§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill has a somewhat formidable appearance and it deals with a most controversial subject. Nevertheless, its ambit is really very small indeed and I have some reason to hope that it will prove entirely non-controversial.
Defence Regulation 60AA enables certain Ministers to authorise the sale of intoxicating liquor in canteens provided for workers employed on essential Government work, for dock workers or for seamen and fishermen. During the war that Regulation was fairly freely used but since the end of the war the number of such canteens has steadily decreased. Now there are only 37 left, of which 27 are for seamen. There is no longer any need for special licensing arrangements for civilian workers as such. With the passing of wartime conditions they can and should be dealt with under the general licensing law.
Defence Regulation 60AA is, therefore, no longer required for its main purpose and it is revoked by this Bill. There is, however, a class of workers whose case is special, namely, the merchant seamen. The ordinary licensing law provides for the sale of liquor for consumption on the premises in two ways—sales in public houses and sales in clubs. These are appropriate methods of licensing where there is a relatively stable population, but neither of them is really satisfactory in the case of seamen's canteens. By "seamen's canteens" the Bill does not mean any canteens which may happen to cater for seamen; indeed, perhaps the word "canteens" is not altogether apt, for reasons which I will explain.
A number of voluntary bodies provide welfare establishments for seamen. Their purpose is to secure that seamen are not dependent for their recreation, entertainment and lodging on the ordinary facilities of the port in which they may rind themselves—very often as strangers. The intention is to provide for seamen 936 facilities where they can relax and amuse themselves in decent surroundings. Many of these establishments are very substantial. They are hostels in many ways like large hotels with sleeping accommodation and, occasionally, married quarters where seamen's wives may join them. Others do not have sleeping accommodation, but are more like social clubs.
The canteens to which this Bill refers are the parts of those establishments in which refreshments are supplied. I do not think I need try to convince the House of the merits of those establishments, nor that they are deserving of special provision, for such provision is necessary to maintain them in full efficiency. They serve an admirable and useful purpose and I think it is obvious that they could not play their part fully or effectively unless they were able to supply liquor.
The supply of liquor in the canteens is quite incidental: their first purpose is to provide food, rest and recreation. But, although the supply of liquor is incidental to that purpose, I think the House will agree that it is quite essential. Apart from any other consideration, if they were not licensed to supply liquor these canteens would fail to attract many of those seamen whom the bodies I have mentioned would particularly wish to come to their establishments.
The canteens have much in common with clubs, but it is not possible to run them as clubs in accordance with the licensing law relating to clubs. For example, let me mention two of the grounds for striking a club off the register in England under Section 144 of the Licensing Act, 1953. In the first place, a club may be struck off the register if persons are habitually admitted without an interval of 48 hours after they have been nominated for membership. But the essence of these canteens is that they should be open without formality and immediately to the seamen who are to use them. That provision would obviously stultify the whole purpose of the canteens. Again, a condition for striking a club off the register is that the supply of liquor is not under the control of the members or a committee of the members.
The constant changes of the clientele—that is the only word I can find as they are neither customers nor members—the constant changes in the seamen coming to these clubs, would make that condition 937 impossible to fulfil. So the licensing law relating to clubs is not applicable The canteens could not be treated as clubs in England and I am advised that the position in Scotland would be more difficult. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-secretary for State for Scotland could expatiate on that subject. On the other hand, although the canteens cannot be treated as clubs, the general public are not admitted to them. Therefore, it would be quite inappropriate to require them to be licensed as if they were public houses. Accordingly, some special provision is necessary, and that is the purpose of the Bill.
It would not be right simply to make permanent the wartime arrangement by which power to authorise the sale of liquor in canteens was vested in a Minister of the Crown. That would cut right across the whole scheme of our licensing law.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
That is not what the Bill does. I hope that I may explain it.
Under the Bill, the licensing authority for the canteens will be the authority that grants licences to public houses, but in one respect, and I quite agree that it is an important respect, the discretion of the licensing authority will be less wide than in the case of public houses.
§ Mr. Hoy rose—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am about to deal with the point. Perhaps I can make my speech in my own way.
In the case of a public house it rests entirely with the licensing authority to decide whether or not a licence is needed at all, as well as such questions as to what kind of liquor may be sold. In the present case the question of how many seamen's canteens there should be and in what ports they should be situated is not a local affair. The Government believe that this particular question of the number and distribution should be settled on a national basis. After all, seamen are not, in the ordinary way part of the local population. They are, so to speak, a floating element in the population
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Is the Minister indicating that the number for Wales will be decided in Whitehall?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The hon. Gentleman is trying to go faster than I can explain the position. Perhaps when I have explained what the Bill does the Government's intention will be clear to him.
§ Mr. Hoy
As to who shall grant licences, would the hon. Gentleman explain Clause 2, which says:The licensing authority shall not refuse to grant a licence under this Act except under the following subsection…"?If the applicant for the licence has not been disqualified; if the canteen is suitable; and if there is no objection to the site, the licensing authority does not appear to have power to refuse a licence if the Minister has certified the need for the canteen.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The hon. Member is going very fast. The point I am trying to make is that it will rest with a Minister—I am coming to that—to decide one particular factor which in the case of the ordinary public house rests with the licensing authority, but it is only in that one respect that the licensing authority's discretion is less wide.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I cannot make my speech out of order. If I can develop it I think it will be for the convenience of hon. Members.
Moreover, in the case of these canteens the existence of other local facilities is really irrelevant to the question of whether or not a canteen is needed in a particular port: it is irrelevant to the question of some other special provision being made for seamen. We are, therefore, inviting Parliament, by passing this Bill, to say that suitable canteens ought to be licensed and I wish to make that perfectly plain. We propose that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation should be the authority for saying how many canteens there should be and in what ports they should be sited.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
It is a Minister who decides that one question. This is effected by the Bill requiring that only a canteen which is run or is intended to be run by a body approved by the Minister of Transport and which is certified by him to be needed, shall be licensed.
When once the Minister has given his approval and certificate the licensing authority will not be able to refuse a licence on the ground that the canteen is not needed though that may be done on the other grounds mentioned in Clause 2. In addition, it will be for the licensing authority to decide whether the licence should be for all or for only some classes of liquor, for instance, for beer only or for beer and spirits, and so on.
I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation to say that before making any decision about whether a canteen is needed he will seek the advice of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board. I think I may properly say that, in practice, what would happen would be that the Merchant Navy Welfare Board would approach the Minister in the first place. The Board is a body of the highest standing. It consists of representatives of voluntary welfare associations, of all ranks of seamen, of the shipowners and of the Government Departments concerned. The House may rest assured that it will behave in a responsible manner in this matter.
