§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I must apologise to Members of the House for inflicting myself so much upon them to-day, but they will regret that not only for the reason that they see me but for the reason which prevents my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary from being here. This Bill is one that makes no permanent change in the licensing laws. As its Title indicates, it is designed for temporary reconstruction purposes with regard to the supply of places of refreshment connected with the replanning of our blitzed towns and cities. The objects of the Bill are two—first to replan a number of licensed premises and, second, to co-ordinate the duties of licensing justices and local authorities in this field. The extent of the problem is considerable. Up 737 to the end of 1943 no fewer than 1,600 public houses had been destroyed or very seriously damaged by enemy action, and that number has increased since then. The damage occurred in some 25 of our greatest towns and cities and the proportion of public houses destroyed varies from some 25 to 50 per cent.
I might be asked what is the need for this Bill when we have passed the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, by which the Minister may declare the land subject to compulsory purchase in war damaged areas or where the land is required for re-location of parts of the population. There are two answers. The first is that public houses are subject to special control by the licensing justices. Of course they are in the difficulty that they cannot compile complete plans for the area. They have to work on individual applications and, even if they were able to work out a plan, they would not be able to bring it into effect because of their absence of the control of land. On the other hand, the local authorities, who have power to deal with the land, may be held up by a difference of view by the licensing justices and unable to proceed with their plans. Sometimes, therefore, you get a deadlock, and it is that deadlock which has to be solved by co-ordination.
It is a comparatively easy problem to state as I have stated it but by no means an easy one to work out, and it was therefore referred to a strong Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. J. W. Morris, a well-known K.C., with representatives of all types who could be useful in the matter. There were representatives of licensing justices, of local authorities, of the brewers and of the Home Office and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The Committee's report was unanimous, except for a minority report on one recommendation by two members, and the Bill in general gives effect to the report. It does so by setting up special machinery to effect the reduction and redistribution of licences in areas affected by serious war damage, while at the same time it leaves to the licensing justices all their functions which can be exercised without interference with the re-planning of premises, such as transfer, structural alterations and matters of that kind.
The Bill provides for the constitution of licensing planning areas. The Home Secretary may designate areas either of 738 one licensing district or of two or more contiguous licensing districts containing areas of war damage. The Committee may apply for areas to be added to whch populations may be moved, such as the overspill areas, of which we heard so much in the Debates on the Town and Country Planning Act. The order of the Home Secretary can be made only after consultation with both the local licensing justices and the local authority, and these over-spill areas and the like can only be added at the request of the committee which is to run the scheme. The constitution of the licensing planning committee is that it is to consist of representatives of the licensing justices and of the local authorities in equal numbers, with a chairman appointed by the Home Secretary. The function of the licensing planning committee will be, generally, to review the licensing problem in its area, to evolve a plan for dealing with distribution and the number and location of licensed houses, to formulate proposals for removing houses from one part of the area where they are not needed to another where they are, and to provide for the surrender of certain houses which are not needed. That is not entirely a new experiment. It has often been done, perhaps with a certain amount of complaint from certain persons. There has often been a removal from one site to another, accompanied by the owners of the houses having at the same time to surrender other licences, thereby clearing part of the districts in which the licences were not required.
But there is another factor that one must remember, that war-damaged houses can be removed by the procedure known as special removal. The right to a special removal only arises when the house has been damaged in some way and, when it arises, the licensing justices cannot use their discretion as they can in the case of an ordinary removal. They have to grant a special removal subject to the premises to which it is being removed being fit for the purpose and to there being nothing against the licensee. So that, if no machinery were put forward such as we suggest, there would be nothing in the way of a series of special removals and the licensing justices would have absolutely no discretion to exercise. The proposals of our licensing planning committees will work in this way. They will be able to permit removal from one 739 set of premises in an area to another, and that removal will supersede the special and ordinary removals existing at present, but when the committee have confirmed their view of the proposed removal, the licensing justices will still have to consider whether the premises are fit and convenient, whether there is anything against the licensee, and whether all the conditions have been fulfilled. On that point the functions of the licensing justices will remain, and there will be an appeal from them as at present.
The other point, apart from putting forward proposals for licensing planning removals, is that the licensing planning committee will have to deal with the extinguishment of licences which are unnecessary, and they will be extinguished after the order is made. Their proposal for removing a house from A to B, perhaps extinguishing another at the same time, has to be approved from the planning aspect, that is the aspect of land use by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. If an objection is made and not withdrawn, the Minister must order a local inquiry to be held before he confirms or refuses the proposals. This safeguards the public right in a matter which has always been thrashed out in public, and it also facilitates the general plan for which my right hon. Friend is responsible.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
How does it come about that the determination by the people who live in the locality is left until a decision has been reached by the committee and it has gone to the Minister? Should not the public be consulted before it reaches that stage?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the point because I would like to put the idea to him quite clearly. The licensing planning committee will represent, as to 50 per cent., the local authority, whose members are the representatives of the people. They will examine the matter and decide on the proposals. Before the proposals can come into effect they will have to be confirmed by the Minister. Before they go to the Minister notice is given of them, and if the objections are persisted in a local inquiry is held. So you have, first, the fact that half the licensing planning committee are the elected representatives of the people on the local authority. Then you have the safeguard that if objection 740 is made a local inquiry will be held. Then you have my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and, lastly, you have the licensing justices on the three points of premises, fitness of the licensee and the question of conditions. I do not think that, taking it all round, one can say that local opinion, which can be formulated, first, by its elected representatives and, second, at the local inquiry, can be ignored and prevented from being expressed.
The House will appreciate that it is possible that new licences might be applied for and the licensing planning committee—this joint body which we set up by the Bill—cannot make proposals for them. It is expected that they will be rare, because the committee will be dealing with the general problem in the area and new licences will be left subject to the licensing justices. Anyone who makes an application, however, will have to get the consent of this new committee before the application is made in order that the planning provisions are not prejudiced. Another point which the Bill deals with in Clause 9 is one to fill up a gap in our present licensing law. You cannot, at the moment, get a removal to temporary premises on the basis that you will go back from the temporary premises to your permanent home. It is obviously necessary in the conditions of bomb damage with which we are dealing that that should be done, and we provide in Clause 9 for temporary premises being granted as a place to which a removal can be made on the basis that you will go back to your permanent home later on. That again has to be done with the approval of the licensing planning committee and the approval of the justices on the points of fitness and the character of the licensee.
§ Mr. Isaacs (Southwark, North)
Are these planning committees constituted on the basis of the area of the licensing committee or of the areas of the local authorities? I am on a licensing committee which covers four local authorities, two of which are borough councils, one an urban district council and the other a rural district council. Will there be a separate planning authority with justices and representatives of the local authorities for each of these areas, or will there be a committee for the area of the licensing committee? In the case I have mentioned, will there be four planning authorities or one?
