§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that earlier this Session I received the unopposed leave of the House, under the Ten Minutes Rule, to introduce this Bill, and I think that I can state the reasons in support of it with reasonable brevity. For more than thirty years it has been illegal for publicans to sell liquor to persons under 18 years, or to allow persons under the age of 14 to be in their bars. Those provisions became law as long ago as 1923, and were confirmed by Parliament as recently as 1953.
In 1949, a further step was taken, when it was made illegal for publicans to employ persons under 18 in their bars. As far as I have been able to ascertain, these provisions have not been objected to by the licensed trade, and I am confident that they carry the support of the vast majority of hon. Members and of the general public.
Until recently, there were two exceptions to these general provisions, in that they did not apply to occasional licences or to registered clubs. Rather more than a year ago, the House gave unopposed leave to the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) to introduce a Measure to rectify the former of these omissions, and his Bill, in due course, became law, under the title of the Occasional Licences and Young Persons Act, 1956. My Bill seeks to deal with the latter of the two omissions, and contains three main provisions.
First, no person under 14 shall be allowed to be in the bar of a registered club during permitted hours; secondly, no person under 18 shall knowingly be allowed to consume intoxicating liquor in a bar on the premises of a registered club; thirdly, no person under 18 shall be permitted to be employed in any bar of a registered club at a time when the bar is open for the supply or consumption of intoxicating liquor.
1576 It will, perhaps, come as a surprise to some Members that it is necessary for a Bill to be introduced to achieve these objects, and it is somewhat alarming to realise that as the law stands at present, if a young child ordered and was served with a double whisky at the bar of a registered club, no offence would be committed and no action could be taken.
Having explained the objects of the Bill, may I now say a little about the need for this Bill? It is a fact, with which this House and social workers have been greatly concerned, that a very serious increase has taken place in drunkenness among young people in recent years. The Report, "Social Problems of Post-War Youth, 1946–54" contains these challenging statements:For youths aged 14 to 16 the incidence of drinking offences fell by nearly 50 per cent. between 1946 and 1949, but it increased five-fold between 1949 and 1954. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that easy money, the increasingly bad example of immediate elders, the difficulties of licensees and "—I stress this factor—the laxity of managements of registered clubs have brought about the staggering reversal of trend…An analysis carried out by the Economic Research Council in respect of the problem for the years 1953–55 reveals thatwhile offences of drunkenness among persons aged 21 and over fell by just over 1 per cent. between 1953 and 1955, offences among persons aged under 21 rose by 43 per cent. in the two years.Quite recently, the Chairman of the Liverpool Licensing Committee was reported as expressing great alarm that Liverpool in 1956 had the highest number of convictions for drunkenness for thirty years. There were 4,187 convictions, representing an increase of more than 1,000 over the previous two years.
He continued:The most disturbing feature of the increase was the fact that 626 of the convictions last year were of people under 20 years of age, 88 of them being under 18. I do not wish it to be assumed that these young people necessarily obtained the liquor in public houses.My Bill seeks only to employ the same safeguards in the case of registered clubs that have been applied in public houses for many years past, and I should like to say a little about the support that I believe exists in the country for this Bill.
1577 I believe that the Bill is largely non-controversial; at least, I am unaware of any considerable opposition to it. I have been greatly encouraged by expressions of support for the Bill which have reached me from various differing but representative and influential bodies.
I should like to refer to three bodies which have expressed their support for this Bill. First, there is the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches. I would point out that this Council incorporates and speaks for in these matters every large and important branch of the Christian Church. It comprises in its membership the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the main Free Church bodies and the Salvation Army, and it speaks on behalf of practically all organised Christian opinion in this country.
Writing to me, the Secretary of the Temperance Council says:Those present at the Council meeting on Friday heard with deep satisfaction of the unopposed First Reading given to the Children and Young Persons (Registered Clubs) Bill. The Council wishes to congratulate you…on this splendid success, and pledges to you whatever support you may need for the future stages of this Bill.Secondly, I have had a letter from the Secretary of the National Council of Women of Great Britain, who writes as follows:I am requested by the Committee of Management of the National Council of Women to inform you of my Council's support for the Children and Young Persons (Registered Clubs) Bill, which you introduced in the House of Commons on 20th February. My Council much hopes that your Bill will obtain a Second Reading. The Council welcomed the passing of the Children and Young Persons (Occasional Licences) Act last year as a step towards uniformity in the licensing laws and in the promotion of the welfare of young people, and it appreciates your effort to extend these safeguards to registered clubs. It may interest you to know that as far back as 1925 the National Council of Women passed a resolution urging H.M. Government to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Licensing relating to registered clubs, and has reaffirmed this on several occasions since.The last expression of approval for this Bill to which I want to refer comes from what may, perhaps, be regarded as a somewhat unexpected source. In the Morning Advertiser of 20th of this month, which is a newspaper which speaks for the licensed trade, reference is made to 1578 the delays which my Bill has had in obtaining a Second Reading, and it goes on to refer to those hon. Members who are supporting my Bill in the following terms:Another group of people "—that is, the sponsors of this Bill—who are working…for the good of the licensee is also getting despondent.The reference is to the delay that this Bill has had in securing a Second Reading and the supposed despondency of the promoters of the Bill on that account. But I think it is not without significance that a journal such as the Morning Advertiser recognises the need for this Bill and is good enough to state that those of us who are sponsoring the Bill are workingfor the good of the licensee.Even though that may not have been the primary object of those of us who have brought this Bill before the House, we are, nevertheless, delighted to enjoy the influential support that is to be found embodied in that statement.