Once licensed, a canteen will remain under the licensing control of the licensing authority. The licence will come up for annual renewal in the ordinary way and the licensing authority will have power to refuse the licence if, for example, in the opinion of the authority the manager is no longer a fit and proper person to hold the licence, and so on, in accordance with the normal law. The licensing authority will have effective control over the people allowed to use the canteen. Under Clause 2 (2) rules must be made which must be approved by the licensing authority. Failure to observe such rules is a ground for refusing to renew the licence under Clause 4 (3).
It is, of course, necessary to make transitional provision to cover the change from the Regulation to the Bill. That is 940 done by treating those canteens now licensed under the Regulation as if they had been licensed under the Bill at the time when the Bill comes into force.
The permitted hours for sale and consumption in the canteens will be the same as those for ordinary public houses in the district, but there is an exception which I must explain to the House. The exception relates to Sundays in England and Wales and Monmouth shire. Hitherto, the sale of intoxicants has been permitted on Sundays in all the canteens licensed under the Regulation, whether in England, Wales, Scotland, or Monmouthshire. In Scotland, Wales and Monmouthshire the present rule as regard licensing, apart from the Regulation, is that public houses are not allowed to open at all on Sundays: on the other hand, hotels can supply residents on Sundays at any time.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Travellers. Clubs can supply liquor for five hours to members and their guests. Most of these canteens are a part of residential hostels, and it might be thought that the hotel rule should apply; but the House will agree that it would be arbitrary and indeed absurd to say that only those who had sleeping accommodation in the hostel should be capable of being supplied with liquor on a Sunday. It seems proper to follow the middle course and to treat these canteens like clubs in this connection and let them supply liquor for five hours.
The Bill prohibits sale for consumption off the premises and it applies all the appropriate provisions of the general licensing law regarding proper conduct, and so on. In particular, the police will have the same right of entry to canteens as they have to public houses, and the provisions about drunkenness and sale to young persons, all apply as under the normal law.
By revoking Defence Regulation 60AA the Bill reduces the number of remaining emergency powers, and I think that that will be welcomed in all parts of the House. It makes permanent provision for what has been found to be permanently useful in the Regulation, and it will, I believe, commend itself as a useful and satisfactory Measure.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The Joint Under-Secretary of State began with a reference to this being a non-controversial Measure which might be dealt with in a non-controversial spirit. He could hardly expect that when one considers the claims he made during his speech. For example, he asserted that one could not run a club of the type we have in mind for seamen unless intoxicants were provided. As a matter of fact such clubs have been run for seamen.
§ Mr. Hudson
And they are still being run in this country and in our Dominions where the seamen are well catered for and are pretty well satisfied with the provisions made for them. It is the sort of tall assumption that we cannot do anything effective of a social character today unless drink is provided that continues to make a first-class controversial issue of a matter which might be dealt with un-controversially.
During his speech the Joint Under-secretary said that the club law was not adequate to the arrangements which are being made in connection with the merchant seamen's institutions covered by the Bill. But the club law is not adequate to clubs themselves, and nobody knows that better than the Home Secretary, for when the question of clubs was being discussed in the House some little time ago he indicated that there would have to be further consideration of the provisions, or lack of provisions, under which unsatisfactory clubs can be started. The right in England to pay 5s. to a magistrate's clerk and start a club for the supply of intoxicants to the person who pays the 5s. and to two or three others—that is all that is necessary—makes an impossible state of affairs in the administration of our liquor laws. I admit that to the extent that there is not to be such a right on the part of clubs for seamen the proposals under the Bill are a very great improvement upon the general club law.
I was interested to note that the Minister stated that almost all the institutions which were started during the war for other workers have gone out of existence. I thought he said that only 37 canteens remain in the whole country.
§ Mr. Hudson
Then 10 canteens remain for other types of workers. The Bill brings to an end Defence Regulation 60AA under which all the canteens were carried on in the past. Under what authority will the remaining canteens be continued? I am sure that the full number of canteens concerned will be more than 10 because of the development of industry and the growth of Government supply organisations. At Harlow and similar places there is the possibility of workers requiring facilities which are not already provided for by Defence Regulation 60AA or the Bill, and that represents a gap in the arrangements being made by the Government. I should like to hear rather more precisely what is to happen to the 10 canteens in particular and to similar canteens which may be allowed to come into existence in future.
My views about the dangers of liquor in the life of this country cannot be expected to sway the House in favour of the entire elimination of drink from the institutions of the people, which I would regard as the most satisfactory thing to happen. The people will have to decide this for themselves. Governments will have to carry out what is the desire of the people in this matter, not the desire of what I might call the few fanatics like myself. I am well aware that that is the position that I have to face, but there are other things which the Government must face in regard to this matter.
One of these is the growing realisation amongst many people in the community, about which hints are constantly being dropped from that Front Bench, of the dangers of the general expenditure on drink and the growth of the drinking habit in the community. The need for the Government to be extremely careful in any step which they may take where drink is concerned remains just as strong today as at any time in our history. Though they may disregard and criticise all the proposals which I have had to make about the matter, the Government and this House are bound to make proposals out of which the most careful supervision will be effected over whatever provision of drink is being carried out.
I will say this for the temperance movement, on behalf of which I have often 943 tried to speak. I say this quite honestly, because I am not trying to raise a hare that does not exist, but I have not heard of any protest from the temperance movement regarding this matter. It may be that the temperance movement should have been aware of what is involved in this Bill and should have seen what is going on. There is certainly one point which they ought to have seen and which no doubt they will see very quickly now that this debate has taken place. It is that, in Wales—and I shall not say much about this, as I expect some of my hon. Friends will wish to say something about it—the proposal is made that we should open these clubs with drinking facilities for merchant seamen in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and the other ports of Wales, where the Welsh, by well thought out tradition and careful study of their own problems, have managed to secure, by special legislation granted by this House, the non-provision of drink on Sundays.
Welsh Sunday closing is one of the traditions of that country. Unfortunately for Wales, it has been broken down, very largely by the weakness that exists in the club law, and the right to open a club in Wales and supply drink for five or five and a half hours a day on Sunday makes nugatory the proposals for the general closing of public houses. Nobody complains more about it than the Welsh publicans themselves, and there is complaint about the stupidity of a proposal which makes it possible for a great hole to be made in the law to enable this drinking on Sundays, in spite of Welsh views on the matter.