§ The Solicitor-General
The unit is the licensing district. I would draw my hon. Friend's attention to Clause 2 (2), which says:The members of any such committee appointed under paragraphs (b) and (c) of the preceding Sub-section shall be equal in number, but save as aforesaid the number of members of any such committee shall be determined by the Order constituting the area, and, where there is more than one body of licensing justices or more than one local planning authority having jurisdiction in the area, the Order shall specify the number of members that are to be appointed by each body of justices or local planning authority.The basis is the licensing district. On the question of the financial side of our proposals, the licensing justices, at the moment, cannot refuse renewal of an old licence on the ground of redundancy. It has to be referred to the compensation authority, which will then pay the proper compensation out of the levy which is made under the Licensing Act.
§ The Solicitor-General
The Bill does not apply to Scotland because the licensing law is different in Scotland and the bomb damage is not so extensive as in England. Therefore, my hon. Friend need not worry about any particular Scottish problem which he has in mind. If I might return to the point with regard to the financial scheme, which is rather important, I have explained that it is the general rule that the justices cannot refuse to renew an old on-licence but have to refer it to the compensation authority. Under the scheme of this Bill, it is one of the essential points that the licensing planning authority shall eliminate redundant licences by agreement and without cash payment. Therefore, the compensation scheme is not required. In fact, it would be embarrassing if the justices referred a house with which the licensing planning committee is dealing.
The licensing law is a complicated field and it would be simpler if I took an example. Take one of the new licensing planning areas in which there are, say, three houses which are near together in a part of the area which is well served by the number of houses. The licensing planning committee, this administrative body consisting half of justices with their experience and half of members of local authorities, consider the problem. They 742 think that the thing to do is to move house A to site D, which has a bigger collection of population. It may be that there are new houses there, which are short of licensing facilities. They get down to brass tacks about it. They say that house A is doing five barrels a week, house B two barrels and house C one barrel. They say that in the new housing area you might easily have an eight-barrel house instead of all those others, and thus produce an exceedingly satisfactory result, and nobody would have lost anything. With regard to the conclusion that nobody has lost anything, I can speak with complete assurance, because one can work it out in any way one likes, either by arithmetic, by going into a calculation on hypothetical monopoly values, or simply by taking one's own experience, in which case one will find—
§ Mr. Reakes (Wallasey)
Would there not be a sacrifice of drinking area to achieve that result? That is a very important point.
§ The Solicitor-General
It would be based upon a calculation which largely reflected the population. I want to answer the arguments quite accurately. Take our dock areas. There might be an area in which you would not only have your population of the locality, but an influx of mid-day population, which would also have to be taken into account. I am sure hon. Members appreciate that point.
I will now deal with the point about floor space or drinking area. The modern view, with which I entirely agree, is that you must not be hidebound by considerations as to drinking area. If I saw there were three houses of the kind I mentioned, one doing five barrels, another doing two and another only one, and if these were moved to a house which was doing eight, I should very much hope that the house expected to do eight barrels would have a lot more floor space than the combined houses. I like to see drinking going on with plenty of space, good ventilation and good lighting, and not done in dark corners. I appreciate the importance of the point raised by my hon. Friend but it is not one which would weigh with me as being conclusive in the matter.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. Friend is quite right. The other things I have mentioned would be very vain and insubstantial if the good beer were absent. I wanted to bring the matter to actualities and down to brass tacks. That is the way it would move. In that method of dealing with the matter, you do not need the compensation fund, and therefore we say that you will not have your compensation provisions or your levies—because you cannot have one without the other—while this is going on for this temporary period. As I have said, it has been done by various licensing benches in the past, but there has always been the question: Ought a judicial body like licensing justices to bargain about the surrender of licences? What is proposed is not a judicial but an administrative body and we say: "It is your duty to bargain about licences and to re-organise the distribution and number of licences in order to see that the area will be best served."
I would say one word about the special provisions for the Administrative County of London. There is already, of course, a single planning authority, namely the London Council Council. There are 16 licensing districts, but the whole of the Administrative County of London, excepting the City of London, with which I will deal in a moment, will form one licensing planning authority. The suggested figures are 12 members from the London County Council and 12 members from London Quarter Sessions, which is the appeal and compensation authority—I think I am right—for the various licensing districts. There will be an independent chairman appointed by the Home Secretary and special sub-committees to deal with various problems which may be recruited from people who have special knowledge of the problems referred to. This proposal was approved by the London County Council. In fact, it was put forward, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) whom I see opposite me, when he was giving evidence before the Committee. Therefore it is agreed upon, so far as the London County Council is concerned and it fits in, mutalis mutandis, with our general scheme. The City of London is both planning area and licensing district, and 744 therefore the general scheme of the Bill will apply to the City.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House may have asked themselves: How will the powers of the new licensing planning committees be enforced? Let me summarise it. In the first place, you have the desire of the trade that certain of the houses in certain parts of our blitzed areas should not carry on. It is not much good having a house if the area is completely changed and people have been taken away. Apart from the goodwill, you have that consideration. Of course, if they do not co-operate and accede to the proposal for removal or to the proposals for surrender, the position is that they might apply for a new licence, for which they would have to get the consent of the licensing planning committee, which is in itself a difficult and perilous matter. It requires the payment of monopoly values—a doubtful venture. Even there, they would not be on strong ground. Any other form of changing the place or situation of the licence, that is, either by an ordinary removal or by a special removal, is taken away by the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, the licensing planning committee, in their consent to a removal, have a strong weapon for seeing that the owners of the licences fit in with their plans.
If, in spite of that consideration, the owner of a licence was not prepared to co-operate, the licensing planning committee, which has got half its members from members of the local authority, could consult with them, and through them with the local authority, to see whether it was not a case for acquisition under general powers, in which case the licence would go in that way. Even if they were not prepared to do that, at the end of this temporary period there would be a danger of the licence being referred for redundancy. There is sufficient power and a sufficient sanction in the licensing planning authority to achieve, I hope without compulsion at all, but through the good sense of all parties concerned, a reasonable and sensibly-planned scheme.
There are two minor points. I told the House that this was a temporary Bill. The time is actually a period of five years. I explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) why it did not apply to Scotland. I think that the House will appreciate that 745 the reason why it is not of universal application, even in England, is that we have this special problem of the blitzed areas with which we must deal. We shall gain valuable experience from working it in the blitzed areas, in seeing how this Measure and this plan will operate, for consideration in the future. As I have told the House, it is based on the report of a strong Committee. That report was approved by various bodies in public expressions—the council of the Magistrates' Association and individual licensing committees, and the Brewers' Society has indicated that it is prepared to co-operate in the matter. That, of course, does not release this House from any of its responsibility, though it is a proper and modern constitutional practice to consult with those interested bodies before legislation is introduced.
I venture to commend the Bill to the House as a practical measure of reconstruction. It deals with a problem which is very much in the minds of a great number of our fellow citizens, and gives a method which will produce co-operation between the two bodies—the Justices and the local authority—vitally interested in this matter. It will facilitate the replanning of those areas which is so near to the hearts and minds of us all.
