs, a vast number of rich men's clubs, and a certain number, I believe, of women's clubs, which are constantly becoming more numerous, and all those clubs are to be penalised because of a certain comparatively small number of clubs, for which we all admit and agree that there ought to be a remedy. I confess that I am unable at present to see why this question cannot be dealt with and dealt with effectively without penalising all those other clubs without any reason whatever. Let me call attention to the second Clause of the Bill:—If any person having control of a club knowingly permits it to be used as an habitual resort or place of meeting of reputed prostitutes," etc., etc., etc.2052 It is rather a disagreeable thing to have respectable clubs—and the vast majority of clubs in the country are all respectable—treated in a Bill, one of the objects of which is to prevent the introduction of prostitutes. I confess that it seems to me very unreasonable, and I personally feel very reluctant—
§ Sir F. SMITH
I think the right hon. Gentleman is labouring under some misapprehension as to the effect of Clause 2. Clause 2 can only be applied to any person, having control of a club, knowingly permitting it to be used as a resort of prostitutes.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
That is the one case you particularly want to deal with. Why can we not have a different Bill altogether to deal with clubs guilty of these offences, and deal with them alone? I confess it does seem to me extraordinary that every club throughout the whole of this country is to be penalised because of an evil which we all admit has recently arisen. I have heard an observation about night clubs, but night clubs are not mentioned in the Bill at all. The expression is nowhere used in it. I join with my hon. Friends in pressing upon the Government that there must be, or there ought to be, some other means of dealing with an evil like this which has arisen, without tarring every club in the country with the same brush.
§ Colonel YATE
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why it is that the Bill is not to be extended to Scotland and Ireland?
§ Sir J. SIMON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has expressed a strong view, but I know him well enough to be aware that he will give a perfectly fair and candid consideration to the argument which has induced us to present this Bill to the House. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman in the first place to notice that he is wrong when he says that this Bill will apply to every club in the country. I am not for the moment referring to Scotland or Ireland. It is not true that the Bill is a Bill that would apply to all the clubs of England at all. It is a Bill which provides that in an area which is scheduled in the Order, certain consequences shall follow. It is perfectly true that one of those areas, beyond all doubt, is London. That is quite true, but it is desirable in the first place that this should be understood.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
May I just for one moment be allowed to illustrate exactly 2053 what is the position, because the very first line of the very first Clause in the Bill says:—The Secretary of State may by Order direct that all clubs," etc., etc.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman when he reads the first sentence of the Bill, instead of reading the next sentence, says, "etc., etc." The Clause says—The Secretary of State may by Order direct that all clubs"—not "etc., etc.," but— …."within any such area as may be specified in the Order.Therefore, the Bill has no application except to such an area as we are advised by the police authority it is found to be necessary to put under this Regulation.
§ Sir J. SIMON
It is a mistake to say, and this should be carefully borne in mind, that this Bill automatically puts all clubs into this objectionable position. So far as concerns Scotland and Ireland, it was not thought necessary, under the advice of those whom we consulted, to provide for any area to be so prescribed in those countries. Scotsmen and Irishmen, as far as we know, amongst other virtues go to bed at such an hour, and conduct themselves in such a way that it was not thought by the authority necessary to take those powers. And there is a further reason, that the whole licensing law of this country, which includes the law relating to clubs, is different in England and Wales from what it is either in Scotland or in Ireland; and, therefore, you could not legislate in one and the same Bill for all parts of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman opposite quoted two or three considerations which really decide this matter. In the first place, it is agreed on all hands that there is a very urgent evil to be checked and corrected in the so-called night clubs. I quite understand that whatever criticisms may be made they are not made by people who seek to defend these discreditable institutions. The right hon. Gentleman asked why we did not bring in a Bill to legislate about night clubs, and leave it at that. If the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody else, will give me something like a watertight definition to put into this Bill, and say that this Bill 2054 applies to night clubs with a definition included of what you mean by night clubs, I will alter the Bill at once.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I agree, but the difficulty is that you cannot use the expression "night club" in a Bill. It is a very convenient description for discussion or as a journalistic expression, but in a Bill you have got to define the meaning of the words "night club." A night club, in the sense of which the expression is used, merely means a club which you are sorry you have been to after you have left. It is no good endeavouring to define a club by talking about it, and saying that it is a night club. There is a second difficulty. Assuming that you know what goes on inside a club, if you know that, and can prove it, you do not need any new powers. You might go to a magistrate and prove what has gone on, and get the person who manages the club convicted of allowing drinking after hours, or of making the place a gambling house, or of some other offence. But the difficulty is that you cannot know what goes on inside a club until you get inside. That is the point. It is said that this is tarring all clubs with the same brush. Is it too much to ask when you want to deal with a definite evil of magnitude and seriousness, that you should have power to enter those institutions that claim to be clubs, in order to ascertain that they are properly conducted.