§ Order for Second reading read.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill is part of our general programme, which we hope to complete during this Parliament, of revising our social legislation in the light of present-day conditions. Licensing law, like the betting and gaming law to which we gave very full consideration last Session, has a very long history, and over the centuries the pendulum has swung between a rigid form of control, or attempts at it, and periods of laxity in the law and its enforcement.
Thus, in the late Tudor and early Stuart periods, the central Government through the Privy Council, constantly enjoined upon the local justices the suppression of "unnecessary alehouses", and the Webbs, in their "History of Licensing in England", sayIt is clear that drastic and often arbitrary action was taken.To jump rapidly through history, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century Parliament was concerned with the social evils arising from the excessive drinking of spirits and, in particular, of gin. Then the law oscillated between the extremes of allowing anyone to distill and retail spirits from homegrown corn, and an Act of 1736 prohibiting the sale of spirits except under a licence costing the very substantial amount, for those days, of £50 a year.
This Act was simply ignored by everyone and could not be enforced despite the penalty of transportation for persons who rescued offenders against the Act or assaulted informers. The Commissioners of Excise themselves reported thatthe law is odious and contemptible.At last, the law on spirits was brought under proper control. In an Act of 1830, known as "The Duke of Wellington's Act", Parliament decided to try the experiment of free trade in beer. A fortnight after the passage of 33 that Act, Sydney Smith, renowned for his idealism, who, previously, had been a strong advocate of it, wrote:Everybody is drunk. Those who are not sinking are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state.It was nearly forty years later that Parliament repented of the free trade experiment and again brought the sale of beer under the control of the licensing justices.
I shall be referring in more detail, as pass through the provisions of the Bill, to the question of permitted hours for the sale of drink. I would only mention here that, historically, the pattern has varied between no restrictions at all, except for a break during the hours of church services on Sundays, and the very short hours of 12 noon to 2.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. laid down in regulations during the First World War.
I think that, after making allowance for the very different social and economic conditions of earlier days, this very brief historical survey demonstrates rather strikingly that there is no merit in controls which are too rigid and extreme to command public support. On the other hand, social problems cannot be solved by the application of academic, economic or other theories which happen to be in vogue at the time. Therefore, in our legislation today the aim must be to strike a right balance between the restraints which are still necessary to prevent abuse or social mischief and the legitimate demands for individual freedom of choice and behaviour in an adult and responsible society.
I took the opportunity as long ago as 29th January this year to outline the main proposals which I thought a licensing Bill should contain, and so I have been able to draft the provisions of the Bill in the light of criticisms made over this year. But, on the whole, the reaction has been good. We are ready to discuss and amend the details in Committee.
It is sometimes fashionable to base a Bill on the report of a commission or committee of inquiry, but in this case, as I said in that debate on the licensing laws in January, we like to feel that… we have this matter well in hand under our own roof in Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1960; Vol. 616, c. 560]34 Therefore, we are putting forward our proposals as a result of a variety of consultations and no doubt the House will want to know that there has been very full consultations with interested bodies in the widest sense of that word.
We have had a great number of proposals, comments and discussions from and with a wide range of ordinary public opinion as well as experts in the field, and a number of hon. Members have been good enough to let me have their views individually. All these have been very helpful. In particular, we have had the views of the licensed trade organisations, but we have not forgotten that this is a matter upon which the consumer has views. I would say that as a result of this wide variety of interests—and I say this with absolute conviction—this is not a Bill promoted by interests, but rather is a Bill to suit the general interest, and that is why the reaction to it has been comparatively good and, on the whole, favourable, considering the problem of introducing an amendment of the licensing laws.
As for the general details, the Bill, like ancient Gaul, is divided into three parts. These are, first, the general law relating to licensing, then the permitted hours for the sale of drink, and then the registered clubs. It is into these three parts that the Bill as printed falls. I should like to deal, first, with the general licensing system, that is, the long-established control by the licensing justices over the sale by retail of intoxicating liquor for consumption whether on or off the premises.
I think that, on the whole, the House will be agreed that this system continues to serve its purpose admirably, with the one exception that the present law does not differentiate between an application for a licence for a restaurant or residential establishment without public bars and an application for a licence for an ordinary public house.
Here, I think, the Bill makes more of a change than has been realised. We have decided that in modern conditions it is right that a person with a good character and suitable premises who wishes to be able to meet the demands of his customers for a drink with a meal, or the demand of residents in an hotel or boarding house, should be able to see that they enjoy the same facilities for 35 having a drink that they would have in their own homes. Accordingly, Part 1 of the Bill creates the following new types of licence: a restaurant licence for the sale of liquor with meals; a residential licence for the sale of liquor to residents in establishments such as private hotels, boarding houses and the like; and a combined restaurant and residential licence for residential establishments with a public restaurant.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Is the right hon. Gentleman able, at this stage, to define what he means by a meal?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. I must leave that to the imagination.
Licensing justices will not be able to refuse the grant or renewal of one of these licences except on the grounds set out in Clause 2, namely, grounds connected with the character of the applicant, the suitability of the premises, the way in which the premises have been conducted, and the extent to which they are patronised by young persons.
Subject to those points and to another, affecting residential establishments, which I will mention shortly, those licences will be obtainable as of right. This is a fairly substantial departure from the present law and is a liberalising step which will be right and useful. The grant of these licences will be subject to the safeguards which I have mentioned. I must emphasise, in particular, the safeguard relating to young persons. Thus, it will be open to the licensing justices to refuse a residential licence, for example, for a hostel mainly patronised by teenagers, or for a coffee bar or the like frequented by teenagers.
Under Clause 1 (3, b) it will be an invariable requirement for a residential licence that there must be a sitting room in which no drink is served or consumed. That is for the benefit of people, including families with young children, who want to use a part of the premises separate from those where drinking takes place. Those new provisions should help temperance critics, whether lay or clerical. We have heard a good deal from both, but I presume that only the former are in the House.
Clause 3 also ensures that where the holder of a restaurant or residential or 36 combined licence is convicted of certain offences, such as permitting drunkenness or unlawful gaming, or allowing the premises to be the resort of prostitutes, he or the premises, or both, may be disqualified for up to five years from obtaining another restaurant or residential licence, or from obtaining a licence for a late-night café under the Refreshment Houses Act, 1860.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether under this part of the Bill the sale of intoxicating liquor at a certain school near Windsor will be prohibited?
§ Mr. Butler
I would want particulars of the school in question before I gave an answer.
I now come to Part II of the Bill, which deals with the permitted hours for the sale of liquor. There is a great diversity of opinion here on what should be done. In the old days, public houses opened at 5 a.m. for a tot of rum for the early workers and closed late at night. There are few now who think that, at any rate legally, we could safely abolish all restrictions on hours of sale, for the sake of the publican and his family and also for reasons of moderation. I think that we can be satisfied that present needs and circumstances will be sufficiently met by allowing a modest increase in the total number of hours and provision for a slightly later closing hour in those areas in the provinces where there is demand for it, together with greater uniformity than exists at present.
As a number of hon. Members pointed out in the debate earlier this year, it is not a good thing to have a rush from an area with an earlier closing hour to one with a later closing hour. The solution which we propose in Clause 5 is that the present permitted hours system should be replaced by general licensing hours. That was the point which I tried to make several months ago, when I first indicated the lines of reform.
On weekdays, those hours will be in London, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5.30 to 11 p.m., a total of nine and a half hours compared with the present nine, but with no change in the latest statutory hour. Outside London, the hours will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5.30 to 10.30 p.m., with discretion to the local justices to 37 make the latest hour 11 p.m. for the whole or part of the year in the light of local requirements.
The House will note that we have retained the afternoon break, which has long been a feature of the permitted hours system, and that we have made that a uniform period of 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., thus avoiding the inconvenience of local variations in this respect. An afternoon closing hour of 3 p.m.—which already obtains in some areas—will also meet the problem, about which we have had a number of representations, of tourists and others who, at present, cannot get a drink with a late lunch in those places where the mid-day permitted hours end early. The proposed opening hour of 11 a.m. accords with present practice in many areas. Indeed, there are a number of places where it is at present as late as 11.30 a.m.
I realise, however, that there are some areas, including my own constituency, where the present opening hour is as early as 10 or 10.30 a.m. At this early hour, a bullock can be sold to the accompaniment of a comforting measure of "old and mild". If there is strong opinion in the House that we ought to allow some more flexibility about the opening hour, I would not rule out that possibility.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Will the right hon. Gentleman also apply that flexibility to the opening hour of 5.30 p.m., bearing in mind that in some areas, especially London, it would be very much appreciated if the hour were 5 p.m.?
§ Mr. Butler
Those are, naturally, matters for discussion. I have never imagined that we would pass our proposals for permitted hours through the Committee and Report stages without a great many suggestions. I will certainly note what the hon. Member has said.
I must emphasise that in the Bill permitted hours do not mean compulsory opening hours. In fact, they do not mean that under the present law, but licensees have been reluctant to open for less than the full permitted hours, even where they would like to close earlier and no public inconvenience would arise from their doing so. I fully realise their difficulties, which will no doubt be expressed by 38 hon. Members, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will have something to say about that when he winds up the debate tomorrow.
