HC Deb 05 August 1943 vol 391 cc2442-3
32. Mr. Reakes

asked the Home Secretary whether, having regard to the urgent necessity for further economy in lighting and fuel, the utilisation of labour for National Service, the protection of the morals of young people and the relief of strain upon police administration, he will consider the advisability of closing licensed premises in the West End and in the Metropolitan areas at the universal time of 10 p.m. and the closing of night clubs at 11 p.m., such arrangements to last for war duration?

Mr. H. Morrison

Parliament, when prescribing in the Licensing Act, 1921, the permitted hours for the supply of intoxicating liquor in licensed premises and in clubs, decided that some discretion should be left to licensing justices, who are acquainted with local circumstances, to fix the closing hour for licensed premises within the limits laid down in the Act. The information I have as to conditions in the Metropolis does not suggest that there is at the present time any sufficient case for taking power, to override the discretion of the licensing justices in the matter of the closing hour.

Mr. Reakes

Is the Home Secretary aware that on Merseyside, for similar reasons to those given in my Question, the licencees have adopted a voluntary system of closing after 9.30 in the winter months? Will he also give us some reason for not dealing with the midnight racketeers in the night clubs? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that they are contrary to our war effort.

Mr. Morrison

On the latter point, the Ministry of Food is involved and has taken action on the matter, but, broadly speaking, I think the position is this: The actual closing hours under the Statute should be settled locally by the justices, in the light of their local knowledge rather than that they should be determined from Whitehall.

Mr. Driberg

Would it not be unwise to take any action which would inevitably lead to the opening-up of hundreds of illicit and ephemeral drinking places?

Mr. Morrison

That is certainly one of the factors that have to be kept in mind.

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