The Bill has a limited, but, at the same time, important and necessary object. It is one further step in the long history of legislation in this country designed to safeguard the position of children and young persons in regard to the licensed trade, and I therefore commend it for the approval of the House
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Sir Herbert Butcher (Holland with Boston)
After the informative speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), I think it is not necessary to say more than a few words in commending the Bill to the House.
From the quotations which my hon. Friend has made and the letters which we have received, it is obvious that among the good people who are represented on the Council of Christian Churches and the National Council of Women there is strong support for it. But I felt, when my hon. Friend was speaking, that this is perhaps the first time, and it may possibly be the last, when he will have quite as much approval from the columns of the Morning Advertiser, and I hope that he 1579 is basking in this new and perhaps unexpected experience. Nevertheless, I think there is a great point there.
There is nothing more distressing in this country than the misuse of alcoholic liquor, and the licensed community, we are all agreed, should do all it can to ensure that the conditions under which it is served and the way in which the houses are managed command the approval of the whole community. We must all admit that clubs are not under the same supervision, and that the law is much easier in connection with clubs. The young people, on behalf of whom my hon. Friend speaks, need more protection, which I believe this Bill will give, and I therefore hope that this House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 11.33 a.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
I rise to lend my support to the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) for the Second Reading of this Bill.
I feel that every reasonable person who has studied the provisions of the Bill will immediately accept them as being the best protection that we can offer to young people, whose welfare is the particular concern of this Bill. It is a very dangerous situation when young children under 14 are allowed in the bar of a club during drinking hours, and, equally, as I feel sure all reasonable people will agree, it is a danger that the limitations imposed by law on licensed premises do not apply to these clubs with regard to youths under 18.
All of us deplore the very unfortunate rise in offences, some of them of crimes of violence, which are now caused by young people, many of whom are under the influence of drink when the offences are committed. I myself heard with some alarm and misgiving last week in this Palace a report by a person who is au fait with crime in this country. His picture of the incredible increase in crimes of violence which are caused by young people was a very sobering one for all of us. While one would not be foolish enough to exaggerate the position, and say that all these crimes were necessarily caused by young people indulging in drink, nevertheless the relationship between 1580 indulgence in drink by young people below the age of 18 and these crimes is a very strong one.
For the betterment of young people generally and the welfare of the country at large, I feel sure that the House will support this Bill and give it a Second Reading.
§ 11.36 a.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
The last occasion on which I had the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Abertillery (Rev. LI. Williams) was when he proposed and I seconded the vote of thanks to the returning officer at Abertillery in the by-election of 1950.
In the course of that by-election campaign, I remember going round the Conservative clubs in Abertillery. One or two were genuine Conservative clubs, but at least one gave me the rowdiest meeting which I encountered in my experience of five elections. One of them, in particular, was not a bona fide club; indeed, as the hon. Member for Abertillery perhaps knows, there are clubs in the Welsh Valleys which are little different from public houses. They have a large trade only when the ordinary "pubs" are closed. To join one of those clubs is to have an excuse to have a drink when the public houses are not open. I do not want my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) to think that I am being hostile to his Bill, but there are one or two defects in it, which I ought to try to underline, although I do not regard myself as being an expert in these matters.
The first complaint that I would make about it is that it applies only to registered clubs. I think it was the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) who said that this was probably the last occasion when it would be necessary for such a Bill as this to be introduced to safeguard the position of young people. The Bill makes no provision for unregistered clubs, but there are such things. Indeed, the Licensing Act of 1953, in Section 123, which is fairly long, contains special provisions for unregistered clubs, and there may be quite a large number of them in existence. No doubt, they are run unsatisfactorily, and many young persons may go there. I have no objection to my hon. Friend seeking to protect these young persons who are going into such premises and 1581 perhaps are not doing themselves or their families any good by so doing. Therefore, I hope that when the time comes for this Bill to be amended in Committee, my hon. Friend will consider an Amendment to embrace the unregistered clubs.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon spoke about the Morning Advertiser. I am not trying to be hostile to him about this, but he mentioned it with something of a flourish, as if to suggest that because the Morning Advertiser likes this Bill it must be a good Bill. May I remind him that the Morning Advertiser is the excellent trade paper—the "Boozer's Rag", as it is unkindly called—of the licensed trade, and if there is one thing which the trade does not like it is the registered club? The trade is in active opposition to registered clubs, because it believes that these clubs are rivals, competitors with unfair advantages. Naturally, of course, the trade will support any legislation designed to curb their activities.