At any rate, we have made it crystal clear in the Bill that a licensee is not legally bound to remain open for the full licensing hours—except where the licensing justices have decided in an individual case to attach a condition requiring him to do so. That is in Clause 7 (8).
Permitted hours on Sundays are already more uniform than those on weekdays in that they are only five in all throughout England and that two must be taken between 12 noon and 3 p.m. and three between 6 and 10 p.m. Clause 5 (1, a) proposes complete uniformity and a lengthening of the total hours from five to six, so that the hours will be 12 noon to 3 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. I have noticed some strong objections to these proposals from Sabbatarians, publicans and housewives alike.
§ Mr. Butler
Some objections have come in to the effect that the man of the house will never get home to his Sunday dinner. Here, again, we shall be glad to consider opinions. This is probably the point upon which we have had most representations since the publication of the Bill.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
In considering the extended hours, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the extra hour which staff will be expected to work, and whether there will be transport to take them home in the evening?
§ Mr. Butler
That is another of the considerations which have been drawn to our attention since the Bill was printed, and that is why I have said 39 that we shall have to give further consideration to this matter in Committee and on Report.
I now come to Clause 6, which relates to the option in relation to the Sunday closing in Wales and Monmouthshire, The House will be aware that public houses in Wales and Monmouthshire are not open on Sundays. That has been so in Wales since 1881 and in Monmouthshire since the First World War. Opinion in Wales and Monmouthshire is divided and there has been a marked reluctance on the part of Governments and private Members to change the law since the time of Mr. Gladstone, so expertly quoted last Thursday by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones).
From representations which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs and I have received, and from other expressions of opinion in Wales and Monmouthshire, however, it is quite clear that, even if we wanted to, this is not a question on which we could remain completely silent in connection with a major licensing Bill. Even if we had put nothing in the Bill, the matter would certainly have been raised by way of Amendment, or otherwise, and the House would rightly have insisted on a declaration of policy by the Government.
We have, therefore, thought it right to form our own conclusions and to subject them to the judgment of the House. Our approach has been as follows. We did not think it right to ask Parliament to repeal Sunday closing and to upset an Act which has been in force for so many years, without any chance for the Welsh people to express their opinions. We therefore rejected the proposal that we could reform this matter by a single Act of the Legislature here. Nor did we think that this was a matter suitable for a committee of inquiry, largely because we did not expect any definite result—that conclusion was reached after a certain amount of sounding.
Our conclusion, therefore, was that the right course was to allow the question of Sunday opening to be decided by local opinion. Of all the methods, local option seems to be the sole possibility and Clause 6 accordingly provides for polls on the question of Sunday opening in counties and county boroughs in Wales and Monmouthshire. Those polls 40 have to be simultaneous and the Clause provides that further polls to revise opinion may be held at intervals of seven years. Han. Members will find full details and arrangements set out in the appropriate Schedule.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs and I have discussed with representative Members of Parliament for Wales and Monmouthshire their Motion on the Order Paper that parts of the Bill relating to this subject should be referred to a Standing Committee of Welsh Members. In view of the obvious interest which this subject has aroused and in view of the feeling about it, my right hon. Friend will be taking part in the debate this evening and will answer points which are raised by Welsh Members and others in connection with this matter.
Pending my right hon. Friend's observations, my only comment is that this is not a Bill applying exclusively to Wales and Monmouthshire. It is of general application to England and Wales. The point of the proposal for local option is that a decision in the matter of Sunday opening should be left to the Welsh people, so the House is deciding on a method of procedure, however strong feelings may be. The Government believe that local option is the fairest method by which the Welsh people can decide.
In the circumstances I regret, as I said at Question Time last week, that we cannot give time for the Motion, which picks out certain provisions and desires that they should be submitted to a special Standing Committee. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members who represent constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshire will be able to express their opinions during the passage of the Bill. We shall welcome their opinions, expressed within this general framework, during the entire proceedings on the Bill
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
May we get one thing clear? The Motion, which stands in the name of myself and some of my hon. Friends, is in order, and if it were passed the relevant parts of the Bill would go to a special Standing Committee. That is a matter which can be decided by the House, so that there is no constitutional bar against the 41 Motion. If that is clear the difference between us becomes a matter of policy.
[That, notwithstanding anything in paragraph (2) of the Standing Order (Standing Committees (Constitution and Powers)), Clause 6 of and Schedule 2 to the Licensing Bill he considered by a Standing Committee so constituted as to comprise all Members sitting for constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshire as if such Clause and Schedule had been a separate Bill, which after committal by the House had been so allocated and that when the provisions committed to the Standing Committee so constituted and the remaining provisions committed to any other Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill shall be considered as if it had been reported to the House as a whole.]
§ Mr. Butler
I have examined the Motion and there is no doubt that it is carefully conceived and drawn. It relates to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 58. It uses the expression:… notwithstanding anything in paragraph (2) …and says that the matter can be transferred in this way. However, the Government felt that that would not be leaving within the purview of the Government a decision which they ought to take. This is a Bill affecting England and Wales. I will leave it to my right hon. Friend to deal with this matter in greater detail.
I now deal with some attractive relaxations in the Bill. I have dealt with Clause 6. In Clause 7 (1) and (2) we propose to get rid of the irritating restriction that a person can only buy a bottle to take away himself from a shop during the ordinary permitted hours. We propose that on weekdays there shall be no restrictions on the hours of sale in the off-licensed premises or in the separate off-sales department of public houses.
I come now to the question of drinks with late night shows. In the interests, among other things, of the tourist trade, and of holiday resorts and coastal places, we propose, in Clause 8, to extend to the country generally a benefit at present enjoyed only by the West End of London—why it should be restricted to the West End of London alone, I cannot think—namely, to allow the sale 42 or the supply of liquor to 2 a.m. and its consumption to 2.30 a.m. with music and dancing in hotels, restaurants and registered clubs which satisfy certain conditions. We also propose—and here we await the reactions of hon. Members—that this concession should cover the period from 12 midnight on Saturday to 2.30 a.m. on Sunday.
In addition, I also propose freedom for a hotel resident to buy a drink for his guest as well as himself outside permitted hours and freedom for hotels restaurants and public houses to provide, for the entertainment of their customers, without having to obtain a music and dancing licence, recorded music or wireless and television broadcasts or entertainment involving not more than one live performer and accompanist. Lastly, there will be a quarter of an 'hour's grace for drinking up after the end of permitted hours. "Time gentlemen, please" will thus be interpreted more freely than the procedure of this House, where the guillotine falls without mercy.
On looking at the penalties—we must not overlook the other side of the picture—we have not overlooked the unhappy fact that drunkenness among young persons has been on the increase in recent years. This is not a problem which we can solve solely by legislation. The fact is that the present penalties for knowingly selling drink in public houses to young persons under the age of 18 are small—a maximum of £1 for a first offence and £2 for a subsequent offence. We feel that there is a case for more severe penalties for knowingly infringing the law. Accordingly, Clause 14 (4) and (5) raise the penalties to a maximum of £25 on a first conviction and £50 on a subsequent conviction and empower the court, where a licensee is convicted on a second offence, to forfeit the licence.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
Does the forfeiting of the licence mean that the individual licensee will lose his licence, or will the premises be disqualified?
§ Mr. Butler
As far as I am aware, this will be an individual matter, because the premises could, presumably, be applied for to the justices by a different individual.
43 We also propose, in Clause 7 (6), to increase the maximum penalty for infringement of the permitted hours provision from £30 to £100, and, in Clause 14 (2), to stiffen the penalties for sale without a justices' licence.
I now come to Part III, dealing with the controversial question of registered clubs. The present law dates from 1902, so I think that it is about time that we had a look at it again. Under the law of 1902, anyone can register a club for the purposes of supplying liquor on sending in to the clerk to the justices certain particulars and paying a fee of 5s. There is no provision for anybody to inquire into the good faith of the club, or even to check the accuracy of the particulars. A club can be struck off the register for certain offences, but there is nothing to prevent it from starting again next day in a new guise.
It has long been recognised that the law is ineffective in preventing the formation and continuation of bogus ill-conducted clubs and it is common knowledge that these exist. On the other hand, we must not get this out of focus. The great majority of clubs are genuine and law-abiding and form a valued part of our social life. I hope that the working men's clubs, the political clubs and the many other clubs that exist will find that our object is to find a way of checking the abuses to which the present law has given rise without detriment to the legitimate interests of the genuine and well-conducted club.
This has not been at all an easy task and I state as a fact that this is the first Government, of any political complexion, which has introduced a Measure on clubs into this House, as distinct from the thoughts about the matter, for over forty years. We have been moved to act by the grave abuses existing in many establishments calling themselves clubs which have become notorious centres of vice and crime. I therefore look for the general support of the House for this section of the Bill.
The Bill continues the campaign that we have all been waging with the aid of other statutes to suppress disorder and similar blemishes in our civilisation. We propose that the present law shall be repealed and replaced by provisions which require a club in which liquor is 44 supplied to apply to a magistrates' court for a certificate of registration and for the annual renewal of that certificate. A certificate will be granted or renewed only if the club satisfies the qualifications which are set out in detail in Clause 17.
