HC Deb 10 May 1960 vol 623 cc295-319
Mr. Vosper

I beg to move, in page 24, line 11, after "area" to insert: who may sit in two or more divisions". I suggest that it will be for the convenience of the House also to take the Amendment in page 24, line 12, after "committee", insert: or a division thereof".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That will be convenient.

Mr. Vosper

The Government have tabled the two Amendments in response to a request made in Committee by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that licensing justices should be able to sit in divisions. That is the purpose of the Amendment. It is a reasonable proposition.

Mr. Ede

This completely meets the point I raised in Committee, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having done this at least towards making the pushing on with the granting of licences feasible.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 24. line 12, after "committee", insert: or a division thereof".—[Mr. Vosper.]

Mr. James Mclnnes (Glasgow, Central)

I beg to move, in page 24, line 13, to leave out sub-paragraph (b) and to insert: (b) the sheriff court of the area in which the permit or licence is intended to operate. The purpose of the Amendment is to provide that the appropriate authority for the granting of licences and permits in Scotland shall be the sheriff court and not the local licensing court as provided in the Bill. I move the Amendment not only because I have grave doubts about the ability of local licensing courts in Scotland to undertake the granting or renewal of bookmakers' permits, betting agency permits, or betting office licences, but also because I have serious doubts about the desirability of placing this additional responsibility on local licensing authorities in Scotland.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland fully recognises and appreciates the tremendous volume of work undertaken by those at present constituting the local licensing bench. These people are public representatives, and as councillors they serve on a variety of committees of the local authority— housing, planning, education, and other committees.

As magistrates they have to undertake their job of presiding at local police courts. As members of the licensing authority, they have to deal with the licensing of public halls, dance halls, theatres, public houses, billiards rooms, hackney carriages, even chimney sweeps, and a host of other licences. That is quite a formidable task for any councillor, magistrate or member of the local licensing authority to undertake.

8.15 p.m.

Despite that knowledge possessed by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, he persists in proposing in the Bill that the appropriate body to grant certificates, permits or licences, should be the local licensing authority. I am certain that the hon. Gentleman recognises also that as councillors, magistrates or as members of the local licensing authority these individuals as public representatives are under a good deal of public pressure in dealing with the one hundred and one provisions with which they have to contend, particularly as regards licensing.

There is another aspect which rather disturbs me. Very often solicitors or lawyers are members of a local authority. It is quite possible for them to find themselves in the position of having to defend a bookmaker at the local magisterial court. I have no doubt that that may be a somewhat embarrassing position. I feel certain that the legal fraternity will prefer to appear before the sheriff court rather than the local licensing court.

It seems somewhat strange that the Government should provide in the Bill that the responsibility for issuing licences in Scotland should rest with the local licensing authority, whilst at the same time they have appointed the Guest Committee to go into the whole question of the licensing laws in Scotland. In its terms of reference the Committee is asked to consider the constitution of licensing courts and courts of appeal. It is somewhat odd that under the Bill the Government have chosen the local licensing court, which may be completely reformed by the Guest Committee, if the Government adopts its Report.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland indicated in Committee that what the licensing bench had to judge were matters of opinion and not matters of provable fact. He said that in any question of opinion it was desirable that there should be more than one opinion in the court, and for that reason it was suggested that the appropriate body should be the local licensing court.

There may be a case for appointing an entirely new type of court. I do not know if the Joint Under-Secretary rules out that possibility. The sheriff would be helped in arriving at his opinion by the provision in paragraph 5 of the First Schedule. It is there provided that "the applicant"—that is, the individual applying for a licence— shall send a copy of the application to the appropriate officer of police and, in the case of an application for the grant of a betting office licence, to the appropriate local authority … It seems conceivable that if the appropriate local authority and the police were represented at the sheriff court when licences and permits were being granted, the sheriff would be helped considerably in his deliberations. The local authority and the local police could guide him as to the number of licences that should be granted in a year. For instance, if there were twenty applications, the local authority and the police might, because of their local knowledge, be able to advise the sheriff that only ten should be granted.

Therefore, in all the circumstances, it is most desirable to take this work entirely out of the hands of the local licensing authority, which is already grossly overloaded with matters on which the public exercise a great deal of pressure, and the Joint Under-Secretary would be well advised to accept the Amendment.