I have another criticism, which relates to Clause 1 (1), which reads:The secretary of a registered club shall not allow a person under fourteen years of age to be in the bar of a registered club during the permitted hours.I ask my hon. Friend to pay attention not so much to proprietary clubs but to members' clubs. He will, I think, agree that members' clubs are far better managed than proprietary clubs and that, by and large, very little harm would be done to any young person under the age of 18 going into such a club. But the rules relating to their permitted hours are sometimes rather difficult to understand.
In the Metropolitan area the permitted hours of a members' club shall not exceed nine a day, but that may not preclude the opportunity of obtaining drink in other parts of the club, although it may be unlawful. As is well known, there are many members' clubs which have not, in fact, a bar as such but in which, none the less, one can have a drink. I can think of some clubs where it is difficult to say which room is a bar.
I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that the rules relating to permitted hours extend to the rooms other than the bars in a members' club. I think I am right in saying, also, that in most such 1582 clubs it is not difficult to obtain a drink at almost any hour. If I am right about these facts—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—Clause 1 of his Bill would virtually mean that the law would be infringed every time anyone under the age of 14 was taken into a members' club by his father just because they sat in a room where another member was being served with a modest glass of beer. If I am right about that, perhaps my hon. Friend will take steps to amend the Bill at a subsequent stage.
§ Mr. Body
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for trying to assist me, but the point I was trying to make earlier was that it is very difficult to know what is the bar of some clubs, because there are several rooms which might easily be considered as a bar where a drink is available; the smoking room of certain clubs, for instance, is a room where there is, to all intents and purposes, a bar.
Mr. Glenvil Hall
The hon. Gentleman is making an extremely constructive speech, but might I suggest that, when the Committee stage is reached, we might define what a bar is? There is, at present, no definition of what is a bar, the words having been lifted from previous Acts dealing with licensed premises.
§ Mr. Body
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I hope that he will assist during the Committee stage of this Bill, as he does in Committee on other Bills, with the object of improving it once it receives a Second Reading. The fact remains that the present position is in doubt; it is difficult to ascertain which rooms are, in fact, the bars of a members club, and that is something which should be cleared up at the appropriate time.
I have a word of criticism about Clause 2, which seems ambiguous and may, later, prove to be unfair to the secretaries of registered clubs. As I read it, the Clause means that if any secretary knows of the sale of intoxicating liquor to any person who happens to be under 18 that will constitute an offence, 1583 whether he does or does not know that person to be under the age of 18.
§ Mr. Body
I quite agree that it says "knowingly", but, as I read it—I hope I may be forgiven if this is a Committee point—it means "who knowingly supplies to a person who happens to be under the age of eighteen" That is the construction, as I see it. If it were redrafted so as to mean that it would be an offence if the secretary knew of the sale of intoxicating liquor to someone whom he knew to be under the age of 18, I should have no complaint about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon rather overstated his case at one stage when he said that no offence would be committed if a young person went into a club and bought a double whisky. That was an example which he gave. I have done some research, with the aid of Paterson on the Licensing Acts, and I should like to assure my hon. Friend that an offence would most certainly be committed. Such a sale would be a sale without a licence under the Licensing Acts, and, if it took place, there would, in fact, be an offence and the club would be in danger of losing its licence.
Those are the points which I seek to make about the Bill. I hope I have not been unduly critical. I have no particular complaint about it, although there is one further danger which I hope my hon. Friend will bear in mind. There are many British Legion branches, Army cadet forces, etc., which make use of premises which are registered, in particular for annual events. I have in mind one particular occasion in our village when young men aged 17 or thereabouts are admitted. I am not suggesting that they drink large quantities of whisky—far from it—but I see no harm if they have a glass of beer or cider, particularly after they have had a field day, or been on an exercise out in the country. There is a danger that those British Legion events which are held in a large hall where the bar is simply a corner of the hall will be in jeopardy. Why should those lads be prevented from going with their parents or elder brothers to those functions?
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
I do not propose to discuss in detail the very valuable points raised by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body), first, because they are Committee points, and, secondly, because I do not know the existing law sufficiently to be able to deal with them. In commending the Bill to the House, I wish to deal especially with Clause 1 which excludes children under 14 from registered clubs as they are now excluded from public houses.
It may be objected that people who take drink in registered clubs take it at home, also, and that their children are exposed to any such influence at home just as they are in registered clubs. This is not so in every case true. Many people who have a drink in a club do not drink regularly with their meals at home. For one reason, they cannot afford it, or, because they may keep their beer or spirits for special occasions and the entertaining of visitors, while they themselves do not often take it at home. Therefore, to bring children into a registered club where drinking is taking place may be to bring them into an atmosphere entirely different from what they are used to at home.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
My hon. Friend speaks of bringing children into a registered club. The Bill speaks of children not being allowed to be in the bars of a registered club. It seems to me to be most important that children should be allowed inside a registered club rather than remain outside in the street, as long as they do not go into the bar.
§ Mr. Hastings
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his correction. I should have said, "the bar of a registered club".
