HC Deb 10 May 1949 vol 464 cc1689-731

(1) If, on an application in that behalf as respects the premises of a registered club, being premises situated in a part of the metropolis for the time being specified by an order under subsection (1) of section twenty of this Act, the metropolitan police magistrate for the police court division in which the premises are situated is satisfied—

  1. (a) that a certificate granted under the Schedule (Certification of club premises for music and dancing) to this Act is in force as respects the premises; and
  2. (b) that the whole or any part of the premises is structurally adapted, and bola fide used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of providing for the members of the club music and dancing and substantial refreshment to which the supply of intoxicating liquor is ancillary,
the magistrate shall grant a certificate under this section (hereinafter referred to as a special hours certificate") as respects the premises or the part thereof as to which he is satisfied as mentioned in paragraph (b) of this subsection, and the provisions of section (Later permitted hours where special hours certificate in force) of this Act shall apply accordingly.

(2) Section eighty-one of the Act of 1910 (which empowers constables to enter licensed premises for the purpose of preventing or detecting offences) shall apply to any premises as respects the whole or any part whereof a special hours certificate is in force under this section as it applies to licensed premises. —(Mr. Ede.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I understand that the next three Clauses in the name of the right hon. Gentleman might conveniently be discussed together if that is the wish of the House.

Mr. Ede

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

If it would be for the convenience of the House, I think we might discuss with this Clause the four following new Clauses standing in my name, and, incidentally, it may be necessary to refer to the Amendments to Clause 20 which I propose to move later.

As the Bill was originally drafted, it took very drastic steps to bring to an end the provision of some forms of entertainment which have sprung up, very skilfully penetrating all loopholes in the law, and would have made no provision for any alternative. The Government have very carefully considered the situation that that would create, and during the passage of the Bill through the Committee stage, we inserted a new Clause, which is now Clause 20 of the Bill, which enables certain hotels and restaurants making special provision, and having special facilities, to enjoy the opportunity of providing during special hours meals and forms of entertainment. These arrangements are limited to the Metropolis, and, in fact, will, when they are brought into operation, be roughly limited to the City of Westminster.

The question has arisen as to whether in the desire to meet what is the wish mainly of those connected with the tourist industry in the country, these arrangements will be sufficient to provide all the opportunities that are sought. After carefully considering the matter with those who claim to speak with great knowledge on the matter, and after consulting the Metropolitan Police and the London County Council, we have come to the conclusion that it is desirable that there should be certain other facilities, and these new clauses on the Order Paper enable those further facilities to be granted.

It is quite clear that an attempt to suppress entirely the facilities for public music and dancing, and the supply of meals in association with the consumption of intoxicating liquors in the Metropolis, will merely drive the provision underground. That, I think, has been proved quite well by successive happenings in this City during this century, and if there is one thing that is totally undesirable it is that these facilities shall only be enjoyed if they can be provided by underground means. It is certain that, when they are so provided, there is so much profit to be made out of them that there will be a number of people who will be willing to risk their money, and, as was proved in the case of Mrs. Meyrick, their personal liberty, in carrying out these arrangements for the amusement of other people.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)

My right hon. Friend mentioned the tourist trade in connection with these places. Are we to assume from his comments that the primary purpose of such places is to provide amusement for tourists, or will my right hon. Friend accept the fact that the tourists are very much in the minority of the usual habitués of these particular places?

Mr. Ede

I wish my hon. Friend would allow me to develop my argument in my own way, because I am afraid that I shall have to ask for some indulgence and the patience of the House in dealing with this matter. If at the end of what I have to say, I have not covered all the points which my hon. Friend wishes to make, he can then intervene if, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, he can catch your eye.

I am not concerned whether the tourist is in the majority or the minority; what I am certain about is that there is a certain basic trade all the year round, but that at certain periods of the year there is a very considerable demand from tourists in this matter, and it is very desirable that that latter section should be catered for. Neither do I regard the others, if provision can be made for them within the well defined Statute, as not being worthy of consideration by this House. If this traffic goes underground, it involves the most serious strain on the standard of conduct of the police in the Metropolis. As head of the Metropolitan Police, I am very proud of the standard of conduct that the vast majority of the members of that Force attain and preserve in times like the present, when quite big bribes can be offered for connivance at all sorts of underground activities, apart from the one with which we are engaged this afternoon.

When there is the position which we find now, where the only way in which breaches of the law can be discovered is by asking a young constable to get into evening clothes giving him a substantial sum of money for a man in his position, and asking him to go into one of these places in circumstances which may, on occasion, make it appear that he is an agent provocateur, and in any case place him in a position of very great delicacy, I know from what I have been told by many who have left the Metropolitan Police for high positions in the provincial forces, that that has a very disintegrating and demoralising effect on a good many of the men concerned. I desire that that should not take place.

With regard to hotels and restaurants, we laid it down that they should carry on these facilities in premises that were guaranteed as safe by compliance with the requirements of the London County Council. The majority of the places where - these entertainments are now carried on do not comply, and, I am advised, cannot comply with the requirements of the London County Council.

It will be within the recollection of the House that one club named Churchills was stopped under the existing regulations, and the entertainment afforded to the police by that establishment had, apparently, been so lavish that when they got outside they forgot the address, and the order that was made referred to the place by the wrong address. When action was taken in the stipendiary magistrate's court the police action failed on the mound that the order, in fact, applied to No. 116 instead of No. 160. When the club was re-opened I saw in the "Evening Standard"—a paper which is not, I gather from its comments, unfriendly to these places—a statement that the "postage stamp dancing floor" was covered. When one considers the exits from these places, one finds that they 'do not comply with the reasonable standards which have been set by the London County Council for other places of public dancing. It would clearly, I think, be wrong to have places that the law recognised for this purpose which were not suitable and were not inspected and passed with regard to the question of public safety.

Another thing is that these places are not open to inspection by the police. The requirements that we have made with regard to the hotels and restaurants are that they shall comply with the law by having an hotel or restaurant keeper's licence which puts them in a special category, that the premises used for dancing shall be suitably approved by the London County Council, and that the police shall be able to inspect them. We cannot apply the first of these requirements to clubs, but we can apply the second and third to any club which wishes to avail itself of these facilities. These Clauses make that provision, and I suggest that they are provisions that this House has the right to insist on if these facilities are to be given. The hotels and restaurants are dealt with by the licensing justices, but in London clubs are registered with the stipendiary magistrate, and therefore the granting of the special hours certificate will also be made by the stipendiary magistrate and any complaints with regard to the clubs will be heard before the stipendiary magistrate.

I hope that the House will feel that this is a genuine effort to deal with an admittedly difficult and aggravated problem. I know that I speak under some disability, because I do not frequent these places myself. I have never been to one. I am quite prepared to believe that it is a loss of what might be a very valuable experience to a person in my position. I have never concealed that from myself, but the fact that I do not want a facility is no reason why I should deny it to another person if he can use it reasonably and not make a public nuisance of himself. That is the spirit in which I have approached this matter.

The question of the exact hours chosen, I think, also needs some slight explanation. I am told that the genuine need for these places—and I have sought for this information from more than one source—lasts up till about 2.30 in the morning, and that is the hour that we have chosen. But, of course, it will be possible for any person holding either one of the special licences for a hotel or restaurant or a special certificate for a club, to apply to the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police for an extension for a special occasion, but that will have to be a special occasion as defined by the law. Tuesday is not a special occasion, but if Tuesday happens to be the annual gathering of, let us say some regimental association or some body like that, it may then be a special occasion. It cannot he regarded as a special occasion to take one day of the week and single it out.

I notice that there is an Amendment to one of these Clauses I think I had better deal with it—

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the Amendment relating to a limited number of days, we do not intend to move it. The right hon. Gentleman might tell us his views on it, but I wanted to let him know that I shall not move it.

Mr. Ede

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman very much. What we have been advised, by the hoteliers, the restaurateurs and the police, is that if we had these odd days in the week, it would make the practical administration of the law exceedingly difficult, and it is only on administrative grounds that we omit them. So far as a part of the year is concerned, we are willing to recognise that there may be some places which have a seasonal trade that we ought to recognise, but when it comes to, say, every other night during the week, it would be very difficult administratively. We are also advised that it might also be very inconvenient to patrons if they turned up on a Wednesday and then found that the nights on which the facilities were available were Tuesday and Thursday instead of the night when they had chosen to come.

