HC Deb 09 December 1943 vol 395 cc1116-8
22. Mr. Ammon

asked the Home Secretary whether, as one means to reduce the evil of excessive drinking among young people, he will reintroduce the No-treating Order?

Mr. H. Morrison

The provisions of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1923, which make it an offence for anyone to buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor for consumption by a person under the age of 18, already amount to a No-treating Order in respect of persons under 18. As previously stated my present information would not justify introducing a No-treating Order of general application but I am keeping a close watch on the situation, and if it appears that further measures are required I shall not hesitate to introduce them.

Mr. Ammon

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that he gave me a somewhat similar reply eight months ago? Since then there has been a continual stream of criticism from the Bench and the Press, and a very serious statement was made by Mr. Justice Charles only a few days ago.

Mr. Morrison

I am aware of that, but, although I have kept very close observation, I do not think the case is yet proved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I quite agree that the evidence is conflicting and a difference of opinion is quite understandable, but to me it is not yet conclusive. I am anxious not to pass restrictive legislation unless there is reasonable cause for it and a prospect of success.

Mr. Graham White

Is the right hon. Gentleman directing his inquiries in the large areas of population or relying on what reaches him independently?

Mr. Morrison

Both ways.

Mr. White

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the growing apprehension throughout the country?

Mr. Morrison

It is true that there are many communications on the point of the Questions that have been put. I ask for information and get it and analyse the information that comes, which I do not ask for but am glad to have. Much of it is based on apprehension. What I want is rather more concrete evidence.

Viscountess Astor

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the evidence of all social workers in all crowded areas? Does he not realise the real feeling of almost alarm at the Government not taking a stronger stand and helping these young people?

Mr. Speaker

This seems to me to be more of an argument than a question asking for information.

Mr. Ammon

Eight months ago I called attention to the fact that licensees themselves were complaining about the matter and since then there have been notices calling attention to it.

Mr. Morrison

That is on the narrower point of the administration of the under-18 law. I believe the licensees are trying to administer it. There is no reason why they should not. They have not so much drink that they need not. They have willingly co-operated as regards the posters that I have had put up, but they are in difficulties in knowing whether a woman is 18 or less or more.

23. Mr. Rhys Davies

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that police authorities in some instances prosecute employees of licensed premises and not the licensees for violation of the law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks to persons under 18 years of age; and if he will consider removing this anomaly?

Mr. Morrison

It is an offence for a licensee knowingly to sell, or for his servant knowingly to sell, intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises by young persons under 18. The question of whom to proceed against depends upon the circumstances in each case. As an employee may contravene the law without the knowledge, or even against the instructions, of the licensee, it would detract from the efficacy of the law if only the licensee were liable to prosecution; but I have no reason to believe there is failure to proceed against licensees when circumstances warrant that course.

Mr. Davies

Will my right hon. Friend look into this point relating to violation of the law, that when a shop assistant for instance violates the law relating to the adulteration of milk or short weight it is generally the employer who is prosecuted and not the employee but in this case the employee is prosecuted and the employer, the licensee, gets off scot free?

Mr. Morrison

If my hon. Friend persists in that argument, he will weaken the administration of the law. It may well be that an assistant may supply a person under 18 without the knowledge of the employer, and it really is important that the assistant as well as the employer shall have a sense of responsibility.

Mr. Davies

Is it not possible to prosecute both?

Mr. Morrison

On the face of it, I do not see that, if an employer has given instructions to his employees that they must not do such a thing and they do it, the employer must be held accountable.

36. Mr. Turton

asked the Home Secretary the number of persons who have been convicted between 2nd September, 1939, and the most recent available date for breaches of the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Act, 1923; in how many cases has the maximum penalty been imposed; and in how many cases has the charge been dismissed on payment of costs?

Mr. Morrison

I can send my hon. Friend information as to the numbers of persons found guilty, the numbers fined and the numbers who were dismissed under the Probation of Offenders Act. But the statistics collected by my Department do not show what was the amount of the fine, or in how many of the cases which were dismissed, the defendant was ordered to pay costs.

Mr. Turton

Will my right hon. Friend publish the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. Morrison

I did wish to do that, but I am afraid it will take a week to get the figures. If my hon. Friend will put down another Question, I will certainly do so.

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