§ Mr. Reakes
Does the Bill bring within its powers of control licensed premises just outside bombed areas, that have in no way been damaged by enemy action? There are many such cases. Looking at the matter from the town planning point of view, it is vital that the committee which is set up should have control to enable it to deal with those premises, in order to make a more perfect planning scheme.
§ The Solicitor-General
The answer to my hon. Friend is that the Home Secretary, in constituting a licensing planning area can choose either one licensing district, or two licensing districts, or more than two, which are contiguous, but in constituting the licensing area he cannot say "I will take this licensing district plus 100 yards of the next." It is only by choosing a licensing district in which there may have been this heavy damage, that he can work, but, as I indicated earlier, there can be added to that district any other area to which there will be a movement of population, like an "overspill" area. I would have thought that 746 with these powers, first to select the licensing district, secondly of taking contiguous ones if necessary, and thirdly, the provision for added districts, one would have more or less covered as well as one could, the very important point which my hon. Friend has raised.
§ 4.5 p.m.
Mr. Silken (Peckham)
I am sure the House is under a deep debt of gratitude to my hon. and learned Friend for the very clear way in which he has dealt with a very complicated subject. I can assure him he need not have felt any diffidence in appearing before the House in a number of different roles to-day. We all regret the absence of the Home Secretary, and particularly the reasons which have necessitated his absence, but I am quite sure he has had an excellent deputy.
I very much welcome this Bill, although there are one or two points on which I should like to comment. I think the Home Secretary is to be congratulated on having shown foresight and having appreciated in good time the importance of this problem, and set up a Committee to give consideration to the position which will arise after the war. We ought to thank the Committee for the painstaking report which they have presented. I would be the last to find fault with that report, because, as the Solicitor-General said, I gave evidence before the Committee and to a large extent they have accepted that evidence. I think the conception of a licensing planning committee which consists partly of licensing justices, and partly of members of the local planning authority, is an excellent one for dealing with problems of the location of licences and their numbers. I hope the experiment—because it is largely an experiment—will be watched. It may be found that it ought not to be limited to dealing merely with areas which have suffered extensive war damage, and that there are other areas, as set out in this Report, which are equally in need of redevelopment, and where the same considerations will apply.
I would like to refer to paragraph 73 of the Morris Report, which states that there are problems in redevelopment areas which are not affected by war damage, and which are therefore not within their terms of reference, but experience, they say, may show that the machinery they are now proposing can 747 have its use in that connection also. They have noted that in the Uthwatt Report no distinction is made between the need for redevelopment for reason of war damage, and for other reasons, a point which the Minister of Town and Country Planning may remember, was made from time to time in connection with the discussion on his Bill. So I hope that this question will be watched. If this is successful it may be found it can be applied to the considerations of reconstruction arising out of the redevelopment of areas of bad layout and obsolete development, as well as other planning areas.
The Solicitor-General referred to the size of the committee in London. I must say I feel rather disturbed at the thought of a committee of 24–12 members of the local authority and 12 licensing justices—and while it is not a matter with which we wish to deal on Second Reading, I feel rather disturbed at the idea of committees of that size. The Home Secretary will have to consider regulations defining the size and functions of these licensing committees. I hope he will not make them unduly large, because they do become unwieldy, and put a great strain on the local authorities, whose members will have very onerous duties to fulfil in the next few years in connection with the extension of all sorts of social services.
Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the inclusion in an area of a licensing planning area of the area of any licensing district to which either there has been, or there is likely to be, a substantial transfer of population. The Solicitor-General referred to that in an answer to the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). It is true that the area of a licensing planning authority can be added to from time to time, as may be necessary. I want, however, to put a particular case which I think is not altogether satisfactorily met in this Bill. Suppose, for example, it was found desirable to transfer a licence from Bethnal Green to Chingford. It is true that, in the past, a number of persons have been removed from various parts of London to Chingford. Bethnal Green may become de-congested—I do not like the word—and it may be desirable to transfer a licence from Bethnal Green to Chingford. It might then be thought desirable to add the licensing district of Chingford to the London County Council area and make it one licensing body, but 748 the licensing district of Chingford deals with a much larger population than that of the limited housing estate in Chingford. If the only way of carrying out a removal which is desirable in every respect is by adding this licensing district to the London County Council, it is going to be cumbersome and onerous. But there is no other way of doing it, except possibly by agreement—I want to say a word about agreement later on.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will give consideration to that sort of problem, because I think it will arise to a considerable extent. I do not visualise large masses of population being moved out of one town into a housing estate somewhere else. People, I imagine, will be dispersed into smallish housing estates at different distances from the areas in which they have been living, and we shall not, as a general rule, get this large movement of population; we shall get, as a rule, some addition to an already existing area. The only question will be whether you will need to transfer a licence from one district to another. To create a large number of additional licensing bodies, merely to deal with that one problem, does not seem the most convenient way.
There is one point in the Bill which requires clarification. Clause 1 refers to areas which have "sustained extensive war damage." That is going to be the criterion upon which the licensing planning areas will be set up. The expression "areas of extensive war damage" is familiar to hon. Members, and it has acquired a very special meaning. It has now become time-honoured. I would like to know whether the meaning in this Bill is the same as that in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, under which an area becomes an area of extensive war damage only after my right hon. Friend has made an Order to that effect. Does Clause 1 mean that, until the Minister of Town and Country Planning has declared an area to be one of extensive war damage, this Clause does not come into operation? I am sure that that is not the intention, but this confusion arises because we are using exactly the same phrase in this Bill and in the Town and Country Planning Act.
It may be necessary, in Committee, to amplify Clause 1, to make it clear that we do not intend to wait until the area has been declared by the Minister of Town 749 and Country Planning to be one of extensive war damage, and that we are not defining our areas necessarily in exactly the same way. The same thing will apply to overspill areas. My right hon. Friend, in discussing the areas to which licences may be added, referred to them as overspill areas, but they will not necessarily be overspill areas in the sense in which they are defined in the Town and Country Planning Act. Confusion may arise because we are referring to them under the same terms. Population may be moved to a housing estate outside the town without that becoming an overspill area, because the term "overspill area" implies other things besides population.
My right hon. Friend, on the Town and Country Planning Bill, gave a definition of an overspill area which went far beyond the movement of population. That ought to be made clear in connection with this Bill. My right hon. Friend, in discussing compensation and justifying the suspension of compensation for the five years, seemed to assume that what was going to happen was in all cases simply a transfer of population from one place to another. I think he said it was a matter of arithmetic: if you had 1,000,000 people, and 500,000 of them went to different areas round about the town, in the aggregate they would be exactly the same, and their requirements would be the same, and it would be purely a matter of determining where the licences should be moved to. I submit that that is an over-simplification.