The whole of this question depends upon the ability of the police and the London County Council to discharge their functions with regard to it. I had an interview with the London County Council representatives yesterday, and, although there are one or two points which may need clearing up, they are quite willing to undertake the supervision of these places so far as safety is concerned. As to the police, I think the powers we have taken with regard to the revocation of the orders will enable their functions to be discharged in a way that should enable those who are conducting these places to know very clearly what their obligations are and what will be the penalties if they commit a breach of any of the requirements. The curious thing about this business is that from no other part of the country have we had any request that these facilities should be extended to them.

Mr. J. Hudson

My right hon. Friend will have.

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend is speaking in the guise of a prophet. I have never seen him on Epsom Downs when I have been there, but I have noticed that it is very little use arguing with prophets. One can only leave time to contradict them, and in my experience time generally does.

I was not much impressed with this fact when we first dealt with the matter, although it made some impression on me. Although this matter has been canvassed very extensively in the Press, and each successive move in this matter has been greeted with very big headlines in the papers, there has been no demand from any Other part of the country for the extension of these facilities to them.

5.0 p.m.

It appears to be a problem that is a Metropolitan one entirely, arising from the fact that London is, after all, the capital of the country. I commend these new Clauses to the House, and I shall welcome any constructive criticism that can be made of them. I commend them to the House because I am certain that any alternative which says that at 10.30 p.m. or 11 p.m., or even at midnight the life of this city is to close down would lead to the law getting into the state of serious disrepute into which it got a few years ago. That being so, it is far better to frame practical and reasonable laws which can be enforced, with the feeling that there are laws entitled to respect and that evasion of them is something to be regarded as culpable. It is in that spirit that these new Clauses have been framed, and I hope that Members will feel we are justified in putting them before the House.

Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

The Home Secretary is to be congratulated on the realistic way in which he has tackled this extremely difficult problem. I believe that he has tried in these new Clauses to meet all the varying interests, particularly of the tourist industry, as far as he possibly can. There are one or two observations I should like to make on the new Clause dealing with clubs. I hasten to disclose the fact that I am a director of an hotel in London, and that I am also Vice-Chairman of the Council of the British Hotels and Restaurants Association. I am not at this particular moment, however, necessarily putting forward the views of either of these two bodies.

I feel that perhaps unwittingly there is an advantage given to the clubs under this new Clause. I wish to draw a distinction between the Club and bottle party, on the one hand, and the bona fide restaurant, on the other. At the present time a club is entitled to charge an entrance fee, whereas a restaurant is not so permitted under the Meals in Establishments Order of the Ministry of Food. The club can charge, for example, £1 1s. entrance fee and 5s. for a meal, whereas a restaurant can charge no entrance fee and is permitted to charge only its 5s. plus a house charge if it has been given one. That is the first considerable discrimination between clubs and bona fide restaurants. This discrimination enables the club to evade the regulations of the Minister of Food under the Meals in Establishments Order.

The second point I wish to make, which is also a very real point, is that clubs do not have to pay the same monopoly payments which hotels and restaurants have had to pay since 1904. Large payments, for which the clubs are not liable, have to be made by way of excise duties and monopoly payments by hotels and restaurants. My third point is that if a club is properly administered it will be rather difficult to enable tourists to visit it, because under the law as it stands a man has to be a member of a club for 48 hours before he is entitled to pay for a drink. It seems to me that when the average stay of the tourist in this country is so short, the value of the club as such to the tourist trade will not be quite as great as may be anticipated. I mention these three points, not because I want to do the new Clause down—I do not want to see it destroyed—but because I feel that I should draw the distinction between the restaurant, on the one hand, and the club, on the other; because I feel that an unfair advantage is being given to the club as against what has always been regarded as the bona fide restaurant.

I have a suggestion to make, which is only a suggestion, because I know it cannot be embodied in the Bill. It is that the solution of these difficulties, or at least of the first point I mentioned, could be found in doing away with price restrictions as far as the Meals in Establishments Order is concerned in this specified area where the tourist trade is to be encouraged. I say that with a certain amount of diffidence, because I know that it would perhaps mean greedy eyes would be cast upon the American visitors and tourists in this area. I can see that Mr. Deputy-Speaker is getting a bit restive with me on that point, but I know that the Home Secretary is aware of it, and perhaps he will consider it before the Bill goes to another place.

There are only two other small points I should like to question, and the first is the meaning of the word "ancillary." Subsection (1, b) says: That the whole or any part of the premises is structurally adapted and bona fide used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of providing for the members of the club music and dancing and substantial refreshment to which the supply of intoxicating liquor is ancillary. I think that there should be some definition of the word "ancillary," as there is already a definition of this word where it is applied in Clause 20 to bona fide restaurants. I should also like to ask what the position is in regard to those establishments, hotels and restaurants, which perhaps find themselves on a particular evening with no customers after, say, 1 a.m. It obviously is not worth while keeping a band playing to an empty room, and it seems rather senseless to keep the staff and band available because a chance customer may perhaps come in later. I should like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that in the event of such a thing happening the establishment will be permitted to close and the staff go home. It may be covered by the wording of the Bill but to me, at any rate, the words are not clear.

Mr. J. Hudson

I very much regret that the Home Secretary has found it necessary to beat a further retreat from the other retreats he has made since first introducing this matter to the House. When the Bill was published we were extremely glad to see that the evil of the London night-club was recognised by the Government. There was general satisfaction among those sections of the community which are especially interested in this matter—temperance organisations, the churches, and such like—at the fact that this long-standing evil was at last to be tackled. While there was some doubt and division of opinion about the proposals contained in other sections of the Bill, the Government's proposals on this matter were received wholeheartedly.

Since then, however, my right hon. Friend has been in retreat, and I do not know even now that he has reached the end of his retreats. Neither does my right hon. Friend. He has suggested that my prophecies are not so good, but he has only set himself up as a competitor with me. Although he does not seem to to be aware of it I can tell him that some of my hon. Friends have already been writing in the Press, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) did last weekend, to suggest that if it is a good thing to provide for drinks up to 2.30 a.m. in the centre of London, other places should receive consideration. My hon. Friend suggested that Brighton and Edinburgh might be added to the list. I have no doubt that when the clubs get to work, and use all the pressure of which they are capable, we shall be faced with further demands to amend the present proposals.

What I cannot understand about the Home Secretary's attitude is this: he has used effectively, certainly at the beginning of his campaign of retreat, the cases of Mrs. Meyrick and ex-Police Sergeant Goddard. We were terrified by the Home Secretary's description of the young constable dressing in evening dress, and being made so drunk by his efforts to please my right hon. Friend, that he did not even know the number of the club he was visiting. The case of that constable has been offered to us over and over again as a reason why we should approve my right hon. Friend's proposals. Who are file people who will benefit by this latest proposal? In Standing Committee I called them the playboys of London, and an hon. Friend of mine assured me that they had all died out a generation ago. Call them what you like, they are gilded spivs, buccaneers of the black market, whose bulging purses enable them to spend every night at an extravagant rate, a rate for which there is no justification whatever today. These people ought to have been well satisfied with the order that enabled them to drink until 11 p.m., 11.30 or, on special occasions, until midnight. To make the arrangement proposed now, at a time when everyone is being asked to work harder in the interests of the production drive, will redound very badly against the Labour movement when we are seeking to justify it in the communities we represent.

5.15 p.m.

Any time would have been better than the present to introduce a step of this kind, and I strongly protest, on behalf of the few people who take a view similar to mine, at the weakness which the Government have shown in this matter. To suggest that the proposed step is necessary to meet the needs of Continental tourists—"Brummagem" tourists and others were mentioned, but I am not concerned with them—is sheer nonsense. It is absurd to say that Continental visitors cannot be attracted to this country unless they can visit questionable places which can be kept lively until 2 a.m. with the help of alcoholic liquor. Do hon. Members imagine that the average tourist is particularly keen about staying up till 2.30, either in a club or elsewhere? Before he gets -here, he rises much earlier than the he rest of us, and then goes around to see what we have to show him. Long before 2 a.m. he is glad to go to bed, so that he can be fresh for more touring the following day. We should have given a better impression of our country if we had insisted on sticking to the old rules, and letting the law remain as it was.