Here, the Government come forward with another proposal for the opening of clubs in Wales for five hours. I am dealing only with Wales for the moment, and this case is stronger in Wales than it is in Scotland, because Scotland has has weakened on the so-called bona fide traveller, while in Wales they are as keen as ever about this issue. I will leave it to the Welsh Members to show, as I am sure they can show, how unfortunate this proposal is. The whole proposal with regard to Wales should be reconsidered.
With reference to Scotland, I should say that there were enough Scottish Members here to put the case, although from the number of interruptions of the Minister's speech it may be that that case 944 has been pretty effectively voiced already, and that I can leave it at that. I must say about Scotland that in Glasgow, as in other ports in that country, it is just as necessary to consider the special relationship of Sunday and the limitation that has been placed on Sunday drinking as in Wales. Failure to see that that point is looked after in the arrangements is one of the very grave defects of the Bill.
When I come to the general question of the right of men to have their views considered, I would only say that it would be much easier to accord that right in all cases if the views of men who are anxious for a supply of drink were taken into account when the supply is arranged, instead of, as usual, the desires of those who make profits out of the supply. It is these desires that finally carry the day. If there were any sort of local option, or consideration of the views of those who may use these hostels, if their views could be obtained by the magistrates, there would be a much stronger case for asking everybody, even people like myself, to accord this right and to allow people to enjoy themselves under the law in the way that they desire. That is not being done.
I agree that there is an improvement in the Bill on general club law, in that rules drawn up for the new seamen's clubs are to take into account a large number of points about the proper supply of liquor and that if the supply is not carried out according to those rules the magistrates may withdraw the licence. I admit that that is a great improvement on what goes on with regard to clubs. There is also an improvement in that there is a right of objection—although I am not very clear how far the right goes—accorded to people living in a district where a club of this sort is to be started, to let the police and the magistrate know that they object and the grounds upon which they object. If the Government were honest and sincere about this matter they would try to apply it generally to clubs. If clubs were compelled to submit to this process of public objection such as already exists in regard to licensed premises, club law might have been adequate to deal with this matter and the Bill would not have been necessary.
My final point is to ask why Northern Ireland should be excluded from the Bill. 945 Some hon. Members here are well able to stale the case for Northern Ireland, but are there no seamen in Belfast, or no ports in Northern Ireland where men of this sort will foregather and claim the same facilities that they expect in England, Wales, or Scotland?
The answer which may be given to me is, "We ourselves provide for this sort of thing in Northern Ireland." If that is so, I want to know what has taken place in connection with the general canteens which were started by other public Departments during the war, some of which I assume still exist in Northern Ireland. What is taking place in connection with those general canteens started during the war? They ought still to come under proper supervision.
In any case, if we are to interfere with the Sunday closing law in Wales to this extent, why should Northern Ireland be exempt? What special rights have they in the matter and what special qualities exist in Northern Ireland to enable them to deal with this matter in a way different from the way adopted in the rest of the United Kingdom?
I am willing to admit at once that in matters of abstemiousness Northern Ireland is further ahead than any other part of the United Kingdom and will probably continue ahead because of a special public opinion which exists there to watch this issue, together with many other issues connected with drink, more carefully than it is watched in the rest of the United Kingdom; but, having made that admission, I hope I may expect the representatives of Northern Ireland to agree with me that if the scheme proposed in the Bill is a good scheme for sailors in every part of the United Kingdom, how can there be a case for exempting Northern Ireland from its provision? At any rate, these are some questions which I should like to hear answered before we can give this Bill carte blanche and send it on its way.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett (Glasgow, Woodside)
I welcome this Bill whole-heartedly. Unlike the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), I have visited a few of the sailors' canteens and I have also visited Northern Ireland. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has any experience at all in this matter.
946 What we are seeking to do is to improve the facilities available for seamen when they arrive at a port. In Glasgow, we have one or two first-class institutes, and I hope that the first time the hon. Member is in the North he will pay them a visit. He will find that when a ship comes into port perhaps 50 of the seamen, like himself, prefer "Coca Cola" and a cup of tea to alcoholic drinks, but others prefer something a little stronger. As a result, instead of all going together, they separate, and perhaps half of them go to the local public houses. We do not want them to go there; we want all these men to be able to stay together.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman ever visits places in London where they sell intoxicating liquors, because there are a number of first-class popular establishments here which sell intoxicating liquors but where it is also possible to get ham and eggs or a cup of tea. Does the hon. Gentleman patronise them? If so, why should seamen not have the same privilege? Why should they not have the same strong mind as the hon. Member?
If the hon. Member can go to one of these places and resist the temptation, surely the seamen who are voyaging the seven seas can claim to have at least as strong a will and also resist it. If they come into a port and have seven days to spend there, they want to have a little enjoyment among themselves. That is all they ask.
In Scotland, we have for a long time been trying to improve the facilities in connection with drinking throughout the country. Public houses there are not such places of social entertainment and amenity as they are in the South. They are purely drinking establishments. We do not want sailors to go into public houses for refreshment ands it there for hours until closing time.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North talked about the people from Wales. We have hundreds of buses coming from Wales with holiday makers to Scotland every summer and he ought to take a trip in one of them to see who breaks the law in Scotland. They take full advantage of our bona fide traveller regulations, and no doubt many of them are good Methodists.
947 This is a very simple little Measure which is aimed at enlightening, brightening and giving a little amelioration to the lot of the hard-working body of men, who are away from home, when they strike a foreign port. If they were at home they would not be patronising these places. I have a good deal of experience and appreciation of one of our best seamen's institutes, and I would strongly recommend this Measure to the House. It can do nothing but good, and I think we can forget the fears of the hon. Member for Ealing, North.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
If I may say so in reply to the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett), this Bill has nothing at all to do with improving the conditions of canteens or improving drinking facilities or anything of that kind, so that the speech which he has delivered has nothing to do with the Bill before the House. I would not dare to reply on behalf of my hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies to the nasty charges which he has made against certain sections of the Welsh people. At least my hon. Friends will have the right of replying on behalf of Wales, and that is more than the Minister for Welsh Affairs has in connection with the licensing of these premises, because if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport cares to nominate one of these places as licensed premises, the Minister for Welsh Affairs can do nothing about it, even though he holds the office of Minister for Welsh Affairs as well as being the Home Secretary.
All that this Bill does is to revoke Defence Regulation 68A and to put in its place a piece of permanent legislation. There are some important questions which must be raised with regard to new licensing procedure, and I am directing my questions to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Before doing so, I should like to disabuse the mind of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department about the question of there being no great clubs without drinking facilities. Even in my own constituency there is a very large, well-organised and well-run club for merchant seamen. It is a beautiful place in first-class condition, and whether he agrees or disagrees, no provision has been made for drinking at all. It is run without 948 any provision for drinking either beer or spirits. It is not correct for him to say what he did say when he was opening this debate.