Sir J. Duncan

I support the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mclnnes), as I did when we dealt with this aspect of the Bill in Committee. Although it might not be possible for my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary to accept this Amendment as it is, I seriously hope that he will consider it in some other form, either by having a new tribunal to deal both with this sort of licensing and with liquor licensing, or remitting it to the Guest Committee to look at from the licensing point of view. I press him now to accept the Amendment, because I believe that we should get this business out of the hands of the elected magistrates.

My hon. Friend the Joint Undersecretary said in committee that the sheriffs principal did not object, in principle, although there would be difficulty with regard to staffing, but that the Sheriffs-Substitute Association objected on the grounds that it would overload them. I want to call my hon. Friend's attention to an Answer that the Minister of Housing and Local Government gave me on 3rd May, when I asked whether he intended to issue a new Use Classes Order to deal specifically with betting offices. The Parliamentary Secretary replied: Yes. My right hon. Friend proposes to amend the Use Classes Order so as to secure that where the establishment of a betting office involves development under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, as it normally will, it will require planning permission. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be taking corresponding action in Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1960; Vol. 622, c. 58.] If planning committees are to give planning permission for every betting office—as they normally will, as these are bound to involve some sort of development or alteration—the sheriffs substitute will have very much less to do, because the planning authorities will eliminate a large number of places that are unsuitable because of position, type of accommodation or for other reasons. If we could get this division, with planning permission on the grounds of accommodation or situation being granted by the licensing authorities, as I would like to see, the sheriff would be left to deal with the man. If we could get that division, I do not think that—except in the first year, perhaps—the sheriffs substitute would be overloaded to the extent they fear.

I only add, in support of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central, that I do not think that it is recognised in the House as a whole that, unlike those in England, all our magistrates in Scotland are elected. They are subjected to a great number of pressures to which they should not be subject, and in the interests of democracy it would be very much better if the pressures to which the elected magistrates, the elected councillors are subjected in Scotland—as magistrates in England are not subjected —were got rid of. This sort of business should be in the hands of the sheriff, to whom everyone will look with respect, and whose decisions will be accepted without question by applicants for licences.

Mr. N. Macpherson

This Amendment, or one something like it, was moved and discussed in Committee. At that time, I undertook to look further into the matter, and that I have done. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in conjunction with my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, has given much anxious thought to it, but I must tell the House that we are still not in a position to accept the Amendment, and I had better tell the House why that is.

I fully recognise the force of the arguments that have been put forward by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mclnnes) and by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan). This was not an easy decision to reach. The arguments on both sides seemed quite strong. The argument about the volume of work cuts both ways, and I should have thought that if it were a question of a choice between two evils, either of overloading the magistrates or of overloading the sheriff —who is, after all, responsible for the administration of justice—it would be wiser to overload the magistrates.

There is an additional possible reason. It may be that we overestimate a little the amount of inconvenience that will be suffered by the licensing courts, particularly in the burghs where the members of the courts are all elected representatives. The licensing courts already meet in March and October, and these are two of the months chosen for the meetings to consider betting permits and licences. The probability is that much of the extra work could be combined with their existing work, and so there should be much less interference and disruption of their work than there would be, on the other hand, in placing this intermittent load on the sheriff court.

8.30 p.m.

I recognise, of course, that elected representatives are always under public pressure. But, on the other hand, they are elected to discharge social duties in the community. It seems to the Government—this is, I think, the core of the matter—that this is a responsibility of a social character which more properly belongs to the elected magistrates rather than to the sheriff court. I ask the House to consider the actual grounds for refusal to grant or renew a betting office licence, particularly the discretionary ones in paragraph 20 (b) of the First Schedule.

The appropriate authority has to consider the location of the premises and their suitability. Although I admit that the sheriff could receive evidence about it, I should have thought that that was more the sort of matter which the magistrates were already considering in their tasks to which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central referred. Then, the authority has to consider whether the grant or renewal would be inexpedient haying regard to the demand for the time being in the locality for the facilities afforded by licensed betting offices and to the number of such offices for the time being available to meet that demand. Again, that seems to the Government to be a task of a social character, and the sheriff has nothing to go on. If the House were to lay down a norm for the sheriffs to follow, then a sheriff could, perhaps, discharge the third task of considering whether the premises have been properly conducted under the licence.

