HC Deb 17 February 1944 vol 397 cc318-20
11. Major Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the position arising in various parts of the country by the arbitrary action of licensees in closing, periodically, their licensed premises as they think fit; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter.

12. Mr. Kendall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether in view of the shortage of supplies in licensed houses due to the influx of Armed Forces and other reasons, he will take steps to modify the licensing laws so as to ensure that it is not necessary, for a licensee who has nothing to sell, to keep open his premises, thereby wasting electricity and fuel; and that such temporary and periodical closing, owing to lack of supplies, will not result in the loss of his licence.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

The issue is not whether a licensee should be required to keep open when he has nothing to sell, but whether, when his supplies are only sufficient to enable him to serve customers for limited periods, he shall so arrange the hours of opening as to meet the needs and convenience of the public. At Grantham, for example, I understand that the local Association of Licensed Victuallers had agreed that, when hours of opening were curtailed, they would, at any rate, keep open from 8 to 10 each evening, when many people, including many soldiers stationed in the neighbourhood, are in need of a place of refreshment and social life, and would also keep open, if possible, for two hours in the middle of each day. Some licensees, however, had failed to comply with this arrangement, and preferred to keep open for seven or eight hours on certain days and to close altogether on other days. This arrangement may suit the convenience of the licensees themselves, but it would be unfair to those licensees, who are consulting the public interest rather than their own convenience, if no action were taken to induce the other licensees to come into line. While there is no specific requirement in the law that a licence-holder shall keep his bar open during the whole of the permitted hours, it is right that, when he proposes to close his premises during part of the usual hours, he should ascertain beforehand whether there would be any objection on the part of the licensing justices and the police. Otherwise, he exposes himself to such risk as there may be of objection being taken to the continuance of his licence.

Mr. W. Thorne

Is it not a fact that the licence certifies that the licensee must keep the premises open a certain number of hours each day?

Mr. Morrison

I could not say so, but I doubt it. The law does not require that the premises shall keep open for all the permitted hours.