§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
I beg to move,That this House, realising the importance to this country of the foreign tourist trade as a source of invisible currency earnings and the discouragement often caused to foreign visitors by the present licensing laws; considering that certain of the more irksome restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquor could be relaxed without prejudice to the purposes which the laws are intended to serve; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to consider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable.It is perhaps not altogether inappropriate that this Motion should fall to be moved upon 4th July, Independence Day, when it is hoped that the independence of hon. Members of the House of Commons may triumph over any party barriers which may exist and that we shall be able to approach this subject free from any party difference and apply our minds to the subject in a sensible and reasonable way. It is also perhaps appropriate to recall that Independence Day is not altogether dissociated with a quarrel over a certain kind of drink, and that the difficulties promoted in the first instance by tea may eventually be turned into harmony over a more stimulating form of nourishment.
The House should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) who brought this matter to the attention of the House some weeks ago, although it was only possible for him to do so in the comparatively short space of an Adjournment debate. It may be possible for us, in the more leisured 768 atmosphere of a Private Members' Motion day, to devote a little more detailed consideration to the matter before us.
I hope, although perhaps it is an optimistic hope, that we shall be able between us to achieve a fair measure. of agreement, and as I am in favour of agreeing so far as possible with everybody, I hope that my introductory remarks, emphasising the importance of the tourist trade, and the importance of having foreigners coming to visit us and being made welcome among us, will find general approval.
We are fortunate, in trying to make up our minds on this Motion, in having for our consideration the Annual Report of the British Travel and Holidays Association, which has just been published. It brings to our attention some very interesting facts about tourist travel, about which I think the House would like to be reminded. It says:In spite of the unfavourable international situation, which restricted American travel to Europe in the first half of 1951, the tourist traffic to Britain"—last year—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and 40 Members being present
§ Mr. McAdden
I am grateful to hon. Members of all parties for their generous action in supporting the further consideration of the subject to be discussed today, irrespective of their views as to its propriety. I hope that the decision which they have taken to allow the debate to proceed will not prove unworthy of them.
I was quoting from the Annual Report of the British Travel and Holidays Association, which says:In spite of the unfavourable international situation which restricted American travel to Europe in the first half of 1951, tourist traffic to Britain"—last year—almost reached the optimistic forecast of 700,000 made in the last Annual Report. Six hundred and ninety-five thousand overseas visitors came to the country from all over the world, over 14 per cent. more than in 1950. Tourist traffic in 1951 was over 40 per cent. greater than in the best years before the war.It also states that, in addition to the 695,000 visitors to which I have referred, there were approximately 200,000 tourists from the Irish Republic. Not only did 769 these people come here and, I hope, enjoy their visit, but last year the visitors spent the equivalent of £73 million in foreign currencies and paid, in addition, about £30 million in fares to British carriers on international routes.
Our tourist revenue of £103 million was £15,500,000 higher than in 1950. As we are all conscious of the importance of doing something to earn dollars—a point of view which, again, is not a party point of view: it has been stressed by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer—it is interesting to notice that tourism represented one of our chief sources of American dollars. One-third of the total receipts came from the United States and Canada. Visitors from the United States alone spent, including fares, £26,400,000, which is a sum greater than any of the country's visible exports to America and equivalent to 20 per cent. of all Britain's physical exports to the United States.
These figures are extremely interesting and worthy of serious consideration by hon. Members before deciding what action they should say that we should take to discourage or to encourage visitors from abroad. The Report says:The part which tourism can play in improving the country's economic position has never been more important than it is today. Our present economic difficulties have shown the importance of earning other currencies besides dollars; and the increasing tourist traffic from Europe has helped to reduce the European Payments Union drain on our gold and dollar reserves.When one looks at the interesting chart to be found in this Report, a study of which I commend to hon. Members, one finds that there is an analysis of our exports to the United States. This shows that whereas whisky, a commodity which is not altogether unrelated to the subject of our debate today, and one which is regarded as being an important export to the United States, earned about £20 million last year, tourism earned over £26 million.
Exports of woollen yarns and other manufactures amounted to £12 million, and other figures are: vehicles, £12 million; other textile manufactures, £9 million; pottery and glass, £4 million; and cotton yarns, £3,500,000. But, for tourism, the extraordinary figure of over £26 million is given. That is an important contribution towards the solution of our economic difficulties.
770 We find that the future outlook is regarded by those most competent to judge as being quite rosy provided that we take all possible steps to see that visitors are encouraged. The travel movement is reported to have started well in 1952. It is estimated that we shall have about 750,000 visitors this year. Next year, Coronation year, we should be well advised to believe that we shall have an even larger number of visitors.
The attitude of the Government to this question has already been made clear. The Government appreciate the importance of developing the tourist trade. Although certain organisations have had their grants in aid reduced in recent months, the British Travel and Holiday Association have had their grant increased this year. The conclusion at which the Association arrive in this Report is:Your Board has heard with satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government intend to provide an increased sum as grant-in-aid in the coming year. This practical recognition of the value of tourism to the nation can only be used to the best advantage provided that all those connected with this great industry are prepared to improve and extend our tourist facilities.I think that I have said enough to show that tourism is of considerable value in our economic difficulties, and I should now like to turn to a consideration of whether there is anything which can be done to improve the facilities. If we can improve them without detriment to the legitimate and proper interests of the people of this country, we should certainly give immediate consideration to the matter.
On the other hand, there are those who say that visitors to Britain, remembering the maxim that when in Rome one should do as the Romans do, should know what they are coming to; and that in Britain they should live as the Briton's live and not grumble and complain of the way in which the affairs of this country are conducted as they affect refreshments and matters of that kind. This is an interesting argument. I can understand those who say that visitors to Britain have come to see what Britain is like and how we live, and that they ought to be given some idea of the restrictions in force here. They say that if visitors have come here with their eyes open on this question, then there is nothing further to be done about it.
771 That would be a more convincing argument if Briton's themselves knew what went on in this country with regard to licensing regulations. I do not think that it is an unfair point to make that even Britons themselves are considerably confused by the licensing regulations whenever they venture out of the narrow perimeter of the area in which they normally reside. There is nothing approaching uniformity within Britain on the question of licensing regulations.
I do not propose to argue whether there should be a uniformity of closing and opening hours all over the country. However, we should recognise, when we are urging other people to understand the way in which we live and the way in which different restrictions operate, that we ourselves do not fully understand them. We cannot be expected to know what goes on in the various parts of the country. Therefore, this question must prove even more perplexing to people from overseas.
To deal briefly with the question of terminal permitted hours, may I say, at the outset, that I am conscious of the temerity with which I should approach this question of licensing laws. I am not a lawyer, and I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the law. I am only an ordinary person not possessing special knowledge, but attempting to apply ordinary commonsense arguments to the problems which come before us.
It seems to me that this question of the licensing laws has resulted in the production of anomalies which we find it difficult to explain, for which there is possibly, some perfectly reasonable explanation, but which, however, cannot be given to every visitor, because he does not want a dissertation upon the perplexities of our laws. He only wants to get adequate and reasonable refreshment at adequate and reasonable hours, and I believe that considerable confusion is caused to tourists by the fact that the final terminal hours for licensed premises vary from district to district. This fact causes confusion to them and to us. We may be persuaded and encouraged to put up with that situation in the interests of something or other, but it is really difficult for the overseas visitor to understand what is going on.
772 I am told that the difficulty arises because of the fact that the trading hours are fixed by the licensing justices in each of the 989 licensing divisions of England and Wales. In summer time in England, the majority of them have a final terminal hour of 10.30 p.m., but in 217 divisions the final hour is 10 p.m., in one it is 9.30 p.m. and in one other it is 9 o'clock. In winter in England, only 125 divisions have a final permitted terminal hour of 10.30 p.m., while in 729 divisions licensed premises must not serve after 10 p.m., and in two divisions the terminal hour is as early as 9 o'clock.
There is an even further complication, for there is no recognised standard of what comprises summer time. One can understand that, because of the vagaries of the English climate, anyone attempting to predict what summer time was going to be, or even whether it would last for more than a few days, would probably find himself in some difficulty. In some licensing divisions, summer time is regarded as being the duration of the operation of British summer time, in some others it is considered to be the four months of June, July, August and September, while in some other areas it is regarded as some lesser period.
In Wales and Monmouthshire, upon which I hesitate to venture, there are three divisions in which the final hour is 10.30 p.m. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do not go any further."] An hon. Gentleman opposite tells me not to go any further, and I would reply that it is just because of some of these restrictions that tourists do not go any further, whereas I hope they will.
In 35 divisions, there is a terminal hour of 10.30 p.m., and, in the remaining 95, the terminal hour is 10 p.m. or earlier. The result of this is that the tourist who comes to Britain, which comprises other countries besides England, just does not know how he stands. He may pass through an area in which the houses in which he can obtain refreshment are open, but, by the time he reaches the next town, may find all the inns closed. It seems to me that if we have these regulations, which we ourselves find difficulty in comprehending, it is quite unreasonable to expect foreign visitors to understand them.
Other complexities have been brought to our notice in recent weeks. The Lord Chief Justice recently gave a decision 773 which, I am sure, most reasonable people will welcome. It is that, when some of these pleasure steamers are sailing from one licensing division to another, they need not automatically close down immediately they pass from one area to another. I am glad that that statement by the Lord Chief Justice has been made, because, had it not been made, we should have had some very interesting situations in which pleasure steamers on the Thames moving from one licensing district to another would have been subjected to different regulations.
Indeed. if the original decision had been allowed to stand, I presume that, as a train on British Railways passes rapidly through the country, we should find that, as it passed from one licensing division to another, the sale of drinks in the restaurant cars and bars would be permitted one minute, forbidden the next and permitted again a few minutes later, and so on, until the waiters and the passengers would become even more confused as the journey progressed.
I am also told that there is really no question, as a result of this decision, of people seeking to make things more awkward than they are. I am told that, in law, it would be perfectly feasible to have a restaurant car on the Inner Circle, and that, as the train went round and round that circle, people could get drinks all the time. I do not think there is any suggestion that, in order to improve the takings of the British Transport Commission, they should put restaurant cars on the Inner Circle. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Well, may be, they will. It is a thought which may occur to them as a way of improving their revenue; I do not know. Certainly, those who come from north of the Border would not be unattracted by the possibilities of adding to the potency of the refreshment which they take by moving in a circular direction at the same time.
I believe that the existence of these anomalies is recognised and appreciated by the majority of people in this country, and, indeed, so far as our own recreations and legitimate pursuits are concerned, we recognise that it is necessary for our own enjoyment to make special arrangements for our refreshment when pursuing our own pleasures.
We do not say, when talking of cricket matches, agricultural shows and events 774 of that description, which we provide for our own enjoyment, that everybody who attends must be restricted as to the refreshments which they may consume to the licensing hours of the district. We say that this is a form of amusement or enjoyment which the British people want to enjoy, and, that owing to the difficulties of being able to get refreshment within the usual and normal licensing hours, special arrangements exist for such purposes in such cases.
It seems to me that, if we are prepared to make these arrangements for our own enjoyment, we ought to be able to make some arrangements to meet the convenience of people from overseas. Visitors here are not affected by the same desire to follow some of the amusements that we necessarily seek to provide for our own enjoyment, and I do not think that visitors who come from the United States have an overwhelming interest in drinking.
If they come to my constituency, they would probably enjoy the exhilarating cricket provided during the Southend Cricket Week, but if they were unfortunate enough to be in Manchester and had to put up with the kind of cricket which is played at Trafford Park, as distinct from the exhilarating cricket which is played in Essex, it would cease to be an enjoyment and become a penance, but that is a subject upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who is to follow me, may have different views.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman permit me to remind him that any Lancashire cricketer would regard it as an affront to be told that he plays cricket in Trafford Park? Cricket is played at Old Trafford.
§ Mr. McAdden
That may be so, but it is not very far removed from Trafford Park, though I willingly withdraw. It only shows how uninteresting I must have found Lancashire cricket when I was there, because I did not even remember the exact location so that I could go back and watch it again.
§ Mr. McAdden
The right hon. Gentleman suggests that it might have been due to the potency of the refreshments, but 775 in those days, when I was in Lancashire, and certainly in Manchester, I was below the age at which alcoholic refreshments could be served to me at all. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the "ginger pop" on which I used to regale myself was so dangerous and potent, I hope he will support the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper today.
As I was saying, it seems to me that if we are prepared to take special measures regarding reasonable refreshment which we may ourselves consume when we are watching or enjoying the kind of things we like, we should recognise the fact that visitors from overseas come here, in the main, to go from place to place, to see our wonderful architecture, the beauties of our countryside, and so on.
§ Mr. McAdden
Yes, we have some very fine architectural wonders in Southend. The hon. Gentleman should come there some time. But we also have other forms of amusement, and I hope that as a result of this Motion the number of hon. Members who visit Southend will be increased.
I repeat, it is my view that we should take some steps to try and improve the facilities for overseas visitors in order that they may be not less well served in the seeking of their refreshment than are we when pursuing our own pleasures. But that is not only my view.
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Gentleman says it is the brewers' view. As a matter of fact he is quite wrong, and I would suggest to him and to some of his hon. Friends that they really should not be so short-sighted as to suggest that anybody who seeks to improve facilities for obtaining refreshment is necessarily in the pay of the brewers. That really is not so. Neither is it true to suggest that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is exclusively the pleasure and pursuit of a few top-hatted Members of the Tory Party with large "tummies" and gold watch chains.
I am sure that if we look at the figures we shall find that many working men 776 drink such beverages. Quite a number of working men in this country and working people from overseas who visit us have been known on occasion to have the odd noggin. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) must not run away with the idea that every suggestion for improving facilities for refreshment is a wicked campaign on the part of the brewers. As a matter of fact, so far as they are concerned with regard to the proposals I am proposing to put to the House this morning, they have, if anything, damned them with faint praise and have not supported them to any extent at all, because they believe that if any improvements are to be made they should be part of a wholesale scheme of licensing reform, whereas what I am suggesting represents only minor reforms.
I am asking the House to consider the recommendations put forward by the British Travel and Holiday Association. That Association is not in the pay of the brewers; it is a reputable body, a Government-sponsored body—and not only a Tory Government-sponsored body, but one supported by the previous Government as well. It really is most unjust for people so to seek to prejudice the issue as to pretend that any sensible or reasonable proposal emanates from the brewers. It does not. This is a reputable body, the President of which was the Lord Chancellor in the Socialist Government, who is presumably regarded by the hon. Gentleman opposite as an eminently respectable individual.
§ Mr. McAdden
I do not want to drag party politics into this debate. The hon. Gentleman should really try to contain himself. He says that when we had a Socialist Government we needed holidays but now that we have a Conservative Government we do not. That seems to me to be a rather two-edged sort of argument. Is he suggesting that people were so tired, dispirited and fed up under a Socialist Government that they needed a holiday, whereas today they are filled with a better feeling of hope and can go on without so much relaxation and rest?
§ Mr. John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
May I point out that holidays with pay were introduced by a Tory Government, and not by a Socialist Government?
§ Mr. McAdden
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding both myself and other hon. Members of that interesting fact.
As I have said, the British Travel and Holiday Association are a Government-sponsored body who have produced a most interesting report. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Sparkbrook has been having too much tea before he came here.
§ Mr. Shurmer
May I tell the hon. Gentleman, while not divulging my age, that I have travelled the world extensively and have never tasted strong drink?
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Gentleman says that he has travelled the world and has never tasted strong liquor. I do not reproach him for that. I have never suggested in any way that a law should be passed to say that those who do not want strong drink should be made to drink it.
§ Mr. McAdden
Let us try to get away from these political herrings, which should not be introduced in a debate of this kind, and get back to the question of the recommendations made by the British Travel and Holiday Association. They are very reasonable recommendations, and in putting these matters before the House I propose to be even more reasonable.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman including the Welsh Tourist Association in his reference to the British Travel and Holiday Association as supporting his Motion?
§ Mr. McAdden
We must remember, of course, that the Welsh Association is an affiliated body and as such certainly has some voice in the recommendations of the British Travel and Holiday Association, although I am going to be extremely careful when it comes to the question of Wales and Scotland.
This memorandum prepared by the British Travel and Holiday Association 778 contains extremely reasonable proposals although there are, perhaps, one or two here and there which do not find universal favour even among those interested in improving the facilities for foreign visitors to this country. Therefore, I propose to leave such recommendations alone in order that the greatest degree of unanimity may prevail among us. I do not want to embark upon any contentious issues, but to concentrate on those things which are reasonable. The Report says:The regulations limiting the sale of intoxicants in British hotels, inns and restaurants provide a constant source of comment and criticism by travellers, particularly overseas visitors.It may be argued that there are some hon. Members who disagree with that statement, but at least this is the Report produced by an independent, responsible body who are recognised as having done a remarkable job and whose Report is worthy of serious consideration and which should not be swept aside by flippant references to brewers and the like. The Association go on to point out the considerations by which they have been actuated in presenting the Report. They say:Our criterion has been the needs of the traveller and holiday-maker. The Association believes that such persons should have reasonable freedom to decide whether to buy liquor or nota point of view supported by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook—Those who wish to consume liquor without interfering with the liberties and pleasures of their fellows should not be restricted by law as though they were incapable of behaving in a reasonable fashion, and in need of restraint in the interests of those who do not wish to drink.This is the Report of a reputable body. They say:We have deliberately limited our scope to suggestions for meeting travellers' reasonable requirements, and have made no attempt to cover the whole wide field of licensing regulations … Since the last major inquiry into the licensing laws (Royal Commission, 1929–1931) there have been developments which have changed the situation. There is now a considerably greater holiday movement in Britain than before the War and the tourist trade has expanded both in volume and value in a remarkable fashion. Given favourable opportunities, this expansion is likely to continue. For this special reason the Association would ask"—779 as I would ask today—for the most careful consideration to be given to their proposals, in the light of the country's duty to offer satisfactory services.The first recommendation that they make is that there should be an extension of the permitted hours in the afternoon. This is not a new recommendation. The Royal Commission on Licensing, 1929–31, referred to it. They recommended an extension in the afternoon. Although some may attempt to deride this Report as being inspired by the brewers, I hope they will not suggest that the Commission was inspired by the brewers as well. The Commission and the British Travel and Holidays Association both recommend that there should be an extension of permitted hours in the afternoon.