On the whole, it seems to the Government that this is a task which more properly belongs to the magistrates. Apart from that, as my hon. Friend reminded the House, we took the advice of the Sheriffs-Substitute Association itself, and its view was that this was, at least in part, a discretionary matter not suitable for decision by a single judge, at any rate in the first instance. The Bill provides for an appeal to the sheriff. In passing, I observe that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central has not followed his Amendment to the point of providing an alternative means of appeal, though 1 quite realise that he had in mind the sheriff principal.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus has suggested that the work should be given to special tribunals set up for the purpose. Here again, we are in difficulty because of the time factor. It is never easy to find members to staff certain tribunals, and, of course, a very large number of them would have to be found all over the country. The process of setting up these courts would inevitably take a considerable time and it might well postpone the operation of the Bill according to the timetable envisaged.

My hon. Friend drew attention to the fact that this was one of the subjects which had been referred to the Guest Committee, as did the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central. The Guest Committee is looking into the constitution of the licensing courts. In the first instance, when we decided to put the licensing courts in the Bill for this purpose, we did it in full knowledge that that was so and we realised that, in a way, it was odd to entrust a new function to licensing courts at the very moment when they were about to be subject to scrutiny by that Committee. Without committing the Government, I can say that it seems reasonable and logical that any changes which might be recommended by the Guest Committee and accepted by the Government should be applied to the courts as well in their betting licensing functions as in their liquor licensing functions. The courts already deal with licences for monylenders, so adjustments outside liquor licensing would be necessary in any case. If the Guest Committee recommends that the functions should be transferred from the licensing court to some other tribunal, it will, presumably, be possible to cover betting and money lending as well as liquor licensing functions.

I hope that the House will consider that I have dealt as fully as possible with the reasons which we think outbalance the reasons advanced by the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend in favour of the sheriff as the licensing authority in the first instance. We think that the arguments are in favour of the licensing court, and that is why we have not tabled an Amendment.

I hope the House will find the reasons that I have given adequate, but we are prepared to listen to any other argument on the subject.

Mr. Mclnnes

When the hon. Gentleman says that he is prepared to listen to any other argument, obviously it will not be here but in another place.

Mr. Macpherson

What I meant to imply was that I do not think that any new argument has been put forward tonight different from the argument we had in Committee. If any new arguments are put forward, we shall be prepared to listen to them.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

The Joint Under-Secretary of State said that no new arguments have been put forward. That may be so. It seems to me, however, that the main burden of the case put forward by the hon. Gentleman was that our proposal would overload the sheriffs with work. He said that if there were a great volume of work it would be better to overload the magistrates rather than the sheriffs. At another stage in his speech he said that there would be much less interference with the work of magistrates than that of the sheriffs. He seemed to think that if the Amendment were accepted far too much work would be placed on the sheriffs.

I do not think that that is a sound argument in a case like this. What the Government have to decide is the correct method of dealing with such a matter. A very sound case was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Mclnnes) and supported by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan). The Joint Under-Secretary has not given a proper reply to that sound argument. Suppose that the Committee considering the work of licensing courts recommended that licensing should not be in the hands of magistrates and that it should be in the hands of the sheriffs? Will the Joint Undersecretary and the Government then come back with the argument that this would mean too much work for the sheriffs? Again, that argument could not be accepted.

There are very great pressures on public representatives. The great majority of them are able to resist those pressures, but there are one or two who cannot do so. Because of that, in passing legislation in this House we ought to ensure that real justice will be done —justice to the person seeking the licence and justice to all the other individuals in the community who may be affected by the granting or non-granting of a licence.

I do not doubt that the Joint Undersecretary and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland have given consideration to this matter since the Committee stage, but the reply that we have had tonight is still very unsatisfactory. If he cannot give a further reply tonight, I ask him to take into account what has been said and try to find a means of dealing with this important matter when the Bill goes to another place. I am sure that both sides of the House want the same thing—real justice and to prevent great pressures being put on public representatives. I do not mean pressure of business. The Minister realises what I mean.

Mr. Mclnnes

I am not attracted in any way by the arguments adduced by the Joint Under-Secretary of State. He seemed to canalise the position as though it was a matter of the volume of work that has to be undertaken, on the one hand, by the sheriff and, on the other hand, by the elected public representatives on the licensing bench.

If I have any knowledge of either of those duties, I can say quite definitely and without fear of contradiction—and I do not suppose that the hon. Gentleman would attempt to deny it—that there is a great volume of work that public representatives have to undertake, first, as councillors, secondly, as magistrates and, thirdly, as members of the licensing court. As councillors, they have to serve on housing, education and other committees, as magistrates they have to serve at the local police courts and then they have to undertake the volume of work on the licensing bench dealing with licences, permits, certificates and things of that kind.