The details in Clause 17 amount broadly to these: that the club must be established and conducted in good faith as a club and that the supply of liquor must be managed by its members under arrangements which do not provide for anyone else to derive a profit from that supply or to receive at the expense of the club any commission or similar payment on the club's purchase of liquor.
This has, naturally, led us to give close consideration to the position of proprietary clubs. As I said in the debate earlier this year, some of such clubs are genuine and just as good as members' clubs and have been carried on for years without the slightest ground for complaint. Indeed, the consultations and inquiries which we have been undertaking show that in some cases clubs which started as members' clubs, and where the members still manage the affairs of the club have, at the desire of the members, themselves brought in some proprietary element to the club management. So we do not think that it would be right to exclude proprietary clubs altogether from the benefits of registration.
Accordingly, Clause 17 will not exclude a person making a gain out of the general money or property of the club as distinct from the supply of liquor, bur any such gain may be taken into consideration by the court in determining whether the club is a genuine club. So the court is being given discretion to refuse a certificate if it appears to it that the club is under the control of undesirable characters. This provision is in Clause 17 (9).
With a view to ending the bogus club where people are made members at the door, it will be an invariable requirement that there must be an interval of at least two days between a person becoming a member of the club and his admission to the privileges of membership. We should not rely solely on examination by the court of the particulars supplied by a club. Moreover, a club could satisfy the test of being a genuine members' 45 club and still be undesirable in other respects. Accordingly, we propose to give power to the police, to the local authority and to neighbouring residents to object to the grant or renewal of a registration certificate on the grounds set out in Clause 18 (2).
As the House will see, those grounds are that the club is under the control of undesirables, that its premises are not suitable or convenient for the purposes of a club, that the club does not satisfy the necessary tests for registration, or that it is conducted in a disorderly manner or for an unlawful purpose, or is habitually used for indecent displays, or as a resort of criminals and prostitutes.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Does what the right hon. Gentleman is now saying mean that in future the police will have the right of entry to clubs?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. If the right hon. Member looks at the relevant Clause of the Bill, he will see that there must be a search warrant before the police can enter the club. We did, of course, consider this, but in framing this legislation we have, at the same time, to be quite sure that we are framing it consistently with personal liberty. In Clause 23, the right hon. Gentleman will see that there has to be a search warrant before the police can enter the club.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
In this respect, these clubs will differ from public houses, where a policeman can now enter.
§ Mr. Butler
Yes, Sir. We have purposely drafted the Bill like this. It will be for the House to examine it. That is the fairest way of dealing with the strict proposals that we are making in the Bill in regard to clubs which are far stricter than they have ever been before.
Application may be made on most of the grounds to which I have drawn attention at any time for cancellation of the certificate. Where registration is cancelled, or its renewal is refused, the court may disqualify the premises for use as a club for up to one year on the first occasion and up to five years on any subsequent occasion. The genuine clubs which I have mentioned have nothing to fear from these provisions. Indeed, they should benefit from the suppression of those establishments which, apart 46 from the social mischief which they cause, tend to bring into disrepute the whole conception of a club.
There may be clubs which, although respectable, will be unable or unwilling to adjust their affairs to satisfy the new tests for registration. It will be open to those clubs to apply for a justices' licence. To ease the transition, we propose in the Seventh Schedule that an application for a licence by an existing club shall be treated substantially as though it was an application for renewal of a licence, thus conferring, among other things, a right of appeal to quarter sessions. This bears out what I said in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, that we are attempting to keep the proper sanctions and the proper rights of appeal in difficult cases.
Those are the strict provisions for clubs in Part III of the Bill and I have now been able to give the House some idea, I hope shortly and clearly, of the three parts of the Bill: the general licensing law, the changes in permitted hours and the greater liberalising proposals which we make for many details in connection with the licensing laws and the strict measures for dealing with clubs and introducing new methods of registration for both members' clubs and proprietary clubs.
I hope, therefore, that the Bill, in its three parts, will commend itself to the House. I hope that I have made it clear that there will be wide scope for discussion in Committee, on Report and in the later stages of the Bill, and we shall welcome this. I hope that the main theme of the Bill as a measure of reform in the general licensing field and an endeavour to check social abuses which have grown up will commend itself to the House. I commend the Bill to the House as part of a programme for liberalising our social laws and bringing them more into line with modern conditions.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
The Home Secretary, as he always does, has clearly explained the purposes which the Government have in mind in introducing this Bill. Indeed, he has elucidated a great deal of the somewhat complicated mechanism which it embodies. Much as I deprecate the administration of our 47 affairs by the present Government, they are, nevertheless, to be congratulated in approaching boldly—some might even say audaciously—two difficult, long-standing social problems. I refer to the Betting and Gaming Act, which we recently enacted, and the present Licensing Bill.
I should explain at once that, speaking as I do, from the Opposition Front Bench, I speak only for myself—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."]—and that all my right hon. and hon. Friends equally speak for themselves. The intervention to which the House has just listened was also, I hope, an individual opinion.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I equally think that the Government are perfectly right in taking the view that they are under a collective responsibility for this Measure. It is a major Measure and, in my opinion at least, is one by which the credit of the Government as a whole should be judged and measured.
The drink laws are laws to which people bring the most strong opinions, based sometimes on religious grounds, sometimes on wider considerations, but opinions held very deeply. Speaking for myself, my approach, I would say, is rather a libertarian approach, but, I hasten to say, not a libertine approach. At the same time, I think that it would be wholly wrong to underestimate the great rôle that has been played throughout the centuries in building up British character in its best and most humane aspects by those who hold more rigid and austere views about private indulgencies of all sorts.
Probably the right way to deal with a matter like this is to try to draw the line between where liberty must end and restraint must begin. I myself would like to see liberty of individual choice up to the very point where restraint must step in for the preservation of good order, public health and public morals. Ideally, no doubt, judgment should be entirely unclouded, endeavour entirely unaided and, perhaps I should add, conversation entirely unenriched by any artificial external stimulus.
Equally, probably ideally, we should all go for a run before breakfast and have only cold baths, but human beings 48 being such as they are, we are burdened by our individual frailties and probably most of us would find it much more easy to enumerate the weaknesses we lack than the weaknesses we possess. In those circumstances, in my view, the Government have made a realistic endeavour to try to trace out a line between what I have said before, restraint and liberty of individual choice and individual action.
I disagree with some of the provisions of the Bill. As to others, I have doubts and I should like further information, but, again speaking entirely for myself, it is my intention to go into the Lobby in support of the Second Reading of the Bill if there is a Division.
I should have thought that years ago, perhaps quite a number of us painted for ourselves a kind of idealistic figure, in drinking terms, at any rate, of the jovial, genial, Frenchman sitting in a café with his bock or demi-blonde, uttering a cascade of bon mots, always drinking in strict moderation because he could drink as much as he wanted, wherever he wanted, and whenever he wanted; but perhaps we should take warning from the anxiety expressed by members of French Governments in recent years on a number of occasions as to the consumption of alcohol in France and from the campaign inaugurated by M. Mendes-France to substitute milk as the national beverage for the French people instead of beer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wine."] I am sorry. In my image of the Frenchman I pictured a long glass of frothy beer, but I should have substituted wine.
In approaching this problem we should quite obviously consider very carefully what the Home Secretary has already referred to, the spreading of drinking habits, particularly among young people, and the effect on behaviour which, I think, we can certainly discern in contemporary times as a result of it. Therefore, in loosening the present restrictions and re-examining the legislation affecting drink, one should perhaps err on the side of caution in spheres in which our inclination would be to go in the direction of a wider extension of individual choice.
It is in that frame of mind that I have endeavoured to examine the Bill, 49 both its language and provisions, and have endeavoured to explore its effect in conversations with various people more expert than I in this particular field of activity. I approach in that light—I hope taking an objective view of it—the first part of the Bill to which the Home Secretary referred, namely, that part which deals with restaurant licences, residential licences and combined licences. If I read the Bill correctly, and properly appreciate what the Home Secretary told the House, this part of the Bill eliminates the requirements that those seeking a licence to sell alcoholic refreshment in restaurants and boarding houses should have to establish a need. If I correctly understand the law, under Section 4 of the Licensing Act, 1953, the consolidating Act now in force, the justices have a complete and absolute discretion and a relevant circumstance that they would take into account is whether an applicant for a licence can establish need. That requirement must of necessity limit the number of licences granted.
The first circumstance to which I would point is that the elimination of that requirement would immensely proliferate the number of restaurants and other places of refreshment in which alcoholic refreshment can be obtained. I do not necessarily say that that is wrong in itself. There is no reason, I should have thought, why, if one goes into a Lyons teashop to have a Vienna steak, one should not have a glass of lager beer, if that is what one likes with it.
I can see a strong case for that as one of the arguments behind the provisions of the Bill. On the other hand, can we contemplate a large number of restaurants which, in future, will be able to sell alcoholic refreshments, so large that any attempt at supervision by the police will be absolutely and wholely impossible? The police have not enough manpower to undertake it, and one supposes that there will be almost as many licences as restaurants exist at the moment.