The reason is quite simple. The people who are touring this country, going from place to place, are not always able to arrange to take their luncheon at a fixed time. They may get to a place where they propose to have lunch, only to find that it is full and they have to go somewhere else. I hope that hon. Members will not suggest that it is always possible to arrange to have a meal at a particular place and get it. Those with experience of travel in this country will know that on many occasions one has to go to more than one place before one can obtain lunch. In those circumstances it sometimes happens that people can find themselves arriving at a place where the licensed hour has already passed and, while they can obtain a meal, it is impossible for them to have any refreshment with it.
It is suggested that one would be justified in assuming that the hour of 3.30 p.m. is a reasonable one and that up to that hour people should be able to obtain some kind of alcoholic refreshment if they want it. That seems to me to be a fair and reasonable proposal. It is supported by the Association and recommended by the Royal Commission, and I hope it will find favour with hon. Members. I hope we shall not be told that if these place are allowed to be kept open until 3.30 p.m. they will be filled by the working population and that thus the industrial effort will be impeded.
The second recommendation made by the Association concerns residents' guests 780 at hotels. At the moment we have a vexatious position in which a person who is a resident in an hotel may purchase a drink for himself after the licensed hour for the district has passed, but he must not purchase one for a friend. That seems to me to be provocative of all sorts of difficulties not only for visitors overseas but for our own people as well. I quite realise that if any steps are taken to improve facilities for visitors from overseas, we ourselves may have the same facilities, and honestly I do not see any harm in that.
Let us consider the position of some of the big towns where conferences are held by various organisations. One finds that all the delegates cannot be accommodated in one hotel and the fact that a delegate in one hotel brings a friend back with him and cannot buy him a drink is not likely to make it convenient for them to fraternise and associate as they could otherwise.
If I may take an example which may appeal to the House in the interest of party unity, let us suppose that at a Labour Party conference the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), in spite of the most strenuous efforts, could not obtain accommodation in the same hotel. Suppose that after the deliberations of the conference were over they wanted to have one of those friendly little chats in which I am told they frequently indulge. Surely it would be better for them if they could indulge in that friendly chat and drink a loving cup together in the hotel in which one or the other was staying, instead of having to separate and remain in solitude.
It is worth giving some consideration to the great difficulties which are caused to overseas visitors who do not understand that, having received the hospitality of people with whom they have been out and about and who, in the tradition of normal British courtesy, have accompanied them back to their hotel, they cannot say, "Have a little refreshment with me before you go home." That is one of the silly little difficulties—
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this part of the hon. Member's argument strictly in order, having regard to the terms of the 781 Motion, which deals with the interests of the tourist trade?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not before the House yet because the Question has not been proposed; but I think it would be in the interest of hon. Members as a whole if matters more strictly relevant to the Motion were the main business of the hon. Member who is proposing the Motion.
§ Mr. McAdden
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that in stressing the needs of foreign tourists I was also tempted to do something to bring about a happier relationship among gentlemen of my acquaintance.
The other recommendation made by the Association refers to the special hours certificate. Hon. Members probably will be aware that the issue of a special hours certificate, permitting the sale of intoxicating liquor to certain establishments where dancing and refreshments are provided, is at the moment restricted to the Metropolis. Although the Metropolis might have been at one time the most interesting part of the country, today, when we are attracting visitors here, many of our visitors do not want to stop in London. Some like to go to other more delightful and amusing places in their judgment. It seems to me that seaside resorts, in addition to places such as Stratford-on-Avon, might well argue that they have just as good a case for the issue of special certificates, in view of the attractions they have to offer, as the Metropolis itself.
The B.T.H.A. therefore recommend that special hours certificates should be available for places outside London as well. Obviously these would be issued with great discretion by those responsible for them. There is no suggestion that there should be a widespread increase, and indeed many areas probably would not wish to have these certificates; but if this facility is to be extended, then I think it should not be confined to the Metropolis.
Another recommendation concerns international airports. I am glad to see in the House my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) who is attempting to pilot a Private Member's Bill on this question. In view of his greater knowledge of the subject, I hope very much, Mr. Speaker, 782 that he will be fortunate enough to catch your eye in order to explain further to hon. Members the cogent arguments which affect that question.
As to the general question of the position in Wales, for obvious reasons I do not propose to venture upon that hazardous project, but my hon. Friend the Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson), many of whose constituents frequently visit Wales, will probably have some observations to put before the House.
I should like to point out to hon. Members that the recommendations which I have mentioned for removing anomalies within the existing framework are as recommended by a reputable body sponsored by the Government and on the lines of the Report of the Royal Commission. They are generally welcomed by the trade. When I say "trade," I am talking about those sections of it which I have had the opportunity to consult. I have discussed this matter with the Catering Association, who generally are in favour of these limited recommendations to which I have drawn the attention of the House.
The licensed victuallers are also generally in favour of the recommendations, which I have discussed with them. I should like to be able to say that the British Hotels and Restaurants Association are also in favour, but I cannot say that categorically; I do not know. I am given the impression that they are but as they have, I am informed, submitted a confidential memorandum to the Home Office on the question, and have not seen fit to disclose it to me, I cannot say with any authority whether it finds favour with them or not.
I wish to deal finally with the question whether these proposals might perhaps be of benefit to Britons as well. I recognise that if the law is altered, it cannot with convenience be altered in such a way as to make it applicable only to foreigners; it must apply to Britons as well. I do not see any harm in that. I see no reason why we should not enjoy the same limited privileges as we should like to see extended to foreigners in order to remove certain of these anomalies.
I emphasise that these suggestions of the British Travel and Holidays Associations, which I have tried to put before 783 the House today, do not really involve any far-reaching change in our general attitude towards the licensing of the sale of alcoholic refreshment. They are comparatively minor ones, reasonable ones, ones which I hope will find favour with the Members of this House.
Therefore, I call the attention of Members to the Motion in my name. I hope that they will find that it is not unreasonable and that it is dictated, not by any outside interest—I have no connection with the brewing trade—but by a genuine and sincere desire both on the part of the British Travel and Holidays Association and of myself to see that visitors who come from overseas are not subjected to irksome and irritating restrictions which could easily be removed without opening the floodgates to wholesale drunkenness, etc., a thought which seems to worry some of my hon. Friends who are here today.
I do not want to see a drunken nation, and I am sure no one in the House does. I am reminded of the fact that many of our visitors from overseas come from countries where there are no licensing restrictions, and I do not find that the standard of drunkenness in those countries is any greater than it is here. I would ask hon. Gentlemen to approach this matter, not from a narrow point of view that they do not like alcoholic liquor in any circumstances and therefore they will oppose any alteration of the existing law, but to take a reasonable point of view and say that this country has, over the years, decided on the regulation and control of the sale of alcoholic liquor.
The principle of selling it has been established. Let us try to be reasonable and, where little difficulties exist, try to get them ironed out. I hope that my Motion will be considered favourably by the Government, and that we may at an early date be informed of such amendments of the law as are in their judgment desirable and practicable.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I beg to second the Motion.
I am quite sure that the case which my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) has made has impressed upon the House the very 784 great urgency of some consideration being given to this matter. Every example which my hon. Friend used, every case that he pointed out, focused attention on the fact that the process of the last 40 years of licensing restrictions in this country has been to add to an already difficult and confused situation.
These confusions affect the actions of our own people in many cases, and they certainly have a very important effect upon the course of conduct and activities of visitors to this country. It seems to me that if no other case could be made for reconsidering licensing restrictions, that in itself would be a sufficient one. As has been pointed out, we have a whole mass of vagaries, distortions, and distractions of what set out to be a simple, recognisable and fairly uniform pattern of licensing restrictions.
It was a great Liverpool citizen, the late Sir Archibald Salvidge, himself a brewer, who was called into consultation during the First World War by the Government of the day in an effort to find a way of preventing excessive drinking interfering with the First World War effort. Sir Archibald suggested the licensed hours which at present apply pretty well over the whole country—the formal pattern of 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. to 10 p.m.—in order that in the various areas of the country in which big wages were being earned in the war effort there should be no danger of interference with the war effort through wages being freely spent at the wrong time in the wrong way on alcoholic drink which would interfere with the capacity of the workers to perform their job.
We had at that stage a simple, recognisable and fairly uniform system of restriction of licensed hours. We have had 40 years of tinkering with that pattern, 40 years of playing about with the fringe of what is a very important problem which affects the lives of the whole community in one way or another.
There are today examples to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East has drawn the attention of the House, such as the case of two licensed premises in adjacent streets which have different sets of regulations. There has just been on Merseyside a rather extraordinary legal case about whether the Mersey ferries, a very important part of our life on Merseyside, should be allowed 785 to sell alcoholic refreshment outside licensed hours. The judgment went against those who said that they could supply drink outside licensed hours.
That was the position until a little while ago, when a judgment was given by the Lord Chief Justice in connection with the Thames ferries, which put the position where it is at the moment. The Wallasey ferry proprietors have complained that the prosecution which the Chief Constable of Liverpool felt it his duty to bring forward was a waste of public funds, but, whatever the merits of his judgment of the legal position at that time, the fact that he found it necessary to take that course of action at least shows how confused and uncertain the law is on the point.
We have now reached the position which makes the law, if now understandable, at all events more confused, that if the ship is tied up at the Birkenhead landing stage the licensing hours' restrictions apply but if they let go the boat the licensing hours restrictions do not apply. All this process of playing about with the problem of the licensing restrictions—and some of the proposals of the British Tourist and Holidays Association represent little more than playing about with them—
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
Is that exactly the case in regard to the Mersey? I have some recollection of Merseyside, and I always thought that even in the case of excursions to the Mersey Bar, on which drinking was permitted, it was not permitted until the boat was so many minutes out of Liverpool.
§ Mr. Thompson
That was the position, and was understood to be the position, until very recently. Now the decision of the Lord Chief Justice arising out of the case fought over the Thames ferries applies, I understand, to all similar cases in various parts of the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has brought foward for the consideration of this House a Measure which seeks to make it possible for certain international airports to be able to provide facilities for travellers arriving at them or setting out from them. The result, if that Measure meets with the approval of the House, will be that a passenger who flies from Paris to London Airport will be able to 786 have a drink outside licensed hours. If a passenger flies from Liverpool to London—assuming that B.E.A. have managed to make that possible—those facilities will not be available to him. If a passenger flying from Paris to London runs into foggy weather and the aeroplane is diverted, he will not be able to have a drink outside licensing hours.
The whole position with regard to these restrictions has grown so completely confused over the last 40 years that the House has a very urgent duty to perform in examining the whole matter. First, we should examine the purpose of the original restrictions in order to satisfy ourselves that that purpose is being in some way achieved. I share the view of my hon. Friend that it is not desirable that we should create facilities which would open the floodgates to excessive and unlimited drinking—which was the position that obtained prior to 1914—but we do say that an eye should be kept on the objective which was set before us when the licensing restrictions were first introduced.
It is a sad fact that there has been not a decrease but an increase in drunkenness during recent years, calling for at least some examination of the purpose and effectiveness of our licensing restrictions, bearing in mind that those restrictions do impinge upon the freedom of our own people and upon the capacity or liberty to enjoy themselves of those who come to visit us.
The Welsh people have their own arrangements, which are admirable in many ways. People from my own part of the country go to North Wales in large numbers to enjoy the scenic beauties, the fresh air and the company of a gracious and kindly people; but on Sunday they go to Chester—when they can get on the trains, which are otherwise filled with Welsh people also going to Chester.
I am not saying that it is either right or wrong that they should do so. What I do say is that we have produced the most extraordinarily distorted pattern of life as a result of the accumulation of all these attempts to square the sensible and moderate needs of sensible and moderate people with what seems to many of our visitors to be the residue of a pseudo-monastic conscience that leads us to try to present ourselves as something that we are not, something that we do not 787 particularly want to be and something that we probably should not be in any case.
I was brought up in a teetotal, Nonconformist household, but it was not an intolerant household. There was an atmosphere which set out to attempt to see the point of view of the other man, whether he was resident in this country or a visitor. I think it is the duty of this House to try to see the point of view of the visitors who come here, and seek to arrange their affairs so that their holiday will be as happy and enjoyable as we can make it for them. We do not have to pander to them; we do not have to distort our way of life to suit them; but we should make ourselves agreeable and comprehensible, and we ought also to make our licensing laws and other arrangements both agreeable and comprehensible to them.
I think more than a word of congratulation is due to the British Travel and Holidays Association for the work which they do in guiding the visitors who come to this country and who seek to have some of our incomprehensible attitudes explained to them in a simplified form. There should also be a word of praise for the diligent and patient licensees who have to operate these laws and restrictions and who do so—so I am assured by people who are better qualified to judge than I am—with a great degree of skill, kindliness and care in order to soften the rougher edges to those visitors who do not understand how and why we do these things.
We ask for an examination of the problem and for an attempt to be made to remove some of the more irksome restrictions. We do not want a brewers' or a boozers' charter. As far as I know, the brewers do pretty well as things are and the boozers can make their own arrangements quite satisfactorily as a result of the concessions and special facilities which now exist. But we do ask that the purpose and effectiveness of these restrictions should be examined in the light of the accumulated confusion of 40 years. If it is then felt that there should be restrictions—as I am sure there should—we should try to achieve some reasonable and recognisable pattern.
Our own people have troubles enough already without having to worry about 788 unrecognisable licensing laws, but it is even worse for our visitors, who have difficulties with regard to currency, language and weather and who also have to try to solve the insoluble problem of when to "have one." We do not want to see drinking houses established on every street corner. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) and many good folk like him all over the country have done a great deal to educate the public about the difficulties and dangers of excessive drinking and the public should recognise that great service.
I do not want to suggest that our visitors come here for a prolonged "blind." Certainly I do not want to have our own people, or their standards, debased just to make it possible for visitors to do that kind of thing. I think the whole House will agree that we are, in the main, a steady, decent, dignified and respectable people. The influence of this people springs from that fact, and I hope that we shall so arrange our affairs that we shall always continue to have that influence. All I uggest is that we should also be reasonable in matters like this, which are capable of arousing so much controversy and bitterness at different times
It is in the hope that that will be done for the benefit of the tourist trade and of our own people, that I have seconded the Motion.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I beg to move, to leave out from "earnings," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:takes note of the disappointment expressed by many overseas visitors on finding here easier facilities for the supply of intoxicants than in their home countries and also of the additional burdens which are likely to be placed on us by visitors from countries where a large consumption of alcohol is known to be accompanied by an increase of crime, ill health, road and other accidents, insobriety and general social irresponsibility; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to maintain the essential safeguards represented by the present licensing restrictions as recommended in the Report of the last Royal Commission on Licensing.In these Friday discussions it is very often the case that we join in congratulating an hon. Member on having secured good fortune in the Ballot. I certainly do so on this occasion. I do not know 789 that I complain very much about the subject which he has chosen, because I think there is need for a general discussion of the issue which he has raised, and I am certainly grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having permitted the discussion to range very far into the realm of the general licensing laws, which is a matter upon which, in some way or other, the House ought to find means of having a general discussion.
Naturally, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's point of view. He has made an attractive speech—as he usually does—and I am very glad that the House was not counted out, as was at one time threatened. Hon. Members on this side were as much concerned about that as anyone else. We all made our contribution in order to see that this discussion continued.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
If the House had been counted out it would have been shown that there was not the slightest interest on the part of the House in general in any increase in drinking facilities.
§ Mr. Hudson
That is a reasonable point of view, but I still think it is a pity that adequate attention is not being paid to this matter. I usually support my hon. Friend, but I cannot give him my support on this occasion.
The issues have ranged very far from the general alteration in the licensing laws. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) has spoken about the proposals of the British Holidays and Travel Association, but they are not indicated in the Motion, which simply refers to regulations which are irksome to foreign visitors. Any regulation about the supply of drinks to the man who, at the time, wants a drink, is an irksome regulation, and I suggest that the limited character of the proposals, which I began to observe in hon. Members' speeches, ought to have been incorporated in the Motion before the House.
I listened to hon. Members' references to the Merseyside case about steamers, but I do not think that that will very much affect the general tourist. I have heard possibilities of a licensed car running round the Inner Circle, and I doubt whether that would attract foreign visitors. Many suggestions of that character 790 have been made to bolster up what seemed to me a general case that the proposals made by Sir Archibald Salvidge 40 years ago should be scrapped. It has been suggested that we have been tinkering with them long enough and that a real remedy must be found for the effectiveness of these regulations. I would only add that I am pleased to find that hon. Members are putting the blame for the licensing laws on people like Sir Archibald Salvidge, who was a brewer. Generally the poor teetotallers are blamed when people become distressed about the licensing laws.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that the only reason why Sir Archibald Salvidge took such action at that time was that the authorities for restricting the hours was in the hands of the military, and there was an admiral in charge at Merseyside, and he was a teetotaller. I do not know what the position would have been with the First Lord of Admiralty being the present Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Hudson
The licensing laws were not a creation of teetotallers and temperance movements. They have grown out of a situation of public disorder and difficulty which many generations have faced. They are no more the result of Sir Archibald Salvidge or the temperance movement than they are of Henry VII, in whose time this sort of licensing law began. It is a long confrontation of a great public evil which has led, stage by stage, to a complex licensing system. That, with the problems of taxation of liquor, has led to all the careful safeguards by which the community has been trying to protect itself from what it knew would be the consequence of mistakes in this matter.