I am satisfied that initially, under the Bill, there will be a tremendous demand for permits, licences and the like, but does not a somewhat similar situation arise at Parliamentary elections? There is a great rush and the sheriff has to bring in additional staff. Surely, a somewhat similar procedure could be followed to deal with the initial rush under the Bill.

I am reminded by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) that the sheriffs principal had no objections concerning the sheriffs, but that the objections came from the sheriffs substitute. I should like to know the precise nature of their objections, apart from the question of the volume of work.

Mr. N. Macpherson

The main core of their objection was that this was, at least in part, a discretionary matter and not suitable for a single judge. In other words, when a decision is taken concerning a citizen's livelihood, his application and the renewal of his permit, it is surely normal to have more than one opinion.

Mr. Mclnnes

There are many issues involving the livelihood of people upon which the sheriffs make definite determinations and decisions. In almost all aspects of life, in whatever penalty he imposes upon an individual, the sheriff is involved in something which affects the individual's livelihood.

The Joint Under-Secretary is opening the door to practices that he and I and every Member of the House would want to avoid. I am satisfied that the legal fraternity would prefer to appear before the sheriff than before the licensing court, which already is cluttered up with the issuing of permits and licences. I have gone through all the types of licences that they are responsible for issuing.

8.45 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary revealed the further feature that the licensing courts meet in April and October, which are two of the months suggested in the Bill. The licensing benches meet in those months for the specific purpose of issuing the liquor licences. In some instances, they have to sit for several days. What we shall be doing is again to overload them with licences for bookmakers' permits and things of that kind. I think that it is grossly unfair to public representatives, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Scotland, will give further thought to all that is involved. If they do that, I am satisfied that they will make arrangements for the Bill to be amended in another place to meet our wishes.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Vosper

I beg to move in page 25, line 25, after "particulars" to insert: and, if the application is for a permit, give such references". Perhaps, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we might consider this Amendment together with the Amendments in page 29, lines 10 and 27. These Amendments cover a matter which was discussed in Committee. When I was pressed to provide for the submission of references by applicants for bookmakers' permits I was at first inclined to resist the pressure because I felt that the references might be of little value. The Committee, however, was quite clearly of the opinion that references should be provided, and these Amendments meet that point.

The Amendment will require references to be submitted and for the conditions to be subscribed in accordance with the First Schedule. The subsequent two Amendments make it quite clear that justices can refuse an application for a permit either because they think that the references are inadequate or, as originally they had power to do, because irrespective of the references they consider that the person is not a fit and proper person to hold a permit. Therefore, we have reinforced the original provisions of the Bill—which gave the justices power to refuse an application because they thought that the applicacant was not a fit and proper person— by the requirement that the applicant shall provide references. That, I hope, will meet the views of those Members of the Committee who wanted this additional safeguard inserted in the Bill.

Mr. Fletcher

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for putting down the Amendment because, as he said, by doing so he is meeting the viewpoint, which my right hon. Friend and I and others expressed in Committee, that it would be desirable that applicants should file references and that the authorities should be able to refuse the applications if they were not satisfied that satisfactory evidence had been supplied.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Vosper

I beg to move, in page 26, line 7, to leave out "appointed as aforesaid" and to insert: of the meeting of the authority at which the application will be considered". Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the Amendment in line 13. These Amendments arise out of a point raised in Committee by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) with regard to the hearing of applications for permits or licences. He was desirous that some public notice should be given of the hearing for these permits and licences. These two Amendments empower and instruct the licensing justices to display a notice seven days in advance outside the court house or place where the hearing is to take place. I hope that this will meet the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Ede

It is important that this point should present no difficulty in the administration of the law and that we should ensure that those people who are reasonably interested in the matter can find out all they want to know about the time and place of the meeting. I thank the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 13, after "and", insert: also cause notice of that meeting to be displayed at the place where the meeting is to be held in a position where the notice may conveniently be read by members of the public; and ".—[Mr. Vosper.]

Mr. Vosper

I beg to move, in page 26, line 15, at the end to insert: from the appropriate officer of police, the appropriate local authority or any other person ". We might take this together with the Amendment in page 27, line 23, leave out "any" and insert: the appropriate officer of police the appropriate local authority or any other ". This again is in response to a point raised in Committee by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He had some doubts about the position of the local authority which was defined in the First Schedule. I said then that the intention was that the local authority would have the right to object to any application. I thought that he was uncertain whether there was sufficient authority in the Schedule for the local authority to object and for it to incur expenditure. I promised to consult the local authorities. They were a little uncertain about the matter. To make things quite certain these words are proposed to be inserted to empower local authorities to object and to incur expenditure.