I object to children being brought into the bar of a registered club, because things go on in the bar which, in some cases, it is not desirable for children to see or to become accustomed to. It is said by the scientists that alcohol gives "uncritical self-satisfaction with performance". That performance may be dancing, singing or talking. We all know that the result of alcohol is to remove inhibitions so that people talk more freely and, perhaps, not always more wisely in the bar of a licensed house or club than they might do at home.
1585 It is generally agreed that it is easy for all young creatures to imitate. A great deal of education is imitation. I could give many medical examples of that. We all know how children copy the curious little habits and tricks of their parents. I have a good deal of experience with delinquent boys. It has astounded me how often there are other delinquent boys in the same family. I came across a case only the day before yesterday in which one delinquent boy had two delinquent elder brothers. We know how children copy and, as I have said in the House before, I am quite sure that delinquency in children is often caused by copying what they have seen in the cinema.
I do not believe that there is much drinking among children in this country. Some people have suggested that it does take place, but I am very doubtful. In France however—and the experience of France may be of some value in this connection—child drinking is common and alcoholism is a much greater problem. In 1952, the average Frenchman drank about three times as much alcohol as the average Englishman. Among the effects of chronic alcoholism are alcoholic insanity and cirrhosis of the liver and other diseases, and these are much more common in France than in this country.
Drinking in France begins, as a rule, very early in life. I expect we have all seen French children being given wine by their parents—diluted, I agree—when they are very small indeed. The habit of drinking among children is very prevalent over there. Many children take some wine with their lunch to school. They are given spirits to keep out the cold, it is said, in cold weather, because the Frenchman really believes that brandy, which he calls eau de vie, is the water of life and he believes in the health value of spirits. I suggest, therefore, that the drinking habits of France really begin in childhood. If we can keep our children out of the bars of registered clubs, as we have done from the bars of public houses, we shall be doing a great services to sobriety and efficiency in this country.
The sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), who so ably moved its Second Reading, dealt at length and very effectively with excessive drinking among young people.
1586 He dealt principally with drunkenness. I would put the level at which drinking becomes excessive lower, perhaps, than some people. In any case, I suggest that excessive drinking is deleterious because it is dangerous to health, and it does not make for efficiency.
During the last war, Dr. Vernon estimated that when we were in great need of more production this was reduced by 10 per cent., not by drunkenness alone, but by lower efficiency as a result of people drinking more than they should. There is a temperance slogan which says:Think before you drink. You will find it more difficult to think after.There is a good deal of truth in that. It is not only more difficult to think afterwards, but it is more difficult to carry out in detail fine work of all kinds. It is very undesirable, therefore, for young people under the age of 18 to get into drinking habits, not only because of drunkenness but because of the other effects of excessive drinking.
We have excluded children and young people from the bars of public houses and dance halls and gatherings for which there are occasional licences, and this Bill completes the series. We in this country have always opposed one law for the rich and another for the poor. The Bill gives us an opportunity to extend that theme by saying that there should no longer be one law for the club and another law for the "pub."
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ Sir Frank Medlicott (Norfolk, Central)
As I have the privilege of being one of the sponsors of the Bill, I am glad to have the opportunity briefly to commend it to the House. I was not able to be here at the beginning of the debate and, therefore, I will be particularly careful not to speak at length in case I should be covering ground which has already been traversed. If my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) and my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) spoke with their usual clarity, I am quite confident that the case for the Bill was presented cogently and completely.
There was a time when the problem of excessive drinking drew our attention mainly to questions of cruelty and neglect, but the emphasis has rather shifted to the connection between excessive 1587 drinking and the dangers on the roads. Both aspects of the problem, however, are still with us and we have a duty to ensure that all proper safeguards are provided, so that young people are not tempted at an unduly early age to excessive participation in alcohol.
The legislation concerning public houses which already exists, some of it of long-standing, and other legislation of more recent origin in regard to occasional licences, makes it clear that Parliament, in its wisdom, feels that 18 is the decisive age up to which these special safeguards should be applied. It seems to me that there is an overwhelming case for us to complete the picture and not to leave a loophole which, evidence appears to show, is encouraging a certain amount of indulgence in drink at an age which is far too young for the well-being of society in general and young people in particular.
The case for the Bill seems to me to be convincing on moral, legal and social grounds and I hope that the House, in its wisdom, will also take that view.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
I welcome the Bill and wish to give it my enthusiastic support. It demonstrates the unsatisfactory state of club law as a whole. To me the only argument in opposition to the Bill would be one based upon the assertion that club law as a whole is badly in need of revision and that the Bill carries out only piecemeal reform. For my part, I do not think that there is any real prospect of a reform of club law in the immediate future and, therefore, I regard this Measure as being better than nothing.
I would say that the need for the Bill is unquestionable. Protective legislation for children and young persons has existed in relation to licensed premises for a considerable time, as the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, has told us. No one, I believe, today would deny the value of that protective legislation in so far as it relates to licensed premises. It seems to me utterly illogical that that protection should not be extended in the case of registered clubs. The need for that protection is the same whether the premises involved happen to be a public house or a hotel, a proprietary club or a members' club.