I will speak more closely to my Amendment than hon. Members opposite did to their Motion. Dealing with foreign tourism, I suggest that there is no case for any great alterations in the law in the way which has been suggested. I shall not spend much time on the necessity for developing tourism; the House is apparently agreed upon this, and certainly my party has tried to pioneer the idea of holidays with pay. I was speaking about holidays with pay on a universal scale in this House more than 20 years ago, and now the movement has grown enormously. 791 I want to see both foreien travel and holidays at home very widely extended. I want to see all sorts of benefits coming from them—and they might very well come to Southend if we could persuade people to save for their holidays instead of spending their money on drink.
I recall that my late friend Alfred Salter, a Member of the House many years ago, who played the same sort of role which, more humbly, I try to play, giving his lectures to the poor people of Bermondsey. He represented them, and I recall him telling them why they did not get holidays. He used to speak of Southend and ask whether they would not like to take their families to Southend for a holiday. They said they could not afford to do so out of their wages, which were less than £2 a week, and he used to show then why he was able to prove before a Royal Commission, a little later, that they spent half their wages on drink. They spent half of their wages of less than £2, so that it was impossible for them to take their families to Southend or to those other places to which they might have been expected to go.
The prevalence of drinking habits and their easy approach to the drinking problem is itself an enemy of tourism. Tourism and drink will never mix and I submit to hon. Members that, if they are genuinely concerned about a great expansion in travel abroad and of tourism here by foreigners, they will never secure it by arrangements from which there may be an increase rather than a decrease in the drinking of the people and in the amount of money spent on drink.
In my view, no case has been made about the irksome character of our regulations, at any rate as far as a large section—not all—of the visitors to this country are concerned. I understand that some of my hon. Friends, if they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, will show in detail what happens, for instance, in Australia, New Zealand and parts of Canada in connection with restrictions on drinking facilities—for instance, the closing of bars at 6 o'clock, the provision of drink according to a strict licensing and rationing system, so that the foreigner has the greatest difficulty in getting into the bar. Provisions exist in our Dominions on the basis of the model provided by Scandinavia, from where 792 many citizens have come and still come to this country.
It is not irksome for the Swede, although he is reputed to be a strong drinker, to compare our regulations with his own. In Sweden, he can have drink only if he has a special book of his own which will allow him to have 3 litres of spirits in certain cases; and some classes of citizens are to have only 2 litres of spirits a month and some only one. Hon. Members may condemn that system, but that is what the people are accustomed to in Stockholm. Indeed, I see from returns that I have here from Stockholm and district, with its million or so inhabitants, that there are only four persons under 25 years of age who are allowed to have a book of permits that will enable them to have these three litres of spirits per month.
The same applies in Norway. In great areas of Norway, for all practical purposes, there is no provision of alcohol at all. I have information here given me by the international organisation of the temperance movement, which got it from Norwegian members of the Labour movement. In 20 towns the sale of spirits in Norway is licensed, in seven towns for off-sale only. In 15 towns of fewer than 4,000 inhabitants there is no sale of spirits. In all, the sale of alcoholic beverages, beer or wines exists only in 36 towns and 13 boroughs.
Out of a total of 691 rural districts the sale of wines and beer is admitted in only 169. Thus in the great majority of cases the only alcoholic drink on sale in Norway is weak beer of 2¾ per cent.—not very much stronger than ginger beer. A great part of Norway is, therefore, practically dry. The Norwegian people who come here will not find our regulations irksome.
The Americans are not at all what hon. Gentlemen seem to suppose they are. They are still under the gravest disabilities—they call them disabilities I do not, but I use their word—regarding the supply of drink. I have here a report that has come from the liquor trade organisations in America. This is not a temperance report. This is the "Tap and Tavern," a paper published by the liquor trade in America by a very capable lawyer editor, and he has said recently:Seventeen years have passed since the repeal of the Volstead Act, and these are the realities which you must face"—793 he is referring to the liquor trade in America—A third of this nation"—that is America—is dry. Twenty-five million Americans live in districts that forbid the sale of spirits; 10 million Americans live in districts that forbid the sale of beer; 1,000 out of 3,000 counties in the nation forbid the sale of spirits.I shall not weary the House with a description of the extensive remains existing in American public life of the measures the Americans adopted during the days of prohibition. Prohibition has not gone, in the same way as the law of 60 years of development in America has not disappeared from American custom and practice. There are great bodies of Americans, as there are great bodies of people from our own Dominions, who come here on holiday and are shocked—not irked, literally shocked—by our regulations, particularly by a regulation that, I observe, hon. Gentlemen hardly refer to, the regulation about Sunday closing in this country.
§ Mr. McAdden
I do not quarrel with the perfectly fair and legitimate point that the hon. Member is entitled to make that some visitors to this country come from countries where the licensing laws are more irksome than ours, but I do not think he is quite fair in his presentation of the case, and I think he will recognise that the majority of visitors who come here come from countries where the licensing restrictions are less irksome than they are here—the people of France, the people of the United States, particularly.
§ Mr. Hudson
I have been dealing so far with countries that send to us a very large number of visitors—
§ Mr. Hudson
I am not going to neglect the other half, and if the hon. Gentleman will look at my Amendment he will see that I deal with them.
Let us take the case of the people who come from countries where drinking facilities are much easier than they are here. What is the best example I could take of those? I think everybody will agree that I could take our nearest neighbour, France. What are we to gain out of making it easier for French visitors to obtain drink when they come here? What are they getting out of it in their own country to start with? There is very clear 794 evidence of a new situation in France—or, at any rate, of the recruiescence of an old, bad situation. Here is a report from "The Times," given to us from Paris, dated 5th December, 1951, following a debate in the French Assembly on the public health budget:During the debate in the Assembly on the public health budget M. Marcel David, the rapporteur, drew attention to the sharp recrudescence of alcoholic poisoning in France. Cases of illness due to the consumption of spirits have trebled between 1945 and 1950, he said.The report went on:In general, 25 per cent. of the cases under treatment in the hospitals were of alcoholic origin.It goes on, further:The cost to the State through alcoholic poisoning was estimated in 1950 at over 3,000 million francs. This includes hospital charges, the upkeep of prisoners serving sentences for crimes directly and indirectly due to alcohol, and the education of children of alcoholics. It does not include the bill for road accidents, labour injuries, burials, social security, and the loss of working time involved. Taken together all these charges exceed the revenue which the State derives from taxes on drink.The people who come from France to be encouraged—if they are to be encouraged—to find easier facilities for drinking in this country are not going to lessen that part of those social evils that they are bound to bring with them. I certainly do not believe that all Frenchmen bring conditions of alcoholism with them, but do we want an appreciable percentage of tourists coming here to find it easier to get alcohol when they come here for a respite and recreation from the conditions that confront them in their own country?
Surely, if we want to be really hospitable to our visitors we should not give them the things that get them down, but help them to a better state of life—it may not be a very perfect state of life, but a better state of life—that they are liable to find in this country. So, both from the point of view of the man who comes from a Dominion, who is under much severer restrictions than we are, or from the point of view of the man who comes from France, where things are too easy, there is no case for making the obtaining of alcohol easier.
There is no case for departing from the advice which was given to this House the last time we got an Act passed as a consequence of a Royal Commission 795 on the question of our safeguards and our regulations in the matter under discussion. I quote very briefly from paragraph 105 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Licensing, 1929 to 1931:We have expressed our belief that the general change in habits has a real element of permanence and is not in danger of being substantially upset by e.g. a general rise in prosperity.They reported that, even if this country became more prosperous, there was no great danger of any development of wild excess. They go on:though we regard it as an essential safeguard that—whatever else may or may not be done—the present restrictions should be maintained.
§ Mr. McAdden
Whilst the hon. Gentleman is quoting from that Report with approval from his point of view, would he also recognise that they recommended practically everything I have suggested?
§ Mr. Hudson
No. They recommended a number of things regarding the tourist trade, but they certainly did not recommend what was referred to by the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson), who seconded the Motion, who referred to the Bill which the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) hopes to introduce, when he spoke about the disability on tourists at the airports. The Commission recommended against that.
§ Mr. Hudson
There were plenty of accidents, and plenty of reasons why the Royal Commission insisted on being extremely careful over the whole question of air travel. I am only saying that the hon. Gentleman must not try to suggest that the Report of that Royal Commission was in favour of all his propositions. Let me read the words again:whatever else may or may not be done—the present restrictions should be maintained.They recommended none of the new facilities for which the hon. Gentleman has been pressing.
I have spoken, Mr. Speaker, of your generosity in allowing us to range widely over this issue, and I am always tempted to go on when these subjects are 796 discussed. But I must curb myself, because I know that a number of others wish to speak, and I will say only this, in conclusion. If the hon. Member has the interests of his constituents at heart he will attract more tourists to his division by listening to my appeals rather than to his own From my advocacy he will get a larger number of visitors for his restaurant keepers, lodging-house keepers, and for the roundabouts and amusements, and all that makes Southend attractive, than he could possibly expect to get by making it easy for the drinking part of the people's amusement to be extended in his division.
I think he believes that that is so, and I want to compliment him on some of the things he has done. I get many things sent to me in connection with the temperance movement, but I was astonished to get a leaflet of a meeting in Southend to be addressed by the hon. Gentleman, under the auspices of the British Women's Total Abstinence Union. I heard that although he could not attend he sent them a delightful letter, wishing them well. I am sorry that he did not go there and make the remarkable speech that I should like him to have made. I am certain that the noble speech he has made here today is not in line with the one he might have made at that meeting.
§ Mr. McAdden
The hon. Gentleman has suggested that there is something inconsistent in my advocacy this morning with addressing a meeting of the British Women's Total Abstinence Union. I see nothing inconsistent in it. I see no reason why I should not give the benefit of my views to any organisation which is prepared to listen to them. I see no reason why I should not wish any organisation well in the work it is doing, which is certainly not in conflict with the very reasonable proposals I have made this morning.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. Gentleman wishes the organisation well in the work it is doing, and I compliment him on his well wishing. The point I was making was that he really sees further than the line he has been pursuing today. I say the same to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale.
When they tackle the problem of providing for tourism in a specialist sort 797 of way, the making easy and the procurement of drink will not help their constituencies. It will bring a detrimental element into our holiday organisations. I wish I were on the British Holidays and Travel Association, so that I could tell them all this. I think that they are mistaken in the loose attitude they now take towards this question, and I recommend them, as I recommend the House in this Amendment, to return to the safeguards that the Royal Commission insisted we ought very carefully to maintain in this country.
§ 12.37 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
I beg to second the Amendment.
It is with great pride that I second this Amendment, and I only regret that the hon. and gallant Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott), who was to have seconded the Amendment, has had a minor operation and is unable to be with us today. I also suffer from the disability of having to follow the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson).
I was in the movement for temperance reform before I was even in the Labour Party, and that is over 40 years ago. I was a superintendent of a band of hope in a Methodist church when I was 17—the Methodist church where I met my wife—so, while I may not have the documentary evidence produced by my hon. Friend, or his eloquence, I have at least a long record of service to the cause of temperance and a firm belief in its necessity if this country is to remain great.
The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) was very moderate and very careful in his language, but that moderation and care do not appear in the Motion itself. The Motion does not lay down any of the restrictions and limits referred to by the hon. Gentleman in his speech. He told us that the liquor trade should be above the law. That was one of his extravagances.
§ Mr. McAdden
I never said anything of the kind. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the wording of my Motion, which says:considering that certain of the more irksome restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquor could be relaxed without prejudice to the purposes which the laws are intended to serve; 798 calls upon Her Majesty's Government to consider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable.
§ Mr. Simmons
Well, we may have different opinions about what is desirable and practicable, and my great fear is that once a Motion of this kind is adopted we open the floodgates; it would be the thin end of the wedge. We cannot discuss the tourist problem without having some regard to its effect on our own life in this country.
Once we let the booze trade get their foot in the door to more liberty, as they call it—more licence as we would prefer to put it—they will shove it wide open. They will not agree with the limits suggested by the mover of the Motion. I do not think that we want to return even a short way back along the road which we have come from the social and economic conditions for which the booze trade had a great responsibility in days gone by.
I remember in my early incursions into politics the great campaigns of the once great Liberal Party in the early 1900's. Where is that Liberal Party today? When I was a very young man, and even when still at school, I remember the visits to the City of Birmingham of some of the great Liberal stalwarts and temperance stalwarts like Sir Wilfred Lawson and Sir Thomas Whittaker, David Lloyd George and even a young man called Winston Churchill, who told us that the liquor trade in the past had held the Conservative Party in the hollow of its hand, who said, "We can do for temperance only what the House of Lords is sure will not affect the profits of the brewers." That was the standard of the great Liberal Party in those days. Today they are mute when these great questions of social reform and advancement are brought forward.
I think that the liquor trade, which calls itself "the trade"—the arrogance of it; it thinks that it is the only trade that matters—is a dangerous trade. I think that it is even more dangerous today with its reformed public houses, chromium-plated "pubs" and "pubs" built in the old Gothic style; and I do not know where they get the labour to build these wonderful "pubs" when the people of the country are needing homes. In Birmingham we had as chairman of the Conservative Party one of the lawyers 799 who represented the brewers, and it is a remarkable thing that in every Birmingham housing estate that is developed the first sites earmarked are sites for the "pubs." The schools come sometimes years and years afterwards.
This trade today is, in my opinion, more dangerous than it was in the old days because it is more respectable, because it has got a pleasanter face, and because it goes out of its way to attract young people—and that is the great tragedy which I am concerned about today: the way in which young people from Christian and temperance homes go to a dance, perhaps in the assembly hall of a public house, with music provided and cheap dancing facilities, and when they want a soft drink it is like asking for a nugget of gold. Everything is put in the way of preventing the young people from getting soft drinks and they are being driven the other way. This is the trade to which we are to give further head in this country once again if the idea behind this Motion—
§ Mr. J. Rodgers
Surely the hon. Gentleman's remarks are misleading? The soft drink industry output is going up all the time. There is no restriction on the amount of soft drinks.
§ Mr. Simmons
The soft drink output may be going up because the soft drink trade take soft drink on lorries and in motor cars to people's homes and supplies them in that way. That does not mean to say that the soft drink output is going up in respect of those places where intoxicants are available.
§ Mr. Simmons
Of course, I will go into a public house with anyone. I have my orange fruit or grapefruit while he has his glass of beer. I should have no right to talk about this if I did not know what went on in public houses. I know that in these licensed premises young people go for amusement, and they are often tempted to have their first drink. That is the beginning of the undermining of their character. We were told by the seconder of the Motion that there is an increase in drinking today. That increase in drinking is a menace to the social life of this country, and I feel that a great 800 part of the increase is among the young people. I reiterate that if we let the brewers open the door a little, they are going to push it wide open.
To come back to the purpose of the Motion, might we inquire what kind of picture of Britain do the sponsors of the Motion want our colonial and foreign visitors to have? What kind of a picture of Britain do they want them to take away with them? I know that probably I shall be charged with exaggeration but, after all, the Motion is vague. It does not refer specifically to how these restrictions are to be widened. What limits are to be taken under them? It does not refer to night clubs and to many other things, and so we have to think the worst because we know the trade we are dealing with. We know that when profits can be obtained, the trade does not care how it gets them so long as there are profits. We know that enormous profits are made by the brewing industry, but they want still more, and therefore, I ask, what kind of a picture do we want to give to visitors to this country?
Do we want to give them a "peepshow" of naughtiness and of alcoholic hilarity, or do we want them to visit places of beauty when they come here? Are we to compete with Paris in appealing to the appetities rather than to the intellect? Is that what the sponsors of the Motion want? Do they want the tourists to enjoy the "phoney" entertainment of a night club in preference to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre on the Avon, or a bottle party in preference to a moonlight trip to see the beauty of the upper reaches of the Thames. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh.
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isle-worth)
A man cannot enjoy the moonlight beauty of the Thames every single night. If he enjoys it on a Monday night, perhaps he goes to a bottle party the next night. Perhaps there is something else that he may want to do on the third night. Must he always do the same thing every night? Why not let him choose what he wants to do?
§ Mr. Simmons
There are plenty of other things besides the beauty of the Thames which he can see, instead of spending his time in the stuffy, smoky atmosphere of public bars. Visitors from abroad who come to the Palace of Westminster are not interested in the bar. 801 They get more enjoyment and instruction from the potted history of the House of Lords Library than the bottled beer of the bars. They want to see the things that stand for the tradition of this country.
§ Mr. Simmons
I am going to put my case. I think that it is an insult to our overseas visitors to suggest that they should come here on a "boozing binge" to escape the more stringent licensing laws that obtain in many of their own countries.
§ Mr. Harris
The hon. Gentleman says so in the Amendment. It says that if more visitors come here additional burdensare likely to be placed on us by visitors from countries where a large consumption of alcohol is known to be accompanied by an increase of crime, ill health, road and other accidents, insobriety and general social irresponsibility.He is asking the House to accept the proposition that if we have these visitors here we are going to bring in crime, insobriety, road accidents and general irresponsibility.
§ Mr. Simmons
The key to the quotations was "general irresponsibility" and the hon. Member has given a good example of it in his interruption.