To what extent shall we be freed of the problem of the young constable in evening dress? At 2 a.m., what then? Somebody has to see that drink is not being sold after that hour. We have heard, even from the Minister, of places being kept open until 4 a.m. Are we to assume that such a practice will now cease? Indeed, there may be an increase in the number of people who will find their pleasures at night by drinking at a late hour. Neither from the point of view of Continental trade, nor from the point of view of the good of our own country, was it justifiable to embark upon this extension.

I derive one small piece of consolation from the Home Secretary's Clause. I see that he is carrying out the proposal which I made 20 years ago in this House in a special Bill which was never debated, but which was offered to the Royal Commission as evidence of what ought to be done with regard to clubs. The Royal Commission unanimously accepted that suggestion but no one has ever dared to apply it since then until now. I see that the Home Secretary proposes to make these club premises which receive the special privilege of a licence to sell drink until 2 a.m. or 2.30 a.m. subject to police inspection, and inspection not merely by an inspector, which was the proposal in the Bill which I introduced many years ago, but by a constable. According to the terms of the Clause, a constable may, as is now provided in connection with licensed premises, visit the club without prior notice to see that the law is being obeyed. I congratulate the Home Secretary upon that point, the only point upon which I can congratulate him, but let us at least give praise where one can.

Again assuming the rôle of a prophet, I assure him that in a little while he will hear again that if it is right to insist on this necessity for the maintenance of law in clubs in regard to the supply of drink by means of the visit of the constable to see that the law is being kept, there will be many other institutions in which the Home Secretary will be asked to apply the method which he is now willing to apply in this matter. But even with this provision of the visit of the young constable, how is the Home Secretary to deal with the question of the young constable going surreptitiously into a place and drinking illicitly in order to find out whether the club is or is not obeying the law? The Home Secretary is still in the same position of having to remind us again about Sergeant Goddard and Mrs. Meyrick; they will continue to be the ghosts raised before us in these discussions in order to frighten us in regard to the matter.

I submit to the Home Secretary that he would have been far better engaged in making a new effort to encourage the police, by giving them, in the first place, the power of visiting, rather than giving it now so late in the proceedings, and had he kept the late hour at midnight or some time about then. Had he done that, he would have found it easier to keep inviolable the character of our police and to prevent the sort of corruption about which he complained, and quite rightly complained, and which has taken place in the past.

I have found it very difficult to persuade myself to support other aspects of this Bill. I cannot speak upon those other aspects at the moment, but I have, stage by stage, listened to the Home Secretary. I have admitted that in many matters he has made improvements. In this matter he has only gone from bad to worse, and in my judgment the situation is now so bad in regard to the encouragement given to the less satisfactory element in our community by providing them with facilities for drinking at unheard of hours, that the Home Secretary's action is beyond justification. Accordingly, I shall certainly vote against this Clause when it is put to the House.

Mr. Astor

The hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) has made a speech which I think the whole House has enjoyed, while probably no one has agreed with what he said. I shall refer indirectly to some of his views in the course of my speech. He referred to evil night clubs. I think that he conjures up in his own mind the picture of a sort of press gang for the white slave market, Which may be the popular misconception of something which is fundamentally merely rather a boring place. I suggest that no one in their right mind would find themselves in a night club at 2 a.m. unless they had something to drink. I shall deal with those matters in a moment or two.

I should first like to say how very wise I thought the Home Secretary's attitude was both to the matter of these indulgences as they apply to other people; and in ensuring that these sorts of practices are not driven underground. In considering this whole problem we have to take into account both the home market and the tourist market. So far as the home market is concerned—I say this because I do not feel that some of the Home Secretary's supporters take such a reasonable and broadminded view of this matter as he does—it is not for Parliament to dictate what people shall do at any time of night, other than to ensure that their actions do not offend public opinion or the ordinary rights and safeguards of individuals. To say that to go to a bottle party at night is wrong makes about as much sense as to say that it is right to go to the cinema at night but wrong to listen to the B.B.C. I may say that both are rather dull but by all means let anybody do either, should they so wish.

In referring to the hon. Member for West Ealing, I would point out that at a bottle party, which is the part of the Measure which we are discussing, only three things happen, so far as I know. First, it is a place where one can eat; second one can drink; and third one may talk or dance. None of these things in themselves is evil, and one should be able to make merry and enjoy oneself without immediately incurring the censure of a minority of the public, who will always take great offence at anyone getting anything "on the side" as it were, which they themselves are not immediately experiencing. There is nothing very vicious in doing those things, and the Home Secretary having now accepted the fact that this form of entertainment is all right, should still revise certain restrictions pertaining to these entertainments. Let us take the case of someone who comes down from the North once or twice a year wishing to go to a night club. He has to become a member, which costs several pounds, I imagine; and having got in, he probably has to pay an exorbitant price for the drink he has. Having accepted the fact that these amenities should be allowed, the Home Secretary should then consider reviewing the law which makes it necessary to go in a roundabout and complicated fashion in order to indulge in these relatively and indeed absolutely harmless practices.

The Home Secretary should also consider whether the law should not be reviewed in respect of hours as such. I shall not go too far in that matter, as it is rather wider than the Clause which we are discussing, but I would refer the Home Secretary to two countries where certain experiments have been carried out. In the days of extreme, indeed absolute Governmental control in the United States, the days of prohibition, there were not only speakeasies galore but a great deal of drunkenness, not only in New York and the big cities, but in all the provincial country districts as well. That was a very serious result indeed.

5.30 p.m.

I think it is true to say that in America there is less drunkenness than there has ever been in the history of that country. There is no law at all which affects the ordinary public or the tourist, provided the man selling the drink has a licence to sell it. I think that is a sensible and wise attitude to adopt. In France, where there is comparatively little or virtually no drunkenness at all, it is equally true that there are no laws or regulations for the conduct of these matters. Although we suffer from a climate which may be worse than that of our neighbours and allies, I cannot believe that this country is more prone to sudden outbursts of drunkenness than are the French or the Americans. In fact, I would say it is rather less prone. I suggest that the whole matter should be reviewed in a new light.

Perhaps I may say one last word about the tourist market because that is a very real thing. People visit England partly, as the hon. Member for West Ealing says, to see the various sights of London as they are generally known and accepted, but they also do so to get into a new atmosphere in a country where habits are different, where things are different and where people may look a little different. Once there they seek to enjoy themselves, and in my experience people abroad always give themselves a rather greater measure of irresponsibility and rather greater licence than when they are at home. In the case of the ordinary, sober God-fearing business man, who has rather a boring life, we should probably find that when he goes to Paris or comes to London he takes his wife or daughter out to a night club and goes around to places, whereas when he is in his own town he would not consider doing any such thing. It is a holiday and an outing.

The whole question of encouraging foreign exchange should be duly considered in this Bill and I think it is a real argument for making the realisation of these enjoyments—and to some people they are real enjoyments—simpler and less complicated. We must get rid of any slight idea of subterfuge. I believe it is unfortunate if there is a feeling that the whole thing is a little bit underground. You do not have to have a password but you have to be a member of these clubs. I believe it is unfortunate if the thing is not perfectly ordinary, simple and straightforward, which surely it should be. I have no personal axe to grind in this matter at all, but I think the approach I have suggested would be wiser and I commend it to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Walkden (Doncaster)

When I was a Member of the Committee on this Bill I was rather surprised that the Home Secretary produced what is now Clause 20. I voted for Clause 20 in Committee because I believe it is a correct line of approach to a particular and difficult problem and my reluctance to continue that support of the Home Secretary on this question of the clubs is for entirely different reasons from those expressed by the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson). I must say I was disappointed by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) who was very near to the point of doubt. He should understand that there is an entirely different angle from that of serving drinks.

London is different from the rest of Britain and however we look at it—and I have lived in London for 21 years—we shall never alter this old on d o n of ours. I have been in one or two of these West End night clubs and I know of nothing that is more miserable, bigger time-wasting and more boring; nevertheless it is a good thing now and again to try to understand what the night clubs are for, why they exist, and to try to understand some of the problems, other than those mentioned by the hon. Member for West Ealing. Let us be perfectly frank. If we were to scrap this Clause altogether today, this business of the bottle parties would continue, the police would have their problems, people would come to London—whether they be tourists from France, from America, from Birmingham or from Ilkley Moor—and people would still use these places.