1588 The necessity for a Measure of this kind is demonstrated today by two factors. One—I will not go into details because we have already been given considerable information—is the increase of drunkenness among young people. Those of us who are engaged in social work or have in the course of our duties to deal with young people are acutely aware of the anxiety felt in many quarters with regard to increased drinking by people of very young years.
The other factor is this. There has been some, not a very great, increase in the number of clubs in this country, and there has certainly been an increase in the number of clubs in Wales. I do not know that the increase in numbers is so alarming, but what is more disconcerting is the increase in the membership of clubs. There has been a very substantial increase in club membership, particularly in Wales, and that is another reason why the protection extended to children and young persons should be made to cover this type of premises.
There is a need to strengthen the Bill in one or two respects. It would be out of order and certainly inappropriate for me to deal in detail with these matters at this stage. The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) referred to the position of unregistered clubs. With very great respect to him, I would say that the position with regard to them at the moment in relation to the subject we are discussing is satisfactorily covered by Section 123 of the Act of 1953. It is quite clear that the supply or sale of intoxicating liquor in an unregistered club to any one, whatever his age, would be an offence under the 1953 Act. So in that respect I do not think that the Bill is at fault. The effectiveness of the Bill depends in the main—
§ Mr. Bowen
All I would say is that it is quite clear that the supply of liquor in an unregistered club to anyone would be an offence by the person serving it. It might be possible to invoke subsection (4), but it is clear that someone would be 1589 committing an offence under Section 123 if intoxicating liquor were supplied, not only to a child or young person but, indeed, to anyone.
§ Mr. Body
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be possible to escape liability under both Section 123 of the Licensing Act and also under the Bill of my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Bowen
I do not want to be involved in a legal argument at this stage. It may very well be, after looking into the point, that some tightening up will be necessary, but, in the main, I would say that the position with regard to unregistered clubs is adequately covered by Section 123 of the 1953 Act.
I am far from happy about the position already raised with regard to the meaning of "in the bar". It is clear that the whole of this Bill will be abortive unless it is made abundantly clear what is meant by "in the bar". It would be most unfortunate if this very excellent Measure were ruined by the existence of loopholes.
Clause 5 of the Bill states:This Act shall be construed as one with the Licensing Act. 1953 ".In the Interpretation Section of the Licensing Act, 1953, it is set out:In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires—'bar ' includes any place exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor; ".As I see it, that interpretation would govern the Bill. It gives rise to one obvious difficulty immediately. The interpretation refers to the "sale and consumption", and immediately this arises—
§ Mr. Bowen
In Section 165, the Interpretation Section, the words are "sale and consumption." That is particularly important so far as clubs are concerned because the law is quite clear that in the case of members' clubs and other clubs, 1590 such as working men's clubs, registered under the Industrial Provident Societies Acts, a person who goes to the bar and is served with a drink and tenders money for that drink has not in fact taken part in a sale. That is to say, it is clearly laid down time and time again that for a member of a club to obtain a drink and hand over the money in respect of that drink is not a sale; it is simply a transfer by one member of the interest of the other members for a money payment. In a working men's club and a club of that kind no sale is involved at all. It seems that, as the Bill stands, the place where, in a club, one obtains a drink and hands over the money one is asked for would not amount to a sale. Therefore, it might be argued that the place where that took place was not a bar. If that were so there would be a loophole in the Bill.
§ Mr. Bowen
I agree, but that does not do away with, but tends to emphasise, the unsatisfactory position at the moment.
That can be put right in Committee, and what I should like to see is a definition of "bar" in a club, and that definition writen into this Bill, a definition which will deal with the point I have been trying to make, which is that sale need not be involved. "Supply" or "consumption" would be adequate. I shall not at this stage indicate how best that could be done, but it is quite clear that if the Bill is to be effective there must be clarification of the definition of that part of the premises of a club which can be properly described as a bar.
Subject to those reservations, I welcome the Bill, and hope it will receive its Second Reading.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
It is very gratifying to those of us who put our names to the Bill to find such unanimity in the House upon it. There remains very little for me to say. We await with pleasure the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who will, I hope, say 1591 that the Government are willing that the Measure should reach the Statute Book.
All the speeches that we have heard have been constructive, but if I may single out the speeches of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) and the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) I would say that their contributions especially have been most constructive. I hope that both of these Members will be on the Committee which considers the Bill, so that they may help in clarifying some of the difficulties which have been mentioned and which are Committee points and which, obviously, should be considered before the Bill becomes law.
In days gone by, any Bill dealing with this subject would have aroused a great deal of opposition. It is a sign of the change of view that now almost universally, among abstainers and those who drink, the vast majority of us, if not all, feel that something should be done to prevent very young people from being laid open to this temptation. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) takes the view that there is not a great deal of drinking among young people.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think that that is probably true when one realises what relationship their number bears to the total population, but what has startled and is now worrying chief constables in a number of places—
§ Mr. Hastings
I was referring to children under 14, and not to young people. I much regret that there is much too much drinking among young people aged between 14 and 18.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry that I misrepresented what my hon. Friend said, but I formed the impression that in his view there was not a great deal of drinking among young people. I am glad to have his correction.