First of all it would appear that if the Minister of Transport nominates anybody who has already provided or will provide licensed facilities for these seamen then the licensing authorities will not have the power to object. There are only three very small conditions attached to that. First, if the man who applies for the licence or is going to manage it has been disqualified, that, of course, would be an objection; but if he has not and, secondly, the premises are convenient and, thirdly, no objection has been raised to their situation, then the licence must be granted because the Minister of Transport has nominated them as licensed premises.
That is what the Bill says, and it is a big departure from the law of Scotland. I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Woodside, who goes to Scotland so frequently complaining about rule from Whitehall, did not take exception to this proposal, which takes from Scottish licensing authorities the control over licensed premises in their own areas.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett
Does the hon. Member realise that the authority of the licence is granted by the local authority, in which case in Glasgow it would be the local justices?
§ Mr. Hoy
Let me repeat what the Bill says. I am asking whether this is correct. In Clause 2:The licensing authority shall not refuse to grant a licence under this Act except under the following subsection or on one or more of the following grounds"—which are the three grounds I have already specified. Provided that these three conditions are fulfilled, it appears from my reading of subsection (1) that the licensing authority would have no objection.
Indeed, in this connection I should like further explanation of why subsection (5) says:In Scotland, a person, other than the procurator fiscal or the chief officer of police, 949 intending to oppose an application for the grant of a licence under this Act shall, not later than five days before the hearing of the application, give notice in writing of his intention to the applicant and to the licensing court, speciying the ground of his objection.We need an explanation from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland of what that means. I should like to know on what grounds an objector can object, in view of the beginning of that subsection (1). Does it mean that if paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) apply, the chief officer of police or the procurator has no right to object?
Clause 4 continues this law, because it goes on to say that the renewal of a licence cannot be refused if these same conditions are complied with. It would appear, therefore, that even the renewal of a licence could not be objected to for any causes other than the three specified in Clause 2.
My next question is on Clause 7 (3). It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) said, that not only do the licences appear to be granted on the nomination of the Minister of Transport, but the Minister of Transport also in Clause 7 lays down the hours of opening and grants the right of five hours' opening in these clubs in Scotland on a Sunday. The only right which the magistrates, who are the licensing authority in Scotland, may have is under subsection (4), which gives them the right to modify the hours, but not in any way to reduce them.
The Bill is a much more substantial departure from the licensing rules of Scotland than the hon. Member for Woodside appeared to appreciate. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland may say that these rules were introduced as war-time Regulations. There may have been good reason for allowing them then, but to introduce them in this way, so as to make them permanent legislation, is vastly different from war-time Regulations. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland should at this stage make clear the position in Scotland and either confirm or deny what I have put to him.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
In the course of the debate it has been made perfectly clear that Wales has a special interest in this legislation. I was 950 very sorry that the hon. Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett) allowed his Celtic temperament to carry him to such an excess tonight. As a rule he is a moderate sort of chap. He is not given to abusing other hon. Members in the House, but it would have taken him a long time before finding a more harmful statement than that Welsh Methodists have to go to Scotland for a quiet drink on a Sunday. I will save the hon. Gentleman further trouble by saying that I would be quite willing to give him the opportunity to withdraw that unfortunate remark about Welsh Methodists.
§ Mr. W. G. Bennett
I am very sorry. It was a slip of the tongue for me to use the word "Methodists." I wanted to-classify Welshmen as a whole. I did not want to pick on the Methodists.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am fortified now in regarding the hon. Gentleman as having fallen from grace considerably. I will only say this to him: that he has quite mis-interpreted the spirit of the Welsh people if he thinks that this sort of thing is regarded as a joke by those who take their social problems seriously.
Who has demanded this legislation? Who, in Wales, has asked that we should have more clubs and more drinking facilities in the Principality? I am not here to say that any man who wants a drink is not entitled to have one. I am not arguing that case tonight. What I am saying is that the Secretary of State for the HomeDepartment and Minister for Welsh Affairs, who, unfortunately, has had to leave us for a while, purports to speak in this House as one who understands Welsh problems. He purports to ask the Advisory Council for Wales for guidance as to the attitude of the Welsh people upon important issues. I have always believed that it was poppycock to go to an outside committee when we have Welsh Members of Parliament who can advise the Minister.
Nonetheless it is there, but will the Minister tell the Welsh Parliamentary Party that the Advisory Council for Wales has guided him along this channel or not? Can the Under-Secretary say that he has received a single request from the Principality for this legislation, about which,, obviously, the Government feel very keenly? They are giving it a priority over all other legislation that is waiting. 951 We must deal first with the brewers. This is not the first time in the life of this Parliament that priority has been given to the interests of the brewers by the Government.
There is a leasehold report which interests the Principality of Wales a great deal more than this sort of twaddle. Leasehold reform has to wait until legislation extending drinking facilities in seamen's clubs in the ports of Wales receives first consideration. The Home Secretary made a speech the other day in which he said that we need an uplift of moral spirit in this country. I am quite sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was serious, but does he think that giving this sort of extra facility to young merchant sailors of 18 years of age, away from the restraints of home, will lead to the moral uplift about which he spoke to the nation so recently?
To recapitulate what I said when the Minister was out, the right hon. and learned Gentleman purports to speak for the Principality on occasions and to understand the mood and temper of the Welsh people. I want to know whether he has had advice from the Advisory Council for Wales whom I understand he met yesterday, or from anybody else in the Principality asking for this kind of legislation.
Who will like that? Will the police authorities? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the Chief Constable of Cardiff or the Watch Committee of Cardiff have said that in the interests of the merchant seamen coming to our city they would like to have more drinking on Sundays; that in the interests of law and order they would like merchant sailors coming to Cardiff to have a little extra to drink over the week-end? Is that the interpretation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the spirit of the Principality of Wales? I had high hopes of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I speak as one who believed he might be a likely pupil to catch on to the temper of Wales, to understand our approach to these problems, but the longer we are here and the more I heat of him, the more disappointed I get.
In this legislation we are concerned with young people who are passing through a difficult phase of their lives. Any hon. Member of the House will know 952 that adolescence is a difficult and a dangerous period. We know that our crime statistics indicate a rising curve amongst these young people. While hon. Gentlemen opposite may think it funny, I am advancing this argument in all seriousness because I believe it is a gigantic social problem that we have so many of our young people before and in their early 'twenties coming up on a capital charge and pleading that they were under another influence while they committed the offence.
