HC Deb 25 November 1941 vol 376 cc587-91
Mr. Maclean for

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has considered the resolution of protest passed and sent to him by the Normand Road United Free Church, Dysart, the Church of Scotland Women's Temperance Association and other bodies, regarding the provisions of Order in Council, No. 1594; and whether he contemplates any action to give effect to the protest?

Mr. Johnston

I have carefully considered the resolutions referred to, and I have explained the reasons for this Order to representatives of the Churches and temperance organisations in Scotland. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of an explanatory letter which I sent on the subject to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) and in which I have set out in some detail the stringent conditions and restrictions which will require to be complied with in canteens operating under the Order.

Mrs. Hardie

Were there any requests from responsible bodies in Scotland, such as trade unions, for these facilities?

Mr. Johnston

Oh, yes, any number of requests.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Will this letter be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT, to enable us to reply to the many letters we get?

Mr. Garro Jones

Will the Minister publish his explanatory letter in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. McKinlay

May we have an undertaking that the restrictions referred to in his letter will be given effect to, in explosives and filling factories?

Mr. Garro Jones

May I have an answer to my Question? Why cannot this letter, which was communicated to some hon. Members, be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. Johnston

It was a personal letter, sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, but if there is a general desire for it to be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I have no objection to that course being taken, subject to the approval of Mr. Speaker.

Mr. McKinlay

May we have the undertaking for which I asked, that the limitations on this Order, which permits the establishment of wet canteens, will be given effect to, in explosives and filling factories, because they are in isolated places?

Mr. Johnston

Yes, in every case.

Mr. Mathers

Is the Minister aware that there is widespread approval of the safeguards indicated in his letter to me? May we take it that those safeguards will result in a great improvement upon the present unregulated position?

Mr. Johnston

Yes, Sir, certainly. That is one of the reasons why these Regulations were imposed.

Following is a copy of the letter referred to:

"7th November, 1941.


You handed to me on the 30th October a letter from the Rev. Hassal Hanmer, Secretary of the Scottish Temperance Alliance, regarding the new Defence Regulation authorising sale of excisable liquor in certain canteens for civilian workers engaged on essential war work. This is a matter of considerable importance, and I should like to give you fairly fully the general position and the reasons which have led the Government to the making of this Regulation.

I should explain in the first place that the new Regulation is not an entire innovation in the licensing system. The Service Departments already have power, under Section 50 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1903 (and a similar provision in the English law) to authorise the sale of liquor in canteens. Under this Section there operates what is commonly known as the N.A. A.F.I, system for Service men. The new Regulation is in essence an extension of this power to certain civil Departments for essential war workers, and for essential war workers only.

The supply of liquor to civilian workers will be subject to a control exercised by the Government Department concerned, and this control enables conditions to be imposed upon the sale of liquor which are in many respects more stringent and detailed than those which can be imposed by Licensing Courts. This extension of the N.A.A.F.I. system to certain essential war factories—especially in remote areas and districts, e.g., in the Outer Islands—is purely a war-time measure designed to meet the requirements and habits of transferred workers from other areas; and it has only been agreed to with very stringent regulations and with very considerable hesitancy as an alternative to serious labour war difficulties. I need not say that in Scotland we shall watch with anxious eye the operation of any authorisation given under the order, and immediate action to withdraw the authorisation will be pressed upon the responsible Department should clear evidence of abuse be proved.

The main purpose of the Regulation is to meet the needs and habits of specific classes of workers for whom special arrangements are necessary because ordinary facilities are not available. There are, as you know, many camps in remote parts where important constructional works are being carried on. In addition, hostels and recreational centres for seamen and other essential workers have been established under Government auspices at various ports and establishments. The Ministers concerned have pressed the importance of reasonable facilities for obtaining liquor being available in the canteens provided in these places.

There is no question of scores of bodies setting up drinking bars. Every authorisation to sell excisable liquor will be granted only by the appropriate Government Department on terms agreed with the Home Secretary or, in the case of Scotland, myself, and will be granted mainly to responsible bodies such as the National Service Hostels Corporation, which is, as you may be aware, a non-profit-making and public utility organisation.

As regards docks, it is said that considerable waste of time sometimes occurs through men leaving their work to get a drink, and men employed on a late shift are anxious to leave early before the closing hour of adjoining public-houses. These difficulties, it is believed, would be removed if beer were available in dock canteens.

You will note that the Defence Regulation provides that any authorisation granted shall be subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be agreed between the 'competent Authority' and the Home Secretary or, in Scotland, myself. This is a most important point. The conditions and restrictions will of course require to be considered specially in relation to each case, but there are certain broad principles which we propose to apply.

First, we intend to make it a condition that only beer or cider may be sold in the canteen. There may be very exceptional cases—for example, a canteen for foreign seamen who are accustomed to drink wine—where this condition might be relaxed, but we shall allow a relaxation only if the case for it is clearly proved.

Second, the provision of liquor will whenever practicable be ancillary to the provision of food.

Third, and this is a point to which I personally attach great importance—profits received from the sale of liquor in these canteens will be directed to welfare or benevolent purposes as agreed with the Department concerned.

Fourth, liquor will only be sold to persons specified in the authorisation.

These principles will be embodied in the conditions which will also deal with such matters as the maintenance of order, prevention of drunkenness, prohibition of credit sales and commission-taking, and so on. It will be provided that the canteens shall be open to police inspection at any time, and that liquor may be sold in the canteen only during the permitted hours fixed by the Licensing Court for the district. If for any good reason—e.g., the working of a shift system—it is thought necessary to vary the permitted hours it will be provided that the hours of sale shall not exceed the aggregate of the permitted hours. Under the Regulation any breach of the conditions will be an offence punishable in a court of law.

You may be assured that the powers conferred by the Regulation will be administered under stringent safeguards, and that everything possible will be done to prevent abuses.

And turning to the points raised in Mr. Hassal Hanmer's letter, I am not clear that there is anything inconsistent between the new Regulation and Regulation 14 which enables byelaws to be made for regulating the conduct of persons in a ' protected place.' Wet canteens set up under the new Regulation will not necessarily be situated within a protected place, and even if they are the conditions will ensure that liquor is consumed only on the canteen premises, and will be designed to prevent drunkenness.

The utmost care will be taken in places where No-Licence or Limiting resolutions under the Temperance Act are in force. A wet canteen would be authorised in such an area only if it were clearly shown to be essential to the continuance of an imported labour force, and the conditions here—as indeed in the case of all canteens—would ensure that liquor would be sold only to the persons for whom the authorisation was granted.

It is true that the new procedure is outwith the ordinary licensing system. This was found to be necessary for a variety of reasons. Licensing Courts in Scotland meet only twice a year for the granting of certificates and in the present emergency it is frequently necessary to set up a camp or hostel at very short notice. Certificates under the Licensing Acts are normally valid for a year, whereas many of the canteens which are envisaged will be required only for a few months. Indeed in Scotland at any rate I would insist that the maximum duration of an authorisation under the new Regulation shall be six months, and in many cases an even shorter period may be prescribed. Finally, a certificate granted under the Licensing Acts enables liquor to be supplied to any member of the public, whereas under the new procedure only persons specified in the authorisation may be supplied.

I have written at considerable length on this question, because indeed I shared some of your apprehensions on the matter, and urged many of the safeguarding provisions. I hope I have succeeded in removing some of your misgivings. If you feel that it would be useful to have a talk about the whole matter I shall be very glad to arrange it.

I return Mr. Hassal Hanmer's letter.

Yours faithfully,


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