The reference to the police is put in this form in the Amendment because it might be thought that otherwise a chief officer of police did not likewise have similar powers. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) wondered whether the local planning authority should not be consulted at the same time. When planning was discussed between the local authorities and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, this was put to them, but in view of the changes that are to be made in planning law they decided that they did not need to take advantage of this provision.

Mr. Ede

Once again, I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has removed all doubts in this matter. This will add to the certainty with which all parties can proceed in a particular part of the matter where doubts might have been very damaging to good public administration.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Vosper

I beg to move, in page 26, to leave out lines 23 to 27 and to insert: satisfies the authority—

  1. (a) that he is carrying on, or proposes to carry on, business on his own account as a bookmaker wholly or mainly within an area comprised in or adjoining the authority's area; and
  2. (b) that he or a predecessor in title to that business was so carrying on that business during the whole or a substantial part of the period of twelve months ending with second day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine."
The Amendment arises from discussion in Committee of a point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South-end, East (Mr. McAdden). Hon. Members will recollect that a preference is given to bookmakers who were in business for a period before the coming into operation of the Bill. My hon. Friend asked whether if a bookmaker died during that period his preference could be extended to his widow. I promised to examine the point. The Amendment goes a little further. It extends the preference not only to his widow but also to his offspring or to any person to whom he may have disposed his business. It will apply not only to the bookmaker who dies during the period in question but also to the bookmaker who retires from business. We think that it is a reasonable change to make.

In the second part of the Amendment the word "substantial" occurs. That is because it could so happen that the bookmaker was ill for part of the year of preference and was unable to carry on his business and it seemed unfair that on that account he should lose his preference. That was not a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South-end, East, but it is one which we have thought right to incorporate in the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 27, line 23, leave out "any" and insert: the appropriate officer of police the appropriate local authority of any other".

In line 10, after "(a)", insert: they are not satisfied that the applicant is, or ".

In line 27, after "if", insert: they are not satisfied that the applicant is, or".—[Mr. Vosper.]

Mr. N. Macpherson

I beg to move, in page 29, line 41 to leave out " in Scotland ".

Perhaps it may be convenient, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if we also consider with this the following Amendment, in page 29, line 42, leave out " in its application to Scotland".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That would be convenient.

Mr. Macpherson

In the Bill as introduced the delay in bringing into force the power to cancel a permit in the case of a conviction under Clause 8, relating to the keeping of an illegal betting office, was confined to Scotland but it was extended in Committee to England by an Amendment, as a result of the disclosure of the fact that illegal betting offices were not the perquisite of Scotland but were also known in England. This Amendment would no doubt also have been made in the Committee had it not been that we took the First Schedule before we reached Clause 8.

The effect of the Amendment is to extend to England as well the duty of the appropriate authority to disregard any conviction for an offence under subsection (2) of Section 1 of this Act, which relates to the illegal use of permits for cash betting, before the day appointed for the purpose of Section 6. It is thus doing more or less the same thing as was done in Committee in respect of Clause 8.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 42 leave out "in its application to Scotland".—[Mr. N. Macpherson.]

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher

I beg to move, in page 30, line 17, at the end to insert: (iv) that planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 and 1959 for the development of the premises as a betting office has been granted or is deemed to be so granted or that no such permission is required in respect thereof. The Amendment deals with a point which was discussed in Committee but was left in a rather unsatisfactory position. We are all anxious to know whether, before an applicant's application is considered by the licensing authority, he should have obtained permission from the planning authority under the Town and Country Planning Acts. An applicant will want to know whether he should first go to the local authority and obtain planning permission or go to the licensing authority and get its permission on the ground that he is a suitable applicant before endeavouring to obtain planning permission in respect of the premises which he wants to open as a betting office.