I was discussing this matter with a couple of those fellows who have to handle this difficult problem of the West End bottle parties and night clubs. I do not mean the policeman who have been referred to by the Home Secretary and by the hon. Member for West Ealing, those policemen who had to dress up in evening clothes. These are men of a different calibre altogether. It was emphasised to me that whatever the Home Secretary or the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police tried to do, or whatever Parliament tried to do, unless we gave to the police the right of access to these clubs we should never achieve our objective. On that point I rejoice with the hon. Member for West Ealing that the Home Secretary has adopted that suggestion, and I hope the House will agree with it.

Let us carry it a stage further. It is not just a matter of the police having access; it does not stop there. Let me tell the hon. Member for Eastbourne that if I were in his position, speaking for the Hotels' and Restaurants' Association as he does—and rightly so—I should bring in the question of what is fair competition in this business when we are introducing clubs into the Bill. I should do so for this reason: I do not think the clubs that are being referred to now have ever been to see the Home Secretary, except perhaps the representatives of the original bottle parties and also two very respectable clubs—or it may have been only one; I do not know. I believe one club came to see the Home Secretary but it would not be fair to mention the name. The type of club which I have in mind and which perhaps the Home Secretary has in mind will subscribe to all the laws. They will honour every obligation and they will observe the same conditions as those of the hotels and restaurants of the West End. They will themselves subscribe to everything, including that of first importance—the Catering Wages Act. I ask the Home Secretary, what guarantee can he give to the House that clubs which will be licensed by the London County Council with a music and dancing licence, will subscribe to the Catering Wages Act and pay fair wages? Who will say that they will do that?

I ask the hon. Member for Eastbourne to look in particular at that point. Furthermore, the hon. Member for Eastbourne suggests that there should be a lifting of the price control on meals, and I ask the Home Secretary to tell him whether his inspectors or his officials have informed him that today some of those night clubs which will be applying to the London County Council and which will qualify for recognition by the London County Council as places for music or dancing, have little recognition of the price control order for meals. They disregard it completely. They do not bother about it. Half-a-guinea for chips, eggs and a piece of toast is a common price at the ordinary bottle parties or night clubs.

Air-Commodore Harvey


Mr. Walkden

I shall not give the names. I have them in my pocket. The information was given to me today. I will give the hon. Member a card to go there tonight and he can try for himself. These are facts the hon. Member ought to know. The collection of cards I have here has been given to me by friends of mine. I have no desire whatever to act as the agent for any particular club. I want to face the facts at issue. Many of the clubs, so far as the L.C.C. is concerned, will qualify for music and dancing. The people whom one calls "hostesses," and who take part in the cabarets, receive no wages whatever.

Mr. Astor

They do.

Mr. Walkden

These are facts. I am prepared to substantiate them. They are not new to people who know the West End at all. They must he known to my hon. Friends in the Opposition and to some Members opposite below the Gangway.

Mr. Harrison

Why below the Gangway?

Mr. Walkden

One of the bottle parties, as it is now, will become a club, and it will qualify under the L.C.C. Of 27 on the staff 22 do not get any wages whatsoever.

Mr. Astor


Mr. Walkden

It is true. I can brine the evidence to the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary, and I have told them of it before. The hostesses are, of course, very well trained gold-diggers who extract money from the pockets of the people whom the hon. Member for West Ealing denounced.

I want to ask hon. Members of the Opposition and hon. Members of the Labour Party to face the facts, for heaven's sake. This London of ours has got to be tackled. We have a practical Home Secretary tackling it. I am expressing doubt whether this is the right way to do it. I have looked into the subject very carefully with the help of friends of mine in the hotel and restaurant business; I have looked into it with trade union officials; and I have also looked into it from the angle of the customers. I am perfectly frank about it. I am very frightened by this club question as involved in the suggestion the Home Secretary has made. I believe some respectable clubs will honour the Catering Wages Act, and the price of meals regulations—honour every code there is. There are two or three clubs that will be glad to join in the efforts of the Home Secretary to clean up the West End of London.

However, the real fears which we ought to be entertaining are in respect of those places I have described that will qualify under the provisions of the new Clause. Let us make no mistake about it. They will endeavour to skate round the Bill if the new Clause is inserted and becomes law. There is no doubt that they will find ways and means of doing so. We ought to be frank and honest, and recognise that we are running risks in introducing the Clause which the Home Secretary has put before us.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)

I have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walkden) with some interest. It was not clear from what he said how far he was speaking from hearsay and how far he had taken the opportunity of personally acquainting himself with the conditions he described in various clubs. To the best of my knowledge, even night club proprietors find it difficult to get waiters and kitchen hands and cooks without paying wages. I should think that if I myself were wishing to work for nothing, the last place I should go to would be a night club. Perhaps, however, the hon. Gentleman has information by which he can substantiate in this House or elsewhere what he has said. He referred to hostesses. To my knowledge they are present in only one establishment, and, therefore, we are dealing with a minority. I have never known a night club which charged more than the statutory price for meals. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any exact information, but I should very much doubt whether—

Mr. Harrison

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether he is speaking from hearsay or actual experience of these matters?

Mr. Shepherd

I am speaking from experience. There is an argument, with which I shall deal a little later, and which says that part of the admission charge may be construed as a charge for meals. That is a separate argument. No doubt, it has some validity, but it is certainly not true to say, so far as I know, that these rules are ignored. In any case, it is up to the authorities, when these places become proper and legal, to take the necessary steps to see that these regulations are complied with.

Mr. Walkden

The hon. Gentleman is making a mistake there. The licence of the L.C.C. for music and dancing, unless conditioned specifically, would have no effect whatever in regard to the controlled price of meals.

Mr. Shepherd

It is perfectly proper, if these regulations are laid down, for an enforcement officer of the Ministry of Food to go into one of these places, and if necessary make a complaint. They are not in a privileged position as compared with any other type of establishment.

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson), who is, perhaps, the most cheerful prohibitionist this country has ever known. When he referred to the great evils of the night clubs, I felt that, if only he went to one, he would, perhaps, alter his opinion of them. I have felt inclined in the last few months to invite him to come to one, and the only thing which has prevented me from doing so has been the thought that, perhaps, having got him in I might not be able to get him out. I should feel a great sense of personal responsibility if, by introducing the hon. Member for West Ealing to a night club, I put him on a track from which he could not escape, and if his constituents could no longer find him here but had to communicate with him via the "Bag o' Nails." So I have refrained from extending an invitation I should have liked to give the hon. Gentleman to visit these clubs.

I want to turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) who spoke up, very properly, for the hotels and restaurants. I feel that the grievance which is exercising the minds of those people is not so rare as they would have us believe. They have been facing the competition of semi-legal and privileged bottle parties for the last 15 years. Under the Clause, perhaps, they will be in a better position relatively than ever before, so far as night clubs are concerned. Of course, it is true to say that clubs have an advantage, and that they do not pay monopoly values, but the fact is that the clubs are here and that they are an essential part of our life.

Mr. Harrison


Mr. Shepherd

To all except a few prohibitionists.

Mr. J. Hudson

More than a few.

Mr. Shepherd

I hope hon. Gentlemen who hold the view that drink is a great evil do not think that they represent the considered opinion of the country.

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are many people who eat and drink out who still look upon clubs as a very great evil?

Mr. Shepherd

Frankly, I refuse to believe that a club in the West End of London or a working man's club in Wigan is a great evil. I do not think that the ordinary person in this country would support his view. The hon. Member for Eastbourne says that the clubs have an unfair advantage. If it is true that the restaurants are going to do very much better than the clubs because the clubs charge high admission fees and this, that and the other, surely the restaurants have nothing to complain about. If they are going to give what the public needs at a lower price, they are going to empty the night clubs very quickly, and the restaurants will have all the business.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne raised one point which, I think, is of substance, and that is that tourists will not be able readily to get into these clubs because of the provision of the Act which requires them to have an application in for 48 hours. I wonder whether the Home Secretary would go into the question of whether a person not normally resident in this country, could, on production of his passport, gain admission almost immediately. I should like to raise a second point with the Home Secretary as to whether the bar service is interrupted by the provisions of the Act. I have down an Amendment, which I understand is out of Order, and I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will give me his ideas on that issue.