What do we want to show the American taxpayer, who, after all, is contributing to the aid which this country and Europe has received for economic rehabilitation? Will the sight of half-naked women and flush-faced overdressed men decked out like prize rabbits, in night clubs encourage visitors to believe that all classes in this country are doing their best and pulling their weight in the production effort? I think we shall give the American visitors a very bad picture of this country.
§ Mr. Simmons
Yes, I am excluding Wales, naturally. The proposals in the Motion, so far as we know them and can visualise them, are bad ethics, poor psychology and worse taste. Why think that we have to have intoxicants to be happy?
My wife recently went to a luncheon at the Council House and when the booze came round she asked for an 802 orangeade. There is always a bias against the person who will not booze. After a long delay she got her drink, and then her neighbours commiserated with her because she was drinking orangeade and said, "You will not get much enjoyment out of life if you do not have a drink." That is the idea which some people have. They think that when people come to this country to see its beauties and pleasures, its history and tradition, the one thing we should offer them is better facilities for drinking. I can imagine some people might think it as well to put alcoholic blinkers on our visitors when they go to Lancashire so that they cannot see the unemployment, but that is no excuse for the general tenor of the proposals which have been made from the other side of the House.
We of the Opposition are as good patriots as hon. Members opposite. We are proud of our country. We want our overseas visitors to get the best impression of our country. Bass, Guinness and Whitbread are not names which sell the best that is in Britain. The spirit of our people is a better advocate of our greatness than the spirits one buys at a bar.
We want our foreign visitors to go away with memories of the England of Pym, Hampden and Shakespeare, our Parliamentary institutions and our marvellous cathedrals, and the prestige of this country in the realm of the mind and the intellect. Any relaxation of liquor regulations for the sole purpose of attracting foreign visitors would be a very bad mistake on the part of the House, would be misunderstood by those who come to this country and would lower the prestige of the country in the eyes of the whole world.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
The mover and seconder of the Amendment implied—I hope I am being fair in this, because I want to be—that had the Motion been more limited and specific it would not have seemed to them so dangerous. I rise to call attention to the opportunity which presents itself today of dealing with an extremely limited and clearly defined problem in relation to the question of alcoholic 'drink, defined in the Licensing at Airports Bill, which has been available for a week in the Vote Office.
803 It is a coincidence that this debate should take place today when, just after four o'clock this afternoon, an opportunity of giving a Second Reading to that Measure will arise. I earnestly hope that I may make an appeal to hon. Members on all sides of the House to exercise their undoubted right not to be here at that moment or to say "Object." They have that right, and I hope to argue why it would be a good thing for the small Measure to receive its Second Reading. I hope that the Government spokes man—
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the hon. Gentleman is anticipating something which may never occur?
§ Mr. Speaker
I was becoming aware of the fact that the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) was anticipating a speech which he would make on his Bill if he got the opportunity. That is out of order in this debate. The hon. Gentleman must not anticipate some business which the House has not reached, and he must confine his remarks to the Motion and the Amendment before the House.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Very well, Mr. Speaker.
One of the measures for the amelioration of restrictions which seem to be most appropriate and easiest to deal with relates to licensing at airports. I hope I may be allowed to spend a very few minutes in dealing with the reasons why an amelioration might be considered favourably and undertaken when the appropriate time comes.
First, I would declare an interest. I am a director of a brewery and it is but proper that I should make that known. Nevertheless, my small Bill has never been discussed with the trade by myself or my hon. Friends who promote it. So far as I know, the trade takes no view upon it, and I have brought it forward for entirely different reasons—
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
On a point of order. Is the hon. Gentleman speaking to the Motion or the Amendment? It seems to me that he is very wide of both.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Question before the House is, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." 804 That has the effect of leaving before the House for discussion both the Motion and the Amendment. Thus, an hon. Member speaking in this debate is entitled to refer to matters covered by either the Motion or the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale was dealing with airports, a subject also covered by his Bill, and that subject is germane to this debate if he keeps within the substance of the Motion and the Amendment which are before the House.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I made an error in referring again to the Bill when I should have referred to "the proposal."
The proposal that drinks should be allowed at airports arises out of the recommendations of the British Travel and Holidays Association to an all-party committee of this House. It was they who told us that they—a Government-sponsored organisation set up by the Socialist Party when they were in power, supported by the Conservative Party—B.O.A.C., B.E.A.C., the Workers' Travel Association, and Thomas Cook & Sons are the interests serving the public in the matter of tourism and travel, and they would all like to see this proposal brought forward, if possible.
I will mention, briefly, the points which seem to me to commend this proposal. Britain alone has international airports where drinks cannot be obtained at any hour. Aeroplanes are delayed by engine trouble, or by fog. The passengers do not wait in the aeroplane, but on the land near to it. With ships it is otherwise. The Royal Commission did not recommend that facilities for drinking should be extended to aerodromes, and that is put forward as an argument why it should not be done. But that was 20 years ago, which is a very long time in the development of air travel. The thing was hardly beginning then. At London Airport and Northolt alone last year 3½ million passengers were conveyed by aeroplane, and of those, 20 per cent. arrived or left in the early hours of the morning when they could not get a drink.
Shortly, we are to have tourist traffic in the air. Millions will be visiting and leaving these islands, and aeroplanes will leave or arrive during the hours of night or in the early hours of the morning. 805 It would be possible by a very simple Measure to carry out the proposal contained in the Motion of my hon. Friend. We could readily amend the Licensing Act of 1921 by adding a new exemption to the five or six already in existence.
There would be no new principle involved. The House supported the last Government in altering the law regarding Sunday closing in order to make the Festival of Britain more attractive to our visitors. The same principle is involved here, to make coming to Britain more attractive to those who wish to have a drink, not those who want to indulge in an orgy of drinking, but those who have perhaps travelled across the Atlantic and circled round the aerodrome before landing, who are having to wait for the Customs and who want to get a drink.
There is no loop-hole necessary. It would be possible to draw up a Measure which would make it quite clear that drinks could be obtained only in that part of the aerodrome buildings on the other side of the Customs and passport barrier. One might almost say that when a traveller is on the other side of the Customs barrier, having passed the barrier to take his place in the aeroplane, he is technically out of the country.
I recognise from speeches made by hon. Members that there are those who do not think anyone should drink at all. It would appear that they would go almost as far as to forbid drinking anywhere. They rejoice that there are some States where that is the case. But that is not the British way of looking at things. We respect their view, and surely we may respect the rights of other members of the community to take an opposite view. There is nothing new or revolutionary about this. As new methods of travelling are developed new problems arise, and special arrangements should be made. The extravagant arguments about night clubs and the rest are not relevant.
§ Sir I. Fraser
It is no more the thin end of the wedge than the proposal for a Festival of Britain was the thin end of the wedge to break down Sunday observance all over the land. When 806 special arrangements seem to be necessary Parliament is elastic enough to arrange them. May I express the hope that, should an opportunity arise and we come to deal with this narrow and limited problem to which I have referred, and if there may be those in the House who would want to debate it, they will not object to it taking its course through the House.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ Mr. Simmons
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it part of our procedure of calling a Count that the hon. Member who calls the Count should remain in the Chamber until the Count has been completed?
§ House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for enabling us to continue this discussion. It is a Private Member's Motion and one with which I am in disagreement, but I think that Private Members' Bills or Motions ought to be discussed.
There has been a reasonable atmosphere in this debate, although the question of the drink traffic is always one which arouses strong feeling. There is no one in the House who can claim to be completely without bias on this question, and certainly few Non-conformists would claim to be.
But I believe that we all want to be reasonable in our approach to this problem. It is a strange thing, but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) followed the same strange pursuit of those who believed in the drink trade, for he intimated that those who are opposed to it are in some way narrow-minded; less men of the world; less broad and generous in their attitude than the people who believe in the extension of the drink trade.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Did I do that? That is not my line of thought and I can hardly think that I could have done. What words did I use to convey that idea?
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) as being narrow in his argument. He suggested that it is not the British way of life to approach problems as my hon. Friend did.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Surely my point was exactly the opposite. I said that although he did not want to drink, he would not be so narrow as to want to stop me.
§ Mr. Thomas
If I have misunderstood, the hon. Gentleman I gladly withdraw. What he said was within the hearing of the House and it will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. If I am wrong, I apologise in advance.
There have been some specious arguments about the question of extending drinking facilities for visitors. I ask the House to consider the people who really will be pleased if this Motion is carried. We can certainly say that the Free Churches in this country would stand resolutely against the proposal. The police authorities would oppose it. Anyone who is concerned and has responsibility for the well-being of the community would oppose an extension of drinking facilities for our people.
Visitors must take us as they find us. We welcome people from all parts of the world to our island country, but it must not be that the British way of life is sacrificed in the name of dollars or in the name of the economic recovery of our country. Our greatest asset towards economic recovery, to which both sides of the House look with hope, is the quality and character of our people and certainly not the passing, transitory question of the dollars which the tourist trade will bring in.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the greatest slur he could cast upon the character of our people would be to suggest that they did not know how to behave themselves.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman said that it is not the object to remove the restrictions so that we have the position as it was before 1914. The British 808 people are no different from anybody else if temptation comes their way. They are no stronger or weaker. It is not the responsibility of this House to open the doors of temptation, especially where the younger people are concerned, in the name of the tourists who come here.
I have observed that the visitors are mainly young people, and it is for them that those who have proposed this Motion are asking for an extension of the licensing laws. It was my privilege, three years ago, to be in Nova Scotia and I was more than interested to find that there are no public houses there. I suppose that theirs is the most sturdy community in the whole of the Commonwealth. But they have no public houses available and liquor, or strong drink, is only obtainable on special Government voucher. These people do not feel that they are less free than we are, though no public drinking is allowed. It is contradictory to the facts of the situation to say that when Nova Scotians come here they will feel restricted by our rules.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North has given some telling figures about other parts of the world. He destroyed the case which the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) sought to build up. The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) referred to Wales and said that some people in Wales go to Chester on Sundays. I am not here to suggest that all people in Wales are teetotallers or that we are any different from those across the border, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that if this House imperilled the Welsh Sunday there would be trouble. We want none of this nonsense in Wales.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
Is my hon. Friend aware that by far the greater part of the drunks discovered in Chester on a Sunday come not from Wales but from Liverpool?
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) is not present at the moment or I have no doubt that she would defend her constituency. Wherever they come from I am sorry for the chap whose self-control is so small that he allows himself to become drunk. I hope that I do not sound too patronising, because my weaknesses lie in other directions. I am only too conscious of that.
809 The hon. Member for Southend, East suggested that the tourists should have reasonable freedom to decide whether he should buy liquor or not. I ask those who support the Motion what limits they would impose on those rights? Would they remove all time limits? If not, all the hardships about which they have been arguing are bound to prevail once the new time limit is imposed. As for the people who arrive at an hotel too late to get a drink with their meal, and move on to another hotel where they can, I suggest that it would be a good thing if they were too late to get a drink there. If they are using motor cars on the road it might be that because of our regulations we are avoiding accidents by keeping drink away from people.
Alarming figures were published recently about the number of road accidents. An extension of drinking facilities for people visiting our country, who have to master the technique of driving on the left instead of on the right, would be inviting a further increase in road accidents.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
It is perfectly well known that most road accidents are caused by perfectly sober drivers and perfectly sober civilians. There is no justification whatever for these wild allegations.
§ Mr. Thomas
I have made no allegations. I have said that if we extend the drinking facilities for people who are ill-acquainted with our road traffic rules, we shall be asking for trouble.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) has a long and honourable record of service to the temperance movement, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North. The father of the hon. Member for Wimbledon also had a long and honourable record. I trust, however, that I shall not be treading too heavily on the hon. Gentleman's corns when I say that we are not surprised that this Motion comes from the Conservative Party because the present Prime Minister, when he was a Liberal, described the policy of the Conservatives as the "open door at the public house" and "patriotism by the imperial pint."
It was he who, as a Liberal, spoke so condemningly of the way in which the brewers never failed to support the Con- 810 servative Party. It is because I have in mind that long association of the Tory Party that I the more admire the personal stand of the hon. Member for Wimbledon, and I hope that today his hon. Friend will not persist with this Motion. Of course, it has nothing to do with tourists, really, or with 1 per cent. of the tourists who come to this country, for they are not concerned, when they buy their tickets, about what are the licensing laws of this land. Indeed, the mover of the Motion pointed out that last year, with all our restrictions, we had more tourists than we have ever had before.
The number of tourists is increasing every year, and I therefore suggest to the House that it would be short-sighted indeed for us to abandon restrictions which we have found necessary and worth while, in the interests of a possible increase in the tourist traffic, when there is every indication that that traffic is already increasing with the restrictions as they are.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has spoken to us in temperate terms, and I am glad that this subject today has produced temperate speeches from both the points of view which have so far been expressed.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) was extremely moderate in the way in which he expressed his point of view, and I think we also owe some debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) for the manner in which he presented his case, which was not, as so often happens when this particular subject is discussed, a case for extremes at all. Indeed, had it been so, I should not have been supporting him. Though this is usually a subject which does lead to extreme views, my hon. Friend, in asking for what little he is asking, said nothing extreme. It was a most moderate case, avoiding all the objections which I personally would have had to any wholesale change in the law as it stands at the moment.
We might consider from what has been said that licensed premises and the restrictions on them existed solely for the convenience of the public or tourists, but that is no longer their primary role. It 811 is true that they are referred to as licensed premises, but that is a euphemism. They are now being used as tax collecting centres, and any serious decline in drinking on the part of the public here or by tourists from overseas would mean a serious embarrassment to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
A great deal of the humbug talked about the evils of drink fails to take into consideration the financial concomitants. Drink in this country provides upwards of £400 million of taxation a year, to which no doubt the tourist traffic contributes, and £265 million of that sum comes from beer—more than enough for the current year's food subsidies. The total taxation on drink in this country would provide the cost of the entire Health Service.
Indeed, licensed premises are much more efficient than the tax collecting departments, because the Inland Revenue in respect of Income Tax takes only 10s. in the pound, whereas the Excise Department takes 8½d. from every 1s. 1d. worth of beer that is drunk. Therefore, in this respect when my friends who keep public houses express anxiety about the state of their trade, I point out to them that they are an indispensable part of the economic structure of the country and no Chancellor of the Exchequer could allow the publicans of this country to go into declining business.
I have great sympathy with the attitude which my hon. Friend expressed. We have all suffered exasperating experiences in being denied refreshment when we most desired it, but that is not confined to the public houses of this country. Very often when one tries to buy matches on Sunday or to get refreshment after 11 p.m. at night on Sunday or any other day, one realises that these difficulties by no means exist solely in respect of drink.
There is, I think, a wrong disposition always to compare the state of affairs on the Continent favourably with that in this country. I belong to the school of thought referred to by my hon. Friend, which may be described by the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I do not think that travellers to this country expect to find all the conditions here which they enjoy in their own countries. I know that dinner in the other man's 812 club always tastes better than dinner in one's own, but one of the objects of travel is to experience different conditions.
If, like myself, any hon. Member likes to indulge in a pint of draught beer he will find that Paris is as exasperating as any part of this country at any hour of the day or night, and not only after 10.30 p.m. It would probably be outside the terms of this Motion to enter into an interesting dissertation on the effect on the English character of our preference for beer and spirits over wine. At any rate, tourists who come here are offered not only a different kind of drink, but different hours in which they may consume it, and I do not think that is any bad thing.
I am not sure that this Continental conception, this idea that the hours for drinking should be as free as they are on the Continent is a good point of view. I accept the view of the Licensing Commission of 1929–31, to which reference has already been made, and which said:We think that, to a vast section of the public, including the public house clients, the present scheme is acceptable.I think that that is broadly true, and I certainly would not support any wholesale alteration in the law as it now stands in this respect.
We are told that we must take the tourists seriously, but, not only, of course, from the point of view of the tourists' comfort. The case is important from the revenue point of view. I think it is possible to exaggerate the privations which a traveller to this country may experience, and I do not think that we necessarily do any good to the British Tourist and Holidays Association by emphasising the restrictions which he will meet when he comes here.
If he lives in a private house while he is here, as many of them will have to do during Coronation year, he will be happy enough. If he lives in an hotel, he will have no complaints. It is in pursuit of casual entertainment that he will sometimes be frustrated, as we often are. Here, it is customary to indulge in the limited pleasures which the public houses of this country can provide, in contrast to entertainment on the lines of the Continental beer garden.
I do not think we can do anything more in the way of providing those pleasures which the Continental visitor 813 would expect in the establishments in which we provide drink. It is in respect of travelling that there exists the strongest case for the point of view put forward by my hon. Friend—and not while travelling, but at termini. For example, the facilities on the railways for refreshing the traveller in this country today are horrific. They were established, I suppose, a century ago, and they have remained substantially unchanged. They go on as they always have done, and, as a matter of fact, some railway buffets are more like museums, and in that sense have the best chance of attracting tourists to this country.
Anyone who arrives at a northern London terminus after midnight on any day of the week has undergone a mortification of the flesh whether he or she is seeking alcoholic refreshment or something more moderate. At all such points I would be in favour of bringing the licensing hours into conformity with the hours of travel. It might be suggested that people would then be found travelling to King's Cross in order to enjoy one last drink. I think that is an exaggeration. In any case it could be confined to ticket holders, as has been done in other places.
Then we have the question of the general availability of refreshment and the hours at which it is available to tourists and holiday makers. I think it is important to do what no other hon. Member has yet done and that is to make a careful division between what is good theory and what is, in fact, good practice.
In all the public houses of this country—and I speak in particular of the rural public houses to which many tourists will be attracted—the publican and his wife, and his staff, if he has any, are compelled to work exceptionally long hours. In the country they often have no staff, and their holidays are precarious. Very often they get no holidays at all. They work a seven-day week and a 12-hour day and even the modest extension proposed by my hon. Friend would be an additional half hour, or an hour it may be, on the working day of the publican and his wife who are responsible for maintaining the many thousands of small hostelries all over the country.
