HC Deb 28 June 1957 vol 572 cc654-64

2.50 p.m.

Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out "the bar of a registered" and to insert "any bar of the."

This is merely a drafting Amendment which, I think, considerably improves the wording of the Clause. My attention has been drawn to the fact that it is possible that there may be more than one bar on the premises of a registered club, and I think that that eventuality is better covered by the Amendment than by the Clause as originally drawn.

The Temporary Chairman

I suggest that in considering this Amendment it might be to the convenience of the Committee if we considered, at the same time, the later Amendment in the name of the same hon Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) in page 1, line 9. to leave out "the" and to insert "any."

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Before dealing with the Amendment, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), the promoter of the Bill, in that today, I believe, he is becoming a freeman of the Borough of Wimbledon. I am sure that the Committee would wish to join with me in congratulating my hon. Friend on what must be a great occasion in his life and that of Wimbledon.

Before we part with the Amendment, I think it is important that we should know what the promoter and supporters of the Bill mean when they speak of a bar. As I have said, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon has been made a freeman of the Borough of Wimbledon, and I hope that he will not think it facetious of me when I say that I am very anxious that he should not unnecessarily impair the freedom of clubs. He may have overlooked the fact that in trying to limit the age below which any person can enter a bar, he is also limiting the age below which a person can go into a club at all.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) pointed out on Second Reading, there are some clubs which consist of just one room. It may be that there is a bar at the end of the room and, as a result of the Bill, it would mean that no child, whether accompanied by a parent or not—a matter which, I understand, we shall be discussing later—could go into that club room if the function which it was attending happened to be held during licensing hours.

This will have a very serious effect on a great many of the smaller clubs throughout the country, particularly British Legion clubs. It is a point which we have to bear in mind, because many British Legion clubs are leased to other organisations in the villages. Very often, the club room is the only room available. If we are to make it impossible for parents to take their children to functions held in such clubs just because they have a bar in them, and because the function happens to be held during licensing hours, then we are unduly restricting the freedom of the members of those clubs and of those who wish to use them.

Many of the working men's clubs in the country are extremely perturbed on this point. Some of them are political clubs, while others are not. I understand that there are 3,424 working men's clubs and institutes in the country, the vast majority of which have no political affiliation at all. They are very perturbed indeed. It seems to me that my hon. Friend ought to tell the Committee what he has in mind. If I am right in my deduction from what he said on Second Reading, what he really has in mind is to prevent young persons below a certain age obtaining alcoholic liquor on premises which are primarily designed for adult use. I can well understand his desire to do that. None of us wishes to add the adjective "reeling" to "screaming" in connection with children.

I think that the intention of my hon. Friend is a very worthy one. Indeed, I know very well that many church organisations of all denominations are extremely anxious that there should be some legislation to improve the situation, but I feel sure that they would not desire to do what the Bill seeks to do, namely, unfairly to restrict the use of clubs for purposes not solely concerning the members of those clubs. In other words, I do not think from what I know of them and of the work they do that they would wish to interfere with the operation of clubs in such a way that they could no longer be let for other village functions at which children would normally attend, usually accompanied by their parents.

For the reasons I have stated, I am a little loath to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment even though he says that it is only a drafting Amendment, because I believe that it contains something of far more substance than drafting. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give a satisfactory answer to the point raised.

Mr. Peter Remnant (Wokingham)

Would the promoter and supporters of the Bill say whether they have considered the matter of bars on wheels and how they affect the matter? I am sure that many of us do not differ very much from my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) in what he is seeking to do, but only differ from him concerning the means by which he seeks to do it. We are only concerned to see that what is suggested is practicable and would not inconvenience the ordinary users of such clubs.

I should like to know for how many hours a bar on wheels would have to be in a club room before that room is interpreted as being mainly used for the dispensing of alcoholic liquor.

Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

I should like to know what is a bar because there are rooms in which drinks are served which have none of the recognisable pieces of furniture which you and I, Mr. Hynd, would recognise as belonging to a bar. There are some clubs in which there are no bars as such, but which are licensed and in which drinks are served in other rooms. How does the Clause apply to such cases? I should like my hon. Friend to clear up that point.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

It seems to me that, shortly, this matter can be stated by posing the question in the old terminology, "When is a bar not a bar?"—and I will not give a very rude answer to that one. Often, in cricket clubs, tennis clubs, working men's clubs and British Legion clubs, to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) referred, there is no bar as such. What happens is that a man appears from the depths with a pint of beer, or some cider, from behind a little lobby where he keeps it, and he brings it into the room. None the less, I think that anybody trying to construe the Bill would come to the conclusion that, for for ordinary purposes, the whole of the room is a bar.