It is obvious from reports that although the number is not large it is increasing, and though the number may be only several thousand—I believe between 4,000 and 5,000 at the moment—it is worrying chief constables and others in our large industrial centres. It is time that Parliament took note of what is going on and did its best to remove temptation from these young people.
1592 No mention has been made during the debate of a relatively new factor amongst us, and that is the coming of the motor car, and the dangers that arise from drinking not only for those who drive them, but also for those who use the streets and who are entitled to protection. If we can inculcate the need for temperance amongst young people for this reason alone, this House will have done its duty. Therefore, I am glad that the Measure has received the support it has. I hope that when it goes into Committee we shall do what we can to improve it and that by this means we shall at long last close a gap which there has been in our legislation for more than thirty years.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I want to join with my right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite in supporting this Measure. I should like particularly to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) upon the fact that this Bill is now before us, because it represents the end of a series of Parliamentary proceedings which he initiated when the Licensing Act of 1949 was a Bill in Committee.
He then moved a new Clause which sought to ensure that in the State-managed houses, which had been established during the First World War, at Carlisle, and in the Black Isle district of Scotland, this provision should be made. The proceedings on that occasion were somewhat astonishing. When I accepted my hon. Friend's new Clause, to my astonishment I was assailed by a number of hon. Members on the opposition side of the Committee—they were members of the Conservative Party, which then, of course, was in opposition—who asked, "Why restrict this to new towns and to State-management districts? Make it general over all the licensed houses in the country."
I was overwhelmed by that sudden enthusiasm of the Conservative Party for sound temperance reform, which had not been a distinguishing feature of their general attitude towards licensing matters up to then. I was astonished when the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) and others said it was too good a thing to be confined only to State management districts and to State-managed public houses.
1593 So, when the Bill came before the House on Report, I put down a new Clause, which was accepted by the House. That was on 10th May, 1949. The new Clause was accepted very quickly. The OFFICIAL REPORT of the discussion on it occupies only a couple of columns. Indeed, the text of the new Clause was almost longer than that of the report of the discussion which took place upon it. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), who is now Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, gave the new Clause the official blessing of the Conservative Party, then in opposition, and the new Clause was then unanimously added to that Bill. That was the Clause which contained the phrase "supply or consumption", and it related only to licensed premises and not to clubs; but I think the intention of Parliament at the time was quite clear and I hope that it may be possible to include in the Bill in Committee a definition of "bar in a club" which will be sufficient to meet the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen).
I was a little alarmed at the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) that he hoped that two lawyers, the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan and the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) would manage to get on the Committee, apparently giving them a brief on both sides, which I assure my right hon. Friend will mean that the Committee will sit for a long time. I know that it is wrong to comment on the efforts of the Committee of Selection after it has named the members of a Committee for a Bill, but I suggest that if we have two lawyers and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, sitting there as an umpire between them and adviser to the Committee, that will be a sufficient number of hon. Members learned in the law to enable us to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
It is very satisfactory to find that when, in 1949, we embarked upon this phase of licensing law we did so at first with great trepidation but achieved unanimity about licensed premises so early as to find that today there is no dissenting voice raised against the extension of this principle to clubs. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) produced a letter from the 1594 Temperance Council of the Christian Churches. I am certain that the increase in drunkenness among children and young people is in some measure due to the less active interest that the churches now take on this particular matter in dealing with the children and young people in their care.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon is the President of the Band of Hope Union. I have just been elected a vice-president of that body, not for my personal merits, but because I have reached a certain distinction in my own denomination. I regularly attended a Band of Hope every Tuesday evening for a good many years, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) makes the same confession. I have often thought, when I have heard him addressing the House, that I could detect the place where he had been trained in public oratory.
§ Mr. Ede
So do I.
There was a time when it was doubtful whether a person would have been elected a church officer if he were not either a total abstainer or at least an advocate of temperance causes, making his own position quite clear. It would have been a thing for comment if a Nonconformist wedding was followed by a breakfast or social gathering at which intoxicating liquors were served.
When the Churches write in support of this Measure I ask them to face the fact that, no matter how effective we make the law, their personal responsibility for the training of youth in sound social habits cannot be pushed off on to Parliament. I would urge the Churches, in view of the concern now generally felt about this matter of drinking among young people, to get back to the spirit that they had in the last quarter of the nineteenth century when, by their efforts, the relationship of the English people to drinking habits was so startingly revolutionised by the work that they did among youth.
The fact that the Churches had done that created the atmosphere which enabled this House to pass some of the Measures dealing with the licensed trade that marked the first quarter of this century. Moreover, I believe that it had 1595 its effects on the licensed trade itself. I have heard it said this morning, and I thoroughly agree with it as chairman of a licensing committee, that the licensed trade itself now desires to see good habits in its houses and in its relationships with its customers.