We ought to bear in mind that this legislation will make it more difficult for church missions in the dock areas and for institutions which set out to care for these youngsters and give them an opportunity of social life of good quality when they visit strange ports. Every hon. Member will know that our dockside areas are not the most attractive quarters we can offer, and that usually the normal temptations which await young people are multiplied one hundredfold in certain of those dock areas.
I do not want to get into trouble in saying this because I know that some of the best people in the world live in dock areas, but wherever the merchant ships come in, the vultures are waiting. There are always people ready for the youngsters who leave their ships with money in their pockets. If those youngsters are now to be about the streets after five hours in a drinking club, it is quite likely that as a result of this legislation many a young man may find his way to trouble, and his trouble will be on our conscience.
This has nothing to do with the ordinary freedom of the working man of maturity to go to his club and have his drink. This has nothing to do with the ordinary freedom of the British citizen. This is just a little extra for the brewers and never mind the cost to the youth of this country. I hope that the Government will think again before they seek to give priority to an issue of this sort.
I have asked who likes this provision. Certainly, it is not the police or the church authorities or the welfare authorities or the Y.M.C.A. I am sure that none of these people will have been in touch with the Minister, but if he has had a request from one of these organisations I shall be glad to sit down while he tells the House that he has been urged to introduce this 953 legislation. I hope, first, that when the reply comes from the Treasury Bench we shall be told why priority is given to this item over ordinary, necessary legislation.
Secondly, I hope that we shall be told who has inspired it and who has asked for it. Has there been an outcry from the Seamen's Union for it? We await a statement from the Government whether any welfare organisation has asked for it. We ought to give our greatest consideration to this question. It is not a party issue at all, but it is a moral issue. It is no good making high falutin' speeches to the nation about calling the people back to high standards with one side of our mouth and saying "Aye" to this kind of legislation with the other side.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. William Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Scottish and Welsh Members have spoken in this debate and it is quite time that a word or two was said for England. We get so many days for Scottish and Welsh affairs in this House that I think it is nearly time that we had a day or two for English affairs.
I should like to ask the Minister one or two questions. I disagree with the contention which has already been made that this Bill provides another kind of club life. I do not think that this is a club facility at all for merchant seamen who may not be in a port for more than a few days. I presume that those for whom these facilities are intended will not be resident long enough in any port to qualify for a kind of club membership.
This Bill will remove a Defence Regulation and it is asserted that that is very desirable. That is all right, but what does the Bill put in its place? The Undersecretary suggested that the Bill would only affect 27 establishments out of the 37 canteens which are still in existence under the Defence Regulation. Presumably the other 10 will have ceased to exist by the time the Bill becomes law.
I ask the Home Secretary whether it is necessary to bring in a Bill like this for the 27 canteens in existence? Is it worth while, or is it, as I suspect, that this is to give the opportunity to create more canteens of this kind which, in effect, would be licensed premises? That appears likely, otherwise there is no point in introducing a Bill of this kind to make a different provision than that 954 contained in the Regulation, for 27 establishments.
Has there been any representation from such organisations as the Apostleship of the Sea, or others, which cater so well and provide facilities—but not drinking facilities—for sailors? Such facilities in Liverpool are on a par with those of a moderate hotel at reasonable prices. Do those behind this Measure hope that institutions which cater for seamen will be induced, because of competition by licensed houses, to provide these facilities where they do not exist? It would be tragedy if that were the case.
The Home Secretary should tell us whether he has had any representations for this facility from any of those organisations which have so admirably catered for the welfare of merchant seamen over the last century and more. If he has not had such representations, who is responsible? Can we have the opinion of the Home Secretary as to whether, when the Bill becomes law—as the Government seemingly will put it through—it will provide more facilities for merchant seamen to get drink? Are not the facilities now in existence sufficient?
I think that this is a retrograde step. I want to know from the Home Secretary whether it hoped that the 27 canteens now in existence might become 127 or 1,027 and to provide facilities for those who would make profits from legislation of this kind.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I hope we shall hear from the Home Secretary an answer to some of the questions put by my hon. Friends in this debate. As the Rule has been suspended, he need be in no fear as to what will happen to him if he replies in some detail.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) represents part of a great seaport and I represent the whole of a greater seaport. I agree with what my hon. Friend said, that where the merchant ships come in the vultures await them. One of the problems which has faced social workers, particularly among seamen, has been securing that there shall be some protection for the seamen from the vultures. During the war Regulation 60AA was devised and very earnestly supported by that traditional friend of the seamen the 955 late Mr. Ernest Bevin because it did something in that direction.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House last December, when we considered what we were to do with the Regulations which would have expired but for the continuing Motion he moved, that 60AA was among the Regulations he proposed to repeal and to enact in permanent form as far as it was in future necessary. As I understand, this is the Bill which will enable him to carry out that pledge.
I am quite sure that he will realise, from the speeches we have heard tonight, that this Bill will be subjected to very careful scrutiny in Committee. There are some points which have been raised by my hon. Friends that are well worthy of serious consideration, and the great advantage in having a Bill before us is that whereas in the case of an Order we have to take it or leave it we can discuss the various matters raised by this Bill when we reach the Committee stage.
I understand that among the people who support this Measure are to be found the leaders of the National Union of Seamen because they realise the difficulties that have confronted some of their men in the past when they have got into port and there have not been in that port near the place where they reach land appropriate facilities which are under reasonably good management. I hope that among the things which the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation will require will be, for example, that none of the establishments that he proposes to recognise shall be tied to a particular wholesale purveyor of intoxicating liquors.
I do not expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has a bit of a past in this matter, to give me an answer on that point tonight. I suggest, however, that in this matter, the whole basis of which is that this is a social service which is carried on at the moment by a number of very patriotic people for the public good, it is desirable that we should make quite sure that the principle of the tied house shall not muscle in on this provision.
As I understand the matter, the 10 establishments that are not seamen's canteens will disappear when this legislation is passed, unless they can qualify 956 under the ordinary licensing law of the country for continuation in some form or other, either as a licensed house or as a club. I cannot find anything in the Bill which leads me to any other conclusion. Therefore, I judge from the nods of assent that are given opposite that we need not fear that this Bill can be used as subterfuge to create some form of club or licensed house unknown to the ordinary licensing law of the country.
I welcome the fact that we have been assured that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation will consult the Merchant Navy Welfare Board in making these arrangements. I also hope that he will pay consideration to such other institutions as there may be providing for seamen in the area which perhaps may not provide intoxicating liquor but the views of which are entitled to be heard when it is proposed to set up further arrangements for these people.