I want to thank the Home Secretary for the manner in which he has dealt with this very difficult problem. He has shown great courtesy in negotiations, and a very broad mind in dealing with the problem. For my own part, I have no personal interest in night clubs whatsoever, but I felt, when this Bill was introduced, that evils were going to flow from the attempts to suppress them. I felt absolutely certain that London would be rendered less attractive to visitors and that we should only encourage a more undesirable type of establishment than we had before. It would in fact he a return to the days of Mrs. Meyrick. I am pleased to see that the Home Secretary has apparently received advice from the police that the action which he contemplated taking would be undesirable in the interests of the Metropolis. I do not condemn people who go to night clubs. It is usual to condemn indulgences to which we are not ourselves prone and to find excuses for those to which we are prone. I wish that certain hon. Members of this House, who take so unaccommodating a view, would bear this fact in mind.

I have never sought to maintain bottle parties as they now exist. They are an obvious evasion of the intention of the law, and it is perfectly proper that they should be put on a sound basis and subjected to all the restrictions, regulations and supervision which attain to similar establishments. To eliminate them is not possible. They exist all over the world and fulfil a demand. The fact that they are only to be found in a metropolis is by no means an unusual thing. People come to London from the provinces and expect to find entertainment of a slightly different kind from that to which they are accustomed in their home towns. It is proper that the Metropolis should provide that entertainment as, indeed, the metropolis in almost every other country in the world does.

The new Clause is sound because it puts the clubs on a very proper basis and limits the area in which they can operate. Secondly, it ensures public safety, which is something on which this House has every right to be satisfied. It will ensure that the type of man who runs a club satisfies the magistrate. It will not be possible, as it is now, for a person of the most undesirable character to establish a club. He will have to prove to the magistrate that he is a suitable person, and, therefore, we shall have a better type of person running this business. Lastly, it will ensure adequate police supervision which, I think, is essential in this type of business. I believe that this move is a proper one because it will encourage people to come to this country. The hon. Member for West Ealing purported to know what French visitors to this country really want to do. I am sure that he has never spoken to a French visitor, if he puts forward that view, unless he is a fellow-prohibitionist.

Mr. J. Hudson

I have spoken to a large number of French visitors and to large numbers of people in France, who. I hope, will come here.

Mr. Shepherd

I must say that Frenchmen would appear to me to be the last people to complain about night club life. I think that Paris has provided more lavishly for that kind of entertainment than any other capital in the world. I cannot believe that the hon. Member for West Ealing is seriously telling the House that the majority of visitors to these shores from foreign countries would take objection to our providing late night entertainment for them. I am sure that would not be the view expressed by the average person coming to this country.

I do not support the Home Secretary's Clauses merely on that ground. I think that they represent the views of the persons from Manchester, Birmingham or Leeds who come to London and enjoy this form of entertainment. Why should we restrict people from pursuing a particular form of entertainment? Why should not they enjoy for a few hours this limited form of entertainment if they wish to do so. There is no justification for interfering with the liberty of the subject in this connection.

Therefore, I stand quite unashamedly for the freedom of the British person to enjoy this form of entertainment if he wishes to do so. I think that the House would be well-advised to accept these new Clauses which will do away with an unsatisfactory state of affairs and put in its place something much sounder and more satisfactory. We in this House owe a debt to the Home Secretary for the manner in which he has considered this problem and the work which he has put into it to meet a difficult situation. I believe that the solution that he has found is the proper one, and I am quite convinced that this Clause will improve the life of the metropolis to a very considerable extent.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)

I shall be very brief, but I think that the little I have to say about these new Clauses will probably cause hon. Members to believe that I am also narrow-minded. I am not, if I may say so with every respect to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) a prohibitionist. I have taken a great deal of interest in working men's clubs, and I am satisfied that they have been a considerable social advantage to working men in different parts of the country.

I do not like these new Clauses. I have never seen my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary so unhappy in presenting any matter to this House as he has been this afternoon over these new Clauses. I know that he has tried to put up a bold front, but I am absolutely confident that his heart is not in this business. May I say that, like myself, he has been in the working-class movement for a very long time, and this movement grew and drew its inspiration partly from the hatred of the masses for the frivolity enjoyed at the expense of those who had an honest day's work to do. That is one of the reasons my sympathies have gone entirely on the side of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing. This is alien to our movement; it is socially and ethically alien to all its ideals.

6.0 p.m.

The Home Secretary, I have a shrewd suspicion, has an idea that what I am saying is correct. Let us consider his arguments in trying to justify these Clauses. He has never been so weak in putting up a case as he has been this' afternoon, and I have a very strong hope that no other occasion will arise when the Home Secretary will be asked to face such a situation as he has to face this afternoon.

What have been the Home Secretary's reasons for legalising the night clubs and bottle parties in the metropolis? He says that if we attempt to suppress these night clubs we shall drive them underground. What an argument. First of all, it is an admission that the Metropolitan Police, who are so anxious to put the rest of the police in the country on the right road, cannot tackle this problem. They have admitted their failure and come to the Home Secretary to get him to extricate them from their difficulties; they have admitted a failure to do their work. It is no argument to say that if we try to suppress the clubs we shall drive them underground.

What else did he tell us? He said that there is a genuine need for these places up to two or half-past two in the morning. Who feels this need today? I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing is exaggerating in his description of the class of person who frequents these places. Cannot a man or woman live in our society today without there being these cesspools for the gilded "spiv" described by my hon. Friend? Such a suggestion will revolt every decent working man and working woman in the country—and it is not a teetotaller or prohibitionist who says so. This is a gross piece of disloyalty to the great traditions of the working-class movement in this country.

What other reasons have been given today by the Home Secretary? He says that the need arises in London because it is a capital city. That is no argument. Babylon was a capital city once upon a time, and probably the licensing of its night clubs contributed to its very unhappy ending. The Home Secretary has utterly failed to make out any case for these new Clauses. I am satisfied that there is no decent, human, or social necessity for this business. There is no need for it on the part of any working man or working woman who is pulling his or her weight in our life today.

I go further. If the only way in which we can attract tourists to this country is by this means—a means which to the mind and conscience of the movement which gave birth to this Government is a filthy idea, utterly anti-social and utterly indecent—then I am one who will not invite tourists to come here. I know of many who will agree with me when I say that we would much prefer to enjoy what we have in this country than have tourists who have to be entertained at such places until two and half-past two in the morning.

I know that I and my hon. Friends are inexperienced in these things; I know that our points of view are ridiculously amateurish; still, our inexperience and our amateurishness have contributed something towards building up the finest and cleanest movement for the people that this country has ever seen. Is there any one of my hon. Friends, whom the Home Secretary expects to support him on these new Clauses, who would be pleased to hear that a daughter of his frequented these places till two and half-past two in the morning? Would they like their daughters to visit these licensed houses which have grown up out of the vilest practices, which the Metropolitan Police admit are being carried on? I certainly would not, and I am the proud father of three very charming, comparatively young daughters. I should be hurt and humiliated if I knew that any one of them would frequent places of this kind. They would do something more than let their parents down; they would let down the movement in which they were cradled.

My last word is to tell the Home Secretary that this violates our traditions and our idealism. The Government are letting down this great movement of ours, a movement which came into being to battle with these evil forces, by sponsoring a piece of legislation that is a disgrace to every decent man and woman in our country.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

If anything could have persuaded me to support these new Clauses, it would have been the speech to which we have just listened, because it seemed to me to be so riddled with narrow sectarian bias, so impregnated with the idea that what the hon. Member thought right for himself, must be so universally right as to entitle him to force it by law upon others. That is an attitude which I am certain this House as a whole does not accept. Perhaps I might, in response to one of the more exuberant outbursts of the hon. Gentleman, in which he used the word "cesspools," remind him that those are a very necessary part of any civilisation—

Mr. S. O. Davies

Can I accept that as the opinion of the Opposition?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

—as becomes only too painfully apparent to the olfactory nerves when one visits a locality where they do not exist.

I should, however, like to put one or two doubts about these Clauses, I hope in more restrained language—it could certainly not be less restrained—than that used by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies). I am not quite clear what it is that has changed the Home Secretary's mind since the Committee stage. Those hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will recollect that at that stage the Home Secretary introduced a new Clause which is now Clause 20. I have turned up what the right hon. Gentleman said in his very lucid speech introducing that new Clause, and at the end of that speech he did indicate that he thought he had found a satisfactory solution for this very real problem. I have a fairly open mind on the question, but the right hon. Gentleman did not today, as I understood it, bring forward any new reasons which had arisen since the Committee stage to cause him to go this one step further.