In bona fide restaurants where one can get a real meal, as I have said, it seems illogical that one should not be able to have a drink with one's meal. I ask myself: what about the position of the many café bars? I do not know whether 50 the premises must be stationary premises, or whether, for example, the stall where winkles and jellied eels are sold would qualify—all sorts of fearsome pictures are conjured up—and whether one is able to get licences for any of these establishments, provided that the proprietor has nothing against him and that there is no obvious defect in the premises themselves.
I put to the Home Secretary, as a matter worthy of serious consideration on Second Reading, whether, in his endeavour to bring some—I hope I may say without complacency—common sense into an area where common sense may seem at the moment to be lacking, he is not opening the door far too wide so that it may be possible for alcoholic drinks to be served in circumstances over which no possible control can be exercised and, in consequence, disorder and other undesirable tendencies may ensue.
I put the question and I do not seek to offer the answer. I would have thought that this was particularly a measure which we shall have to examine most carefully in Committee. Often hon. Members—and I am very conscious of it myself—say, When they feel that they want to run away from the principle of a Bill, that it is a Bill that we need to look at closely in Committee. I do not think that if I were to say that about this Bill I should incur any such reproach. The Bill covers a very wide field of territory and it is particularly appropriate for that.
I have embarked on some researches as to what is a meal, which the Home Secretary has left to our imagination. The only help I could find was that in 1877 Patterson, on licensing, states that there was an unreported decision to the effect that tripe served on plates in a shop where there were neither seats, forks nor knives probably was a meal. A later decision—Solomon against Green, 1955—was to the effect that sandwiches plus sausages on sticks might constitute a meal, but the court refused to say what a meal was and stopped short of deciding whether a sandwich by itself or a cocktail sausage by itself was a meal. So our imagination must continue to roam until we have rather more precise judicial guidance on what "a meal" is.
51 What a meal is is an important consideration in this matter, because it will largely determine the number of restaurants and other places—cafés, café bars and all sorts of establishments—in which drinks will be obtainable in the future.
Those are the considerations that I would venture to offer in regard to the first Part of the Bill. I feel that it may have gone far too wide and that it will need closely looking at to make sure that it does not become possible to drink ad lib in establishments in which it is undesirable that that should be allowed. I leave that part of the Bill on that.
I come now to the second Part of the Bill, which deals with the question of opening hours—"general licensing hours" as they are called. There is, I think, one thing that we will all be agreed about, and that is that uniformity in closing hours is in itself highly desirable to prevent the would-be drinker dashing at the last moment from one place where one cannot get a drink any longer to another place where one can still get a drink.
One comment that I would make on that aspect of the matter is that, in as much as closing hours for London will remain at 11 p.m. and closing hours in the provinces will be 10.30 p.m.—or, if the justices so decide, 11 p.m.—there will still be the rather ugly rush across the border round the periphery of London. Quite how that is to be avoided is a matter which, no doubt, we shall want to consider further in Committee. The accidents which are caused by that kind of last-minute rush will, I suppose, continue to encircle London as they disfigure the countryside over a wide area at the moment.
I should like to say a word about the problem of Wales and Monmouthshire. As the House knows, I am the Member of Parliament for Newport, which is a Monmouthshire constituency, but, as I have previously emphasised, I am simply speaking my own view. I am bound to say that I cannot accept the logic of keeping public houses closed in Newport when clubs are open. That is a view of which I know a number of people will strongly disapprove, but it is my view and I think it right that I should state it.
52 I go on to deal with another aspect, the question of how the matter should be decided in Wales and Momouthshire. It has been said that there should be a plebiscite. My personal view is that the nation exercises its rights of plebiscite when if elects its Members of Parliament and that really it is for this House in general to decide these large issues of social policy. For myself, I feel disappointed at what the Home Secretary said today, that he could not go along with my right hon. and hon. Friends who sit for Welsh constituencies in their desire that this issue of Sunday opening in Wales and Monmouthshire should be dealt with by a Welsh Committee under Standing Order No. 58. There may be technical difficulties, but I hope that that will be much more fully explored, and I hope that the Government may find some way of meeting the desires of my right hon. and hon. Friends who sit for Welsh constituencies that the issue should be decided by that procedure.
If that is not done, if the Government find that there are insuperable obstacles to that, I am bound to say that, in view of the very strong feeling there is in Wales on the question of this position which has existed since 1881 in the case of Wales, and since the First World War in the case of Monmouthshire, I think that there is a case for the course which the Government adopt in Clause 6, namely, local option. Local option either does or may give rise to the most bizarre and inconsistent results, and I simply put it forward for consideration as to whether the results might be more uniform if, instead of having the local option determined upon a county and county borough area basis, it was determined solely upon a county basis. I simply put that forward for consideration; I do not urge it, but simply ask that it might in due course be considered.
Passing from the question of Wales and Monmouthshire and uniformity in closing hours, there are two points on which I would be extremely critical of what the Bill proposes. In this, I not only voice my own opinion, but give the effect of many conversations that I have had with the people who are concerned in the industry. There are three groups of people concerned in the industry—the brewers, the customers and the many people—managers, tenants, 53 barmen, cellarmen and cleaners and all the rest—who have to combine to serve to the consumer the beer provided by the brewers.
Looking at the matter from the point of view of each group, I am bound to say that, reading through the annual reports of most of the brewing companies, I cannot detect any evidence of an urgent need for an emergency shot-in-the-arm for the brewing industry. From the point of view of the customer, I have not discerned any widespread demand for the increase in the hours during which drinking is to be permitted. From the point of view of the third group—the tenants, the managers and others concerned in operating the premises in which alcoholic refreshment is served—I put it to the Home Secretary that there really are very serious objections to what is proposed in Part II.
First, I suggest that if one looks at it from the point of view of those who work in hotels, public houses, and so on, it is quite indefensible to extend the hours of Sunday drinking to 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. The objections of wives of consumers have already been voiced. The increased deleterious effect which it will have upon the social amenities in connection with the mid-day Sunday meal has been mentioned. I do not go back to that, but from the point of view of the tenants and the managers and those whom they employ it is, I submit to the House, quite unjustifiable—and there is no discernible case which has been made out by the Home Secretary—to increase the already extremely heavy burden of work which they have.
There is, in particular, no justification that I can see—again, I speak as a result of many conversations that I have had—for the 3 o'clock closing time on Sunday afternoons, particularly from the point of view of managers and tenants and particularly those of the smaller houses. In particular, a man and his wife who run a smaller house look forward to their Sunday rest after an extremely exhausting week.
If one conceives of the hours of drinking as being as they exist at the moment—nine hours in London on weekdays and eight or eight and a half hours on weekdays elsewhere—surely that is a quite hard working day by itself. In 54 addition, those who run public houses and other establishments in which alcohol is served have an enormous amount of backstage work to do. They have not an eight-hour or eight and a half hour working day under existing conditions; they have a working day of at least twelve hours.
I was told of some of the many occupations with which these people have to charge themselves. I inquired how many bottles of beer, for example, are sold in an establishment of average size. Perhaps that in itself is in a sense rather a fiction, because there is no "average-sized establishment". However, I mean not the big hotel, nor the tiny public house, but the medium-sized establishment. I am told that the quantity of bottled beer sold is, on average, anything between 100 and 300 dozen bottles a week. Outside drinking hours those bottles have to be brought up from the cellars and racked, and after the beer has been sold they have to be sorted out so that they can be carried away by the lorries which come to fetch the empty bottles.
In addition, I am told that in the average establishment, about 15 or 20—though sometimes fewer—barrels of beer are delivered for weekly consumption. Those barrels of beer cannot be served at once. They have to be conditioned, the sediment has to be allowed to settle, and the pipes bringing the beer from the cellar to the bar have to be cleaned by a rather elaborate process. It is most important that they should be kept properly clean throughout.
The premises have to be cleaned. Anything between ten dozen and thirty dozen glasses a day are used and they have all to be washed. Broken glasses have to be replaced, and used glasses have to be collected from the tables after the customers leave. All the books have got to be done and in the case of a tied house the week's results have to be furnished to the brewery company, generally by Monday morning. They are, therefore, made up on the Sunday, because they have to be done after the weekly takings are known.
In the aggregate, that imposes upon the shoulders of those who serve in hotels and public houses a very heavy burden, which I have seen described in 55 the Morning Advertiser and heard by word of mouth as entailing, roughly speaking, a 12-hour day. I am told that in the case of a tenant and his wife in a small house it is, in existing conditions, the exception for them to be able to have their mid-day meal together; generally, one eats whilst the other works. They are already under a very severe burden and strain. I therefore put it to the Government that they should have second thoughts—as the Home Secretary said he might—about the 3 o'clock closing on Sunday afternoons.
Quite apart from that, I put the more general question to the Government: what, in any event, is the case for the lengthening of drinking hours? No doubt the brewery companies would derive larger profits, but the situation of those employed in the industry must also be taken into account. If I am told by the Home Secretary that I am mistaken I shall, of course, accept it, but I confess that I have found it very difficult to think that he had consultations with those who represent those people and has taken their point of view into account—
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would, at this stage, recapitulate the reasons for his proposing to vote in favour of giving the Bill its Second Reading.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I regard the Bill as being like the curate's egg—good in parts, but good in a great many parts. Perhaps I have dilated at too great length and with too much emphasis and heat—if so, I apologise—on those aspects that I think deserve reconsideration, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that that aspect is one on which I do feel strongly, because it has been put to me—I do not speak, I am sorry to say, from personal experience—by those expertly versed in these matters that a serious hardship is being imposed.