As I understand, the promoters of the Bill are anxious that children should not be able to consume alcohol. I do not believe that the Bill will do anything to assist in that purpose. All that the Bill, and, in particular, this Amendment to this Clause, will do is merely to restrict children from going into any premises which are clubs, where drink is ever consumed at all.

For those reasons, I find the drafting of the whole of this part of the Clause, particularly in relation to this matter, wholly unsatisfactory, however admirable may be the objects which the promoters have in mind, because one is quite unable, under the Bill, to define when a bar is not a bar.

3 0 p.m.

Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)

I should like further definition of the word "bar". What I have in mind is the position of British Legion clubs, to which reference has already been made. There are two such clubs in my constituency, and the premises of each consist of one room only. There is, admittedly, what one might call a bar, I suppose, in one corner, a very small bar in relation to the whole of the room. Both rooms are often used for children's parties, Christmas parties and functions of that kind. As I understand the Clause, if such functions happen to take place during permitted hours, because of the bar in the corner children under fourteen will not be allowed in. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) would wish that to be the result.

There are other times when parents sometimes come in to such clubs with their children. They may go in during permitted hours, on a hot day like this, for example, to have a soft drink. A club, after all, is an extension of one's home; it is a privileged place, not like the ordinary public house. I cannot see why children should not be allowed to come in in such circumstances with their parents, but they would, I believe, be prevented from so doing by this Clause.

My hon. Friend should, at least, define rather more clearly than has been done so far what is a bar, or, at any rate, give some indication that he would consider at a later stage some Amendment which would provide for the one-room club not being affected by this provision.

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

Contrary to the experience of most of my hon. Friends, I have a fairly extensive knowledge of bars, and I think I can recognise them. But that is not the point I wish to raise during the few moments for which I wish to detain the Committtee. Would my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), when he rises to reply to the many points which have been made by my hon. Friends, at the same time give some explanation as to what is meant by this Amendment to leave out the word "registered" so that the words would read, any bar of the club". What is the intention behind leaving out the word "registered"? I should like some explanation about that. As I say, I have a fairly extensive knowledge of bars of various sorts, not only where drink is sold but bars at the end of rivers and so on, but I cannot quite understand my hon. Friend's purpose in deleting the word "registered".

Mr. Remnant

indicated assent.

Mr. Dudley Williams

I see my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Remnant, nodding his head, and he has an extensive knowledge of this subject also, I understand.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Not in registered clubs.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene? He said something, but I missed his words.

As I understand it, all clubs which sell alcoholic refreshment have to be registered; otherwise they are barred by Statute from selling such refreshment. It has been suggested to me by one of my hon. Friends with whom I was discussing the Bill a short time ago, that it may be the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon to bring within the scope of the Bill bars which, in fact, do not sell alcoholic refreshment at all. He may wish to stop children going into bars where "Cidrax", for instance, is sold, which is a form of refreshment similar to cider but which is not, I understand, alcoholic. I understand that "Cidrax" is not alcoholic.

Mr. Remnant

indicated dissent.

Mr. Dudley Williams

I understand so; I shall be corrected if I am wrong. Surely it is not the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) to stop children going into that sort of bar, but under this proposed Amendment if a club has a bar to sell ice-cream children cannot enter—a club which has not any alcoholic refreshment on sale on its premises.

I should have thought that there was no justification for leaving out the word "registered". If my hon. Friend wishes to include any bar, I can see the point of his Amendment, but I should have thought that the words should have been "any bar in a registered club", in which case I think he would have achieved his object—although I am sure that he will not object when I say that I do not agree with his proposal. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would examine that point and see if it is possible to give a satisfactory explanation for leaving out the word "registered".

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) in asking if my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) can give a further definition of when a bar is not a bar. I can think of many occasions in my part of the world when registered clubs have a bar tent—shows, point-to-points and the like. Those tents are very often the only shelter there is at a point-to-point meeting or at a ploughing match. The day might be very cold and wet, and if the Amendment were accepted parents who took shelter in the tent to get some warmth for themselves would be forced to leave their children in the wet and in the cold. I do not think that that is my hon. Friend's intention.

Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)

I should like to join my hon. Friends in asking my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) to elaborate a little more on this definition of a bar. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams), but I will go a little further in saying that to me it seems of some significance that the word "registered" is proposed to be left out. It may be that my hon. Friend has left it out as a result of what was said on Second Reading.

I think that on that occasion I mentioned the position of unregistered clubs. It may be that I then made a false point, because every club should be registered, and the committee of management of a club that is not registered is committing an offence. Nevertheless, there are such things as unregistered clubs. Section 123 of the Licensing Act, 1953, has a number of provisions relating especially to the unregistered club, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend if he thinks that it is altogether wise to leave out the word "registered."

My hon. Friend will know that there is a further Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) and myself, in the form of a new Clause. It is an interpretation Clause, and includes a definition of a bar. I frankly say that I purloined that definition—

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member cannot discuss that Amendment yet.

Mr. Body

I only intended to ask whether my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon would be good enough to say, at this stage, whether he would accept that later Amendment. It relates to this one and that would clear up this point altogether. Perhaps he could say that he agrees with it—

The Temporary Chairman

It would be quite out of order to discuss that Amendment in any way at this stage.

Mr. Body

Then I say no more, Mr. Hynd. Perhaps I have already made my point, and perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to say, "Yes" or "No."

Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)

I feel some confusion after hearing the recent speeches, though I have been following their trend very carefully. May I ask the promoter of the Bill if the conclusion to be drawn from the Clause is that it is the intention that children under 14 years of age shall be excluded entirely from such premises where there is a bar? Children are not excluded at present from such places. Therefore, this seems to be a major alteration of the law, if my assumption is correct, and I think it would be helpful to the Committee if the promoter of the Bill would clarify the position so that we should know a little better where we stand on this question.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

Since you, Mr. Hynd, did not rule out of order my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), may I follow him in joining in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) on his great and amply deserved honour?

With regard to his Amendment, I entirely agree with him that it is a drafting Amendment. It does not in any way alter the sense of the Clause, but it does improve it from the purely drafting point of view. The Clause follows a Section in the Licensing Act, 1953, and on the general principles of drafting, it is clearly desirable that the wording should be the same as between both. As between "the bar" or "any bar," the latter terminology is preferable, because some clubs have no bar and some have more than one bar. I think that that to some extent answers the point raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. G. Craddock), when he asked whether the intention is to exclude children under 14 years of age from all clubs. As I understand it, the answer is no, but only from the bar rooms of clubs.

That follows, it seems to me, the point made by several of my hon. Friends, which is a cogent one, that where there is only one room, which contains a bar, as in sports clubs and so many British Legion Clubs, the effect of the Clause is to exclude the child from the club altogether.

Mr. Ede

During permitted hours?

Mr. Simon

Yes, during permitted hours. As I said, this is a drafting Amendment, which seems to me to effect an improvement in the Clause, and I should therefore advise the Committee to accept it. That does not mean that the Government necessarily agree with the principle of Clause 1. I say nothing as to the rest of the Bill, but I made it clear on Second Reading that there are serious disadvantages in Clause 1 regarding its operation in British Legion clubs, which I mentioned at the time, and a great many sports clubs.

May I now answer one or two other points made by hon. Members? First, there was the question whether the effect of the Amendment would be to include within the scope of the Clause unregistered clubs, whereas formerly it was limited to registered clubs. As I read it, it has no such effect, but is a purely drafting Amendment, and the secretary of a registered club should not allow a person under 14 years of age to be in any bar of the club during permitted hours. The effect of that is that the club is a registered club, so that I think that my hon. Friends the Members for Billericay (Mr. Body) and Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) need not feel any qualms about that, as the effect is still that it is a registered club to which the Clause applies.

With regard to definition, a bar is defined already in the Licensing Act, and my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay got very close to saying this. I think that under the Licensing Act, 1953, "bar" is defined as any place exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor. Irrespective of any new Clause which may be put down by way of Amendment, that definition would, in the absence of other definition, cover the use of the term in this Clause.

As I say, the view which I put before the Committee is that whether Clause 1 is to be passed or not is a matter that can be discussed on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." If it is passed, it is obviously desirable that it should be passed in the most workmanlike form possible, and I therefore advise the Committee to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

The Temporary Chairman

I suggest that we should take the next two Amendments together.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted and, 40 Members not being present, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER resumed the Chair; House counted and, 40 Members not being present, adjourned at twenty-one minutes past Three o'clock till Monday next.