As I understand it, both permissions will be required. In reply to a Written Question the right hon. Gentleman has made a statement with regard to the change of user position which is satisfactory as far as it goes. My view—and it is shared by local authorities—is that the planning considerations involved in the siting of betting offices are of such importance that planning authority should be obtained before an applicant gets his licence. I hope that that view will be accepted by the Government. If so, effect can be given to it by accepting the Amendment.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

The Amendment appears to raise a matter of great importance. I am not sure that I agree with its terms, but I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) that we should be informed a good deal more about the Government's intention in this connection, because the way in which the Bill will work depends to no small extent upon the way in which the licensing law and the planning law are properly dovetailed. I raised this question in the Second Reading debate; indeed, I believe I was the first to do so. The Government have been an unconscionable time making up their mind, or announcing what they have made up their mind to do, and I hope that we shall get a fairly full statement this evening.

I assume that it will be decided that betting offices are to be put into an entirely separate class for planning purposes. It would be wrong to classify them either with shops or with offices. They are neither, and if they were lumped in with either it might lead to difficulties. I also assume that it is necessary to have both a licence, under the Bill, and planning permission, under the Town and Country Planning Acts, in respect of each betting office, because separate considerations affect the two classes of permit. The justices will have to decide upon the suitability of the applicant, which is certainly not a planning consideration, and also the suitability of the office, from an internal point of view—that is to say, whether it complies with the provisions of this Measure and is generally suitable as an office. The planning authority, on the other hand, will have to decide upon the suitability of the site itself.

It seems to me that these two decisions may be in conflict with one another. The obvious example is where it is proposed that there should be a betting office next door, for example, to a youth hostel or a chapel. That decision is primarily a planning decision. On the other hand, I think it also falls within the terms of the Bill, and I should like to know from the Government whether that decision will rest with the justices or with the local planning authority, because I think it is quite important that we should know who is going to decide that sort of question.

I am not suggesting that it would not be fairly easy to reconcile this sort of conflict by the new planning orders which will be made, but I should like to know how they are to be reconciled. On the other hand, I think that there is one aspect of this matter which cannot be dealt with simply by a new planning order, and which indeed would not be cared for by this Amendment, though the Amendment would go some way towards doing it. That is the period when the scheme is being brought into operation—the period of the first year after this Bill comes into operation, but before all the betting offices are started up. That applies most particularly to those areas in the South of England where there have been no betting offices of an illegal kind up to now.

By the First Schedule to the Bill, paragraph 20 (1, b, ii), justices may refuse an application on the ground that the grant … would be inexpedient having regard to the demand for the time being in the locality for the facilities afforded by licensed betting offices and to the number of such offices for the time being available to meet that demand … In other words, the justices have to fix the number of betting offices that there will be in their areas. By paragraph 8 of the same Schedule, the one which we have just amended, though I should like to draw the attention of the House to its terms, because they are very important in this connection, special provisions are made for the transitional period—the period of bringing the scheme into operation. I will read the words unamended, as the Amendments do not affect this issue at all: The appropriate authority shall not consider any application for the grant of a betting office licence before the appointed day and shall not grant any such application made before that day until they have considered all such applications so made; and for the period of one year commencing with that day the appropriate authority shall, in granting betting office licences, give preference over any other applicant to the Board and to any person who during the whole of the period of twelve months ending with the second day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, was carrying on business on his own account as a bookmaker wholly or mainly within an area comprised in or adjoining the authority's area. That is the whole provision in this Bill dealing with this transitional period, and I think it is insufficient and will require some addition.

Let us take the case of the large village or small town, the sort of area where one betting shop will be what is needed, an area which is now catered for by one bookie, or bookie's agent, in a newspaper shop. That person will apply to the justices for a licence and will be entitled to preference, so that no one else will be able to get a licence. On the other hand, if he is carrying on business in the sort of typical small village shop which I know, he will be quite unable to meet the other provisions of the Bill and to obtain planning permission to carry on in those premises. Someone else, possibly the agent of a more substantial bookie from a greater distance away, may get planning permission in respect of some other premises in the town.

There is a direct conflict and I do not see how it is easily reconciled. On the whole, it is a problem which may be covered in the case of a small town, but in the larger towns there will be enormous difficulty, and I am now thinking of the sort of town where half-a-dozen or a dozen betting offices will be required. All sorts of people will be applying, some for betting office licences and others for planning permission. Even if it is said that one application is to be made before the other, how will the two be tied up? It will be quite troublesome to obtain planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Acts for any premises to be used for betting purposes and the whole thing may be wasted if subsequent applications to the justices fail, either because of these transitional provisions, or because the justices say that they have already granted enough such licences.