Apart from the persons who work in the way I have mentioned, there is the position of stewards in the clubs. They, too, are affected, because, under the Bill, the clubs are allowed to open for as long as the general licensing hours extend for the purposes of non-club use—
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has unwittingly given the impression that there has been great pressure from the brewers to extend the Sunday opening hours. I am sure that that is not so. I believe that that has been put in for the safe of uniformity, so that the House can discuss it.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I hope that I did not give that impression because, frankly, I do not know. I carefully chose my language to avoid giving that impression, because I have no means of judging. Perhaps I was mistaken in saying that it would increase brewers' profits, though that seems to be a matter of reasonable conjecture. But, looking at it from the point of view of those on the other side of the fence, I did not speak from conjecture, because, in a series of conversations, I familiarised myself with their point of view.
I also read the Morning Advertiser, which is extremely eloquent on the subject, and I understood from the Home Secretary that he had received a number of representations on those lines. However, if I gave that impression, it was not my intention because, as I say, I do not know—
§ Mr. Lipton
Perhaps I may remind my right hon. and learned Friend that the Home Secretary said that he had had numerous representations in favour of 3 o'clock closing on Sunday, though he did not give any details—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Has my right hon. and learned Friend had any evidence from anyone—we have not—that there is a widespread demand for 3 o'clock closing on Sunday?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I have had representations only the one way—the representations of those who are opposed to the 3 o'clock opening. I have not heard anybody who supported it, but, again, I might not have been accessible to that point of view—or to those who hold it. It may be that they thought they might be occupying their time more usefully by approaching hon. Members other than myself—but that, again, is a matter of conjecture.
I have only one thing further to say about the position of those persons of whom I am now talking. It will be generally recognised that for one reason 57 or another—perhaps principally because they are employed in different houses—they are not strongly organised for bargaining for wage adjustments. If they were to be in receipt of remuneration proportionate to the extra hours they are called upon to undertake, they might be in a position to choose, but, on the whole—and I hope that I do not tread on anyone's corns on this—I understand that, comparatively speaking, they are not in a strong bargaining position in collective wage negotiations.
I turn now to Part III of the Bill, which deals with clubs. May I at once say—and directly to the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), who put that very telling question to me, which, I hope, I answered to his satisfaction—that I accept immediately that stricter control of undesirable and bogus clubs is an absolute No. 1 priority. I have every sympathy with the Government in introducing what is a rather strict measure of control.
The existing law already provides—and possibly, if I may say so, the Home Secretary was slightly mistaken in what he said—for the disqualifying of club premises. By Section 144 of the Licensing Act, 1953, premises can he disqualified on first conviction for a year and, on a second conviction, for five years. I refer to that because, in spite of the somewhat stringent powers already existing, I think that the House generally accepts that it has not proved practicable to exercise adequate control over the undesirable forms of clubs.
Again trespassing in the direction of the curate's egg, I have also received very heartfelt representations from the respectable clubs and, in particular, from the Working Men's Club and Institute Union, representing about 3,500 clubs. Those clubs are well run and conducted. The burden of their complaint is that, in increasing the stringency on control over the undesirable clubs, the Government have imposed on them a burden that they think will be difficult and irksome to bear.
In particular, the case of the new club has been put to me. It is said that when it is desirable to open a new club in premises which—perhaps because no income is yet forthcoming from the club—are not as ideal as they might be, it will be difficult to convince the justices 58 that the premises are adequate. By Clause 17, a club adopting certain rules set out in the Fourth Schedule is entitled to have presumed in its favour that it is to be run for bona fide purposes and by respectable people, but objections can still be taken on those grounds.
I do not want to take up more time—I have already spoken at some length—but I must put briefly to the Home Secretary that one of the matters we will want to examine closely in Committee is whether the Government have sufficiently distinguished, or as far as practicable in the circumstances—and I have in mind the difficulty of definition which, I acknowledge, must exist—between the case of the bona fide club that ought not to be subjected to more restrictions than are reasonably necessary, and the thoroughly undesirable, bogus club that should be subjected to the maximum degree of suppression and discomfort.
The point of view of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union is shared, I think, by British Legion clubs and by the Association of Conservative Clubs and other clubs, numbering over 5,000 and having very large membership. I simply put that as a point that we want further to investigate. I have travelled over those points that seemed to me to be the most important, and it would be quite impracticable to look now at the whole details of this complicated Measure. For myself. I certainly support its Second Reading.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Batsford (Ealing, South)
I am glad to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), because I want to take up a number of the points that he made. Although this Bill is divided into three main parts it seems to have two principal objects—on the one hand, the removal of a number of anomalies in our licensing laws, and, on the other, very right and proper controls and restrictions on clubs. The Bill is rather a mixture of relaxation and restriction; there is a good measure of compromise about it.
I do not propose to discuss Part III, except to say that, as was mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, there is a danger that some parts of Part I might be used to overcome the restrictions in Part III. We need a very 59 much closer definition of "substantial" and "substantial meal" in Part I of the Bill.
Parts I and II of the Bill aim at removing, at long last, some of the idiosyncrasies and anomalies in our existing licensing laws. Those laws have governed and regulated our lives for as long as most of us can remember. I reckon that anybody who can remember the licensing laws before 1914–18 must be over the age of 55 or over the age of 60 now.
Those who remember those days would also recall the very high rate of drunkenness prevailing before the First World War. I do not believe that it was the laxity, the freedom of the licensing laws then that caused that drunkenness; it was caused far more by the social conditions of the times. In 1913, there were 188,000 convictions for drunkenness; in 1959, only 65,000. I am sure that more freedom today does not necessarily mean that we shall have more drunkenness, but rather the reverse. I am sure that too much control and too many restrictions will encourage drinking, not as a pleasant social habit but as a means of getting drunk—people drinking purely to get drunk. That habit is more prevalent in those countries Where the licensing laws are unreasonably restricted.
I believe that our existing licensing laws are fair and reasonable. In fact, with a few minor exceptions, many of them are covered in the Bill.
Any alteration and any extension of our present licensing laws must take into consideration one factor which was mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport. I refer to the conditions of landlords and licensees in hotels and small public houses. There is no doubt that a much heavier burden is likely to be placed on them if we extend their hours. I refer, in particular, to the licensee, his wife and those who work with him, and particularly the landlord of the small country pub.
It was Dr. Johnson who said:There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced, as by a good tavern or inn.I entirely agree with that, and I believe many other hon. Members do also. But those who may resent from time to time 60 that cry, "Time, gentlemen, please", do not always appreciate the amount of work that the man behind the bar has to do.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman listed in far greater detail than I intend to do some of the work that he has to do. There is the cleaning, the sweeping, the polishing, and the attention not only to the accounts, but to the cloakroom and the car park. All those things have to be done at the end of a working day. Therefore, we ought to be very careful before we extend the hours.
For this reason, I agree that this proposed extension till 3 o'clock on Sundays is a mistake, especially for the smaller type of house. Sunday afternoon is the one day in the week when the publican and his wife can get out. They work a seven-day week, and the only time that they can get out into the country and leave their place of business is between 2.30 on Sunday afternoon and 7 o'clock in the evening.
I also welcome Clause 7 (8), whereby the landlord may close earlier if he so wishes, although I can imagine some discontent arising out of it. I can imagine a tired and thirsty traveller arriving at a small inn many miles from anywhere an hour before the official closing time and finding that the landlord has retired to bed.
There is another point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention, and that relates to Clause 7 (2). Here again, I think that this provision might impose a heavy burden on a landlord who, in addition to running his own inn, has a small off-licence department. In the hours before 11 a.m. and also between 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. his whole place of business is closed. But under the Bill, if he has a separate off-licence department which is completely separate from his on-licence, he has to staff the off-licence department during the ordinary shopping hours if he is to compete successfully with the ordinary shops which are to be able to sell liquor throughout the day. That point should be borne in mind.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned uniformity. There is a lot to be said for uniformity in all walks of life, but I think that the only real advantage of uniformity in the licensing laws is to 61 prevent this rush from one place to another to get another half-hour's drinking. I feel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's fears were exaggerated. If people are running from one place to another to get another drink, the main danger is not that they will get more drink, but that they may have an accident while driving between one place and another.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that in one street in London there are five public houses in a distance of 100 yards, and that two close at 2 o'clock and the others close at 2.30. So one does not need a car to get from one to the other.
§ Mr. Batsford
I can tell the hon. Member of something even more convenient than that. There is a hotel in Berkshire where the county boundary runs through the middle of the bar. All one has to do is to go from one side of the bar to the other at 10 o'clock. The main argument against going from place to place is that it will mean more dangerous driving and driving under the influence of drink. However, I feel that that should be dealt with not by this Bill, but by the Road Traffic Act.
To my mind, the great disadvantage of uniformity is that it imposes the same licensing laws on all these premises whether or not they do an entirely different type of business. Not only do their hours vary according to seasons of the year, but they vary from district to district. There are some people who like to eat early in the evening and then go out for a drink later. There are others who like to go out and have a drink before their meal. I think it is true to say that our social habits are changing to the extent that more and more people are eating later. That, of course, may be due to the influence of television.