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Let me say that there is not the slightest intention on the part of the authorities to use this power of entry for any other purpose excepting to see that the evil we are aiming at in this Bill is stopped. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that there are great numbers of working men's clubs. There is not the slightest intention of using the powers of this Bill for the purpose of police inspection of ordinarily well-conducted clubs, whether working men's clubs or what are known ordinarily as West-end clubs. It is no good at all to say that you are going to take powers in regard to night clubs without defining the words; it is no good to say they are disreputable clubs; we have no means of knowing that they are disreputable until we have been inside to see. Therefore we must take powers in 2055 general terms, and exact, if you please, from the authorities the undertaking that they are not going to use the powers of inspection except in cases where there is any evidence affording reason for exercising it. There is only one further point. This Bill makes provision not for all the clubs in England, but in respect of clubs in areas defined by Order, requiring them to be closed at a particular time. That is open to two observations. In the first place, it does not insist on a particular hour of closing without possibility of exemption.
You may have a club which, though perfectly willing to set an example by closing at a regular hour, desires on a particular occasion an extension of time. Why not? Certainly if there is need for it they could, in London, apply to the Commissioner of Police, who would have to administer this Statute in London, and is empowered by the Bill to grant exemption in a proper case without any question of its being contrary to the scope of the Bill. There is also the case of a club which, owing to the special occupation of its members, or owing to some other special reason, might fairly ask that the closing hour should be later for the club, not on one occasion but all occasions. Clubs connected with the gentlemen of the Press are a good example, and there are no doubt others. We consequently provide for that. Is it really unreasonable in towns and areas where great numbers of people congregate and go to these night clubs to say that there ought to be some regulation as to the time at which those institutions close? I cannot see why it should be reasonably said that in such an area as London, where restaurants keep open until an early hour in the morning, nobody should propose that clubs should close before them. The question whether they should close earlier or later is one to be decided in consultation with the authorities, and set out in the Order. The general provisions by which a reasonable closing hour is prescribed surely is a provision to which people who resort to clubs will not seriously object. I have had inquiries made, and I find that in nearly every club so few members are to be found there late at night that most of them at their own motion have made temporary provisions by which to close earlier than usual. I cannot think, if this measure is reasonably worked and applied to areas where it is found to be needed, that we are 2056 asking more from members than they would be perfectly willing to grant.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I confess any legislation introduced into this House with regard to clubs has been a matter of anxiety to a huge number of members of clubs throughout the country. I am not speaking of West End clubs, which may well look after themselves, and for which I do not mean to say a word. My anxiety is not allayed by the statement of the Home Secretary, that he regarded club law as part of the licensing law. The law with regard to clubs is very different from that with regard to public-houses. I maintain it ought to be, and I hope it will always be so regarded by this House. Clubs in this House are in danger of not being treated quite fairly, because this House, in the main, consists either of Members who are teetotallers, and think men ought not to drink at all, or else they are representatives of publicans, who think men ought only to drink in public-houses. I appeal to my right hon. Friend under those circumstances to take clubs under his protection, and to see that they are not the victims of any unfair legislation. I think it is a pity that such a Bill should have to be passed at all, and the only justification for it is contained in the title, which says that it is to remain in force during the continuance of the present War. That is borne out by Sub-section (3), of Clause 7. Having some knowledge of clubs to which working men resort, as far as I have been able to ascertain, they do not resent the provisions of this Bill, and they are prepared to accept it loyally, just as we all accept a great many other objectionable things, because we are at war, and for no other reason. I hope that no-precedent from this Bill may be claimed, and no argument contrary to the interest of clubs, which I believe myself are a great advantage to the nation, and a great source of temperance and good-fellowship, and that after the star of peace returns we may go back to our normal legislation, which very properly differentiates between public-houses and clubs.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tuesday next (26th October).—[Mr. Walter Rea.]