If we are going to extend the hours in which liquor may be served to tourists and others, the question is how long are we going to extend them, and who is 814 going to serve refreshment if we do? I think it is entirely right that any such extension should be made to suit primarily the wayfarer, what the Royal Commission referred to as a bona fide traveller, although how one is to define a bona fide traveller has not been laid down.
There is everything to be said for a man or woman being able to get adequate refreshment at the beginning or end of a journey. That is, I think, a tradition of this country and is responsible for a good deal of the law which exists governing the hostels of this land. But that is only reasonable if one can produce a reasonable staff, and it is extremely difficult to get a reasonable staff or a staff which will behave reasonably under the existing conditions of the Catering Wages Act. Indeed, they are not allowed to behave reasonably.
I suggest, when we are talking about the licensing laws, that a far bigger blot on hospitality than the licensing laws and the small irksome restrictions that exist regarding them are the provisions of the Catering Wages Act. This Motion talks about "relaxing irksome restrictions". That implies longer working hours for those concerned in providing refreshment, unless we are going to have drinks in slot machines, which I do not think is a good idea. I am not an advocate of the shorter working week, and I think it is a pity that we have introduced it into the postal services in recent years.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
While he is on that subject, will the hon. Gentleman say why he believes we have done wrong in reducing the hours of work in the Post Office?
I do not think that the reduction of working hours comes within the Motion or the Amendment.
§ Mr. Williams
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I only intervened because the hon. Member seemed to suggest that we had done unwisely in reducing hours in the Post Office.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am sorry if I went outside the Motion and the Amendment. We are not, in fact, talking of shorter 815 working hours when we are talking of the hours which the publican and his wife work. They enjoy the longest hours of almost anyone in this country, and that is why I said we should be careful regarding any extension that is made for the convenience of tourists.
Then we had references made, notably by the hon. Member for Ealing, North and by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons), to the social evils that would ensue from longer hours. I think that it is possible to take that view too seriously, and that it is important to state the case with the greatest moderation. The Royal Commission of 1929–31 to which reference has been made, also referred to the decline in drunkenness and the increase in sobriety over the previous 50 years, and so far that change has continued.
§ Mr. Deedes
I should not dream of contesting what the right hon. Gentleman says, because he was in a position to know. Nonetheless, I think it is a mistake to pursue this as a serious social evil, particularly as we are not discussing whether drink in itself is good or bad, since the nation has decided one way, but only whether we should give the extra facilities asked for.
A word was said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West about the effect of drink on the motorist. Drunkenness on the part of the motorist is not to be taken lightly, but I should be interested to know if statistics exist showing the proportion of motoring offences committed under the influence of drink which could be attributed to drinking in public places as opposed to drinking in private places. I think one should be careful before attributing to the public place of refreshment all the evils of drunkenness on the road.
My view is that more drunkenness is caused by rapid drinking, and not so much by social drinking at leisure. Four men who go into a public-house at 10.15 p.m., and which is due to shut at 10.30 p.m., are tempted to consume more in a shorter time. Such men are a greater 816 menace than those same four entering a hostelry with unlimited time to spare. It is the limited hours in conjunction with the tradition for treating—which for a short time was suspended but which now prevails once more—which is liable to do more harm, particularly to the motorist.
I do not think the licensing laws for tourists or for anyone else can be made to revolve around the undoubted menace of drink on the roads. There are penalties for that, and let them be stiff. To sum up, I do not think there is any real public demand for drinking on Continental lines, and I should be sorry to support any advocacy of a wholesale change in the law. As for the tourist, it is true that he does not get in this country what he gets in his own—I hardly thinks he hopes to do so—but neither do we when we travel abroad.
There is a strong case for improving the facilities for the traveller, and for the railway traveller in particular, but, for the rest, I should be sorry to see any attempt to generalise for the whole nation on the basis of the needs of special cases. That is where I join issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East. who proposed this Motion, because I do not necessarily think that uniform hours throughout the country, though a case may be made out for that, would necessarily be a good thing. Where the publican or place of refreshment seeks special powers for special reasons, there should be reasonable freedom to grant them if the circumstances are exceptional.
In Coronation year, the year which I take it is mainly under discussion or in our minds today, there should be more reasonable facilities for jollifications and the extension of licences to a late hour if need be. As I have suggested earlier, drink, not only from our point of view but from that of the tourist, is not rationed altogether by the hours, which is the principal subject under discussion today.
It is also rationed by the purse and the availability of service to serve a drink. Therefore, if we could make this discussion as wide as I should like, it would be towards the Finance Bill and the Catering Wages Act, as much as the Defence of the Realm Act, that I would turn for the increased pleasure and comfort of visitors to our shores.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
I find myself in almost complete agreement with the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who has taken a very broad and reasonable view of the Motion which is before us. If I intervened in his speech to take exception in connection with the postal matter, it was simply because I thought his knowledge of that was not up to the general standard of his knowledge of other points which he raised, and I apologise for having intervened. I am in complete agreement with the hon. Member's general argument.
I should like to disclose my interest in that I am a teetotaller, but I accept the challenge of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) to deal with this matter in a temperate and moderate way. The hon. Member did so himself, and I see no reason why we should not continue in that manner throughout the debate. I was struck by the remark made by the hon. Member that today is Independence Day and that he thought this Motion was very appropriate to the day. I should have thought that the converse was the case.
The hon. Member is not disputing, in this Motion, that the licensing laws and regulations are quite suitable for us in this country, although I admit that in his argument he said that what was good enough for the tourist might be good enough for our people. In other words, he suggested that we could come through the back door after opening the front door for the tourist. But the argument in the Motion is that we may be satisfied with the laws and regulations governing drink in this country but that we ought to be replacing, amending and extending them here and there in order that the tourist should feel more at home.
§ Mr. McAdden
I also made the point that we create special facilities in the pursuit of our own enjoyment which, while available to foreign visitors, are not the ones they seek to pursue.
§ Mr. Williams
That makes no difference to my argument, because those special facilities are available from time to time by application to the licensing justices and are sometimes conceded if a good case is made for them. Therefore, they come within the normal regulations applicable to citizens of this country.
818 The point I am making is that we might be in danger of giving up our independence and our normal way of life in order to conform more with the way of life of somebody whom we want to attract here from other lands. I thought that the hon. Member for Southend, East made a big mistake, therefore, when he regarded his Motion as typical of Independence Day and said that we should give up our right and, to some extent our independence to please foreign visitors.
I am second to none in my desire to attract as many people as possible from all lands to visit this great country of ours. I am glad to see them coming with their dollars, and I do not mind their coming with their annas either. I welcome them from all parts of the world, not only because we want their money but because we want them to see our own democratic way of life and the way we go about things normally.
I want them to come here because, by their coming here and our going to their lands, they secure a better understanding not only of our forms of life but of our approach to life and our general philosophy. By means of that interchange between nations we hope that there will come understanding and good will, that there will be less talk of the cold war and of war in any form, and that people will be more inclined to pursue peaceful methods.
Therefore, from that point of view of encouraging tourists I am entirely with the hon. Member for Southend, East. I want to make this country as attractive as we can make it, but attractive in its best, highest and most valuable things; and I do not think that hon. Members would say that drink is the most valuable asset in this country.
I have a good deal of sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Ashford that there are plenty of ways in which we can improve our amenities for foreign visitors. I have travelled a good deal in this country, though not so much abroad as I should have liked. The complaint I have is that hotels and catering establishments in this country have never tried in earnest to make their places and their services attractive, either to the ordinary visitor or to the foreigner.
819 I have travelled with a large number of foreign visitors from Scandinavia, Germany, India and America and I can say quite honestly that they seldom complain about the facilities for drinking. But they have commented adversely very often on the services and food that are provided in many of our hostelries. If we want to attract foreign visitors for the purposes which I have been trying to adumbrate that is the part of facilities which might well exercise the trade rather than those mentioned in this Motion.
It is impossible to have a cup of tea after six or seven o'clock in the evening in some of these places. A teetotaller's life becomes a misery after six or seven o'clock in a strange town. One can have a strong drink, indeed one is encouraged to have it, but it is almost physically impossible to obtain a cup of tea or coffee or something of that sort in many places. Hotel keepers, to their own advantage, could very well consider trying to make that kind of service more popular and more easily available to all people.
I want to qualify that statement to this extent—that I recognise their difficulties. As the hon. Member for Ashford has said, from the purely trade union point of view—and some of us have to have some regard to that—there is a limit to what hoteliers and those in charge of establishments can do with the staffing situation as it is at present. Even if one extends the time by an hour or two, it means split attendance by the staff. Incidentally, that is one thing we have eliminated in the Post Office, thereby reducing the overall attendance.
One finds that to make even an eight-hour attendance possible in many hotels and boarding houses some of the staff have an overall period of 12 or 13 hours. Therefore, any extension of the kind suggested here might be very detrimental and deleterious—and not only in the case of a man and wife in a one-man business. It would increase the diffities of obtaining staff to run these establishments. I believe, therefore, that from the purely trade union point of view there will be a great deal of difficulty.
I suggest, further, that people coming from other lands do not want to see us except as we are. They want to see our 820 country as we see it every day of our lives. I am sure that if a Spaniard were visiting this country he would not expect to see bullfighting here. He would expect to see cricket, or, in Winter, either Rugby or Soccer, but he would not expect bullfighting, although he would expect it in Spain, where he lived. People from France would not want to see legalised prostitution here.
It does not follow that people coming from other lands want to see things that they see at home every day. They want to see our scenery, our historic establishments—some of the things that have gone to make this country what it is not only in our eyes but in the eyes of the world. I feel quite sure that a large number of them would not thank this House for trying to make this country a replica of the customs, habits and establishments of the countries from which they have come.
The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) referred to Sir Archibald Salvidge. I happened to know Sir Archibald when I was in Liverpool, and I know of the compromise that came about as the result of his intervention. At the beginning of the 1914–18 war drinking in Liverpool was seriously interrupting the war effort and making it difficult for the security of the nation to be safeguarded. As the hon. Member so correctly says, the naval commanding officer was seriously disturbed at how things were going. The solution which Sir Archibald Salvidge proposed was a compromise, and at the time it was not a solution acceptable to some of the best people in Liverpool, but it was accepted as a compromise.
The hon. Member also referred to the affinity between Liverpool and North Wales. I make no apology for referring to that remark. I warn the hon. Member and this House that if either on a Private Member's Bill or a Government Bill we start trying to impose our will on the people of North Wales about licensing there will be a good deal of trouble accruing to somebody whether their proposals be for the benefit of visitors or anybody else. The people of North Wales—I know something about them and have done for almost 50 years—feel very strongly on this subject.
Some of them feel that a good deal of vandalism and rowdyism is being brought 821 into the most beautiful scenery and peaceful hamlets of North Wales even by the regulations and permitted hours which we have at present. If the hon. Member for Walton thinks that he will be very popular in North Wales if he suggests that the affinity between Liverpool and North Wales would become greater by practices of the kind suggested he is sadly at fault. The people of North Wales will not think very much of such a proposition.
The hon. Member for Southend, East was good enough to say that he did not intend to try to impose his will on either Wales or Scotland. He is very wise, because if he did so try I believe that public opinion both in Wales and Scotland would be very seriously disturbed indeed.
Of two things I am quite certain; first, that there is no desire, so far as I know, on the part of ordinary people in this country for an increase in the hours in which drinking can be done. There is no popular demand for it among the people of this country. I believe that road accidents and some other things which are directly ascribed to too much drinking present a consideration which is appreciated by a large element of the people of this country who do not want to see any extension of drinking facilities.
Turning to the Motion, I would say that I am perfectly satisfied that the bulk of the best type of visitors to this country do not want it either.
§ Mr. McAdden
Is not the hon. Member suggesting, when he says that there is no backing of this idea from foreigners, that the Report of the British Travel and Holidays Association, a Government-sponsored body of extremely reputable people, is a false one?
§ Mr. Williams
I am not suggesting that anything is false; I could not do so unless I could prove it. I do say, however, that it depends who is asked questions, whatever questionnaire is sent out. If there was a method of ascertaining the views of people who come into this country, and I doubt whether this Association have such a method, there might be something in the point which the hon. Member is making.
Those of us who meet and talk to foreign visitors are in a position, in a limited way, to express an opinion as to 822 whether they desire or not what is proposed in this Motion. I say unequivocally that the people whom I have met, a substantial number, have never raised this point in regard to this country. I hesitate to think that that part of the Report represents the viewpoint of the most responsible or the majority of visitors to this country.
I am opposed to any suggestion of changes in the regulations because I do not think they are wanted, and I do not think that at this time, when there is a great deal of crime, irresponsibility and lack of morality in some directions, that it is right we should be considering any form of extension of drinking hours.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) has pointed out that this is Independence Day. He might have added that it is no occasion for Government intervention. I cannot add a great deal to what I said a few weeks ago when this question was debated on the Adjournment.
My hon. Friend's Motion relates to the tourist trade and to licensing in that connection only. I should like to say, on behalf of the Government, that we recognise, of course, the first-class importance of the tourist trade to this country, first from the economic point of view. The latest figures, which have been mentioned, indicate that in 1951 nearly 700,000 visitors came to this country from overseas and that the expenditure which they incurred here, the equivalent of exports from this country, was no less than £66 million.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that of these visitors about 471,000 came by sea and no fewer than 223,000 by air. That may provide an argument for my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) if, in due course, he has an opportunity of moving the Second Reading of his Bill.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That depends on the point of view of the hearer.
Apart from the economic point of view, the number of visitors coming to 823 this country is of great general importance. We certainly wish to encourage as many people as possible to come here from overseas to see the way in which we live and to enjoy what is usually called the British way of life. To encourage them to come here we want to do all that we can for their comfort and convenience.
In so far as there are anomalies in the law which may apply to them when they are here, I think we would wish to ged rid of those anomalies to avoid giving any impression that the law, in respect to licensing or anything else, is unsatisfactory or hypocritical. But I must tell the House that we cannot have a separate licensing law for foreigners. Even if it were possible to do so it would be undesirable and objectionable.
When I was travelling in a European country recently I was seen into a first-class sleeping compartment by my host and, on inquiring whereabouts in the train a friend of mine would be, I was told that he would be in a second-class compartment, because only foreign visitors were allowed to travel in first-class sleepers. I confess that I did not like the feeling behind that statement. I do not think that any of us would like to feel that when we were visitors overseas we were getting something which was not available to all the citizens of the country which we were visiting, and I think the same is generally true of those who come here.
In the course of his speech the other day my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoak s (Mr. J. Rodgers) said, in effect, that our slogan should be "Visitors first". I quite agree. We should put visitors first, but not differently from the rest of the community. I think it will be generally agreed by the House that the licensing laws must apply equally to all who are in this country, whether they are permanent residents or temporary visitors from overseas. It is because that fact is recognised that certain hon. Members have put down the Amendments which stand in their names today. I think it is true to say that the Amendments are really not aimed at the special treatment of visitors so much as an alteration in the law which might have to apply to other sections of the community.
824 The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) calls on Her Majesty's Governmentto maintain the essential safeguards represented by the present licensing restrictions.I was rather surprised to see those words appearing in the name of the hon. Member, because they seem to indicate that he is in favour of maintaining intact the present situation. In other words, his view is that at present everything is lovely in the beer garden.
§ Mr. Hudson
What I said was that I am not satisfied with the garden as it is now and I really want an opportunity to get it dealt with; but the garden as it now is vastly better than it would be if the Motion were carried. That is all that I am arguing at present.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
But I think he will recognise that if something is not perfect it should be examined on its merits and not merely from the point of view of trying to achieve some ulterior object. If his Amendment were carried this afternoon it would place on record, as being the considered opinion of this House, that the present situation should be maintained indefinitely, and I do not think that the hon. Member or anyone else would wish to say that.
The other Amendment, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) and which, I understand, is not to be called, refers to the alarming increase in recent years in convictions for drunkenness. I think there is a feeling among those hon. Members who have spoken on the first Amendment that this increase is relevant to the consideration of this matter. I should like to give the facts as best I can, so that the House can form an objective opinion.
It is difficult to find a proper yardstick for showing the extent of the drunkenness which exists. In the White Paper, Cmd. No. 8427, which was published in December, 1951, we can find the number of offences in England and Wales where drunkenness was proved, and in round thousands the position disclosed is that in 1938 there were 54,000 such cases. 825 That number fell steadily from 1938 onwards—not regularly, but steadily each year—until, in 1946, the total number had reached only 20,000.
From 1946, however, the trend was completely reversed and from then onwards the figures have steadily increased each year, without exception, until by 1950, which is the last figure shown in this White Paper, the total had reached 47,000. I cannot give the House the final figure for 1951; but it is estimated that it will be about 54,000. That is the same figure as in 1938.
In the meantime there has been a steady increase in the population, so that that 54,000 is relatively a little less than the 1938 figure. The rate of increase itself has also been decreasing recently, so that as far as one can read the figures now they suggest that the ratio of drinking offences to the population may soon reach equilibrium at about the 1938 level.
§ Mr. Simmons
Are the figures broken down in order to disclose what proportion of the increase relates to persons under 21 years of age?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I cannot give figures for those under 21 years of age. I have separate figures for males and females, and it is remarkable that there should be so many cases of males by comparison with the number of females.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I understand that while it is true that there has been an increase in the number of convictions from 1946 onwards, there has been a decrease in the total consumption of alcohol. Has my hon. Friend's Department any explanation of this rather remarkable contradiction?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I think perhaps if I can continue with my argument it might shed some light on these considerations, certainly as much light as I am able to shed on them. I have suggested to the House that the figures show that we are getting back to what looks like the 1938 average and that we might reach some sort of equilibrium at that level. The first question which hon. Members will ask is, what have been the reasons for these movements—first of all, the downward trend and then the upward trend.