I have had considerable experience of rehousing persons who have been displaced by slum clearance schemes. Although, under the Housing Acts, we were required to make provision for the families displaced, only about two-thirds required any accommodation at the moment; the other one-third scattered. They did not remain in London or in the towns in which they had been living. I visualise that in any area which is re-developed, you will not get this population necessarily going to the various housing estates which will be provided by the local authorities or to the other houses. You may find that there will be a substantial reduction in population not only in the town itself, but even in the neighbourhood of the town Therefore, there really may become a case for a reduction, not only in the actual number of licensed premises, but in the capacity required.
750 Both the report and my hon. and learned Friend cheerfully and optimistically take the view that all this can be settled by agreement. I am not going to say here that the brewers are unreasonable persons. On the contrary, from my own experience of them, and I have had some dealing with them, I think they are at least as reasonable as any other section of the community, but we all look after our own interests first. I cannot see the brewers agreeing to the extinction of a licence, even though the population in the area has gone down, without some quid pro quo. The case my right hon. Friend quoted is, of course, simple. If you have five and two and one, and you transfer them all, you can give a number eight somewhere else, but supposing you have only six to give in another place, and two have got to go, what then? I cannot see any reason why the compensation fund should not be called upon to pay for any redundancy which will arise. It seems to me, and I have read very carefully the report of the Morris Committee on that point and have also listened very attentively to what the Minister said, that there is no justification for not putting that burden where it ought to lie, that is, on the compensation fund.
I imagine that, unless something is done, this burden will, in fact, fall upon the local authorities, and I think it is wrong that the general ratepayers should be called upon to pay compensation for redundancy which has arisen, not through any fault of the local authority, but through people preferring to live somewhere else in the new conditions that will arise after the war. It is doubly unfair, because, in fact, the brewers will get these people somewhere. They will get them in the new places where they are going to live, but, in the meantime, it should be left to the locality from which they are removing to pay compensation. I hope the Minister will see his way to look at this again. I am sure he does not wish to impose an unfair burden on local authorities. They will have quite enough burdens to face which are legitimate burdens; I think this is not a legitimate burden.
Now I come to Sub-section (3) of Clause 5, which contemplates that, whenever objection is made, there is to be a public inquiry. The Bill does not state who is to be entitled to make objection. 751 It merely says "objection is made," and I take it that a member of the public can make an objection, whether he has an interest or not, and I imagine that some of these objections might conceivably be frivolous and easily disposed of. Yet the Minister will have to hold an inquiry, whether the objection is frivolous or not, whether it is a matter of compensation or for whatever reason it may be. The Minister was sufficiently convinced, in the Debate on the Town and Country Planning Act, to make a concession on this point, because he originally put forward that there ought to be a public inquiry whenever an objection was made, and we, on this side, advocated that the Minister should have discretion. We did not wish to abolish all public inquiries. They sometimes, perhaps frequently, serve useful purposes, but there ought not to be a public inquiry whenever a person makes a frivolous objection.
I ask the Minister to follow the precedent of the Town and Country Planning Act and make the holding of a public inquiry optional. I am quite content to give him discretion. His own excellent example was followed by the Minister of Health shortly afterwards, because, when we had the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act before us, the Minister was given a discretion not to hold a public inquiry in cases of objection to the compulsory acquisition of land. I should have thought that the case here was quite as strong as in the other two instances that I have mentioned. Moreover, it is quite possible that the case for the objection will already have been dealt with in a previous public inquiry, because the Minister will be holding public inquiries in connection with areas of extensive war damage, and, in that case, will have dealt generally with the area, and it may well turn out that the particular objection relates not so much to a particular licensed house as to the planning of the area as a whole. In that case, the matter will have been covered by a public inquiry and, really, the Minister must have the right to say "I do not think a public inquiry is quite warranted; it will be a waste of public money." In Clause 11, the Minister may make Regulations for settling the procedure of the licensing planning committee. Before the Minister makes the Regulations he should consult the associations of local authorities and 752 the London County Council. They will be very interested in these Regulations, and I think it only right that they should be consulted.
Clause 13 (3) strikes me as being somewhat obscure. I think the intention is that the town-planning powers of the local authorities shall be applicable to licensed premises. It is not intended to abrogate those powers when dealing with licensed premises, but I only guess that that is what it means. It is not at all clear, and it may mean something else, and, possibly, ingenious counsel may make it mean something else when it comes before the courts. I hope its meaning may be clarified, particularly if I am right in my surmise of what it is supposed to mean. There appears to be one respect in which the powers of local planning authorities will be abrogated. Under Clause 9, the licensing planning committees may give a licence for temporary premises, and, as I understand it, the local authority does not come into it and it would not be necessary to get their consent. But a licence of temporary premises may last quite as long as it is anticipated the temporary houses may last, and that may be a very long time. I think it would be quite wrong that, during that period, the local planning authority should have no voice in the location of these temporary licences, and, there again, I hope it will be possible to ensure that the views of the local authority will not be entirely ignored, but that they will have a right to say something on the allocation of a temporary licence just as on that of a permanent licence.
Those are points I thought it my duty to raise. They do not go to the root of the Bill. I think the Bill, fundamentally, is a sound one, and, perhaps, some of the points I have mentioned can be dealt with at another stage. I conclude by saying that we shall certainly support the Second Reading of the Bill and do all we can to facilitate the Measure passing into law, but I hope the points I have mentioned will be sympathetically and carefully considered.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Goldie (Warrington)
I would like to associate myself with the tribute that the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) paid to the ability with which the learned Solicitor-General has introduced this very complicated Measure. There is, however, 753 one point which goes to the root of the Bill and on which I would like to ask for my hon. and learned Friend's assistance. I am sure he will give it all the more willingly because of his association with the North of England. Clause 1 says:A licensing district the whole or any part of which has sustained extensive war damage, or consisting of two or more contiguous licensing districts.I have the honour to represent a constituency which, in the 18th century, was known as the Athens of the North and it is still from many points of view entitled to that great distinction. But with the possible exception of Burton-upon-Trent, it is the biggest brewing constituency in England. I am glad to say that we have not, so far, suffered extensive war damage.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
They cannot find the hon. and learned Gentleman's division for smoke.