Naturally enough, not only does one district vary from another, but there is a tremendous amount of variation in seaside resorts and other holiday resorts at different times of the year. That also should be taken into consideration. Therefore, I feel there is a strong argument for local option on the question of the variation of hours between one place and another, provided that the earliest hour and the latest hour laid down in the Bill are observed.
62 I should like to speak on the subject of "drinking up", which has been mentioned only briefly by my right hon. Friend. This is dealt with in Clause 7 (3). At first sight, this seems to be a very sensible proposal and a wise attempt to get over the awkward moments when the lights are switched out and there is enforced finishing-up of drinks. Many of us recognise that it takes some women a very long time to finish half a pint of beer. On the other hand, I think that many hon. Members would agree that there are considerable dangers in this proposal. In any event, it takes most landlords a full quarter of an hour before they can persuade their customers to leave the premises.
This provision means that an extra fifteen minutes' grace is to be allowed, and, therefore, it will be half an hour before the customers leave the premises. In addition, it will lead to a lot of what is called "lining-up" of drinks on the bar. Instead of the cry, "One for the road", it will be, Have three for the last fifteen minutes." I am certain that most doctors will agree that quick drinking is dangerous drinking, and that that, in turn, may lead to dangerous driving. Nevertheless, I think that a little laxity in the prescribed period should be allowed, but if fifteen minutes' drinking-up time is allowed it will mean adding another quarter of an hour to the permitted hours.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that if drinking-up time began a quarter of an hour earlier, after which no drinks could be served, it would enable people to have the quarter of an hour for their last drinks and the public houses would close at the same time as they do now?
§ Mr. Batsford
I think that we are all right as we are at the moment. We are used to the present time allowed for finishing, and it would be better to leave things as they are.
I welcome the Bill, particularly from the point of view of the extra restrictions on clubs and of dealing with the anomalies in our licensing laws. But we should be careful, in this endeavour to give more freedom to customers, not to introduce a much heavier burden on licensees.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Legislation on the drink trade in the past has aroused very strong party feelings. In fact, some of the bitterest party battles have been fought over it in this House. Today, it does not arouse the same sort of attitude on the part of parties as parties. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary can consider himself fortunate in that, if what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) said is anything to go by, he will get some support from this side of the House when we vote on the Second Reading.
I rather deprecate the fact that the Government Whips are to be put on. It would have been much better if, on an issue such as this, the House had been allowed to listen to the arguments, test them on their merits, and then allow hon. Members to reach their own conclusions irrespective of party ties. Speaking for myself, I want to try to consider the Bill in that spirit.
What does the Bill purport to do? I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman and, like my right hon. and learned Friend, I am obliged to him for the lucid way in which he explained the main provisions of the Measure. I think that we can divide the proposals into two. First, the Bill proposes to check some of the worst abuses that have arisen in registered clubs. Secondly, it purports—and according to the Home Secretary it will do so—to bring our licensing laws up to date.
Like the preceding two speakers, I welcome Part III of the Bill which deals with registered clubs. It is a first step—maybe a timid step—towards putting right the scandal which has been too long in our midst. Many clubs are extremely well conducted. Here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; we all know it to be true, because we have such clubs in our own areas. They have been in existence for many years and they fulfil a very useful purpose. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we cannot emphasise too much the fact that these clubs have nothing to fear from the proposals in the Bill.
However, if I read it aright, not all the undesirable clubs will be dealt with under the Bill. Only those which are licensed will be caught up in the provi- 64 sions which are here laid down. There are clubs which do not need a licence and do not attempt to sell drink, and yet are just as undesirable as some of those which have a licence. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman will have to deal with them in another Measure. Perhaps his right hon. Friend the Minister of State, when he winds up the debate, will be able to assure us that that is so.
There is one gap in the provisions dealing with registered clubs which I, for one, am sorry to observe. There is nothing in the Bill to protect young people in clubs or in bars in clubs. I think that the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches made special representations on this when it saw the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, but no notice has been taken of what it said, and there is nothing in this part of the Bill to protect young people.
I took the liberty of interjecting during the right hon. Gentleman's speech to clear up, if I could, the position of the police with regard to registered clubs. The right hon. Gentleman said that the police would be able to lodge complaints against clubs which were not properly conducted. The only way in which they can do that with any real evidence is to have the right of entry. The right hon. Gentleman told me that they had the right of entry under a search warrant. But they have that now. There is nothing new in the Bill which gives the police any greater powers than they now possess. What they should have is the right of entry at any time if the need arises. Only in that way can they make absolutely sure that some of these clubs are properly conducted.
The second purpose of the Bill is to reform the law, to bring it, as the right hon. Gentleman said, up-to-date; more in conformity with modern conditions; to bring uniformity into the hours of sale. A number of reasons have been given. One of the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman was, he said, "to strike a proper balance", whatever that may mean.
The question thus arises, and I have tried to answer it fairly to myself: are people more responsible than they used to be? Are they more sober than their 65 predecessors? It can be said, and probably will be, and it is implicit in what the right hon. Gentleman is doing in the Bill, that as people have never had it so good now "they are never going to have it so free". But freedom is one thing, and licence is another. What we are doing here is not legislating for the sober people—and I agree that there are far more of them today than there were when gin was a penny a gill, or whatever it was—but for the minority who, unfortunately, and we must face this, cannot resist temptation when it is placed before them. Our problem is, therefore, not that of the moderate drinker, but of the man or woman who never knows when he or she has had enough.
I think that the hon. Member for Ealing. South (Mr. Batsford) said that the legislation and controls now in existence had not played a great part in making people more sober than they used to be. I wonder whether that is true. I agree that television, the cinema, the interest that is now taken in sport, and the greater opportunity for indulging in recreation of an open-air kind, have all had their effect on the habits of the people, but I am yet to be convinced that the fact that this trade is controlled, and fairly rigidly controlled, has not also played its part. In my estimation it has played a great part indeed.
The Home Secretary reminded us that we had a debate on this subject on 29th January, 1960. During that debate the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said something which I thought had a great deal of truth in it. He said that it would be wrong to believe:… that all our licensing laws, despite their distant origin, are so outworn and irrelevant that they must be swept away and that we must start again. I hope that we shall not, as a result of this debate, make it appear that all the licensing laws are nonsense and in need of radical reform.The closer one goes into this, the more it seems to me that there emerges a case not so much for drastic reform as for much remedy in details. … I think that we had better get rid of the notion right away that we want to provide freedom to drink right round the clock."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1960; Vol. 616, c. 516.]That is what the Bill gives, freedom to drink right round the clock.
66 There is not a country in the world where that can be done, despite what has been said to the contrary.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford) rose—
§ Lord Balniel
I merely wish to query the right hon. Gentleman's reasons for saying that the Bill gives people the right to drink all round the clock. It does not. It gives them the right to drink only within permitted hours.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I think that the short answer to that is twofold. First, any resident in an hotel or boarding house which has a licence can invite his friends in and drink all night if he so wishes. I agree that he would in theory pay for the drinks, but there are ways and means of overcoming that difficulty. Secondly, the off-licence part of a public house is not subject to the Shops Act and, therefore the licensee of a public house with an off-licence could, if he were so minded, continue to sell alcoholic liquor all round the clock.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
If the right hon. Gentleman cares to stock up a couple of bottles, he can come with me and drink all round the clock. Anybody can do that.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Before I say any more, I want to make it quite clear that I am as keen on freedom as is any other hon. Member. Freedom is a great concept, but freedom, surely, is relative. There was a time in this country when men carried swords and they had the right to run their opponents through if they had a quarrel with them, and nothing was said. The law took no action. That freedom has now been denied them, and who would say that as a result we do not enjoy much greater freedom as a community?
There was a time when a jerry-builder could build a house in any way he wished. He could put in drains, or not, as he liked. He cannot do that now. That freedom has been taken away, and the health of the community is all the better because of it. Only within the last few months parking meters have been installed in the West End. People are not now allowed to park where, previously, they had done so. Their freedom has been taken away in the interests of the great freedom of the community.
67 In looking at the Bill this afternoon, I want to do so with that in mind. It is my submission, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman must agree with this, otherwise he would not have brought in a Bill which continues many of the existing controls, that control is essential in view of the social problem that we are facing. During the last century every Government, of whatever complexion—certainly Liberal and Conservative Governments—have felt it incumbent on them to pass legislation controlling the sale of liquor. The only question that arises now is: have we reached the stage where we can get rid of many of those controls? The right hon. Gentleman says that we can. I rather doubt it.
Let us look at what the Bill proposes. Consider, for example, the changes which the Bill suggests on permitted hours. My right hon. and learned Friend dealt with this very effectively, and it is therefore not necessary for me to say very much. Under the Bill, the hours of opening in London are to be increased to sixty-six and a half, that is, seven and a half hours more than at present. It is nearly the daily stint of an ordinary worker, and yet, the people who run public houses, the staff, very often the landlord is only a man and his wife with no help, would have to do what amounts to an eight-day week. I think that that is grossly unfair and should not be permitted.