826 A great many reasons will readily suggest themselves to hon. Members. This afternoon it has been suggested, in the course of the debate, that one reason is the operation of the licensing laws. Another obvious reason is the changes in economic conditions in the country. Thirdly, there is the question of the efficiency of the police, which obviously must have varied quite considerably over that period of 13 years, with the intervention of the war. Fourthly, there is the question of the availability of supplies of liquor including, of course, the kind of liquor and the strength of the liquor.
There are other possible explanations. I can assure the House that these matters have had and are still having the most careful consideration of the Home Office. It is impossible to say that any one of these explanations or any combination of them provides a satisfactory explanation of what has occurred. I think it is probably true to say that all these reasons have played their part, and there may be other reasons which I have not been able to suggest to the House and which might occur to the minds of hon. Members.
I would, however, venture to say that whereas most of the reasons which I have given offer an explanation of why there has been a change, the licensing laws themselves have remained relatively unchanged throughout this period. It therefore rather looks as if the licensing laws themselves had very little to do with the amount of drunkenness as shown by these figures. I can only offer that to the House for them to make what they like of it.
It is almost impossible to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion from the facts at present available, but I think it is fair to say that, having looked at all these facts, the laws should not be regarded as immutable. I do not think that anyone in any part of the House would wish to regard the licensing laws as such. It is desirable that they should be constantly under review so that they fit the needs of the people and the needs of the times. They should be considered on their merits and not from any particular point of view. They should not be considered from the point of view of the hon. Member for Ealing, North, or from the point of view of the brewers, or any other sectional or particular interest. They should be examined on their own merits.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I leave it to the House to judge the correctness of the Hon. Gentleman's claim. The point I am putting to the House is that the Government would not wish to regard these laws as immutable but that we have not, at the moment, any sufficient evidence which would suggest any obvious alterations.
My hon. Friend's Motion, as I read it, merely asks the Government to have regard to these matters and to consider the situation. If the House thought fit to pass such a Motion, it would be acceptable to the Government to consider the position.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I gather from the hon. Gentleman's concluding sentences that he does not regard himself, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the land of the Medes and Persians. Nothing, he says, is immutable and, therefore, if some change is desirable, he and his colleagues in the Government would be prepared to consider it. That seems to me to be a very sound, historical, conservative view to take on any subject. Nobody has been promised anything, nobody is threatened, and if somebody gets something out of it, he will be lucky. That seems to me to be a very fitting summing up of some of the speeches we have heard today.
I want to make it quite plain that, although all the speeches from this side of the House so far have been in support of the Amendment and against the Motion, it does not follow that every hon. Member who sits on these benches would, of necessity, have endorsed the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) although I do myself, speaking for myself and only for myself. We have had a very interesting debate on a subject which is constantly in people's minds and conversations, and I think that on both sides of the House the views have been advanced with moderation and charity, having regard to the subject matter under discussion.
I share the view which was put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes); I am not sure 828 that people who come to this country want to find here exactly the things to which they are accustomed at home. I am going to Wales tomorrow, and I have no doubt that during the week-end I shall eat far more mutton than I regard as being normally acceptable to me. One of the most enjoyable holidays I ever had was in Austria. When I was there the only substantial dishes I seemed to be able to get were veal and spinach.
§ Mr. Ede
Yes, but one can have too much of it. Outside the restaurant I saw Ochsenfleisch, which I understand to be beef, but I think the ox must have drawn a wagon for a great many years before they started to roast it. But I did not feel that I was entitled to complain. After all, one reason why one travels about is to ascertain the way in which other people live, and there is no better way of ascertaining how they live than by trying to live in the way that they do—which is sometimes very different from just standing by and watching them get on with their way of living, instead of participating in it.
Therefore, I very much doubt myself whether there is so much in the argument put forward by the Travel and Holidays Association as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who moved the Motion, attempted to make out of it. I imagine that a great many people are quite satisfied to take us as we are, and to find out exactly how we manage to preserve our remarkable place in the world in spite of all the handicaps under which we suffer.
I was interested in what the Under-Secretary of State said about the statistics of drunkenness in this country, because I think it has been accepted by both sides that we cannot have a bona fide traveller sort of arrangement for the foreign visitor, for, whether the law be amended or not, if it is amended, it will be applicable to all persons who, at the particular moment, happen to find themselves resident in this country. Therefore, it is quite clear that, in any suggestion with regard to amendment, we must have regard to the domestic as well as to the foreign aspect of what may occur.
829 When I was Home Secretary I viewed these rising figures of convictions for drunkenness with very considerable consternation, because for them to go up from 20,000 in 1946 to 54,000 convictions in 1951 does give one very serious cause for consideration as to what are the causes. I agree, if I may be allowed to do so, with the hon. Gentleman: I do not think that the licensing laws have very much to do with that increase. There has been no substantial alteration.
I think the principal alteration was one I made in regard to London and the arrangements with regard to night clubs, where I did manage, for the first time as part of the arrangements with the proprietors of the night clubs, to get the admission of the police to them; and, if anything, the law was strengthened with regard to night clubs and bottle parties, as compared with what existed before. I know I did not please some of my hon. Friends in what I did, but, at any rate, I managed to please myself, and any Minister who, at the end of piloting a contentious Bill through this House, can feel a little pleased with himself need not feel ashamed of what has happened.
I believe that the voluntary agencies which used to be active have been less active, particularly among young people, in recent years than they used to be. My hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) said that he was the superintendent of a Band of Hope. I never rose to that dizzy height; I was merely one of those who were superintended. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Southend, East himself was recently precluded from visiting a branch of the British Women's Total Abstinence Union. I hope that he will send it a copy of what he has said today and welcome comments on it. Will his ears be red!
We have to face this, that the voluntary agencies to which my hon. Friend alluded, and certain other voluntary agencies that used to be very powerful in the early years of this century, have, for some reason or another, regarded their battle as won and have retired to their tents to celebrate victory in those potations which are suitable to them having regard to their convictions.
I believe that it is not any alteration of the licensing laws one way or the other 830 which will make all the difference, but the resurrection of the conscience that impelled people to place before the youth of the nation considerations which, in modern days, have not been so convincingly put forward even by people who holds those views—and, as my hon. Friend knows—and, I think, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) was with him in this—when I had to meet a deputation of the Churches I told them so. I regard these figures as a greater indictment of those voluntary agencies than of the licensing laws or of the people who are engaged in conducting licensed houses, who, certainly in these days, do not welcome the man who is inclined to make a nuisance of himself even if he does not get so far as to be drunk within the meaning of the law.
I share the view of the Under-Secretary that it is not amendment of the licensing laws that will remedy this state of affairs. I also share the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashford, that we have to be very careful, in any amendment of the licensing laws on the lines asked for today, that we do not put an undue burden on the people who are engaged in conducting licensed houses, because, after all, it is upon their standard of probity that the successful working of the licensing system very largely depends, and anything that increases the burdens—already rather heavy—that are cast upon them would, I think, be a mistake.
Now I want to make it quite clear once again that, in speaking as I have done, I speak for myself alone. There are hon. Members sitting on this side of the House—I do not see any of them here now, but normally sitting on this side of the House—who would disagree with me and would be inclined to support the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southend, East in his Motion, but, speaking for myself, I support the Amendment, and I do not feel that any good cause would be served by the passing of the Motion.
However, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his success in the Ballot, and on the moderate and entertaining speech with which he introduced the subject to us today. At the same time, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, who moved the 831 Amendment, on having displayed a wealth of knowledge, which we all know he possesses, but which he put before us in so agreeable a manner,
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was at pains to make it clear to the House that, although all the speeches from his side of the House had been in support of the Amendment, he did not feel that the House ought necessarily to assume that everybody who ordinarily sits on that side of the House would be of the same opinion. I am glad to have the opportunity on my side of pointing out that, whereas up to the moment all speeches which have been made on this side of the House have been in support of the Motion, it cannot and must not be assumed from that fact—
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
Did not the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) oppose the Motion?
§ Mr. Black
No. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), to whose speech I listened most carefully, as I have listened to every speech that has been made in the debate today, stated quite clearly that he was in support of the Motion. I was making the point that it is not the fact that every hon. Member on this side of the House is in favour of the Motion, because I wish to give to the House certain reasons why I do not agree with the Motion and why I am in support of the Amendment.
I cannot for one moment accept that it would be correct to put on the passing of the Motion the very innocent implication that was indicated by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, because he suggested to the House that really all that the Motion did was to call upon the Government…to consider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable.Surely there could be no harm in this House doing that. If that were all, I think that probably every Member could have supported the Motion. But the Motion goes very much beyond that, because those Members who vote for the Motion are expressing their agreement 832 with at least two proposals with which many Members cannot agree, because the Motion contains in its preamble these two statements. First,…discouragement often caused to foreign visitors by the present licensing laws.That is a statement with which a great many Members cannot agree; a great many have been at pains to explain why they consider that a relaxation of the law would be more objectionable to foreign visitors than the maintenance of the law in its present state, and in voting for the Motion we should be committing ourselves to agreement with that proposal. Secondly, and even more objectionable to many Members, there is the proposition,that certain of the more irksome restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquor could be relaxed without prejudice to the purposes which the laws are intended to serve.That begs the whole question. That is the whole matter at issue today between the mover of the Motion on the one hand and the proposer of the Amendment on the other.
Whilst I am quite sure that the Under-Secretary of State has been most anxious to be as helpful as he possibly could in the advice and guidance he has given to the House, I warn hon. Members against being misled into believing that a vote for this Motion is simply a vote that it would be a good thing for the Government to consider this matter without any expression of opinion one way or the other by the House, because I submit that that is not the case.
If it were a question of the Government simply considering what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable, and leaving within the scope of that consideration what amendments may be necessary in the form of further restrictions, as well as what amendments may be necessary in the form of relaxations, that is something which I believe every hon. Member could support. But many of us certainly cannot support the two expressions of opinion in the preamble to the Motion.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
Will the hon. Gentleman clear up this point? If these two subsidiary sentences were removed from the Motion, would his objections also be removed, and would he find it possible to support the Motion?
§ Mr. Black
That is a hypothetical case. If those conditions were fulfilled there would be very little of the Motion left. But if it is any satisfaction to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I will say here and now that if the Motion consisted of the last two lines, which call upon Her Majesty's Government to consider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable, speaking for myself, I should be very glad indeed to go into the Lobby in support of that Motion. What I cannot support are the two important expressions of opinion in the earlier part of the Motion, with which I find myself quite unable to agree.
I may perhaps appear to be rather bold in venturing the expression of one opinion which differs from that of both Front Bench speakers who have given the House the benefit of their advice, but I do not for one moment accept the proposition that the licensing laws have very little to do with the incidence of drunkenness and the number of convictions for drunkenness. My submission would be—and I believe that I should be supported in this opinion by the great majority of chief constables, social workers and people who have had experience of this matter—that, other conditions being equal, any relaxation of the law in favour of drinking leads to increased convictions for drunkenness, and that any further reduction in the opportunities for drinking leads to a reduction in the convictions for drunkenness.
§ Mr. McAdden
If the hon. Gentleman is contending that to depart from the existing licensing regulations would be frowned upon by the police, perhaps he would also deal with the fact that when they have a police ball they always apply for an extension of the licence.
§ Mr. Black
I am coming now to the question of the police. I wish to quote, in support of what I am saying on this point, a police official to whose views I am quite sure my hon. Friend would be prepared to give some consideration. In considering whether the present time is appropriate for the relaxation in the licensing laws which is asked for, it must be relevant and pertinent to look at existing conditions in the country in regard to convictions for drunkenness and other relevant matters of that kind.
834 I must confess that I am surprised that, my hon. Friend, having been fortunate in winning the Ballot today, out of all the important questions affecting the wellbeing of the nation on which he might have brought a Motion before this House he has chosen this particular Motion at this particular moment. I will tell him why I consider it is so inappropriate that he, of all Members, should have done so.
He has referred to the attitude of the police to this matter, and I want to say a word or two about a certain town which is not unknown to him, the town of Southend. He has referred to the cricket matches which are played at Southend, and I wish to refer to another branch of activity in that town and to quote two short paragraphs from the issue of the "Southend Standard" of 14th February of this year. The first of these quotations consists of a statement made by the Chief Constable for Southend, and this is what the report said:The effect of music and singing in licensed houses and the part that they play in disorders during the summer on Marine Parade and High Street were mentioned in the report of the Chief Constable, Mr. A. H. Hunt, at the Southend Brewster Sessions. The report revealed an increase of drunkenness in Southend"—[Laughter.] I do submit that this is hardly a matter which should be received with levity by any hon Member—The report revealed an increase of drunkenness in Southend from 54 cases in 1950 to 126 cases in 1951—an increase of 72. The Chief Constable, referring to the disorders and assaults on the police, said: 'Considerable publicity has been given to rowdyism and assaults on Marine Parade during the period of the illuminations. There can be no doubt that a very large number of people visited the town during this period, and some can properly be described as undesirable.'The Chairman of the licensing committee had his remarks reported in the same edition of the "Southend Standard," and this is what the chairman, Colonel Edwards, said:It is customary at the Brewster Sessions for the Chief Constable's report to be followed by a short review of the past 12 months by the Chairman of the Committee. This statement usually opened with an expression of the Committee's pleasure at the excellent manner in which the licensed premises had been conducted and the steadiness of the drunken return. It is regretted that this year we are no longer able to repeat this opinion. We find that the past licensing year stands out as one in which the cases of drunkenness have increased by 133 per cent., and a considerable 835 increase has taken place in convictions for assault arising from disorder in High Street and Marine Parade.He concluded:I would also refer to the extensions of permitted hours. It has been reported to us that in many cases drinking continues after the termination of the extended hours, sometimes even until the function finally ends.
§ Mr. McAdden
My hon. Friend has had a lot to say about Southend, but on this point particularly would he be kind enough to direct my attention to anything in the Motion or to anything in my speech which was responsible for the conditions to which he referred?
§ Mr. Black
I am making this submission to the House. In my judgment—and this is not merely a personal opinion but a view held by many people competent to form a judgment—the relaxation of the restrictions on the licensed trade must inevitably, other conditions being equal, lead to further troubles and further convictions for drunkenness.
I say that if we hold that view it is relevant and pertinent to what we are debating today to inquire whether this is the time and these are the circumstances in which to bring about a relaxation in the existing law. That is the case which I am endeavouring to submit to the House, and I believe it is a case which is entirely relevant to the matters we have under discussion today.
I cannot believe that the great majority of the constituents of my hon. Friend, who are subject to these deplorable happenings, will really welcome any activities that he may undertake in the direction of trying to secure relaxations of the safeguards that already exist, which, if granted, in my submission, will only add to the difficulties. I will leave the House to be the judge as to the relevance of what I am attempting to say.
In conclusion—and I say this by way of illustration, because I realise I should be out of order if I were to attempt to develop this particular aspect of the matter at length—the principle which underlies this Motion is a principle which, if accepted, goes far beyond the subject matter of the Motion. In effect the Motion is asking this House to approve the principle that, in so far as the social conditions of this country differ from or 836 are more strict than the social conditions in countries from which some foreign visitors come, we should consider relaxing our own laws and altering our own social conditions in order to make conditions in this country more acceptable to foreign visitors.
I do not believe that result would be achieved by that policy. I believe that policy would produce the opposite of the result which the mover and supporters of the Motion wish to secure. I say that there is far more involved in the principle that we are debating than a few comparatively small alterations in the licensing laws. It is a fact that many foreign visitors who come to this country are not familiar with our Sunday observance law. It is surprising to them that our theatres do not open on Sundays. Many of these visitors are surprised at our shop closing hours because they come from places where there is no restriction on the hours in which places of business keep open. In hundreds of instances one can find cases in countries abroad where social conditions and the licence which is permitted to people are entirely different from conditions in this country.
If, in the hope of earning foreign currency, this country were to decide to conform its practices to the lowest and least desirable practices to be found in foreign countries, we should be embarking upon a policy which would bring to an end for all time that moral and spiritual leadership which this country has often exercised in the councils of the world, and even if, as I believe would not be the case, we were successful in earning foreign currency by such means, we should be doing so, in my judgment, at the cost of that which is finest and best in the history and in the traditions of this country and at the price of the degradation of the manhood and womanhood of our people.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I must say, having listened to nearly all the speeches in this debate, that I think that the one we have just listened to by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) most completely answers the Motion. I hope that the constituents of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) will read it.
837 There is one point which, I think, ought to be made. The hon. Member for Wimbledon has said that this Motion raises very important questions, but we have had a very miserable attendance of hon. Members in the House today to discuss it. We have had two counts to find out if there were enough hon. Members present to keep the discussion going. If the attendance is an indication of the interest in the things to which the Motion refers, then I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who moved the Amendment, need have much worry.
It confirms, of course, to some extent the vote that the House itself gave on the Ten Minutes Rule Bill which the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) introduced, when the House was absolutely divided as to whether or not that Bill should be discussed, and it only got through by Mr. Deputy-Speaker, conforming with the traditions of the House, giving his vote to enable the Bill to be further discussed.
I think that it is apparent that this is a matter of very great importance and that the movement behind the Motion which is before us is a sinister and dangerous movement for the social life of this country.
§ Mr. McAdden
When the hon. Gentleman says that it is a dangerous and sinister movement, does he appreciate that the recommendations which I have put before the House are the recommendations of a Government-sponsored body? Does he consider that body a sinister movement in the life of this country?