§ Mr. Goldie
We are proud of our smoke and of the labour of the men of Warrington who produce it. May their efforts long continue. The difficulty I feel is that we are situated half-way between Liverpool and Manchester, and, not having the knowledge gained by my, hon. and learned Friend at Oxford, of what the word "contiguous" means, I feel somewhat frightened lest there is any chance of Warrington being regarded as contiguous to Manchester or Liverpool and, therefore, incorporated into one of these severely damaged areas. The point may not seem an accurate one, but if my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, there is a reason for making the matter abundantly clear. If he turns to Clause 3 of the Bill he will find that it states:The Secretary of State may, on the application of the licensing planning committee for any licensing planning area, … by order include in the area any licensing district (whether contiguous or not) to which, or to any part of which, there has been, or is in his opinion likely to be, a substantial transfer of population, of industry or of other activities from the districts theretofore included in the area.It so happens that through war activities, our industrial population has gone up by leaps and bounds. Therefore, it might well he that, if we were regarded as a contiguous area, in which it was necessary to have a licensing planning area, the whole of our local licensing provisions, with which we, in Warrington, are satisfied, would be affected by what un- 754 doubtedly has occurred, namely, the huge transfer of population in South-West Lancashire, and particularly in Warrington. I bring forward the point because I hope my hon. and learned Friend will assist me and re-assure me. It is of considerable importance not only to Warrington, but to the surrounding districts.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) described this Measure as an experiment. I agree with him, and in rising to support it, I support it rather conditionally because it is an experiment. The hon. Member for Peckham raised a number of points which, he said, might have been dealt with on another stage of the Bill. I propose to do so also, because I think that it will save time. I have had a letter from the licensing justices for the petty sessional division of Kensington, which comprises the metropolitan boroughs of Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith and Kensington and is, therefore, a fairly wide area, with a population of well over 600,000 in normal times. I feel it my duty, considering the size of the area and the number of people involved, to give the views of the licensing justices for this division to my hon. and learned Friend without elaborating them, so that, if there is anything in any of them, my hon. and learned Friend can perhaps correct them in Amendments in Committee stage later on.
The first point is in Clause 5 (1) and Clause 8 (1) of the Bill. There appears to be no provision for compensation in respect of the surrender of licences otherwise than by agreement, and provision should be made accordingly. By Clause 5 (3) it is considered that there should be a right of appeal to a judicial authority from the decision of the local inquiry rather than that the power of confirmation of the proposal, either with or without modification, should be vested finally in the Minister of Town and Country Planning. With respect to Clause 10 (2, a, ii) of the Bill, this deals with London, and as my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has already said, there are 16 petty sessional divisions within the Administrative County of London but the Bill proposes to include only 12 representatives of quarter sessions. If the proposal of the quarter sessions was that there should be one member from each petty sessional division, it would be impossible 755 to do so. Therefore, the Kensington Licensing Justices suggest that the number should be increased from 12 to 16 in London. No doubt, in order to keep the balance, the local authority—the London County Council—would also have to increase their representatives from 12 to 16.
With regard to Clause 10 (3) of the Bill, it specifically provides that the Order to be made by the Secretary of State should make provision for the inclusion of sub-committees for justices when only a particular locality concerned was affected. I am not clear on my reading of the Bill and perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend could answer, in winding up the Debate, whether the persons to be included in the sub-committees under 10 (3) are the same as are on the committee under Clause 10 (2) or whether the committee can go outside and co-opt members to sit on the sub-committee. It is not clear whether that is so or not. The hon. Member for Peckham mentioned the difficulties, with all the other burdens, of members of local authorities having more work than is necessary. It would only seem fair that when they are dealing with large areas and vast populations there should be some form of local knowledge and that there should be the power of co-option on to sub-committees, and that they should not necessarily be the same people who are sitting on the main committees.
So much for the details of the Bill. May I say one or two words on its main thesis? It is, admittedly, an experiment. Up to now we have had the licensing justices purely and simply responsible for the licensing of licensed houses in the country, and here, for the first time, we have local authorities brought in as representatives of the people. It is, admittedly, an experiment which we must watch with care to see that public pressure, through the public representatives, does not overweight the freedom of the licensing justices, who have, broadly speaking, earned the respect of the people of this country by the way in which they have administered the licensing laws. So I shall watch this experiment with some care to see how it works, and I am glad for that reason that the Bill is only temporary and is only to last for five years.
However, I think a great opportunity does lie in it in replanning our war-damaged areas, and here I wish the hon. 756 Gentleman the Member for Peckham had been in his place at the moment because I want to make an appeal to him. We know who are the licensing justices. They are honourable people who have done good work in this line, but it is only fair to say at the same time that they are not allowed to be representative of the brewing industry in any way. What kind of people will the local authorities put on those licensing planning committees in their turn? The success of the experiment depends on the type of person the local authorities put on the licensing planning committees. Now there is a tradition with the licensing justices that their main object for years past has been to deal with redundancy and improvement. Here, however, you need a much wider outlook in planning—in the case of London, the whole of the County of London, and possibly areas contiguous, or not contiguous thereto, if large bodies of people are transferred to housing estates outside—and you have to have a very much wider outlook on this than merely the improvement and extinguishing of licences. A very great opportunity is given to the members of the local authority who are chosen for this particular job.
I would like to make this appeal to the hon. Member for Peckham, that in the case of London, the London County Council choose the best possible people, with the widest possible outlook on this, and, in choosing, do not overlook the claims of the Service men and the young people, because I believe that the Service men have something to give, some commonsense view, some wider experience they have gained in war, in seeing how other countries behave—Italy, France, Egypt, all those other countries which they have visited. I believe, if some young Service men could be put on, at any rate as one representative of the local authority, it would do a great deal to get a really well-planned scheme.
I think we have to look at the change of attitude towards this drink problem. Whether it is due to taxation or education, I think the general attitude of the public to drink now is quite different from what it was 25 or 30 years ago. I remember looking at photographs of schoolchildren in London in the 1900's. They do not represent anything like what the children are to-day. There is a complete change of attitude, and people can look 757 after their children to-day. The attitude towards the drunk man now is one of shame; in those days it was not looked on in that way at all, and that attitude is continually changing.
There is another feature in modern days which, whether we like it or not, I think we have to face, and that is that the women are drinking. Some people think they are drinking too much, particularly the young ones, but, none the less, they are drinking, and in this planning I would like to see proper provision made so that men and women could go into the public house and have a drink together without feeling that they are doing something wrong. We have to try and canalise this in the light of day, and not regard drink as a sin but face the fact that men have always drunk, that men and women are drinking to-day, and that it is much better that it should be done in the light of day than in some dark corner or leaning against a bar. I am old-fashioned enough, when I go into a public house in my constituency, to hate the sight of women leaning against the bar, and I would like to see proper provision and increased floor space, as my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has already said, in these new public houses in war damaged areas where there can be proper, decent provision for looking after men and women in this way.
There is one other thing I think the public house should provide, and that is meals. Here again I come up against the question of floor space. In Kensington recently we ran a little exhibition. It did not amount to very much, it was not scientific, but it was designed to see how the people wanted Kensington planned. After they had seen it, they were asked to answer certain questions. I shall not go into the details, but one question was about community centres, and there was really no demand for them. Another one was about British restaurants and meals, and the answer was extremely interesting. There was really no demand for meals in residential areas, but there was such a demand in business areas. The result of this, I think, is that people near their homes like to feed at home on mother's own cooking, but the people in business communities, factories, offices and so on, do not like to take their food with them but would much rather have a cheap good meal at a place in the luncheon hour near them if they can get it. Up to now this 758 has been partly met by the British restaurants and partly by the pubs.