I speak as one who believes that it is right and inevitable to provide in a great capital city for those, to my mind, foolish individuals who like to sit up late at night. The only question is whether that is best done and best regulated in the way now suggested in the Bill under Clause 20, or whether it will be better done if this further addition is made. It seems to me that, other things being equal it is better to make this provision for late-night entertainment within the ambit of the normal licensing laws, with the usual procedure of application to licensing justices, the payment of monopoly value, and so on. I am not quite convinced by what the Home Secretary said that there is any need to make this further provision outside the ambit of the ordinary licensing laws.

I do not propose to go into the general question of whether clubs are good or bad. I was rather entertained during one or two of the speeches by hon. Members opposite with their general condemnation of all clubs as dens of unmitigated vice. My mind strayed towards the Athenaeum in that connection, and it seemed to me that in that context certain of the condemnations to which the House listened were not wholly relevant or wholly applicable. One recalls too the number of admirable working men's clubs—there is a most admirable one in my own constituency—which are conducted with the utmost sobriety and decorum. So far as clubs are concerned, my own inclination is in favour of them.

These night clubs in London are not clubs in that sense at all. They are technically and legally clubs for the purpose, but they are not really clubs. The club element is introduced to provide expensive entertainment. I am not convinced that the real need for providing entertainment late at night in London is not adequately met in the ordinary licensed premises already provided for in the Bill. If the tourist argument is used—and it is to me a strong argument—the tourist will find it all the easier to make his way into ordinary licensed premises rather than into properly conducted clubs. There are certain formalities to be followed in entering clubs which do not render them immediately available to foreigners in this country. Therefore, the tourist argument is strongly in favour of entertainment in ordinary licensed premises.

I should like to ask the Home Secretary one question on the first of the new Clauses. It is provided there that substantial refreshment shall be a necessary part of the qualifications for remaining open. In a way it is rather curious to see the Home Secretary laying it down that it is a criminal offence not to provide substantial refreshment in these places during these hours, when his right hon. Friend the Minister of Food is doing his best to make it a criminal offence to provide substantial refreshment anywhere else.

There is a point of seriousness here. If the clubs are conducted as clubs they can exact membership fees or entrance fees which go towards their general finances. Therefore, although they may punctiliously observe the Meals in Establishments Order so far as prices are concerned, yet in fact they have available financial resources behind them which are not available in the case of restaurants, where it would be a criminal offence if they imposed a similar charge. I fear that the Home Secretary, under this Clause, is giving a strong economic incentive to the provision of substantial meals in these places. He is giving aid to people who will be in a favourably placed position to buy materials for those meals at high prices, because they will have available, in addition to the authorised charge for the meals, the funds perfectly legitimately obtained by them in the shape of membership fees.

It seems to me that there is some danger that the Home Secretary will be fortifying the black market in foodstuffs of a luxury character and doing the opposite of what his right hon. Friend the Minister of Food is doing by giving establishments an inducement to pay high prices in illicit transactions for the purpose, for example, of obtaining poultry. As the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, those transactions at present occur with distressing frequency. I fear that one of the indirect and no doubt inadvertent results of this Clause is that there will be additional financial pressure behind the black market in foodstuffs, and that will be a most unfortunate consequence. There is a grave risk of it because it is made an actual condition of the operation of these establishments that substantial meals shall be served.

I hope I have put this point of view as reasonably and moderately as I can. If the Home Secretary can convince me that this problem is best dealt with by this additional method of providing entertainment, I shall find myself able to support the new Clause. As the position now stands, and having listened carefully to what has been said, I should find it quite impossible to support this new Clause, though for different reasons from those expressed by hon. Members opposite. I think it is only fair to put to the Home Secretary this point of view so that when he replies he may be able to deal with the position.

6.15 p.m.

Dr. Segal

I confess to being in the somewhat unusual position of sharing a little of the uneasiness of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). He said that he wondered why this new Clause was not included in the original Clause 20, which was in the draft of the Bill. Clause 20, as originally placed in the Bill, proved a rather difficult Clause for a good many Members on this side of the House to swallow. Some of us had an uneasy feeling that perhaps it was the intention of the Home Secretary to introduce these concessions by easy stages in order to avoid a full discussion of this Clause as it affects night clubs when the Bill was on its way through Committee, and that they were reserved deliberately for the Report stage. It would go a long way towards relieving the anxiety of some of my hon. Friends if we could feel that it was purely an after-thought and that the night clubs had been left out of the original Bill through an oversight or by accident.

I should like to ask the Home Secretary to deal fairly fully with one of the points raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor). In this Clause there occurs the word "ancillary," which also occurs in the original Clause 20. When the Bill was on its way through Committee, the Home Secretary stated that the word "ancillary" was to he interpreted as meaning cases where the income was derived from the sale of intoxicating liquor to the amount of less than one-third of the total income of any of these establishments. Is it intended that the same interpretation shall be applied to the word "ancillary" in this Clause? Could my right hon. Friend also explain more fully what is the intention of the words "substantial refreshment"? Is it intended that these night clubs should be able to provide their clients with full three-course meals or just casual refreshment, which might be taken to comply with the wording of this Clause? If the Home Secretary would explain these two words "ancillary" and "substantial" in a little more detail, it might go a long way towards relieving some of the uneasiness that a few Members on this side of the House feel about this particular Clause.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I and my hon. Friends feel that this Clause is not a matter on which any party line should be laid down, because I agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) that many people take a view with regard to this matter which, though I do not share it I believe they are fully entitled to hold. On the other hand, I did not think it was right or proper that I should let the matter go with a silent vote without expressing my own views with regard to the Clauses. I should like very shortly to tell the House what has influenced me in their favour.

In the first place, there is a problem, which has been mentioned by one or two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the other side of the House. One hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that any tourist who wanted to go for late entertainment to a place where he could dance, and where drink was provided at the same time, was not the sort of tourist we wanted in this country. With great respect to his sincerity, I would totally disagree with that statement. It is an attitude of mind which we ought to show is not shared by the majority of us. By all means let us keep our respect for those who have those stern views, but we must make it clear that to most of us those views are over-severe and are not in train with the general feeling of today.

I want to go further. Apart from tourists, another section of the population who go to places of this sort are the young. I mean people from the ages of 18 to 25. They always have done that and they always will do it. Do not, again, let it go out as being the general opinion of the House of Commons that when young people go to dance at a place, and dance till half-past two, that because liquor is obtainable there that place ipso facto becomes a haunt of vice. It is simply quite untrue with regard to the youth of this country. I am sure that the views of the majority of the House do not agree with that attitude.

I come to the information which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the House when he said that the problem had been considered by the Metropolitan Police, and that they had formed the view that if we drove these practices underground we simply encouraged the bad elements which we know exist in that sort of milieu as in every milieu. I was most impressed by the view, which I understood the right hon. Gentleman to be indicating as the view of the Metropolitan Police and also his view, which he had formed on the information which the Metropolitan Police had given. They have suggested that this course is necessary because the provisions of the Bill will secure the safeguard of inspection. I entirely agree with that. The other point which impressed me was the point on which the right hon. Gentleman has insisted, the safety provision. In the past it has been possible to imagine a very nasty situation indeed if there had been a fire or something of that kind in one of these places. I am impressed by the fact that that provision has been brought into being and now takes its place among the conditions.

The House has had a considerable Debate upon this point, but I felt that it would not be right to let the matter go to a Division without putting forward, as I hope I always do, quite clearly and frankly what my views on the matter are. I do not ask anyone to be compelled by those views unless the views have convinced them. They are my views, and for those reasons I shall support the Clause.

Mr. Ede

We have had a reasonably long discussion on the Clause. The views of both sides of the House have been put forward with great frankness and vehemence. I do not complain of the vehemence of some of the language that has been used. There was a time, in my earlier years, when I would have regarded the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) as far too mild. I believe that one should profit from one's experience in the conduct of affairs. I have been compelled to take the line I have taken because of the results of that experience. I shall remain a total abstainer, and I do not intend to take dancing lessons merely because I am providing facilities for people to dance and, simultaneously, if a substantial meal is provided, to have intoxicating liquors. I do not feel called upon to go and join them. I would not imagine that all of them would want to spend their nights with me when the House keeps sitting until half past four or five in the morning. We all have our particular ways of spending time.