I must say that I share the views expressed by my hon. Friends about the position of these canteens in Wales. It is true that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) said that the publicans of Wales are very angry about the facilities afforded to clubs. But I gather that their anger does not extend to asking that the clubs should be closed. Their argument is that their own houses should be opened. As one who was Minister for Welsh Affairs, without being dignified by the title, may I say that I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of opinion in Wales would not be in favour of that course being adopted.
I hope, therefore, that this Measure will not be used to reinforce that argument. I sincerely hope that we shall be able so to amend this Bill as to ensure that these institutions, if any exist in Wales, or if any may be brought into existence, shall be under the same law as applies to the licensed houses. Then I am quite certain the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find that the passage of the Bill may be very considerably helped.
The case for some such Measure as this is a sound one, speaking on entirely general lines. I am quite prepared to believe that some of the things which might have been necessary in wartime, and particularly at a time when this service was first inaugurated, may no 957 longer be necessary, and that the whole of the facilities provided by the Bill warrant careful examination during Committee stage.
I welcome the statement by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that in these institutions the supply of liquor must be regarded as incidental. I hope we may rest assured that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation will consider that the kind of places he will bring within the purview of the Bill will be places where residential and other facilities similar to a club will be the major part of what is provided.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North has pointed out on more than one occasion, there are a number of clubs in this country where the provision of drinking facilities is far more than something incidental. In fact, I think there are many clubs which would not exist were it not for the drinking facilities they provide, and that is the major if not the entire reason for such places being brought into existence. I say that as a supporter of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union and as one who, since 1919, has been president of a club under that union, connected with the British Legion.
As I understand—and I trust that in this I am correctly interpreting what I know is the spirit of the Regulation and what I hope will be the spirit of this Measure—this is an attempt to provide reasonable social enjoyment and lodgings for men who render great service to the nation and who find themselves in ports where they may have to stay for a few days; and where, if these facilities did not exist they might be exposed to the kind of temptation dwelt on by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West.
In advising my hon. Friends to give the Bill a Second Reading tonight, and to bring up their reserves during the Committee stage to ensure that it may be a proper Measure when it leaves us, I want to make it clear that I hope that this will be regarded by the Government, and especially by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, as a Measure which will enable young seamen in particular to escape some of the temptations and difficulties when they are in port away from home but in this country and when they are looking for somewhere to 958 live, some associates to meet and some relaxation while they are on shore.
I had some experience of the working of the Regulation for a few years and as far as my knowledge goes I feel that it was a necessary provision. I believe that its continuance in permanent form, if properly safeguarded, will be to the advantage of merchant seamen and, as the representative of one in seven of all our seamen, with those qualifications I support the Measure.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I want to put certain questions to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Most of my hon. Friends who have spoken in this debate have dealt with the temperance aspect. I do not want to say anything that would give the impression that I want to curb or limit the freedom of the individual to have a drink if he so desires; but there are other aspects which we must consider most carefully.
The Government have approached the matter in the wrong way. After all, the facilities with which we are dealing arose through a war-time Regulation passed in 1939—Defence Regulation 60AA. If it had not been for a war-time situation when it was necessary to create certain facilities, I do not think that the Government would have introduced in the easy manner they did the type of legislation which this Bill disposes of. But, while the Bill disposes of it, it rather follows the general line of securing the facilities in the same way that the Regulation did.
I am concerned about the change in the normal position in Scotland. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary to inform us, because some of us will be asked about it, what demand there was from Scotland for the Bill framed in this way, In particular, was there a demand from the people who will be using the canteens? We are told by the Undersecretary of State for the Home Department that some of these canteens will provide hostel accommodation more on an hotel basis—I think that was the phrase he used—where there will be facilities for seamen to bring their wives. We must recognise that there are differences between this accommodation and what we normally speak of as hotel accommodation. I should not care to say 959 whether conditions for the staff will be easier by reason of these added facilities. The matter should be looked at.
I am a member of a local authority which pays very strict attention to the licensing laws. Our licensing benches are composed mainly of local authority representatives, and they are perturbed by the provisions of the Bill. If, for example, the Minister of Transport designates certain canteens as suitable for licences, the Scottish licensing authorities will have no right to say "Nay." Does the Joint Under-Secretary consider that the Scottish licensing authorities have shortcomings and cannot be trusted to deal with this matter? They already deal with every other type of club or hotel licence in their areas. Why cannot they deal with this type of licence?
The proposal will be resented very much in Scotland, particularly by the local authorities. I hope the Joint Under-secretary will tell us to what extent he believes public opinion in Scotland will be prepared to accept a decision by the Minister of Transport which the Bill provides must be accepted willy-nilly by the Scottish Office and the Scottish local authorities and licensing benches.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
I shall try as quickly as possible to answer the various questions which have been put to me. I shall deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) in the course of my speech.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) recommend approval of the Measure. He does so from his long experience, not only as a Parliamentarian, but also as a representative and friend of seamen. He said he represents one in seven of the seamen in Great Britain, and, therefore, he speaks with real knowledge and experience.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given the House that advice. It is the advice that the Government offer to the House. We say, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that seamen coming to strange ports for a night or 960 so should have made available to them places which are as pleasant, upright, clean and tidy as it is possible to provide, and that is exactly what we are after.
I recently visited the three so-called canteens in Glasgow, which are the only ones in Scotland. I found them to be most admirable institutions, and I would invite any hon. Member to visit them. The accommodation is exceedingly good. I saw bedrooms for single men, bedrooms for married people, and accommodation for children and babies. The cleanliness was extraordinary. The food was first-class; I had lunch there and had the same food as the men at the next table. I have every confidence in saying to the House that these are institutions which we can be very proud this country possesses.
I think I might remove a few doubts if I explain that what this Bill really does is to take the present 27 so-called canteens—most of them are hostels and canteens—out of the administration of a Defence Regulation and place them, as far as is possible and practicable, under the administration of the general established licensing laws of our country. That is all that it is intended to do. There is no present intention of increasing the number of such canteens, and we have no knowledge that the Welfare Board proposes to ask us to create any more of these canteens. Therefore, in practice, we are concerned only with the present 27 seamen's canteens.