I believe there is a tremendous future for the provision by the public house of cheap, good, healthy meals, either sitting down, or a glass of beer and some cheese or something like that for the men. I hope that in the planning there will be room for that, because in the future of England, as in the past, the "pub" will be the working man's club, and it should be so in the light of day in a decent, happy, friendly atmosphere as it so often has been in the past in the country but not always in the town. I hope that in this great opportunity provided by the replanning of our public houses, we will use a broad, commonsense attitude, and a modern attitude, to life, and that these representaives of the local authorities, who have this great opportunity, will seize it.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson (Leominster)
I would like to support the appeal made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan), that the opportunity be taken now, under this Bill, to give further facilities for obtaining meals and refreshments in licensed houses in this country. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to Kensington and the London area. I would like to refer to our country districts. Members of the Forces stationed in districts near our small county towns find nothing to do when they visit those towns—no cinemas, no refreshment places. There is nothing for them but to go into a public house and consume drink. I want opportunity for them to obtain in these public houses meals, tea, and coffee as well as alcoholic drinks. I am given to understand that by the terms of its licence an inn must be kept open at all hours of the day for the provision of refreshments, whereas an ordinary licensed house may close at 2 p.m. and not open again until 6 p.m. Therefore there is no opportunity for people to get tea or coffee in the afternoons from these places. Opportunity ought to be taken now to compel these houses to provide these commodities which are essential for the people, and which would lessen the consumption of alcoholic liquor.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these Benches I want to say 759 that we recognise fully the necessity for a Bill of this kind and also that there should be close co-operation in the matters which will come, under the terms of the Bill, before the licensing justices and the planning authorities. The machinery of the Bill seems to provide very adequately for that co-operation. I would like to associate myself with the plea which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan), that the greatest care should be taken as regards the quality and qualification of the people who are put in the joint licensing committees on behalf of the local authorities. That is a matter of great consequence. I am not sure whether the hon. and gallant Member was suggesting some modification in the arrangement which has hitherto wisely prevailed, that in the selection of magistrates for licensing benches they should not have any particular interest in the brewing industry. I was not quite sure whether he was suggesting some modification—
§ Captain Duncan
No, I said we knew that licensing justices could not have any interests in brewing, and I wanted broadminded people with all kinds of experience to go on to the planning authorities.
§ Mr. White
I am with the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the desirability of having broad-minded people with experience, but I join issue with him if he suggests that those going on to the planning authorities should have an interest in the business which is to be done. Clause 2 (3) provides that appointments will be made under such conditions as the Home Secretary will lay down, and I should imagine that that would be one of the conditions which he would prescribe. However, I should be glad if the Minister would make that clear. I would also like to associate myself with the observations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), who dealt with what seemed to be an obscurity in the Bill in dealing with compensation. Under Clause 5, one or more licences may be transferred under a planning removal, and if public objection is taken a public inquiry may be ordered. If such an inquiry is held, and it raises matters of substance which call for the serious attention of my right hon. Friend, he might decide that he would have to veto the whole proposal. If that takes 760 place, I do not understand what is the position of the licence which it is proposed to transfer. Presumably, if it was proposed to transfer it from an area which had been blitzed there would be no use for a licence at all.
I think this is an opportunity to put our arrangements on a better footing. Nothing is more deplorable than the sordid conditions under which people drink. There are places where there is no room to do anything else but drink, and these are the most frequent and constant cause of excessive drinking. I regret a little that nothing has been done in this Bill to deal with the question of excise licences. So far as I can see, people can come along and, on payment of a small fee, open what is known as a "bottle shop." It is a serious matter, at any rate one calling for considerable attention, that, when a transfer is made, it should be open to anybody to come along and open such a shop, especially when other facilities of a similar kind are near by. It may be that this matter does not arise because it is controlled by the Location of Businesses Order, but I would like to be assured that some consideration has been given to it. As I have said, we recognise the necessity for a Bill of this kind and that there are matters of detail which we may wish to consider during the Committee stage.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
It is perhaps unfortunate that we are so pressed for time in connection with this Bill, because it is evident, from the last three speeches, that on the various social aspects associated with licensed houses, and what happens in them, hon Members would like to air many views. I suppose some would like to have a "show-down" on what has been happening in recent years. I welcome what has been said concerning licensed premises and what they ought to sell, in addition to what they seem to think they ought to sell. In many parts of the country if licensed houses have no beer they close. In some cases they close for three days a week. This is one of the many problems that ought to be faced.
The plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) was a genuine one. I believe that the whole tone of our public houses must be raised. There must be a social change whereby a man 761 can take his wife and family into a public house with dignity and feel at home and as comfortable as a member of Parliament might feel in his own club. I see no reason why in any public house in any part of the country a man should not feel at home and be able to take his family into it and obtain refreshments. But there is a snag of which the Minister ought to be aware. Many licensees favour the arguments which have been used here to-day, and have done so for a long time, but the brewers do not. Furthermore, in war-time the local food executive committees, when applications have been made for licences to sell food, have frowned on the idea and turned it down. We ought to bring about a change of that kind immediately. To sell a cup of tea or a sandwich you have to have a licence from the local food executive committee.
I want to reinforce the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) on Clause 9 with regard to temporary licensing for temporary premises. Who authorises these ugly contraptions, which take the place of licensed houses that have been destroyed by bombs? I have been in some of these sheds or shacks which have been substituted for what were formerly well-built public houses. I know two in the London area which are only second to stables. They are unhygienic and insanitary and they are truly described by some people in the areas as "spit and sawdust" places. "The Cricketers" at Mitcham was demolished by a bomb some few years ago. There is an old stable there. The licensee does his best and has certainly endeavoured to make it look respectable. The building is likely to remain there for many years. We shall be building houses for the next four or five years and a hullaballoo would be kicked up if we started building public houses. Consequently, these temporary buildings will be there for a long period. It is unfair to the licensing authority and to the citizens that this kind of building should take the place of a well-arranged public house. The licensee remains there because the brewers have determined to continue the licence.
I do not wish to obstruct meeting the needs of the people in these areas but I would invite hon. Members to travel to London and take note of some of these shacks. Let them have a look inside, even if they are teetotallers. They are indeed a blot on the landscape. I am 762 rather fearful, as a local government representative, that we have here evidence of something which it is going to be very difficult to get rid of. I wonder whether the Minister should not exercise a little more caution. Clause 9 suggests that we are doing something which has not been permitted before. There is no planning concerning these temporary buildings. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter very seriously and help the local authorities to prevent these abortions appearing as substitutes for good public houses.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
In spite of what has been said, this is rather an important Measure in many respects. I am not very much moved, for instance, by promises of its duration for only five years; I have been here too long to be deceived by prophecies that any legislation will come to an end at any given time. Consequently, it may be that this Bill will remain on the Statute Book for many more years than five. I have often wondered how it comes about that, when we come to the drink traffic, there is always an arrangement made so that the trade shall not suffer in any way from damage by enemy action. Public houses bombed to the ground must be the subject of legislation. What about chemists, tobacconists, grocers and provision dealers and other businesses in these same areas? There is no such consideration for them by Parliament as is apparently meted out to those who own licences to sell liquor.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) wanted in his speech to make public houses more respectable. I have never been able to understand why these places of refreshment should not sell food as well as drink. I have not yet come across a place in the United States of America where they only sell drink. We are very nearly unique in possessing places by the thousand which simply sell drink. Some of my hon. Friends feel that this Bill, although it may be of short duration, takes away the right of the public to object to arrangements of this kind. I understand that it does not provide the same right to individuals living in the locality to object to a licensed house being established there. I speak with a little knowledge of this problem. I live in a city which has been pretty badly 763 bombed. Someone said in this Debate that the people affected will be represented through the authorities on the new joint planning committees. I sat on a local authority for 10 years but I never lived in the ward that I represented.
