HC Deb 08 December 1920 vol 135 cc2099-104

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that it is the wish and desire of all members of clubs in Wales that the opening hours on Sunday evenings should be from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.; whether the same rights of citizenship in this respect will be applied to Wales as to England; and whether he is aware that the change of hours asked for would promote no abuse, but confer a benefit, and be to the greater domestic convenience of members and their families?


My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply to this question. I am not aware that all members of clubs in Wales entertain the desire which is stated in the first paragraph, and I know from a resolution passed unanimously at a recent meeting of the Welsh Liberal Parliamentary party that there is a large body of Welsh opinion which would be opposed to the assimilation of Wales to England in the matter of the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Sunday.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that I do not believe the Welsh Liberal party to be authorities upon the desires of the members of Welsh clubs? We want to know why we are debarred in Wales from the rights and privileges of other people in other parts of the country.


I understand that the Welsh Liberal party do not agree with the hon. Member.

49. Mr. HIGHAM

asked the Prime Minister whether the Government will without further delay restore to the working classes their ancient right to purchase alcoholic spirits in small quantities for off consumption?


asked the Prime Minister if he will have the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) Order which restricts the hours of sale modified, and will he allow the hours of sale on Saturday to be from 12 noon to 10 p.m., having regard to the great hardship experienced by large masses of the population who are now unable to obtain access to houses of refreshment between 2.30 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and is he aware of the serious inconvenience the present Regulation causes to persons who have to travel to various parts of the country?

63. Mr. BLAIR

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, as there is no desire on the part of anyone to return exactly to pre-War conditions in the matter of liquor control, he can afford guidance to the Central Control Board by stating which of the restrictions still imposed by the Central Control Board on the public are not regarded by the Government as essential for maintenance?

64. Captain BOWYER

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in view of the fact that the Liquor Control (Temporary Provisions) Bill is not to be proceeded with this Session, all unnecessary restrictions and Orders issued by the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) may be withdrawn; and whether it is the policy of the Government to prolong these restrictions, imposed during war time expressly for war purposes, until the Government Bill dealing with the matter is passed?


The Prime Minister has asked me to reply. The Government cannot undertake at this stage to go into the details raised in these inquiries, and have nothing to add to previous answers.


Is not my right hon. Friend aware that there is very little detail to go into in this question, because it is purely one that the person who can afford to buy a bottle of spirits can take it off the premises and the poor man or woman who only wants to spend sixpence or a shilling cannot do it, and why should we differentiate between the poor and the rich in this way?


That is going into details.


Why is it done at all?


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the reason given for restricting the sale in small quantities was that the Admiralty did not want small quantities smuggled on board the ships in war time, although they had no objection to bulky quantities, but now, when the German Fleet is at the bottom of the sea and the sea war is over, why should this restriction continue; and is he not also aware that a small quantity of alcohol with aspirin is the best possible prophylactic for influenza and colds and that scores of people have died for want of it?


That is a question for the Ministry of Health.

Captain BOWYER

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware that a great number of his supporters have pledged themselves up to the hilt in the constituencies that these war time restrictions shall be removed, and may we count on the support of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if so, when?


My hon. and gallant Friend has not forgotten, I think, that in the election address signed by the Prime Minister and myself, we stated as one of the objects which we intended to carry out that we should take advantage of the experience in this matter gained during the War. We intend to do that.


Does that mean that the restrictions will not be removed?


It does not in the least mean that, but it means that we think that the restrictions should not be one by one relaxed before we bring in a Bill dealing with the whole question.


Has my right hon. Friend's attention been called to the fact that, as the restrictions have been relaxed, drunkenness and disorder have steadily gone up and that they are now nearly three times as high as in 1918, and in these circumstances, will he continue the present restrictions?


That question obviously raises a point of discussion which cannot be dealt with in this way. Everyone, including the hon. Member, must be aware that even if the facts be as stated, there are many other things to account for it besides those which he states.

Colonel ASHLEY

Will the right hon. Gentleman not ask the Liquor Control Board to do away with the petty reftric-tions which he does not mean to continue, while continuing those restrictions which he thinks it desirable to continue?


As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, changes, and very considerable changes, have been made in consequence of the subject having been considered by this House and by the Government. It is obvious that we cannot decide offhand exactly what restrictions we are going to keep on and what we are going to remove; it would be necessary to introduce a Bill.


Going back to the original question of the sale of small quantities of spirits, can my right hon. Friend say whether he will not make such representations to the Liquor Control Board as will enable them, at all events, for the period of the next two months, or until such time as the permanent measure is introduced, to permit of these restrictions so far as they relate to the sale of small quantities of spirits being suspended?


asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that J. C. Conacher, a soldier who lost his right limb in the South African war and was also wounded in his left limb and foot and in his right arm, after trying to get work and being refused on account of disability, became, through the aid of friends and the officers of his regiment, licensee of the Blue Bell Inn, Newbiggin, Cumberland, prospered and accepted the offer of the Blue Bell Hotel, Rickergate, Carlisle, and also the Wheatsheaf, Rickergate; that his wife managed one of these premises at a salary of 35s. per week and all found; that these houses were managed to the entire satisfaction of the magistrates, the Excise, and the police; that on 10 days' notice in each case the Liquor Control Board seized both the latter premises and turned Conacher out on the street, deprived him of his two licences, and paid him no compensation for the same or for the loss of the goodwill of his two businesses; that the Board first offered Mrs. Conacher 25s. per week to remain in their service and, on refusal, increased the same to 30s., which she accepted; and that work was refused to Conacher by the Board on account of his military disability, while it was given to one of the young men of military age who were employéd by the Board; and will he appoint a committee of investigation into the actions of the Board that a remedy may be obtained for those who have suffered from its decrees?


I have been asked to reply. This question relates to circumstances which I understand took placs some four or five years ago, and which have been investigated on more than one occasion by the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) in the ordinary course, and by Lord D'Abernon (late Chairman of the Board) himself when appealed to personally. All the facts were also put before the Minister of Munitions when enquiries were addressed to him in 1919. I understand that the decision reached on each occasion was that there was no valid ground of complaint, and I see no reason to doubt that this conclusion was correct, and no ground to justify the appointment of a committee of investigation.


Is it not the fact that this man's two licences were taken from him without compensation, and that he was turned into the street, and if the Liquor Control Board, the people who were guilty of that indescribable wrong, were the people who did it, of what use is an investigation by the culprits themselves?

51. Mr. BRIANT

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the necessity for giving ample time for the adequate con sideration both by Members of this House and the general public of the pro visions of the promised Bill dealing with the sale of alcoholic liquor, if it can be introduced before Christmas?


The answer is in the negative.