§ Mr. Keenan
Does not the proposed legislation provide for the extension if necessary of these opportunities?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is perfectly true, but we have no intention to do so, nor have we any indication from those concerned with seamen's societies or anybody else that any additional canteens are needed anywhere. In practice, what we are concerned with is the continuation of the present 27 canteens under the general licensing laws of our country rather than under a Defence Regulation.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who gave us as usual a delightful speech, said he wanted the whole of the club law examined. No doubt, there would be an occasion for that, but the hon. Gentleman himself would agree that this is not the occasion 961 for an examination of the club law. The hon. Gentleman did say, and I was pleased to hear it, that this Bill makes certain improvements, and I am very glad that that is so. He also asked about the 10 industrial canteens, and wanted to know what would happen to them. His right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields gavehim the answer, which is that these 10 canteens will now have to find their legislative basis in the present licensing law of the country. They will form themselves into clubs, and abide by the laws of the land. If they do not do that, they will have to vanish. We are not concerned with them in this Bill. Any such industrial canteens that are formed will be subject to the same general licensing law of the country.
The hon. Gentleman also said that there had been no protest from the temperance movement, and that is my information. I have not had one, and I get them very quickly in my part of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman went on to deal with Sunday licences and referred to the position in Wales and Scotland. He stressed how necessary it was to observe great care about any extension of drinking facilities on Sundays, or, indeed, on any other day. On that, I am in entire agreement with him. I share his feelings on the question of the extension of drinking facilities, and I share his anxieties lest young seamen who go ashore at Glasgow or Liverpool or anywhere else are going to be offered greater chances for drinking on Sundays.
I am completely in agreement with the hon. Gentleman, but these 27 so-called canteens, which are mostly hostels, have been in operation for quite a number of years. In no case has there been any complaint about the way they are run. There has been no police objection anywhere, as far as I know, to the way in which these canteens are run. As the House knows, they are run by voluntary organisations composed of some of the most respected men and women in each locality, and I am quite satisfied that, having made such a good job of it over the past 10 or 15 years, these bodies may be relied upon to continue their supervision and their care for the moral welfare of the people concerned.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
My impression is that, under the original Regulations, there was 962 a provision that only beer was to be sold in these canteens. Does this mean that they are now open to sell whisky and anything else?
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman is not quite accurate. I have here copies of some of the present authorisations. As he knows, there is an authorisation affecting each of the 27. He will find that some of the canteens are allowed to sell beer and some beer and spirits. We are not altering that at all, either by extending the drinks or reducing them.
On the general point I would ask the hon. Member for Ealing, North to bear with me while I tell him what happens in the two big hostels in Glasgow. I was there, and I discovered, taking the two together, that 85 per cent, of their annual income is from beds, bed and breakfast, canteen receipts—meaning food—and board, and that only about 10 per cent, is from drink. That is an indication that these are not boozing concerns in any sense of the word. I saw men there from our own ships, Jamaica, and from foreign countries, and we all sat down together, black and white, in that room. They were perhaps having adrink with their lunch, and that was all that one saw. With regard to the Sunday clause and its effect on Scotland and Wales, questions have been asked—
§ Mr. Stewart
I have been invited by the Government to reply for the Government, which is a perfectly normal procedure. As one Celt to another, I thought I might have had the sympathy of the hon. Gentleman. If any hon. Gentleman had visited any of these places he would have found that Sunday is no different for a seaman from any other day. Ships come in and go out on a Sunday, and seamen are exposed to the same dangers on Sunday as on Saturday. At present, and during all the time of their existence, these 27 institutions have provided drinking facilities on a Sunday. We are not asking for anything different at all. We are only saying that, in this respect, the legislation and the licensing laws that will apply on Sunday shall be the normal licensing laws of England and Scotland as they affect clubs, and that for the rest of the week—we have to compromise on 963 this—it will be the licensing laws that apply to public houses. If hon. Gentlemen will apply their minds to this matter they will see that that was the only way to work it. If they have any further fears we shall be only too glad to tell them what is intended.
The question, "Who asks for this?" was asked. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that it was asked for by the people who know most about it, such as the seamen's unions, both the men's and officers' sections. I sat next to officials of the seamen's unions in Glasgow and they impressed upon me the importance of getting this Measure through in the interests of their members.
When the hon. Member for Cardiff, West suggests that nobody asks for this in Wales, I reply that that was a bit of exaggeration and imagination. Only last week a new canteen such as this was opened in Cardiff in substitution for an old one. It was opened by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and the opening was attended by the Mayor of Swansea, both of whom in that way admitted the broad public desire in Cardiff and South Wales for this Measure.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I was not there. Forgive me, but it so happens that I was also invited, and that all sorts of people were invited, without any reference to the fact that it was another means of bringing in this sort of thing upon a Sunday.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member is wrong about that. As I have said, we are concerned in the Bill only with the 27 existing canteens. This canteen in Cardiff is in substitution of an old canteen, and it is not an addition. No further drinking facilities will be made immediately available anywhere on any day of the week as a result of this Measure.
The hon. Member for Ealing, North asked why Northern Ireland is excluded. As he probably recollects, the licensing laws are a transferred function; these are matters entirely for the Northern Ireland Parliament and it is improper for us to consider them.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Member says this is a transferred function for Northern Ireland, but he will admit that, while the Bill deals with the United Kingdom, we have ourselves, in Scotland, dealt with all authorisations for licences by our own licensing law.
§ Mr. Stewart
The Parliament of Northern Ireland was given the sole right of dealing with licensing matters. That is how it is done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woodside (Mr. W. G. Bennett) spoke of the value of the Glasgow institutes, and I entirely agree with him. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) asked a number of questions. He spoke of this as a big departure from the law of Scotland. That is not true. I would gladly deal with the matter now, but it would take a little time; but if he likes to raise the matter on the Committee stage I will gladly give him all the information he wants. By and large there is no departure. As I have shown, we have had to use the Scottish licensing laws in a hybrid manner for these special canteens, which during the week we regard as public houses for the purposes of the Bill and which on Sunday we regard as clubs. That being so, we have had to make slight adjustments. There is no departure from the broad basis of the Scottish licensing laws.
I turn to the question affecting the Minister of Transport, which is worrying hon. Members. The only departure of any substance is one whereby it is proposed that the Minister of Transport should be the person who decides whether Glasgow needs three canteens, whether Cardiff needs three or four or whatever it is, whether South Shields needs one, and so on.
Why is that? The House will recollect that that happened during the whole of the war years and in the years since the war. Year after year that Defence Regulation was presented to the House in the six years of the Government of hon. Members opposite and no objection was taken to it. It was thought by hon. Members in all parts of the House, I assume, that the procedure by which the Minister of Transport decided whether these are needed—
§ Mr. Stewart
It operated also from 1945 to 1950, when hon. Members opposite were in office. It was not merely a war Measure.