It has been said—I do not know with what truth; the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to it except by implication—that owing to representations made to him the proposed extra hour on a Sunday afternoon is to be dropped. If that is so it is all to the good. Even with the ordinary 2 o'clock closing, with the extra quarter of an hour and the time taken for clearing up and getting customers out of the bar, it will still mean, in some cases, 2.30 or 2.45 before the staff have finished. That means that if the extra hour is added those who run public houses will have the whole afternoon spoilt on Sunday.
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. He stated that he has consulted all the interests that might be affected. I take it that he not only consulted the brewers, but also those who actually do the work in public houses.
68 If that is so, how is it that it is only now that he is beginning to realise how unpopular is this proposed extra hour on a Sunday? It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's inquiries could not have gone very far, or else that he thought that he could override the opposition to the proposal.
If the extra time is essential in the interests of uniformity, why is it that the uniformity could not have gone the other way? Why is it that in the interests of uniformity time had to be added to rather than taken away from the present licensing hours? As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said when he intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Batsford), if an extra quarter of an hour is to be given for drinking up, why could not the quarter of an hour have begun before the existing closing hour rather than from the time of it?
What is to prevent a man at 11 o'clock having a whole row of drinks on the counter which he has ordered before that hour and which he can polish off before a quarter past eleven? As a result, there will be more accidents on the roads caused by motorists who have had too much to drink. It is an awful risk to take and one which the right hon. Gentleman should have thought of and avoided.
A Royal Commission considered the licensing laws in 1929 and Sir Edgar Sanders, director of the Brewers' Society, gave evidence before it. I commend his evidence to hon. Members opposite and also to some of my hon. Friends. Among other things, Sir Edgar Sanders said:The earlier closing hour has been a reform of the first magnitude for the whole country. The last hour in the evening is always the worst, whatever the period of opening is, and to get the streets cleared at least an hour earlier than used to be the case has been an enormous benefit.That benefit has been rashly and callously thrown away by the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not intend to refer at length to Clause 6, which deals with the opening of public houses in Wales on Sundays. Fortunately, Wales is very well represented in this Chamber and I have not the slightest doubt that my colleagues who come from that country will have a good deal to say on the matter and will say it much better than I could.
69 This proposal has taken many of us by surprise. I think that many of us came to the conclusion, as a result of the debate held in January, that provision of this kind was not going to be inserted in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, made some play with the fact that local option would give the Welsh people a chance of saying what they wanted. In nearly every constituency they have already said what they want, because I have yet to learn that those who represent Welsh constituencies in the House did not have this matter before them at the General Election.
It is quite obvious that in constituency after constituency the bulk of the people want what they now have, namely, closing on Sundays. What is there, anyway, to prevent people in Wales getting in what they want to drink beforehand, and consuming it in their homes on Sunday? Such an arrangement would not prevent them drinking on a Sunday and it would still meet the wishes of the people of Wales that Sunday opening should not be allowed.
I think it likely that the four county boroughs in Wales might go wet, and that the rest of the Principality might remain dry. If that happens it will result in the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman wants to prevent. People will be crossing the border into the wet boroughs to drink, and to drink quickly. They will come not on foot, but in motor cars, and that will add to the risks on the roads, because they will be drinking fast in order to consume all that they can within the permitted hours.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is it not a fact that at present people do not have to travel about to get a drink in Wales on a Sunday because they take the precaution before going on holiday of getting an affiliation card for use in one of the clubs?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
That may well be. I have not dealt with that point, but no doubt some hon. Members on this side of the House will deal with it.
One of the difficulties in Wales is that clubs have sprung up overnight. There are now many hundreds of them. It is highly unfair to the publicans that they 70 should use this way of getting round Sunday closing. That state of affairs should, however, not be dealt with by opening the public houses when the majority of people do not want them open.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Under local option polls we shall be left with the option of whether areas prefer to have Sunday closing, but the clubs will still be there—the anomaly will not be prevented.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Before passing on, I wish to raise one more point. [Laughter.] Before I pass on, not pass out.
When these option polls are taken some expense will be involved. As I read the Bill, no limit is placed on what either side can spend on them. There is not the slightest doubt that the brewing industry, commanding as it does so much money and having so much at risk, will spend very much more than the other side is able to do. If the Bill reaches Committee that is one of the points at which we should look, in common fairness, to put a limit on what can be spent when these polls are taken.
Clause 1 establishes three forms of licensing. I do not propose to go into what they are, because the right hon. Gentleman did that for us and so did my right hon. and learned Friend when he spoke. But there is one matter in connection with the granting of these licences which is quite new and revolutionary. It is that for the first time for about four hundred years it takes away the right of magistrates to say "No" if they feel that they should. It is true that on certain broad grounds magistrates can refuse these licences, but the grounds are very broad and they can usually hardly apply when a licence is first asked for. I think that that is wrong. I believe that the magistrates have played a great part in helping to mould our licensing laws, and it is a pity that, through no fault of their own, their powers should at last be so reduced.
I agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. and learned Friend that this Clause of the Bill is far too sweeping. It is possible that a case can be made out for granting a licence to a restaurant when it is providing meals, although it seems to me that we still have to decide what constitutes a meal. This 71 Clause would allow snack bars, boarding houses, residential hotels, indeed all sorts of establishments, to apply for a licence, and a magistrate, at any rate in the first instance, could not prevent their having one. If that is not extending temptation to many young people, I do not know what it is.
It is said that if a cafô, boarding house or hotel applies for a licence and the establishment is frequented habitually—which is the word used—by young people, a licence may be refused. Who is to say what "habitually" means? How many young people must use the establishment as a place or resort before the magistrates are entitled to refuse a licence? If these provisions go through as they are in the Bill, an enormous number of absurdities and anomalies will be created, many of them much worse than some of those to which attention has been drawn and which, I am positive, during the debate will be referred to again.
In my view, there is no doubt that the Bill vastly increases facilities for public drinking. I stress the words "public drinking", because what people do in private in their own homes is no business of mine. I am concerned, as I am sure we are all concerned, with what is done in public and the effect which it has on the public safety. As I have said, the Bill vastly increases the opportunities for drinking. The question that we have to ask ourselves is: do the facts warrant these additional facilities? I assume that the Home Secretary and his right hon. Friend say that they do and that people today are more responsible and more sober than their predecessors. But is that so? Surely it depends how far back we go. It is true that if we go back to what are known as the bad old days there was excessive drinking, certainly among what were called the working classes.
Present-day figures are rather startling and frightening. Convictions for drunkeness—and I emphasise the word "convictions"—in 1938 numbered 54,518. Last year, they numbered 65,187. The figures in respect of people under 21 have doubled in six years—3,096 in 1953 and 6,577 last year. a rise of 112 per cent. in six years. It is now suggested that snack bars and boarding houses should 72 get a licence if they want it. The temptation which will be put in the way of young adolescents is, I think, tremendous and it is a step which we should not take except with our eyes open.
There is another consideration to which I should like to refer—the advent of the internal combustion engine. The motor car is a lethal weapon. It was one thing to get "tight" on market day when a farmer went home in his trap and the old horse took him there without question. Even if the person concerned had no sense left in him the horse had, and if an accident occurred was not very serious. It is another thing to get behind the steering wheel of a motor car and to start to go home after drinking in a public house until 11 or 11.15 p.m. or in a hotel with a friend until a late hour. A person is then a danger not only to himself, but to innocent pedestrians and others on the road, including other motorists. This is something which this House should take into account when considering the Bill.
Deaths and injuries from accidents on our highways last year numbered 333,453, an increase of nearly 200,000 since 1948. In just over eleven years the number of accidents on the road has increased by nearly 200,000. We should remember these figures in considering the Bill.
§ Mr. Hall
This year the toll is likely to be higher. In the first six months of this year 2,999 people have been killed and 115,466 injured. This shows an increase of 8,307, approximately 5½ per cent. Of the 161 killed on the roads during last Christmas, at least 90 had taken drink which contributed to the accidents. How many of the others had had some drink we do not know.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I think I am right in saying that in the list of proved causes of accidents drink comes twenty-second.
§ Mr. Hall
I have quoted the Christmas figures. The other figures are an approximation by the police. Those who have studied this problem will say that they are not strictly accurate, because it is not possible to tell how many people had taken alcohol and, in the 73 case of those who had taken alcohol, to what extent it had contributed to the accident.
I have here a cutting which I took from the Sunday Times a week ago. I am sure that this is a newspaper which will appeal to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. The West London magistrate had before him a man accused of being drunk in charge of a van, and this is what the magistrate had to say:The heartbreaking thing is that this, which puts into mortal danger every man, woman and child using the road, is not even considered disgraceful".Previously, he had said that… if he had committed a small theft it would have meant final disgrace, probably taken notice of by his professional body.".He then continued:Some people have been heard to boast of the number of times they have got away with it.We cannot forget that, in addition to these accidents which we all deplore, there is the knowledge that many people think it no disgrace to be found drunk or incapable in charge of a car. As the magistrate, who has had some experience in these matters, indicated, some people even boast about it.
The Minister of Transport, who is very worried about the increase in accidents and has done everything he possibly could to reduce them, has promised us a Road Safety Bill. The question which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: in the light of what I have just said, and the terrible figures for road accidents, why has this Bill, which increases the facilities for drinking, preceded the Road Safety Bill? I should have thought that any Government in their senses, knowing the extent to which drink contributes to these accidents, would have been only too anxious to take every possible precaution to lower the number by introducing such a Measure as the Minister of Transport has promised before we increased the permitted hours for drinking.