I do resent, though, the suggestion that there is something alien to the history and tradition of the Labour movement in an endeavour to see that proper facilities for recreation and refreshment are available for all sections of the community. I hope that as a result of this arrangement some of the clubs associated with the Club and Institute Union will be able to provide for their members, and for the sons and daughters of their members, facilities for holding functions connected with that organisation and others in which they are interested, on the premises which they provide. It is quite wrong to think that this is merely making provision for the creation of cesspools for gilded spivs.

Mr. J. Hudson

Is my right hon. Friend desirous that workingmen's clubs should stay open until 2.30 in the morning?

Mr. Ede

If the working men's club complies with the conditions, it is perfectly open to it to do so.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)

Outside the area?

Mr. Ede

No, inside the area. I do not think it is true to say that I or anyone else has suggested that this is the only way of attracting tourists to the country. We know that the lack of such facilities would deprive us of the visits of certain tourists whom we are particularly anxious to encourage. The language of exaggeration which says that this is the only way of attracting tourists is really not worthy of the standard of Debate that we have observed this evening.

Mr. S. O. Davies

The suggestion that I expressed those views should be corrected.

Mr. Ede

My hon. Friend himself said that I had said that it was the only way of attracting tourists.

Mr. Walker (Rossendale)

The hon. Member never said it.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I say that I heard him say it. My hon. Friends for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) and West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) have not done justice to what I said about the Metropolitan Police. My hon Friend the Member for West Ealing in the end congratulated me, the one thing on which he expressed approval being the facilities which I have given to the Metropolitan Police in this Clause. This entirely removes the necessity for submitting them to the temptations they have hitherto had. In future a uniformed constable will have the right of entering any of these premises to see that the law is being complied with and it will not be necessary for him to go in disguised or for a warrant to be obtained from one of the higher officers of the police if it is desired that uniformed police shall enter.

That is a substantial advantage. It can be obtained only by bringing these places above ground and recognising that there is a desire, which I myself do not find blameworthy, by certain people to enjoy dancing in these places in the earliest hours of the morning. I do not regard that as being in any way blameworthy and I have taken steps whereby the law will recognise it; the law will be capable of easy enforcement and will ensure the utmost protection to those people who conduct their premises legitimately.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) asked me certain questions about the competition which might arise on an unfair basis between the club and the hotel or restaurant. I am still in communication with the Hotels and Restaurants Association on that matter. I believe it will be possible to make arrangements whereby that unfair competition can be either eliminated or very strictly limited. I hope to be able to ensure that that happens before the Bill becomes law. The hon. Member asked me what happens when dancing ends on some evenings when the patrons disappear before 2 a.m. or 2.30 a.m.? He will see that it is provided in a subsequent proposed Clause that: On any occasion when the provision of music and dancing ceases at a time before two o'clock in the morning, the permitted hours shall cease at that time. If no one is dancing, the places have to close down. That is a substantial protection against any of these places developing into drinking dens. Anybody who thought he could take advantage of these places in order to go on drinking for a much longer number of hours would thus find his indulgences brought to an end.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

Does my right hon. Friend's argument mean that there cannot be any reasonable breaks between dancing? He seems to be assuming that dancing shall go on continuously.

Mr. Ede

No, quite clearly that is not so. There will be the usual reasonable arrangement for the conduct of public dancing. I imagine we have all attended dances at some time or other where the band plays for a considerable time and no dancing occurs. Where that happens, judged on a reasonable basis, it would indicate that the time had come for the place to close down for the night.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

I am still not awfully happy on this point. If a restaurant, a hotel or a club which has contracted to stay open until 2.30 a.m. and has applied for a licence to stay open until that time, has to close down at 1 a.m. for lack of customers, will it have its licence taken away?

Mr. Ede

Not if it was on an isolated or infrequent occasion, but, clearly, if it happened continuously over a substantial period that the facilities were not used after the time to which they could be used without the special licence, it would be a good ground for asking that the special licence should be revoked, and I imagine that there would be a desire that the special licence should be surrendered.

Mr. J. Hudson

If a club employs two persons as professional dancers to continue the dancing during the night, does that give it the right to keep open?

Mr. Ede

I should have thought not. [Interruption.] I heard an hon. Member say that it was a good idea. Sometimes I have found more pleasure in watching the professional dancers than some of the other performances. However, I suggest that they are not persons who are attending there for the purpose of public dancing. They may be there as part of the cabaret show. "Public dancing" means the public participating in the dancing.

I have also been asked about the use of the word "ancillary." It is well known in this connection. For the hotels and restaurants we can apply the requirements of the Finance Act which indicate the percentage of the takings which must come from something other than intoxicating liquors, as a condition which will entitle the person desiring to have a licence to obtain one. With regard to the clubs, the Home Office itself will have to endeavour to get some standard not dissimilar which can be applied.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne also raised a question on which there seems to be very substantial misunderstanding in the country and apparently even in the House, the taxation levied on clubs and hotels and restaurants. The club is subject to a special tax of 3d. in the £ on all the intoxicating liquor which it purchases. That is a tax which does not apply to the liquor purchased for hotels and restaurants. I have had the advantage of seeing the sums paid by some clubs and some of the hotels in this connection. The special tax on some of the clubs reaches a higher figure than the licence duties charged on some of the biggest London hotels which were established before 1904. That deals with taxation, but of course it does not deal with the problem of monopoly value which arose in those houses established after 1904. I do not see how it is possible to find a way of dealing with the problem of monopoly value at the present time.

The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) asked whether the provision by hotels and restaurant proprietors would be insufficient to meet what we may regard as the likely legitimate demands. I do not think the hotel and restaurant proprietors would allege that, by themselves, in the restricted area to which this Measure will apply they would be able to make the full provision that is regarded as necessary. If they could, I say frankly, I would have preferred that the hotels and restaurants should have a monopoly, and that there should not be this secondary provision made available through the clubs.

I will conclude by dealing, I hope finally, with the question of whether it is right that these facilities should be available at all, for that has been raised in the speeches of one or two hon. Members. I say to all my fellow total abstainers in the House that it is quite wrong of us to think that we can impose our views on other people in this country otherwise than by arguments and conviction—

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

And example.

Mr. Ede

I did not include that in considering my hon. Friends, for they are such outstanding examples of the clarity of expression that comes from total abstinence.

Mr. S. O. Davies

Will my right hon. Friend please inform us what he is doing now other than forcing his views on others?

Mr. Ede

No, I am not forcing my views on anybody. When these Clauses become law my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. S. O. Davies) will not be compelled to attend any night club, except that I hope he will be here occasionally in the early hours of the morning to support the Government as vehemently as he has opposed them tonight. We do not force anybody to go, but I should much resent any law which said either that I was to consume intoxicating liquor or that I was to go to a night club against my wish. There are, however, certain reasonable citizens of this country who can drink a certain amount of intoxicating liquor without, as far as I can see, any immediate harm to themselves or making themselves a nuisance to their neighbours.

Now the law deals with those who make themselves a nuisance to neighbours, and these Clauses will make it easier to control and prevent the nuisances that we know sometimes arise when some of the present evasions of the law in the form of night clubs get their customers to leave early in the morning.

Mr. Hale

Would the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Ede

No, I have been generous in giving way, and we have a lot of business before us. I suggest that the right attitude for this House to adopt, and particularly the right attitude for this party to adopt, is that if other people do not interfere with us in the legitimate enjoyment of our leisure, we should not interfere unnecessarily with them, and that the only ground for interfering with anybody in the use of his leisure is the fact that he is infringing on the liberties of someone else. There is no infringement with the liberties of anyone in these Clauses.

Mr. J. Hudson

What about the man who wants to drink until 4 o'clock in the morning? My right hon. Friend is stopping him at 2 o'clock.

Mr. Ede

Precisely. The reason why, on advice, I am asking the House to come to the conclusion that going on until 4 o'clock would be detrimental to his health, is that we ought not to impose so severe a burden on the National Health Service as such long hours would entail. Traditionally in this country we have imposed certain limitations with regard to hours which have varied from one generation to another as the habits and requirements of the population have changed. I suggest that we recognise the existing habits and existing needs appropriately in the Clauses which I have the honour to submit to the House.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)

I rise not to make a speech but to put one point to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not want to interrupt him in his speech because so many other hon. Members were already doing so. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) the Home Secretary referred to the proviso on page 1997 of the Order Paper to which reference has been made already, namely, on any occasion when the provision of music and dancing ceases. … It is clear from the points put by hon. Members to the right hon. Gentleman that there is doubt and misapprehension as to the meaning of that proviso. All hon. Members who put points to the Home Secretary read the proviso as if it said "on any occasion when the provision of music and dancing ceased," whereas of course the proviso says "ceases." It is clear from that, that the proviso does not mean when dancing has ceased but merely when the provision of music and dancing has ceased. The provision of music is clear enough to understand. What the provision of dancing is, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree, is obviously a matter of doubt. However, that is what the proviso appears to intend to say, but it does not succeed in saying it satisfactorily, so would the Home Secretary agree that it should be looked at again from the point of view of clarifying it in another place?