Let us see why we propose to continue that well-established Measure. Clearly seamen are in a different situation altogether from that of the people of Glasgow or Leith or Cardiff; they are a constantly moving population. Who knows of the movement of ships and the number of seamen likely to occupy any port at any time better than the Minister of Transport? It is his job to know that; he is the Member of the British Government responsible to Parliament for the welfare of seamen. It is therefore obvious and practical sense that he is the best judge—with his Ministry—of where such a need arises. I invite hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies to realise that we are not talking in any sense of another 100 new canteens. We are concerned with the existing 27. They have been established.
All that we say in the Bill is that arrangements should be made to take them out of the complete control of the Minister and put them in all respects except one under the control of the licensing authorities. The one respect which is excepted is that they are there at all. They have been there for many years. We are only asking that they be continued where they are. If the hon. Member for Leith went to these places in Glasgow, he would be the last to suggest that they should be changed in their location or closed down.
§ Mr. Hoy
The hon. Gentleman is getting away from the point. I made it clear that I was not dealing with management. I was dealing with the proposal to transfer what was a temporary measure into permanent legislation, which gives the right of granting licences to the Minister of Transport, and that there would be no right of objection, not even from the Scottish Office. It was because of that that I asked whether this was not a departure, which was to be deplored, in the form of permanent legislation. If the hon. Gentleman wants to reply to what I said, he might deal with the point which I raised on Clause 2 (5), which also calls for explanation if no change is being made with regard to the granting of licences.
§ Mr. Stewart
I was coming to that. I wanted to satisfy the hon. Member. In 966 all respects except this major one, these canteens will come under the general licensing rules of Scotland. In this one matter of their original location we think it right that the Minister of Transport should continue to exercise the function which he now performs.
§ Mr. Ede
Would the hon. Gentleman point out in the Bill where this Measure is limited to the existing 27 canteens? Reading the First Schedule, I think it would be open for suitable persons to make application to the Minister of Transport. I should hope that where a need was proved to exist in the future, such an application should be made.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is perfectly true. As I have said, there is nothing to that effect in the Bill. What Isaid was that the Government have no present intention, nor are they aware of any intention on the part of the Welfare Board, to ask in the future for any new canteens. Of course, if in a year or two's time, the Welfare Board was to put up to the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation a strong case for a new canteen somewhere, it would be examined—certainly. I am only pointing out that as far as we can look ahead, and with the advice of the seamen's societies, there is no prospect of that happening.
§ Mr. Stewart
There is no change in that. For many years the canteens have been to that extent initially placed in that position by the Minister of Transport. We are proposing no change whatsoever in that respect.
§ Mr. Manuel
Seemingly, we are at cross-purposes. The hon. Gentleman says that there is no change. If there is any addition to the 27 canteens, the issue of licences virtually rests in the hands of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. That would be a big change in Scottish licensing procedure.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not know the grounds for the hon. Member's argument. That is the system that has been in operation throughout the war and in all the years since, and a system which the hon. Member and his hon. Friends, year after year, supported. There is no change in that at all. We are going on with regard to this exactly as we were doing.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
The hon. Gentleman has given the House an undertaking that there will be no extension of the 27. Do I understand that aright? I believe that that impression will go out from what he has said and I think that a number of my hon. Friends have that impression. In Clause 2 (4) there is provision made for the construction and conversion of premises—not the premises now in existence—for seamen's canteens, and it says that a provisional licence may be issued for such places erected and reconstructed, and that after a period the provisional licence may become a permanent one. That is only one illustration which makes me feel that we are not dealing with 27 licensed premises but with a potential development that may be very serious indeed. It is that I want the hon. Gentleman to deal with.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not know whether I can be any more explicit, but let me try once again. First, the Government have no present intention of extending the number of these canteens. Secondly, the advice we received from the Welfare Board, which is the body that knows about this and advises the Government, is that it foresees no need for additional canteens. But that is not an undertaking that there will not be any more; that is giving the hon. Gentleman, honestly and completely, the view that we take now. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, however, if an overwhelming case were to be made out for an additional canteen at some port, that would have to be considered sympathetically. That is as far as I can go.
§ Mr. Woodburn
May I put a point to the hon. Gentleman? Several times he has said that because this existed during the war and has not been changed since the Defence Regulations were made, that is a reason for it continuing. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that during the war it was with the greatest difficulty that the Government were prepared to accept this in regard to Scotland, and it was accepted at that time purely because of the war conditions, when ships were coming in and going out on Sunday, battleships were coming in, and all sorts of people were arriving at the ports? It seems to me that the Minister is not making a case for this Bill as part of permanent legislation, but is merely saying that because it occurred during the war it ought to go 968 on. I think that if the Minister wants to justify this Bill he must make the case on its merits. There were lots of things done during the war that nobody wants to perpetuate during peace-time.
§ Mr. Stewart
The justification for the continuance of the three canteens in Glasgow would be provided to the right hon. Gentleman if he went there or consulted his colleagues of the Seamen's Union. Then he asked me how they are to be administered. I say they are to be administered in everything except in relation to their location by the normal licensing procedure machinery of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Leith asked me about Clauses 5 and 7—
§ Mr. Stewart
The answer is that Clause 2 (5) merely applies the procedure of the existing Scottish licensing law for objection to applications for public house or hotel licences. That is all it does. On the next point, at present the Procurator Fiscal and the police do not have to give notice, but other objectors do. The next point is that objections may be taken on any of the grounds, (a), (b) and (c) in Clause 2 (1).
I think I have dealt with the points made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), but I assure him that no extra facility for drinking is here intended. There will be no additional drinking facilities on Sundays; as for the flight of imagination about the young man after five hours drinking, let the hon. Gentleman go to the three canteens in Cardiff and discover what is happening. That is what is being done now in Cardiff. The hon. Gentleman will find that the record of behaviour has been good, and we have every reason to believe it will continue to be good.
§ Mr. Stewart
No, let the hon. Member go to the Seamen's Union or to the local seamen's societies, and that will be the answer.
I think I have already answered the point made by the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan), who asked if this Bill would not be an opportunity to provide many more canteens.
969 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields wanted an assurance that there would be no question of these canteens being tied houses. None of the 27 canteens now is so tied, but if the right hon. Gentleman feels very anxious about it, and would like to put an Amendment down in Committee to ensure that they will never become tied, we feel so certain about the matter that we would accept such an Amendment. I think I have dealt with the 10 industrial canteens, and with all the other points. I hope, therefore, that the House, having discussed this matter fully, and having listened to the wise advice from my hon. Friend, from the right hon. Gentleman from myself and others will now agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Sir C. Drewe.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.