HC Deb 06 February 1945 vol 407 cc2006-10
Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 8, line 17, after "Council," insert "who need not be members of the Council."

Sub-section (1) sets out the constitution of the licensing planning committee in London, and provides among other things that the committee shall include "twelve members appointed by the London County Council." As it reads, this is at least ambiguous regarding whether it means 12 members of the L.C.C. or any persons appointed by the L.C.C. It is certainly desirable that the L.C.C. should have power to appoint persons who are not members, because to appoint 12 members of the L.C.C.—one-twelfth of its number—for what may be a very heavy task, will add greatly to their duties. It is therefore desirable that it should be possible to appoint people from outside, particularly to cover the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) that there might be a wish to appoint people with special knowledge and experience. If that is conceded to be desirable I am not sure that the words of the Bill, as they stand, will provide for it. I hope my right hon. Friend will see her way to accept my Amendment, which makes the position abundantly clear.

Captain Duncan

I should like to support the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin). As I said on Second Reading, success depends on getting the right type of people on these committees. I wish to say nothing rude about the members of the L.C.C., but the hon. Gentleman appears to agree that they are busy men. While a proportion will no doubt be represented I think it would be difficult to get 12 members to devote a very large amount of their time to this particular job. It is also important that really representative broad-minded people should be on this committee, and I hope the Government will accept this Amendment.

Miss Wilkinson

When we were looking through the Amendments we took advice on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) has raised, especially as his Amendments have been so helpful throughout the Bill. We are assured that his Amendment is unnecessary. The Bill provides, in respect of the membership of the London Licensing Planning Committee, for "twelve members appointed by the London County Council," but it does not require that they must be members of the Council. If my hon. Friend will look at the Clause itself I think he will see it is really made abundantly clear. Sub-section (1, b) says: twelve members appointed from amongst their number by the Court of Quarter Sessions for the County of London. Next comes twelve members appointed by the London County Council. and it does not say "from amongst their number." Therefore we are advised that that is perfectly good legal language, and, as it stands, meets the point my hon. Friend has raised. I will have another look at it, but I am sure the hon. Member ber's point is fully met.

Mr. Silkin

My advice is no doubt not so good as that of my right hon. Friend, but I am advised that the wording is not clear. For that reason I put down this Amendment. We both wish to achieve the same purpose, and if she will look at the point again, I will gladly ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 8, line 40, at end, insert: (5) A planning removal formulated under Section five of this Act by the licensing planning committee for any such licensing planning area as aforesaid may provide for the removal of a licence from any premises situate within the County of London to any area outside that county to which there has been, or is likely to be, a substantial transfer of population, of industry or of other activities from that county. The purpose of this Amendment is to make it certain that in dealing with London it shall be within the powers of the licensing planning committee to give removal licences to areas outside the County of London where there is likely to be a substantial transfer of population, of industry, and so on. It is not clear from the Bill that they will have that power. If one looks at Clause 5, which applies to London, one sees in Sub-section (1, a) that the licensing planning committees have power to formulate proposals for "planning removals" from "premises in the area to other specified premises therein"; that is, they can only formulate proposals for transfer within the area, and the area in the case of London will be the administrative County of London. Therefore, it is not clear that the Licensing Planning Committee for London will be able to put forward proposals for licences outside the county. I know that under Clause 3 the Minister has power to add another licensing district to the licensing district of the County of London and so make a joint licensing planning committee. That, it seems to me, would be sometimes a cumbersome way of doing things. It may be necessary merely to transfer one licence from the County of London to, for the sake of argument, Oxhey. Would the Watford licensing district really have to be brought in to form a joint committee so as to make a licensing planning committee of London and Watford for the express purpose of transferring one licence to Oxhey, even though a substantial population may be transferred to that area?

This Amendment is to facilitate the transfer of a licence from the County of London to any place outside, whether it is an area which has been added to the London Licensing Planning Committee or not. It may be argued that the local people ought to have some voice. Provision will be made for that. They can object, and no doubt the Minister would exercise his discretion to hold a public inquiry in that case. Further, the Minister has already asked the Committee, and the Committee has agreed, to accept an Amendment which lays an obligation on licensing planning committees to confer with such authorities as he may lay down. He would, no doubt, in such a case require that the licensing planning committee in London should confer with any licensing district to which it was proposed to transfer the licence. If the planning of licences is to be made practicable and simple, we must give the licensing planning committee the power to recommend the transfer of licences to places outside London to which substantial portions of the population would be moved, without the cumbersome machinery of adding the district to the London licensing planning districts. I am afraid it is a trifle complex, but I hope that I have made my point clear.

The Solicitor-General

I thought for a moment that my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) might have been supporting this Amendment, because Plymouth is geographically the only other place in the same situation as London, with a different administrative county just outside. I thought my Noble Friend might be anxious about the provision of licences in the overspill areas of her city. But the matter which has been put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) is sufficiently formidable. It is very difficult to find a perfect answer, and I would like my hon. Friend to consider the different difficulties that face each possible solution. He has, with great frankness, put the difficulty of his own solution, which is that he would have to have the power of removing to an area without the consent of the justices in that area. It would be taking away from the justices in the Chingford or Watford areas, to give my hon. Friend's own two examples, their right to refuse this removal. That is a quite a serious difficulty. It means cutting into the ordinary licensing law for, possibly, all the dormitory areas of London. The second way that appealed to me was the application for an ordinary removal. But that cannot be done, because it is outside the administrative County of London, just as if it were a case of removal from Plymouth to Cornwall.

I thought that another method would be an application for a new licence, on payment of monopoly value in Watford. That would meet my hon. Friend's point, assuming, as one ought to assume, that the licensing justices did their work as far as the overspill population were concerned. But my hon. Friend would be left, to take his own example, with a little-wanted, if not entirely unwanted, house in Bethnal Green. That is the final difficulty. The only method, if that situation is really serious, is to add any district that may be necessary ad hoc for the purposes of the removal in a special case. I would like my hon. Friend to let the scheme work, to see how the removal progresses on the present line, and especially what co-operation is received outside, before we change the character of it or interfere with another series of licensing justices—that is, the justices of the dormitory area. I can only tell him that I sympathise with his point; but I hope that he agrees that I have exhausted all possible permutations of how to deal with it, without any more success than he has had; because he has the difficulty of overriding neighbouring justices, and I have the difficulty of an unwanted house. I would ask him to see how these difficulties fare in the light of experience, and not to press his Amendment to-day.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

The proposal which my hon. and learned Friend has put forward may mean setting up a large number of ad hoc joint committees. That is not very satisfactory, and certainly not workable. My own proposal is that there should be consultations. I think that people would be reasonable, even licensing justices, and it may be possible to come to some agreement. It may be that my hon. Friend's suggestion will turn out to be the only possible way. Let us try it and see if it works; and if it does not, let us make representations, and something will have to be done. Before we finally accept, I suggest that my hon. and learned Friend should look at the thing again, and perhaps in the quiet of the night something may come to him which will form a satisfactory solution. On the understanding that we may raise the matter again on the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.