§ Mr. Gibson
The hon. Gentleman quoted some of the recommendations of the British Travel and Holidays Association. I also have a letter from them. They represent the people who appoint them and those people only. They do not represent the opinion in the country on this or any other question and their job is not to express an opinion. Their job is to organise tourists into this country and out of it, but mainly into the country, in order to get foreign currency. I do not say that they are not entitled, as an Association, to express a point of view, but that point of view must not be elevated into a national 838 conception of the kind of opinion held by the people in this country.
The Motion, which relates in the main to the tourist traffic and suggests that the licensing laws ought to be altered to suit the convenience of tourists, has hardly been discussed all day. We have heard a good many other things. We have had references to the Royal Commission on licensing, 1929 to 1931, and a number of other commendations which have been made, all of which very much widen the proposals which lie behind the Motion.
The hon. Member for Southend, East who moved it, did not confine himself to advocating facilities which would provide additional drinking facilities merely for tourists. When the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department was replying for the Government and making the point that we cannot alter the licensing laws of this country for tourists only, and that any alteration must be a general one, applicable to everyone in the country, the hon. Member for Southend, East nodded his head in agreement.
He cannot have it both ways. He cannot move a Motion asking for facilities mainly for tourists and to attract currency into the country and, at the same time, agree with the point that we cannot make the change without affecting everybody. We cannot change the licensing laws even for the convenience of people who travel in aircraft without also changing them for everybody else, and yet nearly every hon. Member who has supported the Motion has said that he does not want to change the licensing laws for our own people.
§ Mr. R. Harris
The Under-Secretary said that we cannot have a separate licensing law for foreigners, but surely we can have a separate licensing law in places where foreigners congregate. That principle was accepted by the Socialist Government when it permitted certain restaurants and night clubs to serve drinks up to two o'clock in the morning. That has already been done, so I do not see what the hon. Member is grumbling about.
§ Mr. Gibson
The hon. Member is not as simple as he tries to make out. The night clubs in the West End are not 839 restricted to foreigners only. Anyone who has a lot of money to spend can enter them.
There is a great social danger in an extension of the licensing laws, and we have been given a great deal of relevant evidence. If we change the licensing situation in this country we shall make things worse. I do not entirely accept the view of the Government and of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that the licensing laws have very little to do with the rise or fall in drunkenness. It seems to me that they are bound to have a very serious effect if we extend the hours in which drink can be obtained.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend has overlooked that the Joint Under-Secretary and I were dealing with the fact that the licensing laws in 1938 and 1951 were, for all practical purposes, identical, and, therefore, whatever the reason was for the alteration in the figures, it could not have been the licensing laws which caused all the change between 1938 and 1951.
§ Mr. Gibson
I accept that. I thought the argument was that if we changed the present laws we should not necessarily give greater facilities for drinking.
It has been argued that we should accept the Motion to indicate to the Government that we want to encourage people from other lands to come to this country and to provide for them here what they get in their own countries. It was suggested that they come from places where they can get drink freely and easily at all hours of the day and night, and that they are in difficulty if they arrive by an aircraft which happens to be a little late and find the bars shut—although they can get a drink on the aircraft to within a few minutes of landing if they are outside the three-mile limit.
That argument is false. I have here a cutting from the "Portsmouth Evening News" of 13th February, giving details of a Portsmouth man's visit to India, which illustrates how false is the argument. The report says:Visiting Bombay, a prohibition city on a recent trip to India and Pakistan Mr. M. D. Forman, assistant secretary of Portsmouth and Southsea Rotary Club, had to fill in forms to get a drink.840 The report goes on:'We have nothing on the Indians for filling in forms,' he told his fellow members at the Luncheon Club. 'If you want a drink in Bombay you have to get a special licence. To start with you buy a form which costs eight annas. Having filled in that form, you are given another form for which you pay four annas, and you join a second queue.'He goes on:I got fed up and walked away and went without my drink.'Even form-ridden Britain is not quite as bad as that. So long as it is within hours one can get a drink at any place licensed to sell liquor. It is false to suggest that all people who come here from abroad get angry when they land and find they cannot get a drink at the aerodrome or on a long railway journey. It is wrong to alter the law to enable such travellers to get alcoholic drink when they arrive, because we cannot restrict the facility to them alone. The last Royal Commission said that one of the difficulties was to keep extended facilities from the ordinary inhabitants of the country. There are considerable dangers in any extension of the licensing hours.
The Paris correspondent of "The Times" wrote on 6th December, 1951:During the war the pathological consequences of intoxication disappeared almost completely. Deaths from delirium tremens fell from 1,140 in 1936 to 232 in 1944, but rose again to 1,302 in 1948.It is obvious that the difficulty of getting strong alcoholic drink during those years had some influence on the number of deaths caused by that disease. Since the war and since it has been possible to revive the trade, the number of deaths from this disease has increased very rapidly. I suggest that is a danger to which we should not take the risk of exposing the people of this country.
I ask the House not to accept this Motion. It might change, or lead to a change, in the agreed compromise—because that is all it is—which has been working in this country for many years. I am quite sure that any change in the present licensing laws leading to an increase in the permitted hours would stir up agitation, violent feelings and propaganda all over the country. There are people who have never drunk alcohol. I am one; I have never drunk alcohol in my life.
841 There are people who have strong feelings about this, but who would not get excited if the present situation is left alone or if the law is administered properly. But if extensions here and there were permitted for what we regard as false reasons, that might very well create in the country a strong and purposeful, and really determined agitation among the temperance movement such as we remember 30 or 40 years ago, when it was a deep and burning public issue—at any rate, in London.
§ Mr. Gibson
I hope we shall, but I do not want it to come because of some variation of the present law which has come in, as it were, on a side wind.
I agree that if we make a change we ought not to do so, one way or the other, without careful consideration of the whole circumstances; not merely because this Motion says that we want to get more foreign currency or foreign visitors. The whole economic, social and medical facts surrounding the problem should be considered before we make any change at all in the present licensing laws.
I hope, therefore, that the House will reject this Motion. It would be better if the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) withdrew the Motion altogether, and thus avoided a vote. But if he will not do that I hope that the House will reject it and adopt the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isle-worth)
The most reassuring statement made today was that of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who said that the ratio of drinking offences was about to reach an equilibrium. I must confess that my own equilibrium has been seriously disturbed once or twice today, so much so that I had to break my usual custom and, after listening to the speeches of the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion, I had to have a drink with my lunch.
§ Mr. Harris
I felt a lot better afterwards and my equilibrium has been restored.
842 It is a matter of regret to me to have to say that the most intemperate, immoderate and bigoted speeches have come from hon. Members who oppose this Motion. It is, in my opinion, the most innocuous Motion I have seen on the Order Paper for some time. It merely asks that the Government shouldconsider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable.It may be that they would come to the conclusion, after making the inquiry, that there are no alterations which are desirable or practicable but some of us are suggesting that it is possible there may be, having regard to one or two, what I suppose might be called relatively minor, considerations compared with some of the big ones which face us. I do not read into this Motion any more than that.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) on many things such as the observance of Sundays, and other things. I agree with what he said about preventing the degredation of the manhood and womanhood of this nation; but I cannot see that this Motion tends in that direction at all.
§ Mr. Harris
I do not want to see a wholesale alteration in the licensing law, although I think a very good case could be made for it. A very good case could be made for the abolition of the licensing law altogether if we wish to abolish drunkenness. I am convinced, as one of those people who do occasionally go into these chromium-plated public houses, to use the expression of the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) who said he did not go into them, that all the trouble is caused by that drink known as "one for the road."
§ Mr. Harris
I am sorry that I did him the injustice of suggesting that he did not go in. He believes in going in occasionally to find out what the flesh-pots 843 are like. If we want to do away with drunkenness, we might well do away with the licensing laws. It is in the last 10 or 15 minutes of the day that drunkenness occurs. For the benefit of those who do not go into public houses, I will explain that about five minutes before closing time a bell is sounded. That is the moment when everybody says, "My goodness. What are you going to have —quick."Everyone in a party who has not paid for his round immediately says that and bangs his money on the counter. That is a great danger. If we did away with the licensing laws and did what the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) suggested—
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
Perhaps the hon. Member is not old enough to remember the days when there was no limitation on drinking. If he had been old enough he would have been able to understand the terrific effect on family life when men were in the pubs all day and all night and never went home for weeks.
§ Mr. Harris
I accept all that. My grandfather started a mission in Battersea in the '70s. I accept that in those days drunkenness was a terrible problem. On Saturday nights men and women were thrown out of the public houses into the gutter in scores. In the mission where my grandfather operated they used to arrange services which carried on into the early hours in order to sober up these people. By the time I had arrived on the scene—and I was a Sunday school superintendent there from 1935 to 1939 —drunkenness in Battersea was no problem at all. The greatest problem then was gambling. That is what took away the money and left some people in dire straits of poverty. Drunkenness was not the great problem in the '30s that it was in the '70s.
§ Mr. Williams
It may be that the hon. Gentleman's grandfather would say that the decrease in drunkenness was due to the fact that there were limited hours for drinking.
§ Mr. Harris
That may well be so. I am not pressing seriously for any alteration in the licensing laws. I started by saying that I did not want any alteration; but if we did away with the licensing laws we should do away with many of the great evils which we 844 have today. Drunkenness on the roads is often caused by the last few minutes before closing time.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
Will the hon. Gentleman be worthy of his grandfather by starting a mission for gamblers?
§ Mr. Harris
I might even do that.
I accept the proposition that, generally speaking, the public like the present system. One of the reasons why they like it is because there is still rather an atmosphere of naughtiness in going into the public house. That atmosphere is considerably heightened when the hon. Member for Brierley Hill makes the sort of remarks that he chose to make today. The night club proprietors of this country will be exceedingly grateful to him for the remarks he made about night clubs.
An announcement in the House of Commons—and through this House to the whole world—that the night clubs are filled with half-naked women and over-dressed men looking like stuffed rabbits is calculated to fill up the night clubs tonight and every night for the next few weeks. That statement bears little relation to the truth, but the owners of the night clubs will be most grateful to the hon. Member.
People who talk about drinking as "boozing" give it some sort of glamour. Everybody likes to be just a little bit naughty. Every time they go into a public house they will feel that they are being "a bit of a devil." That is human nature. How else can we explain away the most fantastic statement that I have heard in this House which was made by the hon. Member for Brierley Hill that drinking is now more dangerous because it is more respectable? Well, really, what are we coming to?
§ Mr. Simmons
What I said was that the trade was more dangerous because it was more respectable. It was a greater attraction and temptation to young people to go into a chromium-plated, up-to-date pub than the old gin palaces of the old days.
§ Mr. Harris
It is very encouraging to hear the question, "Why not?" from the teetotal benches opposite. Anything done to excess is wrong, but I cannot see how this Motion will encourage people to drink to excess.
The Parliamentary Secretary has said that we cannot have a special law for foreigners. I agree that we cannot, but the proposal in the Motion is for special arrangements for places where foreigners congregate, and that is the reason the Home Secretary in the previous Government made these special arrangements for the City of Westminster, by which certain restaurants, which used to have to stop serving alcoholic refreshments at 12 midnight, were permitted to serve them until 2.30 a.m. provided a meal was taken.
All we are proposing is that similar arrangements should be made in other places. That is all we are asking—that it should be extended to one or two places like airports, at which visitors requiring refreshments outside the normal hours can obtain them. I know that, in addition to the foreign visitors, a certain number of Englishmen, Welshmen and Scotsmen will also be able to participate, but the number of people who will be affected will be very limited, and no problem arises there at all.
§ Mr. Gibson
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the only people who go to these drinking dens, as he called them, in the West End are people from other countries? The hon. Member does not know what he is talking about.
§ Mr. Harris
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. I did not say, and I never have suggested, that the only people going into night clubs or airports are foreigners. I accept the fact that possibly a few other people will have the advantage of this concession, but the number of people likely to take advantage of it is so limited that it will not cause any increase in drunkenness. That is a very simple proposition, and I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman who was Home Secretary in the last Government can possibly argue against it, having regard to the special arrangements made by him in the City of Westminster for restaurants to remain open until 2.30 a.m. and serve drinks when providing meals.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Gentleman will recollect that, in doing so, I secured the abolition of the bottle party and included in the law the right of admission of the police to these particular clubs. It was all part of the arrangements, and I was assured then by the organisations responsible for these people that the arrangement was not desired outside London, because, I imagine, they hoped to get a considerable number of people from Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and other places who had not been able to see the same kind of thing in those more enlightened cities.
§ Mr. Harris
Although I was not in the House at the time, I did, wherever I was, heartily support the right hon. Gentleman's legislation, which I thought was very right and proper. We are now proposing a very slight extension of it.
It has been stated in the House today that, when foreigners come into this country, they do not expect to find what they are used to finding in their own countries. I do not think that is true at all. When I go to France, I spend a lot of my time trying to find a cup of tea. When foreigners come here, they spend much of their time in trying to find the things they are used to in their own countries. The reason for that is that the whole human race is conservative at heart. They know what they like and they try to get what they are used to having wherever they go.
§ Mr. Harris
I am not so unhappy about the prospects for the next election. At any rate, the graph is going up.
I am sorry to find myself in opposition to some hon. Members, particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, because I think he made a most excellent speech, although I think it was completely irrelevant. I do not want to range myself on the side of drunkenness, crime, road and other accidents, insobriety and social irresponsibility. What an absurd exaggeration is the phraseology of the Amendment. It bears no relation to the fact or truth.
Some hon. Members who spoke against the Motion are guilty of sheer Hitlerism. I think Hitler was a teetotaller—and look what he did to the world. It has been 847 stated that foreigners want to see our historic establishments and scenery. I do not want to stop them seeing them, but why cannot they have a drink at the end of it? They may be out late and may need some refreshment after travelling in a train from Stratford-on-Avon.
§ Mr. Harris
After listening to the speeches I have heard today, there probably will be problems on the trains, and other places as well.
We have heard that Bass, Guinness and Whitbreads do not represent the best things in the country. I dare say that is so, but they do fulfil some sort of need. I have to go to Ealing, North to get to my constituency, and there are some fine "chromium-plated pubs" there. I occasionally stop to drink the health of hon. Members when I go through Ealing, North.
Again, the arguments about America are really quite irrelevant. It was said that there are 35 million people in America living in areas where they cannot buy a drink at all. Are we, because of that, not to have a slight extension in drinking hours here? It has nothing to do with the matter. I regard Americans generally as hard drinkers. Very well, let them do it here, and let us get the dollars for it. But the fact that they are hard drinkers does not mean that they are going to bring crime, road accidents, ill-health, insobriety and general social irresponsibilities to this country.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
If the Americans come here and drink the Scotch whisky in Scotland, how are we going to export the limited supplies we have to America?
§ Mr. Harris
The answer is that I do not care where they drink it so long as they drink it. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) reminds me that if they drink it in Scotland they will be paying more for it and that we shall get more dollars. What is more, if they buy their drinks in England, we get their dollars for hotel accommodation and travelling.
§ Mr. Hughes
What is going to happen in a Scottish town if the people there know that American visitors are consum- 848 ing the whisky and that the ordinary people cannot get it because of that? Is that going to help Anglo-American relations?
§ Mr. Harris
I have heard so many complaints from Scotsmen about Englishmen burning the coal they produce and wearing the clothes they make that I assume a few more complaints about Americans consuming their whisky will not be worth worrying about.
Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon asked whether this was the time to relax the licensing laws. Of course, whenever one is against any proposition in this House one always says that this is not the time to do it. But that is not a good argument. All I would say is this. Is this the time when we want more foreign currency or it is not? It is as limited, small and trivial a problem as that, and there is no need to get worked up about degrading the manhood and womanhood of this country. I do not think that would ever arise. If that were the case, I would range myself on the side of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon with all my heart. I do not think it would be very proper for this House to support an Amendment which says that visitors from foreign countries might bring with theman increase of crime, ill-health, road and other accidents, insobriety and general social irresponsibility; …It is just not so, and it would be very wrong if this House approved an Amendment which gave that impression.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
Surely the hon. Member heard me read out the statement which was given officially in the French Parliament, in a country which is associated with drinking, and that is precisely all that the Amendment says. It mentions the effect which follows in France from the alcoholism which exists there. I read the words from the statement in "The Times."
§ Mr. Harris
That may be so, but the hon. Member's Motion does not say that. It says that:additional burdens … are likely to be placed on us by visitors from countries where a large consumption of alcohol is known to be accompanied by an increase of crime …and so on. What the hon. Member read out of "The Times" may be so, but it 849 does not place an additional burden on us, unless, of course, these people get very drunk in France, come over here and still remain drunk.
The Amendment definitely states that an additional burden is likely to be placed on us by visitors who do all these things in their own country. I do not think that is so, and it would be very wrong if the House supported an Amendment which gave the general impression that visitors would bring such evils upon us. I oppose the Amendment and I support the Motion, which is very innocuous.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
is the hon. Member aware that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden), who moved the Motion, is not prepared to extend these facilities to Scotland? In view of the fact that a Minister has been nodding assent to many of the things which the lion. Member has said, I should like to know what is the hon. Member's position.
§ Mr. Harris
It was not I who raised the question of Scotland. It was the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who wanted to know what would happen to Scotch whisky. I would not attempt to legislate for Scotland.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
I intervene in this debate because I believe that all my hon. Friends who have spoken are teetotallers. I am not a teetotaller and have not been for 45 years, which means that I have been in a good many public houses in my time —I suppose many thousands. But never in the whole of my life have I had the experience described by the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) when he said that public houses cause a bell to be rung five or ten minutes before closing time. I have been in "pubs" all over these islands and in a good many other countries, but I have never heard a bell. I have known the lights to be dimmed and the incumbent to say. "Last orders, please." I rather suspect that the hon. Member knows very little about drinking.