There must be some machinery for tying together the two ends. We need something, not necessarily so elaborate, in the nature of the legislation dealing with licensed premises in new towns, which on the whole has worked quite satisfactorily.

I have spoken at some length on the subject because I think that it is important. I have never disguised the fact that I do not like betting offices and would have preferred another system. However, having accepted them, I want them to work. If they are to work, they have to be brought in smoothly. If there is a failure at the start, I fear for the ultimate success of the scheme. I beg the Government most carefully to reconsider the matter and to do what is necessary to bring in the scheme smoothly, so as to reconcile these two different and difficult considerations.

Mr. Ede

I support the Amendment, but I also support the proposals made towards the end of his speech by the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), and I hope that in another place the Government will take advantage of the presence of the Lord Chancellor to make such changes. During the war, the present Lord Chancellor, when my now noble Friend Lord Morrison, who was then Home Secretary, was indisposed, presented to the House and carried through provisions fox licensing planning under which the blitzed towns have ever since had their licensing provisions made.

9.15 p.m.

The problem which confronts the Government in this matter is not dissimilar from the problem which confronted them in the circumstances which led the present Lord Chancellor to promote the Bill which I have mentioned. This would mean a joint committee composed of an equal number of representatives of the licensing justices and members of the local planning authority. The committee would meet, under a chairman to be appointed by the Secretary of State, to lay out the area covered by the committee with betting shops. The number, the situation and the general suitability of the arrangements would be settled by the committee.

This has worked exceedingly well in the layout of the towns brought within the purview of the Measure. I think it is the only satisfactory way to reconcile the conflicts which are likely to arise, and which have been described by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) and by the hon. baronet the Member for Hendon, South. The representatives of the two bodies sitting together and with their feet under the same table would argue out the matter. Exactly who makes the final proposal which is accepted will never be recognised probably even by those taking part in the discussions. It is a workmanlike way in which to do the job. It would remove a great deal of friction and irritation, and ensure that in the end the public got what resulted in the way of facilities from the best consideration by both sides to the arrangement. I hope that the Government will persuade the Lord Chancellor to bring his mind to bear on the problem, and I am quite sure that if that happens they will have the same success as attended his efforts in the earlier Measure to which I have alluded.

Mr. N. Macpherson

This is an important matter and in replying I feel that I must address myself in the main to the Amendment, although I have taken careful note of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) and by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). I shall return to what they have to say.

As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Islington, East, since the Committee stage an announcement has been made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to the effect that a separate category is to be established in the Use Classes Order for betting offices. Regarding planning permission, clearly we must adjust whatever we do within the framework of the planning Acts. Under the planning Acts what determines whether a separate planning permission is required is whether or not there is a material change of use. Whether planning permission is required to change an existing office to a bookmaker's office depends on whether there is a material change of use. An existing office used for betting purposes might not require planning permission on the ground that the change would not in itself be material. The Amendment that has been moved recognises that there will be some cases in which there is no material change of use.

Mr. Fletcher

If a new category is to be introduced, does that mean that anything which changes into the new category will involve a new classification?

Mr. Macpherson

I was trying to deal with the Amendment before us. It says: that planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947 and 1959, for the development of the premises as a betting office has been granted or is deemed to be so granted or that no such permission is required in respect thereof. Of course, the condition in which no such planning permission is required in respect thereof is where there is no material change of use. There will be some cases where there is no material change of use, but the difficulty under the planning Acts is that it is not until that matter is decided by the planning authorities—and it may go on appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in Scotland or to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in England or to the courts on a point of law—that one can know definitely whether there is or is not a material change of use.

What the Amendment presupposes is that the licensing authority will satisfy itself either that planning permission has been granted or that it is not needed. Where planning permission is not needed it can do so in two ways only. The first is if the planning authority gives a certificate that planning permission is not necessary. There is no machinery for that at present. It is up to the individual who wants to carry out some development to decide, in the first instance for himself, whether an application to the local planning committee is necessary, and to proceed accordingly. The alternative is that the licensing authority would have to decide itself that planning permission was not needed. I cannot quite decide which of these alternatives the hon. Member had in mind, 'but certainly the licensing authority would not be competent to make that decision itself. So, clearly, the second alternative is not appropriate in that case.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Surely the position would be that this would be dealing with both grant and renewal? In the case of an original grant, for this is a separate use class, there would by definition be a change of use. If it is an application for renewal, there would not be a change of use because, by definition, it would be the same use. Is that not correct?