Consequently, it is quite possible that all those who represent the local authorities on this new joint authority will not be resident at all in the district which will be affected. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman has considered what would happen in these districts with regard to drinking clubs. Is there any planning for them? It is quite possible to find a large area without a public house being well supplied with drinking clubs.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not know whether it is more intelligent to drink in a public house than in a club. I want the right hon. Gentleman to say therefore whether there is anything in this Bill to plan clubs which will sell drink much on the same basis as it is sold in public houses. I should have thought that this was a splendid opportunity to extend the Carlisle system of governing the drink trade. An hon. Gentleman opposite laughs. Does he laugh at the Carlisle experiment?
§ Mr. Davies
It was during the last war that we commenced the Carlisle experiment. I went to see it for myself, and nearly everything for which the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir E. Shepperson) has been pleading to-day is done at Carlisle. I should have thought that with the re-orientation of our social life, with patches of towns destroyed by bombing and new areas coming into existence, the Government would have considered extending the Carlisle experiment. I come back to my original point, that this Bill reduces the right of the individual to make an objection to the introduction of a licence in his area.
At present the public, either as individuals or through representatives, can protest to the licensing justices before any decision is reached. Under this Bill the decision is reached and the whole thing is cut and dried before the public is told. It is only when the thing has, 764 in classic language, become a fait accompli that the public have a right to object. It may then be too late. I do not know much about compensation and the levy. I live in a city which has been badly bombed; many public houses have been destroyed and thousands of houses have been demolished and damaged. New areas will, naturally, grow all round the city, and I am very much concerned about the position. I think I can speak for the people who have been taken out of slumdom and the poverty of big cities and removed to decent surroundings, when I say that, in spite of the fact that they like a glass of beer, they do not want too many "pubs" in their new surroundings. I am sure I am right in saying that. Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary and the Minister will be very careful on this score.
My last word is to the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington. I hope he thinks occasionally of the race to which we belong. I am apprehensive sometimes when I read the vital statistics. I do not like the trend of events in our population. I do not like the thieving that is rampant. I do not like to see the people in this country becoming degraded. I have satisfied myself, without being too harsh, that drink is one of the greatest contributories to any deterioration that happens to the citizens of any country. I trust that the Government, which has the welfare of the nation at heart and which knows its requirements, will not be too ready to grant anything to the drink traffic which it does not deserve in justice to the rest of the community. We are dealing with a very important problem in this Bill. The drink traffic has multiplied its profits twice in ten years. I trust, therefore, that Members of all parties will not consider merely what is covered by this Bill, but will remember that the nation to which we belong, especially the younger generation, is the concern of us all.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
I think the House will agree with me that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General exposed this Bill so that very little remains to be said by way of sheer exposition. The Bill has been very well received by the House, and I am grateful for the constructive suggestions that have been made. All of them will be looked into between now and the later stages of 765 the Bill. I should like to say, in case any hon. Member thinks I am discourteous in not referring to some suggestions that he has made, that the Bill itself is not concerned primarily with some of those interesting and important topics that were raised as to the conduct of public houses, whether there should be meals supplied, and the provision of amenities within the houses themselves. These are larger questions, and the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) about the drink traffic in general are outside the immediate purposes with which I have to deal in reply to the Debate. If I do not trench on these wider topics, I hope I shall not be accused of discourtesy.
I think the House will be interested if I were to deal with the administrative problems of a planning character to which this Bill is directed. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) put some pertinent points as to the way in which the proposals in this Bill will work out in practice. I would say, as a general observation, that we must wait and see to find the answers to some of these difficult problems, but I will attempt to give my views on the questions he put. He first put the point about its being desirable in some projects of resettlement of population to move one licence to another area. He mentioned Chingford as an example of a licensing district which it would not be desirable on any other grounds to merge with the area from which the people were coming. I do not for the moment see the answer to that, except that it must lie along these lines. If it is necessary to remove sufficient licences to an area so as to make the distribution of licences within that area a planning problem, the area should be joined up. If, on the other hand, the area has no concern of a planning character with a movement out of a devastated area, it should be left alone. In between there must come a number of border-line cases. In the case of one licence being required in a new area, that would be de minimis; you would not want to merge it for that purpose. The way in which a problem of that sort would be met is by consultation between the areas concerned, and it might be possible in some cases for an amicable understanding to be arrived at to meet the difficulty. What the Bill provides, to an extent which has never been pro- 766 vided before, is the possibility, over the licensing districts concerned, of such redistribution of licences as will serve the public need and the public good.
I said that this Bill is not concerned with the amenities within public houses, but it has this indirect connection with them. It enables a great step forward to be made in an area with the proper siting of a public house. That is to say, in areas at present congested with public houses in too close proximity to each other, it will enable the congestion to be lowered and enable other areas which have not reasonable facilities for refreshment to be provided with them. I feel that an improvement in the surroundings and siting of these houses throughout our urban areas will, indirectly, powerfully contribute to the increase of amenities and of decency inside.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
Does the Bill take power to interfere with existing agreements, in cases, for example, where houses have been built under an agreement that no public house should be built in the same area?
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
There is nothing in the Bill which overrides an agreement of that sort, so far as I am aware. The second point raised by my hon. Friend was a rather verbal one about the definition of "an area of extensive war damage," which expression is used in this Bill as in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. The answer, shortly, is that neither in the Bill nor in the Act are these words defined. They are left undefined for a very good reason, namely, that it should be the administrative task of the Minister concerned—myself under the Act and the Home Secretary under the Bill—to say what is an area of extensive war damage. I pointed out in the discussions on the Act of 1944 that it would be unwise to enable an administrative discretion of that character to be challenged in the courts by attempting to define it.