Mr. Ede indicated assent.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)

No doubt my right hon. Friend would be grateful to the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) for raising that point if my right hon. Friend had not expressed a contrary opinion 10 minutes ago. I also rise to put two questions. The first is this. Everybody knows that club law at the moment makes it quite easy to form what is known as a bogus club. A bogus club, in the sense in which I am using the term, is a perfectly legitimate thing. You pay 5s., you register with a magistrate's clerk, you arrange to employ your wife as cook, your brother as librarian, your daughter as something else, and you ensure that the club cannot make a profit except for yourself. That is the method of registering the kind of club which is a proprietary club, and it is from that kind of club that the evil used to come—the clubs that were run by the widowed mother of a large number of peeresses, or other single persons who ran a club purely for profit.

So far as I have read these Clauses, there is no power in them for the authority granting the licence to consider that point. There is no power for a uniformed constable to inspect the books. There is no power to insist that the club which is being given the privileges is a reputable members' club conducted for the members.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

Would it get a catering licence if it were disreputable?

Mr. Hale

Most certainly. We had a reference in recent proceedings to precisely that type of organisation.

My second point is this: I agree substantially with the right hon. Gentleman that if we do not do something we shall drive this thing underground, making it worse, with no powers of control. I am prepared to accept the general proposition that there has to be some sort of provision such as this, that it is an admirable thing to have police inspection, but I say sincerely that I am not sure that this has had all the consideration it might have had if it had been incorporated in the Bill at the commencement, and had been deliberated on in Committee. That is rather a pity, because it is an important matter and we must face it.

The case against the sort of night club that was the subject of complaint before the war was that it was the resort, and the organised resort, of women of a certain type. It was not the case that it was a brothel or that prostitution took place upon the premises. It was the case that one could go there and meet either prostitutes or persons who were employed for the purpose of conveying the impression that they might be willing to submit themselves to that kind of thing, even whether they did or did not do so. No uniformed constable inspecting that place could see anything wrong. The way those clubs were stopped was to get them for a breach of the licensing laws; but now that the licensing laws are being altered they cannot be tackled in that way. Such places will be able to carry on so long as they comply with the very few and rather limited conditions which will now exist. This is important, because really I do not see what the uniformed constable is likely to see wrong when he inspects this kind of premises. That is point number two, and it ought to be made.

And now, point number three. The right hon. Gentleman rather overstated his case when he gave us a description of the Battersea Working Men's Club carrying on until 2.30 in the morning. If the Battersea club, then why not the Oldham club? But let me say this: I do not think we want such facilities in Oldham; I am not suggesting there is any demand by my constituents for night clubs or anything else, but I can conceive no argument that could be put forward for extending this possibility to the whole of the associated working men's clubs of London—except, it may be, that there has been no desire for rejoicing in London since the County Council elections; apart from that, however, I conceive no argument which could say that this provision should apply to some obscure suburb of London, but not to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh or Birmingham if those places want it. That matter wants some consideration.

This is a matter about which the House has a right to be concerned; about which the House has a right to say that it ought to have a little longer for reflection, a longer opportunity for thought and a little more careful study, because this is the sort of subject upon which most of us who are concerned with this problem would want to refer to organisations for information; would want to refer to people of experience; would want to know just how the Clause is going to work and just what sort of thing it will permit before we are called upon to vote for it at all.

It is not always that I can agree with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), and I can probably agree with him now only because I did not hear what he said but only heard a reference to it after I came into the House. There is certainly a case for saying that if these facilities are to be given at all, hotels and restaurants are certainly entitled to consideration. I cannot imagine anyone—I am not saying this at all jocularly—who would be more capable of providing facilities of this sort on a very substantial and proper scale than well-known catering firms. They could then be reputably and well conducted, and could still be made attractive. [Laughter.] I do not know why that remark appears to occasion a certain amount of amusement in the Post Office. I should never suggest that such things should be run in the village post office. Have not Lyons' got control of the Trocadero—if I might try to make my point clearer? They might very well be capable of providing the sort of evening entertainment which can be reputably conducted.

Mr. Ede

Clause 20 already enables that to be done.

Mr. Hale

I appreciate what is in Clause 20, but there are a number of limitations which, I am sure, are well in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is perfectly clear under this Clause that the bogus proprietary club could have very many more facilities than the average club. That is why I think this is a matter to which the right hon. Gentleman ought to give more consideration.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I find myself in support of the general view of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) that it might be wise to have a little further reflection before we part with the Clause, particularly on this matter of the definition of what constitutes "the cessation of music and dancing." Frankly, I feel that the right hon. Gentleman failed to make that clear, and I thought that the hon. Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) put his finger on an obvious weakness—an escape Clause, if you like—when he suggested that if some professional dancers hired by the establishment revolved on the floor for the necessary length of time that would constitute the continuance of dancing. I do not think I am doing the hon. Gentleman an injustice if I suggest that what he had in mind was some sort of stooge staff to occupy the floor whilst the remainder of the customers patronised the bar. From what the Home Secretary has said, however, I gather that this possibility was not in his mind. What he meant was the cessation of dancing by the customers—I cannot think of a better word—

Mr. Ede


Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

—by the clients of the establishment.

Here, again, is a rather obvious loophole. Let me suggest the procedure which would appeal immediately to the Patronage Secretary: that the members at the bar would be told not to "keep a house" but to go and "keep a floor"; that there must be the necessary number of people there revolving; that so long as someone is dancing, everyone else can go on drinking. I feel sure there is room here for a little definition. To carry the matter a little further by the same analogy, the floor would have to be kept occupied. There might, perhaps, be a statutory minimum number of dancers who had to be on the floor; who must occupy the floor until either the fall of the guillotine at 2 o'clock or until the head waiter, who I am sure would have much of the demeanour and appearance of the Patronage Secretary, moved the closure. This, tome, seems to be a loophole as a result of which the whole of the Home Secretary's good intentions might be sidetracked. I though that the hon. Member for West Ealing was making a good point when he spoke about this.

Mr. J. Hudson

I should like to be described properly in this House. There in a place named West Ealing but it has no geographical connection with my constituency. My constituency is Ealing, West.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I must tender my immediate apologies to the hon. Gentleman. Habitues of night clubs will have even greater difficulty in bearing this in mind when they have to approach the hon. Gentleman on any of his visits to these places.

The Home Secretary has made a brave effort to meet a real difficulty, and I share the general view which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby.(Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) expressed to the House; but I feel there is a case for further clarification of what constitutes "the cessation of music and dancing."

Mr. Ede

May I, with leave of the House, say that I welcome the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale). I shall have all the points he has raised most carefully considered. I do not intend that these facilities should be available for bogus clubs. On the other points which he has raised I will see if it is possible in another place to introduce words to safeguard the position.

Let me reply to the point raised on several occasions about the time when music and dancing should cease. If hon. Members look at the Clause now under discussion they will see that lines 8 and 9 read as follows: that the whole or any part of the premises is structurally adapted, and bona fide used, or intended to be used, for the purpose of providing for the members of the club music and dancing …. Again, I shall have these words examined to be quite sure that they cover the very legitimate point that the dancing is genuine dancing by the members of the club and not by two or three pairs of stooges put up merely to keep the thing going.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The right hon. Gentleman gave an undertaking in Committee upstairs to look into the question of whether it was necessary or right to amend the general provisions so that no place should be forced to stay open if it were losing money. By what he said earlier this afternoon, it would appear that any place would run grave risk of losing its licence, or not obtaining a new licence, if it were not open. In view of the undertaking, I ask the Home Secretary to look carefully at this matter again. We do not want to do anything to force an establishment to remain open at a loss.

Mr. Ede

I have looked into the point and I have been reassured on it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.