Mr. Macpherson

If the premises are at present being used for the purposes of betting, then it may be that there is not a material change of use. What I am saying is that at the present time there may not be the necessity for planning permission. That being so, it is not the case that an application must be made to the local planning authority in every case. So we have this initial difficulty which I am pointing out, that either a certificate would have to be obtained from the planning authority that no planning permission was necessary, in lieu of planning permission, or alternatively, the licensing authority in considering and making up its mind and satisfying itself on the point would have to be satisfied itself and reach a decision that planning permission was not necessary, if it had not been obtained. That I am saying is outside its competence. That is a matter for the planning committee itself to decide, and nothing but the planning committee can decide it. The licensing authority could not decide it.

To justify a new departure in procedure such as an application to the planning authority for a certificate that planning permission was not necessary in every case, it would be necessary to show that the Bill is introducing circumstances without precedent, but there is nothing new about requiring a licence and a planning permission from two different authorities. Applicants for liquor licences and licences to sell petroleum spirit already have to do that, and it appears that the resulting inconvenience is not intolerable. There is no order of priority in those cases; there are two hoops, and both have to be passed through. Of course it might help the licensing authority, I agree, to know whether planning permission had been granted, but from the experience of liquor and petroleum spirit licensing it does not seem at all essential that it should have been granted in advance, because there are these two separate procedures going side by side under two separate sets of legislation.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

In the case of current year-to-year licensing, what my hon. Friends says is true, but in the case of liquor licensing, where a new start has to be made, as it were, in both the case of the Act referred to by the right hon. Gentleman and the Act to which I have referred, there has to be separate machinery.

Mr. Macpherson

I appreciate that, but this is not what the Amendment does. The Amendment would not set up the special machinery. I have taken the most careful note of what my hon. Friend said, but I am bound to address myself to the Amendment.

It might be an embarrassment for a planning authority to be asked to consider granting planning permission for the use of premises which had already been given a betting office licence. I recognise that for bookmakers at present engaged in street betting there may be cases of difficulty in finding premises in time, and it might be that the betting office licences were granted before the planning permission. On the other hand, it would be at least as much an embarrassment for the licensing authority to be asked to consider giving a betting office licence for premises which had perhaps been granted planning permission by the Minister on an appeal from the local planning authority. That would be just as much an embarrassment to the licensing authority and would inhibit its choice just as much as, perhaps even more than, the other way round.

Apart from other considerations, the Amendment would undoubtedly prolong the process of getting the two permissions in many cases. Each application might take as long as three months. If either were to be taken to appeal, the time would be very much longer, and in the extreme case of an application under the Amendment which went first to the planning authority, and from the planning authority on appeal to the Minister, where it was granted, and then went to the licensing court, and went on appeal in Scotland to the sheriff, there would be a very prolonged procedure indeed.

If there were any great advantage in the Amendment, such a delay might be acceptable and regarded as regrettable but unavoidable, but we see no such advantage, because the same kind of procedure as we have suggested has long applied, and there have been two separate hurdles to be crossed, both in respect of petroleum spirit licensing and in respect of liquor licensing. We do not see that it is necessary to evolve this new procedure. We think that it would be much better to allow the two procedures to go on separately as they are doing in the other two cases under totally separate legislation.

9.30 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South was not in the House when my right hon. Friend dealt with the time which may be taken before we get the licensing procedure into effect. It is likely to be a year from now at any rate. Already we know that bookmakers are making such provision as they can and are looking forward to getting their premises. They will be able to make planning application well in advance.

It may be said that it would make it all the easier in some cases for planning permission to be obtained first before permission was obtained from the licensing board for a licensed betting office. On the other hand, there is no reason to hold up an application to the licensing court, and there might be severe prejudice at a later time for someone who experienced great difficulty in finding suitable premises and ran hard up against the end of the year to which my right hon. Friend referred. If at that stage he had first to obtain planning permission before he got his betting office licence, he might miss the boat altogether of the preference—

Mr. Fletcher

Why? I do not quite understand the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Macpherson

Because the year might have elapsed before he had actually obtained planning permission, and he might be severely prejudiced in that way.

We have made special provision to ensure that bookmakers who operate locally just now should have priority. We attach importance to that provision, and we think that it would be a mistake to put those bookmakers in jeopardy by insisting that they got planning permission first.

For all those reasons, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment made: In page 31, line 33, leave out " as to " and insert " of ".— [Mr. Vosper.]