The Churches still have work to do in this matter, and they have still their responsibilities for the training of the young people of the country in the habits to which the Churches attached great importance only a few years ago, but which now do not appear to be so convincingly stressed by them in their relationship with the young people who are associated with them.
§ 12.27 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)
I rise in response to the invitation of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) to state the Government's attitude on this Bill, but before I come to that it is obviously my first duty, as, indeed, it is a very great pleasure, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) on the very able and very moderate way in which he presented his case and, indeed, on the degree of support that he has obtained in the debate.
This has been a most interesting debate to me. I confess that it always seems to me a most striking tribute to the flexibility of the rules of order of the House that whenever the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) speaks he manages to get in a disquisition on the position of lawyers in the House.
The object of the Bill is to apply to registered clubs certain provisions of the Licensing Act, 1953, regarding children and young persons, which apply already to on-licensed premises. One of the main provisions is the prohibition of the supply of liquor for on-consumption to persons under the age of 18. The prohibition of the sale of drink to people under 18 in licensed premises derives from the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons Under Eighteen) Act, 1923, which was also a Private Member's Measure. It was, in fact, introduced by Lady Astor.
On Second Reading, the Home Secretary of the day said:It is my fate during the Fridays in Lent, for the mortification of the flesh, to sit here 1596 and represent Government neutrality on all these Measures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1923; Vol. 161, c. 985.1We are no longer in Lent and, in view of the excellence of the debate, my flesh has been no more mortified than is inherent in sitting in the same position for one and a half hours. But the attitude of the Government is the same. I am here to represent Government neutrality on the Bill now before the House. I am sure, however, that no hon. Member will be disappointed when I say that it follows that if there is a Division on this Bill, which, from what I have heard of the debate, seems not to be very likely, the Government Whips will not be on.
Possibly some hon. Members may feel that, having said that, I have said all they need to know. Yet I feel it is due to the speeches that have been made, and particularly to the speeches which have not been made on this Measure, that I should try to balance the arguments. As sometimes happens in a debate of this kind, the speeches have been all one way, and in such a case it is preferable that the arguments are balanced, as far as they can be, by the Government spokesman. The hon. Gentleman the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) will recollect that in a Bill on which we are now serving in a Standing Committee upstairs, I was left almost alone to represent trade union objections to that Bill on Second Reading, and strong opposition has developed in the Standing, Committee.
In spite of the run of the debate today, this Measure is not uncontroversial. I do not think that anything to do with the licensing laws can be uncontroversial in these days. Certainly, at the Home Office we have had representations against the Bill, and it is only right that I should indicate to the House the lines of argument that have been advanced.
Before I do that, I will deal with two points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) in what was recognised by the following speaker as a helpful speech. First, on the question of unregistered clubs, so far as I can make out the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) was right on that point, and I think that his reading of the law is to be preferred to that of 1597 my hon. Friend, if he does not mind my saying so.
§ Mr. Simon
It is unlawful to sell liquor on unregistered premises and in any unregistered club to any person, whether under the age of 18 or not, and the proviso to Section 123 which was quoted does not really derogate from that in any way.
The other matter he raised was the question of permitted hours. They extend to clubs generally and not just to the bars of clubs. They are fixed by the rules of the club and, on week days, are not permitted to be more than eight hours between the hours of eleven o'clock in the morning and ten o'clock at night, but the hours are extended in London.
I mentioned the fact that any proposal in this sphere is apt to be controversial. The late George Orwell said that some animals are more equal than others, and it is true that some proposals relating to licensing are more controversial than others. For example, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Boyle) introduced last Session the Occasional Licences and Young Persons Bill, which applied to premises such as dance halls and the like with an occasional licence, and placed various restrictions on the sale of drink to young persons which applied already to an ordinary public house.
That Bill got through without any strong opposition, but, as I am sure all hon. Members will recognise, the evil there was a much greater one than in the case of registered clubs. It was there that a great deal of the mischief of excessive drinking by young persons took place, and that Bill certainly rectified an apparent anomaly in the law.
Anything which touches on registered clubs is bound to be controversial in the nature of things. In the first place, there are those who say, as the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan indicated, that the present law about clubs is weak and ineffective, and that is one aspect of the licensing law on which the temperance movement and the licensed trade speak with the same voice, though not entirely from the same motives.
1598 On the other hand, there are those, both inside and outside the club movement, who hold that any group of respectable citizens having some interest in common ought to be allowed to form a club and supply themselves with liquor there with the minimum of outside interference and regulation. In prehistoric times a man's club was his instrument of domestic discipline. I sometimes think today that a man's club is his escape from domestic discipline.
However that may be, the Englishman's club is his home from home, and it is asked: why should his activities be controlled any more in his club than in his home? Whether we agree or disagree with that view, it is a matter which obviously the House would wish to weigh, and it is undoubtedly held strongly by a great many respectable citizens throughout the kingdom. Certainly, the working men's club movement holds that view.