§ Mr. R. Harris
No, I would not ask the hon. Member to withdraw. I take what he says as a compliment, and I shall 850 go up in the estimation of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson).
§ Mr. Smith
I rarely intervene in debate because I find it so difficult to contribute anything new on most occasions. I only intervene when I feel I know something about the subject.
The hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth has really said something which will make him look very foolish in the eyes of his working-class supporters, if he has any. He wanted the House to believe that people go to "pubs" because they think it is a naughty thing to do. I wish he would say that to the fine working people who have sent me where I am today. They would tell him where he gets off. His was not the only equivocal speech today. He does not want to alter the licensing laws but he is in favour of this Motion.
I will admit that in the light of my very long and varied experience of drinking I have had some difficulty in making up my mind whether to vote for the Motion or against it. I wish at once to dissociate myself from my hon. Friends on this side of the House who. suggested there were sinister anti-social forces behind the Motion of the hon. Member for Southend. East (Mr. McAdden) I do not think there are. I shall vote against his Motion—I have come to that conclusion—but I do not think that there is anything sinister behind him or his friends. I think he is just an ordinary decent Member of this House, as I hope I am, and I do not intend to make any attack on his Motion from that point of view.
I wish to put the point of view of the ordinary Englishman. On this question of liquor, there is a lot to be said for this country. I have lived and worked in other countries, and when one has done that one can see the good in our own. And one good thing about our country is the compromise which we have on the question of drinking and licensing laws.
Many years ago, before the First World War, I lived and worked in Belgium, and had my lodgings in a public house. I suppose that is what we should call it, the landlady called it an estaminet. It was really a public house. I often used to help her, especially at week-ends, serving liquor over the bar to the local 851 residents. I made a discovery—this was before 1914—which is of some interest in connection with what we are now discussing.
It was that the peak hours of my landlady's trade in that estaminet, which was a mainly working class public house, were the two or three hours before the mid-day meal and the two or three hours before the evening meal. If anybody takes drinking seriously, as I do, he is compelled—I say in all seriousness—to relate the question of drinking to that of eating; the two are absolutely inseparable.
If a man intends to be a wise and sensible drinker and to make the most of the very great gift which Providence has thought fit to place at the disposal of mankind, he will relate his drinking to his eating. Our licensing laws, it so happens, conform to the graph of my landlady's trade nearly 50 years ago—in 1912 and 1913. Our licensing laws provide that alcoholic liquor shall be available in the two or three hours before the mid-day meal and before the evening meal. That is so very sensible.
Moreover, our licensing laws provide for a short period of time by way of taking what the Continental people would call a digestif as distinct from an appetiser, and we reasonably, humanly and sensibly provide that people shall leave at 10 p.m. or 10.30 p.m., as the case may be. All of this seems to me to be so sensible and to conform, I submit, not only to the graph of the business in my dear landlady's public house over in Belgium 50 years ago—[An HON. MEMBER:" "Forty years."] It was in 1912.
I am not in the position of the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth, who went out and had a drink over his lunch and came back and found his equilibrium disturbed.
§ Mr. Smith
The hon. Member must have lost his equilibrium before he could have it restored.
In the last two or three years I have several times been to Ireland for holidays. The conditions in most rural areas—I am speaking now of the Republic of Ireland—are that public 852 houses are open throughout the afternoon. They are open uninterruptedly from 10 or 11 a.m. until about 9 p.m.
When I lived in Belgium the public houses were open from very early in the morning until very early the next morning—from about 6 a.m. to 1 or 2 a.m. the next day, without interruption. I do not think that applies in Belgium now. The significant fact about conditions in rural Ireland is that almost any landlord of almost any public house will assure one that he would like to close his public house for two or three hours in the afternoon, for the excellent reason that business is down and the customers are not there.
I have made a study of this question from my very early youth. [Laughter.] I do not see why I should not have done so. Reasonable people make a study of these things. If they do not, they are asking for trouble and they are playing into the hands of those who make a profit from curing ill-health. If it is reasonable to make a study of eating, it is surely reasonable to do so in the case of drinking. Having made a study of drinking in relation to food, I am quite satisfied that our present licensing laws are thoroughly reasonable and that we had far better leave them alone.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
The hon. Member was talking about Belgium of 40 years ago and how the estaminet where he was staying did not serve a very great number of drinks after half past 10 in the evening. I think I am right in saying that there was no law against drinking after half past 10 if people wanted to; but they did not do it. Why should we have unnecessary laws in this country, if the hon. Gentleman is drawing a parallel between this country and Belgium 40 years ago?
§ Mr. Smith
That is a perfectly reason. able question. That answer was succinctly and cogently given by the bon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who said that we should not generalise for the whole nation on special cases. I took a note of what he said.
My landlady in Belgium had to stop up long after I went to bed. I am a reasonable sort of being and I wanted to go to bed at 10 o'clock—and I still do —but she had to stop up until one or 853 two o'clock in the morning for the sake of a very small minority of her customers. The hon. Member for Ashford who, I am told, was supporting the Motion, but argued very brilliantly against it, pointed out that, if the ideas behind this Motion were put into effect, one consequence would be that those who keep public houses might have to work even longer hours than they do now I do not think that we should provide for the very small minority of exceptional cases. The great mass of ordinary decent, moderate-drinking people, to whom drink is not an evil habit but is regarded as a very sensible adjunct to eating, want to drink in the reasonable hours in which the sensible Englishman has provided that he should be able to drink.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
In the Dining Room, the other day, did not the hon. Gentleman tell me that for medical reasons he had been forbidden to drink?
§ Mr. Smith
I am not sure that the hon. Member should have brought that up. There are occasions when, for my own purposes, I choose to discontinue drinking for limited periods. I should despise myself if I had not the will power to do that but it is no use adopting the extreme views which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) appears to adopt. It is no use expostulating and saying that if, for a given period, I think it is wise and expedient not to take any drink, I should always go on like that. I do like people to be moderate. The word "moderate" has been very much abused in this debate. The Under-Secretary of State used the phrase "very moderate," as though there could be something which was very moderate; but the hon. Member for Ashford was even worse. He referred to the hon. Member for Ealing, North as being " extremely moderate."
I think that our licensing laws are sensible laws. Let us leave well alone and not embark on dubious experiments, but stick to what we have. This is one of the good things we have and I am sure a great number of people appreciate it. I therefore propose to vote for the Amendment, if I have the opportunity.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. S. P. Viant (Willesden, West)
My remarks will be rather short. I have sat here throughout the debate, and we have had some exceedingly interesting speeches, and some very interesting humour. The hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has given the House quite a humorous speech. I would not say it was a logical speech, however, and probably that was because he broke away from his ordinary custom and indulged while he was taking his lunch. Nevertheless, we can forgive him for that.
The concluding words of the Motion are:calls upon Her Majesty's Government to consider at the earliest opportunity what amendments of the law are desirable and practicable.The usual procedure in the House, since I became a Member at least, has been that when an hon. Member brings forward a Motion or a Bill, it is introduced as a result of a demand or a request from the electors outside. I have had no request or demand from my constituency for any change in the licensing laws. I have been a magistrate for over 20 years, taking part in the administration of the licensing laws, presiding on occasions at brewster sessions. So far I have had no requests for any change whatever in the licensing laws of this land.
In the circumstances, I think the House would be ill advised to pass a Motion of this kind today. The request which has been made by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) is, I understand, made by the British Tourist and Holidays Association. I shall need a lot of persuasion before I am convinced that they are an authority possessing the power to make a request to the House that the licensing laws should be changed. We need far more evidence before we should be tempted in any way to embark upon a change of the licensing law.
Many of us can go back to the days when public houses in London were open until midnight. They were open at six o'clock in the morning and until half-past 12 on ordinary nights—until 12 o'clock on Saturdays and 11 o'clock on Sundays. We have seen a considerable 855 change in the social habits of our people and a considerable improvement in the economic position of our people since those days. I suggest that our licensing laws have been of material assistance in that improvement. The request here is not that we should improve the licensing laws; I suggest that those who are making the proposals for a change have in mind a relaxation of those laws.
§ Mr. Viant
A relaxation, not an improvement; although it depends on the point of view. If, as I have been persuaded, the licensing laws have been of material advantage in helping to improve the social conditions of our people, why change them in such a way as to give greater facilities for drinking? The very fact of our having licensing laws is evidence that the majority of the people and the Government of the land are of the opinion that licensing laws are of advantage.
That being so I am arguing that we should vote against the Motion and support the Amendment; or, on the other hand, that there should be no vote at all and that we should allow the status quo to obtain; and along those lines play for safety. If we open the gate and seek to make a relaxation in the law, once we start doing that demands will come from every hand, numerous amendments will be suggested; and probably in the ultimate we shall be worse off for the change.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) has left the Chamber, because I was proposing to make one or two remarks about his speech. I found it extremely difficult, in the first instance, to know to what point his arguments were being addressed, but I finally came to the conclusion that he was speaking in favour of the Motion.
When I came to this House I came with a completely open mind. I try to preserve an open mind on Fridays, at any rate, even if I do not do so on other days of the week, because Friday, being a Private Members' day, is the one day when we can discuss problems uninhibited by the Whips on either side.
856 I must say that I was very considerably influenced by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black). I do not usually agree with anything that the hon. Member for Wimbledon says, but on this occasion I found myself reluctantly in agreement with what I thought was the very strong case he brought to the notice of the House.
It came as a surprise to me, hearing what the hon. Member for Wimbledon had to say, that the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. McAdden) had the temerity to bring this Motion before the House at all. I am reluctant to believe that he is supported by any large measure of opinion in his own constituency on this particular proposal. When the local papers in Southend record what has taken place today, they will, I think, be amazed that the hon. Member for Southend, East, in the light of the startling revelations brought to the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, had the temerity to move this Motion.
I am pleased to see that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth has returned to the Chamber, because I want to make this comment—I think it is a legitimate comment—on his speech. He made a remark which, in my view, completely vitiated everything he said, and at least persuaded me not to attach any importance to the rest of his argument—or, at least, so to doubt his judgment on this matter as to make it impossible for me to accept anything else that he said on this particular matter.
What did he say? He said that he sometimes goes to France for the purpose of spending a holiday there, and the first thing he does—apparently, the sole object for which he visits that country—is to get a cup of tea. If any hon. Member comes to this House to make a confession of that kind, it indicates, so far as I am concerned, that his view of tea and anything else drinkable is not going to be of much value or make any real contribution to a solution of the problem that we are now discussing.
I was saying a few moments ago that I cannot believe, in the light of what the hon. Member for Wimbledon said, that there can be any volume of responsible opinion in Southend that will support the hon. Member for Southend, East in the line that he has adopted today. There may be other seaside resorts in which the 857 overwhelming mass of opinion is in favour of this proposal, but when I look at the benches opposite I see only a very tiny representation of our seaside resorts. I accept for the purpose of argument that Southend is a seaside resort, but at the moment I see only Eastbourne and Hove represented.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Apparently there are a few seaside resorts represented. I have had no evidence brought to my attention that in the respectable purlieus of Hove, or in the neighbourhood of Eastbourne—or even in Clacton, which perhaps is not in the same category—there has been any vociferous demand for some reform of the licensing laws on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Southend, East.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
There has, because in my constituency the summer holiday season has been regarded by the licensing justices as a special event, and the chief constable has now threatened to take the matter to the High Court to get their decision over-ruled.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I understand from that intervention that the chief constable in Eastbourne wants longer drinking hours in Eastbourne.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I shall have to leave the electors of Eastbourne and their hon. Member to fight the matter out between themselves, and we shall await the result with great interest, because it will no doubt provide a guide to the rest of the country as to what action should be taken in this matter.
It has been argued that there are grave difficulties in the way of people coming to this country from other lands, who find it difficult to obtain a drink at certain times. There is a simple and easy way out, and I am surprised that it has not been mentioned in that part of the debate to which I have been able to listen. All that is necessary in London, for example —and a recent court case decided the issue—is to hire a boat and push it out into the Thames, when they can go on drinking on the boat as long as they like.
858 I think the Under-Secretary will agree that so long as the boat keeps on the move, occasionally touching down, disembarking passengers and taking another lot on board, unlimited drinking can take place. So long as that process is followed, unlimited drinking can take place on boats plying up and down the River Thames. There was recently a case in the Liverpool courts in which someone who tried this same practice on the Mersey was fined, but in view of the decision arrived at in London the person so convicted on Merseyside is now to appeal, and I have no doubt that he will be successful in his appeal.
Whenever there is any navigable water in any part of the country it will be possible for those who want to provide foreign tourists with unlimited drinking facilities to do so—indeed, to provide not only foreign tourists with these unlimited facilities within the law, but also to enable hon. Members and their constituents who wish to take advantage of those same facilities to go and do likewise.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
That is a form of marine adventure which is not encouraged by the law of the land. I have presented to hon. Members opposite a simple legal solution of the problem that seems to be worrying them, and they ought to be thankful for the suggestion I have made, which will perhaps induce some enterprising boat merchants to develop what they may think will be a very powerful attraction to foreign tourists.
The point that I want to make is this. In view of what I have said, which the hon. Member for Southend, East cannot challenge because it will help the people of Southend, too—as I understand that there is some navigable waterway there —he ought to be satisfied now and not press this Motion to a Division, because on these matters, especially on Fridays, we want to preserve a balanced view, and I should not like to put the hon. Member for Southend, East in the embarrassing position of having to explain to his constituents, to the chief constable, to the chairman of brewster sessions, and other eminent and worthy gentlemen, the statements which have 859 been quoted by the hon. Member for Wimbledon.
Therefore, I beg of him in his own interests not to press this Motion to a Division, because I cannot believe that it will serve any useful purpose so far as Southend is concerned, nor will it make a substantial contribution towards bringing more people to Southend. I do not know whether one of the motives in the mind of the hon. Member for Southend, East is that he wants more people to go to Southend, but if so, he is undertaking a grave responsibility in adding to the congestion and the riotous scenes of debauchery and disorder which the hon. Member for Wimbledon has brought to our notice. Although personally it is many years since I went to Southend, and I only went there for exploratory purposes—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
—I should not like to be a party to making the situation more difficult for the local inhabitants or for the hon. Member himself. I think we have had a reasonably fair discussion, and I am glad to see that, so far as I can ascertain, the hon. Member for Southend, East is in agreement with almost everything I have said. He is nodding his head, and I do not know whether that means that he is agreeing with everything that I have said or that he would like me to go further. I have still time to bring forward further arguments in connection with this matter which I think deserve consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) reminds me that as recently as 1929–31 a Royal Commission sat to go into the whole subject of the licensing laws. I have always been in favour of Royal Commissions. I think that they serve a very useful purpose. It took me a long time during the lifetime of the preceding Administration to persuade them to appoint a Royal Commission on another matter, into which it would be out of order for me to go.
I am always in favour of law reform. I am not going to take the attitude now that the licensing laws are in any way sancrosanct and that they are, so to speak, petrified for all time in their 860 immutable perfection. I always think they are capable of reform, and if the hon. Member for Southend, East wants to have a Royal Commission to investigate the licensing laws, I shall be very happy to co-operate with him in bringing such pressure as may be necessary to bear upon Her Majesty's Government to appoint such a Royal Commission. After all, one Royal Commission more or less does not make all that difference.
I shall be very happy to help the hon. Member if he can assure me that between 1931 and now—a generation—things have occurred which call for investigation by an impartial body of responsible people. If that is what the hon. Member wants, I am prepared—speaking purely as an individual, for I do not want to commit any of my hon. Friends by anything that I may say—to support him in a request for the establishment of a Royal Commission. The licensing laws are full of anomalies and illogicalities, and in our tidying-up process there is no reason why this branch of the law should not be scrutinised.
There is little that I can add at this stage of the debate to the multitude of points which have been submitted for the consideration of hon. Members—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does my hon. and gallant Friend consider that such a Royal Commission should also investigate the licensing laws as they affect Scotland?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I should not like to except Scotland. I think Scotland is probably riper for scrutiny than most other parts of the United Kingdom. I always reject the theory that there should be any unnatural distinction between England and Scotland on the subject of licensing or on any other subject. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has reminded me that for far too long we have tried to maintain artificial and meaningless distinctions between England, on the one hand, and Scotland, on the other.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Wales comes into it, too. I want to see a far larger degree of internationalisation in the United Kingdom than my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire and other hon. Members have allowed us to 861 achieve. We should break down the national distinctions.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is getting a little wide of the Question before the House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for having allowed myself to be diverted by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, who has a seductive manner which it is very difficult to resist.
I conclude by making a very earnest appeal to the hon. Member for Southend, East—I hope the appeal will not fall upon deaf ears—not to press the matter to a Division. I am sure that if he withdraws his Motion my hon. Friends will withdraw their Amendment, and that will get us out of a difficult situation. I am sure the hon. Member for Southend, East does not wish to embarrass the House. I urge him not to press this Motion to a Division.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. McAdden
There is only one minute left and before we come to a decision upon the matter, I want to make a brief reply to some of the most unwarranted and unfair charges made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) with reference to my constituency.
Nothing in what I have suggested today or at any other time would make it in any way easier for drunkenness to occur at Southend. It was most unfair of my hon. Friend to myself and to the licensees of Southend to suggest that that was so. The drunkenness in that area is caused not by the licensees but by the drinking done in the coaches on the way down. If my hon. Friend were better informed of the facts in my constituency, he would not make such damaging comments about it—
§ It being Four o'Clock, the debate stood adjourned.