On the question of compensation, I have no doubt we shall hear more as the Bill proceeds. The view taken by the Committee and enshrined in the Bill is that the need for compensation will not arise from the functions that we are now conferring upon these new bodies. The idea is that the licensing planning authority can, by negotiation with the persons interested, achieve the required redistribution of licences without compen- 767 sation. My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham is naturally very vigilant to see that local authorities shall not be saddled with additional expense, but I would point out to him that local authorities in these negotiations will not enter the fray, or the bargain, or the market, or whatever it is, unarmed. They will have very powerful inducements to offer to those with whom they are bargaining. In many cases in these redevelopment and reconstruction areas where the Bill will be operative, and in their associated overspill areas, the local authority will, under the Town and Country Planning Act, be the owners of the soil and of the sites and buildings upon it, and it will have a power of disposition, subject to good management, which will put them in a good bargaining position.
When we look at the other side of the picture, at the trades interested and the owners of public houses in these particular areas of extensive war damage, they are not in too strong a position. In many cases they will not be able to resume occupation of their old sites. There is one quite important public-house site in this city which is now occupied by a static water tank—which seems a somewhat surprising metamorphosis from the original purpose to which the land was put. In other cases, where people are being moved, under a decongestion plan, it will be of interest to the trade to follow their customers. If these two matters are borne in mind I think it will be found possible to arrive at amicable arrangements so as to deal with this matter by negotiation.
My hon. Friend returned to the attack on the question of public local inquiries. He contrasted the modifications of procedure which were agreed to in the Town and Country Planning Act with the requirement of the Bill that, in the case of objections not withdrawn, public local inquiries should be held. He seemed to be somewhat at variance with the hon. Member who sits beside him. The hon. Member for Westhoughton was concerned at the lack of opportunity for public protest in these arrangements. I will leave the two hon. Members to settle that matter between them. I would point out that there is a slight difference between the purpose of the Bill and the purpose of the Act. There, we were dealing with Orders for the acquisition 768 of land and schemes and proposals of a planning character generally. We came to arrangements to which the House consented. Here we have a different history.
I am grateful for the contribution of the hon. Member for Westhoughton because he reminded us of the tone and temper which used to characterise this controversy in days which I think are going by; that is to say, he laid great stress upon the right of objection and of appeal in every case. I am not criticising him for holding the views that he so honourably does. It is because the history of this affair is what it is and because certain sections of the public attach so much importance to the power to object to new licences or the siting of a licence in another place, that the matter stands as it is in the Bill. I agreed in the Town and Country Planning Act—and the House welcomed the proposal—that mere frivolous objections should be excluded. I have no doubt that we shall discuss the matter further in Committee, but I can tell my hon. Friend now that the purpose of the two inquiries is different, that their emotional history is a little different, and that if he accepts that as the reason for the draft, perhaps he will let it go at that stage.
Both my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. G. White) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan) made observations which were very welcome to me about the necessity for the representatives of the planning authority on the licensing planning committee to be of high quality and broadmindedness. I welcome those observations, and I hope they will be taken note of by the authorities concerned. My hon. and gallant Friend mentioned a number of points which he said were in the minds of the licensing justices in his own area. The same licensing justices were courteous enough to send me a copy of their resolutions, and it reached me yesterday. The resolutions will, of course, receive the careful consideration which they merit, but I am bound to say that I do not feel at the moment that some of the objections to which they drew attention are valid, upon further examination.
I have already dealt with the matter of compensation. Their second point was that the right of appeal should be to a judicial authority from the decision of the public local authority, and not to the 769 Minister of Town and Country Planning. That suggestion raises the whole difficulty which the Bill is designed to meet. Assume that one agreed with the licensing justices and said that appeal from the local inquiry should be to a judicial authority; what is the point of law upon which a judicial authority could possibly give a decision? In other words, the whole difficulty with which we are dealing here is the need to transfer what has hitherto been a judicial matter to an administrative body that can negotiate and can deal with a matter administratively, and not, like the justices, be forced by their own procedure to hear individual applications and have no power to range outside and take in wider considerations of a planning character.
The third resolution is about the composition of the London joint planning body. All I say about that at the moment is that we have followed in the Bill the recommendation of the Committee. If my hon. Friend cares to raise a point on the matter later no doubt we could go into it. I think the fourth and last point he made was to stress how desirable it is that local opinion in the districts within the petty sessional division should be ascertained on all questions. On examination my hon. and gallant Friend will, I think, see that that point is covered by Clause 10, Sub-section 3 (c), because it is expressly provided there that the Secretary of State may by order provide for the appointment of sub-committees of the licensing planning committeefor the purpose of considering and reporting on such matters as may be specified in the order, of persons nominated by such authorities or bodies concerned with the area or any part thereof as may be so specified.So I think that that point is covered. The other point my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead made about the excise licence is one I must look into. I do not know about it.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) raised some points about what he considered to be the undesirable ramshackle condition of certain places where drink is now being sold in London. He asked me how these are licensed. They are licensed under the existing law as it stands. Of course, London is working under very difficult conditions, and I can well understand it if people have not been able to do as well as they would have liked to, either in the construction of tem- 770 porary premises or in the supervision of them, at a time like this. But the answer to him is that the licensing is done under the existing law. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton asked about clubs. They are not affected by this Bill at all, except indirectly to this extent: I know that in this controversy in the past there has been some criticism levelled against clubs which sell drink in an unsupervised way. In so far as an evil of that sort exists, in my opinion it exists very often because of an unreasonable scarcity of properly-conducted licensed premises in the area. This Bill, by providing for a better distribution of good and well-sited licensed houses, does impinge on that problem, on which there has been some difficulty in the past.
§ Mr. Silkin
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say a word about Clause 13, which seems to be rather obscure.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I remember the point he made on Clause 13 (3). It was, I think, to the effect that the powers of local planning authorities might be invaded by this Bill in certain directions by the new authorities to be created.
§ Mr. Silkin
The point was that this Sub-section is not at all clear. I hoped that the intention was that these powers were not to be injured. I would like to be quite sure.
§ Mr. Morrison
I can tell the hon. Member straight out that the intention is to leave the powers of the local planning authorities quite unimpaired. If there are points of obscurity in the wording perhaps we can deal with them in Committee, but that is the intention. It must be remembered that on these new administrative bodies, the licensing planning authorities, are to have equal numbers of representatives of the licensing justices and of the planning authority itself. The whole purpose of the Bill is to resolve, if we can, a diarchy in administration between the licensing system and the planning system, to resolve it at the very root, so that the two authorities do not go on pursuing contrary policies, which then have, with great difficulty, to be reconciled. We believe that these new bodies will be suitable for their task.
Before I sit down I should like to say a word of sincere thanks which I am sure the House would endorse, seeing that it 771 has received this Bill in the way it has, to the Morris Committee and its distinguished chairman, for the care and diligence and ingenuity it brought to the task of framing their Report, which has been so largely incorporated in this Bill. It is a sign, I think, that a controversy which has been charged with a great deal of heat in the past, is now being approached in a more reasonable spirit. I should like to express my thanks to Mr. Morris and his colleagues for their labours in producing their Report.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—[Major A. S. L. Young.]
§ Committee To-morrow.