Even those who do not share that view recognise that the bona fide member's club is not exactly similar to a public house, if only for the reason that the public house is open to all and sundry, whereas admission to a club is limited to members and the guests whom they choose to invite. Therefore, it does not necessarily follow that the provisions of the law relating to public houses ought to apply to clubs. That does not follow necessarily because of the distinction I have mentioned, and that may be the second reason why this Measure has aroused in the country, and on other occasions in this House, though not in this debate, more opposition than the Measure introduced last Session.
Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the present Bill does not impose any restrictions on the formation of registered clubs. In that respect, it is much more moderate than a Bill which was introduced in another place by a noble Lord who was also dealing with this problem. If merely proposes to apply various restrictions relating to children and young persons which are already in the public house law, if I may put it that way. Among other things, as has been pointed out this morning, the Bill says that just as a young person under 18 may not obtain a drink in the bar of a public house, so he may not obtain it in the bar of a club. Clearly, that is, to say the least of it, a tenable proposition and, 1599 incidentally, it accords with one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Licensing, 1929 to 1931. I think that the proponents of this Bill are entitled to rely on that factor.
As hon. Members have pointed out, there has, unfortunately, been an increase in convictions for drunkenness among persons under 18 in recent years. Although I do not think it would be fitting for me to expatiate further on the lines of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields, I think all who heard him would agree that he made a striking comment on what certainly might be one of the causes. Still, the number of convictions is very small in proportion to the total number of young persons, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) was right when he said that the problem is negligible in very young persons, under the age of 14.
It seems to me, therefore, that there is a case in principle for this proposal. There is the practical problem of a certain amount of drunkenness among young persons. I think it is only right that I should say the following in fairness to the club movement. We in the Home Office have asked the police to tell us, as far as they can, in the case of young persons who are convicted for drunkenness, where the liquor was obtained. The real gravity of the problem. as I suggested, does not lie in the clubs. In the majority of cases where the source of the liquor could be ascertained, the evidence was that the clubs were not primarily responsible. The most frequent source was the public house, and next to that came liquor from friends or from a domestic source.
Nobody today has for a moment suggested—I am sure it could not be suggested—that respectable clubs in any way encourage drinking among young persons. Indeed, the contrary would be true. In fact, many of them do not admit persons under 18 to club membership. On the other hand, of course, in the case of working men's clubs, it is invidious that a lad of 16 or 17 who is in full employment, and doing a man's job, should not be admitted to membership of a club in that category.
The House will understand that I am not saying that this means that there is not a problem as regards clubs or that 1600 the proposals in the Bill are unnecessary. As I have said, this is a matter which the Government would wish to leave to the judgment of the House in the light of the arguments which have been deployed in the debate.
With regard to the provision relating to children under 14, our evidence bears out what has been said, that there is no evidence of any serious social mischief arising from the fact that at present children may be in the bar of a club. It seems to me that there is a serious social problem here which the House, if it gives the Bill a Second Reading, will want to consider in Committee. There are many clubs, like the British Legion clubs—the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) will know them very well, and I know that my hon. Friends recognise the problem—where one has one clubroom with a bar at the end, and it is a very general social club.
Many times I have seen a father and mother bring quite young children into such premises, and nobody would say that it was offensive in any sort of way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hear that my remark commands general approbation. It would be very hard if a Measure to exclude children under 14 meant denying the facilities of that sort of club to persons of that sort. I am sure that, when it considers the Bill, the Committee will want to devote attention to that sort of problem.
There is a final matter which I ought to mention, because it is always important in stating the Government's attitude to a Bill of this sort. It is a matter not merely of whether it represents good intentions or even a serious attempt to deal with a serious social evil. There is the further question of whether the Bill is really enforceable and whether it will do the job that it is intended to do.
There is, of course, a difficulty in this sphere. The police have an unrestricted right of entry into licensed premises, so there is no special difficulty about enforcement in the case of sale on licensed premises to young persons under 18, but the police do not have that right in respect of clubs. Clubs are private premises, and the police can enter them only with a search warrant.
1601 The Bill does not propose to give the police any rights of entry for the purpose of enforcement of the Bill's provisions, and I for one do not criticise it on that ground. I think that my hon. Friend and the other supporters of the Bill are correct in taking that line, because to give a right of police entry to clubs would raise very controversial issues which I think the promoters of the Bill are right to avoid, but it means that there is a difficulty about enforcement.
I do not pretend that that is in any way a conclusive argument against the Bill, because, of course, there are already various provisions restricting the rights of registered clubs, and there are already the sort of difficulties about enforcement that I have mentioned. The drafting of the Bill is possibly susceptible to improvement, and no doubt there are minor matters which can be attended to in Committee if the House decides to give the Bill a Second Reading.
If I may sum up, we appreciate the motives of the hon. Members who have supported the Bill and who, it is right to say, have devoted a great deal of care and thought to its preparation, and particularly to putting it forward in a form which would be least likely to excite opposition. There are, as I have tried to show, arguments on both sides which can be developed, but the Government are content to abide by the judgment of the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Black.]
§ Committee upon Friday 28th June.