The right hon. Gentleman has made very great play with the fact that he consulted all the interests concerned before he produced the Bill. The Temperance Council of the Christian Churches and other temperance organisations speaking for a very substantial number of people went to considerable trouble to make 74 representations to him. From the beginning to the end of this Bill, there is not one indication that anything which they said has had any effect on the right hon. Gentleman. I for one regret that exceedingly, and I think that during the Committee stage we shall have to table Amendments and, if possible, get them embodied in the Bill.
Convictions for drunkenness are now at their highest for thirty years. Road accidents have increased, are increasing and are likely to increase further at an accelerating speed. In France today one Frenchman dies from alcohol poisoning every 33 minutes. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members opposite seem to find that amusing. What is funny in the fact that two Frenchmen, in just over an hour, will die from alcohol poisoning? I can find nothing very funny in it. I find it rather disturbing that, when that kind of thing is happening and convictions for drunkenness in this country are increasing, a Measure of this kind should be introduced.
I beg the night hon. Gentleman to look again at this Bill and, if he cannot withdraw it, at any rate ensure that very many Amendments will be made in Committee to safeguard the interests both of the young and of those who are older. A small minority is pressing him to produce legislation such as this. I deprecate it, and I shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill with the greatest pleasure.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
Contrary to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), to whom we have all listened with great pleasure, I shall vote in favour of the Second Reading, for reasons which I will try briefly to explain. I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman in detail in his criticisms of Part III of the Bill.
I should, however, like to make this comment on the plea he made concerning road accidents, which I am sure touched us all. I am certain that no hon. Member—the right hon. Gentleman was generous enough to recognise this—is not deeply conscious of the burden of road accidents. No person who drives, particularly on occasions such as New Year's Eve or early on New 75 Year's Day, can fail to be very conscious of the part which drink plays in accidents. Let us not argue too closely precisely where in the table of the causes of accidents drink may stand.
What the right hon. Gentleman surely is calling for is that we should use the licensing laws as a method of controlling drink on the roads. In other words, it would surely follow from what he says that we ought substantially to reduce the hours when public drinking is available, and I should have thought that the logical extension of his argument is that we ought at any rate to attempt to close licensed premises altogether. I venture to suggest to him that that is not the right way of approaching what is admittedly, and is conceded on both sides of the House to be, a very major problem.
I say in passing, since we must not stray on to road traffic, that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport introduces his road traffic Bill, I for one hope that it contains swingeing measures—and I use the phrase "swingeing measures" deliberately—to deal with the man or woman who chooses to drive a vehicle after he has been drinking. I hope myself that we shall see a great extenion of the penalty of the removal of the driving licence in such cases. I will only say, without appearing, I hope, abominably prudish, that I myself have never broken a personal rule, which is never to drink more than half a pint when I am going subsequently to drive my car. That is not because I have doubts about my head, because I come from a long line of lusty drinkers in centuries gone by.
As to the Bill, my only comment on Part I, since we do not want to go into too great detail now, is that I put it to my right hon. Friend that many hon. Members will want to study closely its provisions, and will find themselves, to a great extent at any rate, in sympathy with some of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley has just said, because I for one shall regard it as a pity if the restaurant licence, as it is defined, really means that there is a bar in most ordinary, small restaurants, cafôs, and so forth. I do not know whether I have read this aright, but it seems to me to be so widely drawn at the moment that a bar, as an ordinary lay- 76 man understands it, could be established in such a place. We shall want to examine that at a later stage.
It is undoubtedly, of course, Part II to which so much interest has been directed, and I want to take up one question of principle, for it is, after all, principle which we discuss on Second Reading, on the question of the final permitted hours. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, explaining Part II, uses this phrase:The hours during which liquor may be sold will show less variation from place to place and will be slightly longer than the present permitted hours.Great play has been made on both sides of the House, and I should like to support it, with the dangers which stem from different final closing hours in different parts of the country. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) limited his observations exclusively to London and the London area, but it does not apply only there, nor will it apply only there if the Bill becomes law in its present form.
To give the House a concrete example, in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Emery) which immediately adjoins mine and part of the borough of which I represent, the closing hour at present is 10 o'clock, whereas in my constituency, or the greater part of it, it is 10.30. I know for a fact of organisations of young people who will end their meetings at a quarter to ten, motor out to my constituency, drink legitimately, and moderately, perhaps, till 10.30, and motor back. The result is that they will be motoring out much too fast, in my view, and motoring back when they ought to be walking back. Such a situation can persist if the Bill is passed in its present form. If we have two different sets of licensing justices, the two might, of course, decide under the Bill in a different sense. One would say, "Ten-thirty", for part of Reading, for example; the other would say, "No, we will allow 11 o'clock"—in the area which covers the greater part of my constituency.
Therefore, my criticism in principle is that the Government have fallen between two stools. We should really lay down a fixed terminal hour, whatever Parliament may decide that terminal hour to 77 be. Let us not waste time in elaborating that, and whether it be 10.30 or 11 o'clock. I think the later hour in the terms of the Bill is the better on certain nights of the week; I think it is a reasonable hour in modern conditions.
But let it be stated that there is a very strong case, I have found in my frequent consultations with representatives of licensees over this weekend, for exactly the contrary view, namely, that each individual house should be able to apply to the licensing justices, also within certain limits laid down by this House, for permitted opening hours for a particular house, and I have a feeling that we shall hear that very much more argued as the debate progresses.
I want next to raise a matter of very considerable importance, because, if I may say so, one word, used by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when moving the Second Reading so clearly, has thrown a little doubt into the minds of one or two of us. I found difficulty in putting over to licensees who have been to see me, as, I know, they have other Members, that it is really the duty of a Member of this House to impose upon them very strict penalties if any of them should in fact sell drink to someone under the age of 18.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
That is just the point to which I am making reference.
They to me, doubtless to other hon. Members also, have said that they feel that as drawn this provision is unreasonable. My right hon. Friend in moving the Second Reading expressly used the phrase that they would be so fined if they "knowingly" sold this liquor. I should be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State if, when he replies to the debate, he would make it explicitly clear that the provision in fact is "knowingly". I take it that it stems from the Licensing Act, 1953. I am not entirely certain of my facts here, but if this point could be made quite clear I think it would remove the anxieties of many licensees.
I want to move on to this controversial and interesting point about the drink-up period. I am not ashamed to say that I have changed my mind once already about this. I am now quite convinced, 78 and I find the majority of licensees with whom I have discussed this are convinced, that the principle of the drink-up is a good one if for no other reason than that it brings the ordinary man's practice into line with the law and relieves the police of the strict duty of observing a provision which everyone knows to be really rather nonsense.
I must say, going on from there, that I was attracted by the quarter-hour for the purely practical reason, as one who knows no shame in having been inside many of these places and hopes to go again, that the hand of a clock pointing perfectly obviously to the quarter-hour is something which it is easy to see and perfectly easy to establish.
I must say that a little practical reason like that made me feel that the quarter-hour was a good one, but I think the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley and, indeed, licensees is very cogent, that this drink-up period could go on so long as to become an excuse for another drink. It places the licensee in great difficulty when asked to serve more drinks. I have had it put cogently to me that five minutes or ten minutes—though I find that licensees on the whole prefer five minutes—would be fully adequate for the purpose in mind. It has this advantage; if a man at 29 minutes past the hour asks for three pints which he proposes to drink in a line along the bar, palpably and obviously he cannot do so in the short drink-up period, and is merely abusing the provision. [Interruption.] Before I give way to my hon. and gallant Friend, I must slay that I hope he will not apply the standards of the Navy in his interjection.
§ Commander J. S. Kerans (The Hartlepools)
I was only going to say that in a good many public houses the clocks are kept well in advance of the time.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
The same problem applies whatever the drink-up period is, and I think that one of the results will be—will it not?—that public house clocks will go back to the right time.
To pass to another point, quickly because I know that many other hon. Members want to take part in the debate, and we want to hear as many as we can, it seems to me that not sufficient notice has been taken of the provision 79 in this Bill, clear and crystal, that the licensee may, if he wishes, close for a shorter period than the maximum laid down. There is a point which arises from that to which I want to make reference.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
My hon. Friend said the licensee might close for a shorter period. I think he means "open".
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
Yes, I am obliged to my hon. Friend. The licensee may open for a shorter period than the maximum which is laid down.
It seems to me a very valuable provision. I have heard it said that in a market town such as that from which my constituency takes its name and where we have a remarkable number of licensed premises per head, if anyone once opens at 5.30 they will all be bound to do so. I say to hon. Members who take that view that I find that this is disputed by some licensees. I do not really think it is possible to be dogmatic about it, but I want respectfully to suggest that if the House gives this concession, that public houses may open at different periods, it may well be that this provision will be used much more by individual licensees, provided that Parliament can get round the imposition by brewers of individual agreements which specify, as, I think, they all do at the moment, that the licensee must be openthe full permitted hours.I do not propose to examine that point in detail during the Second Reading debate, but I hope that it is a matter which hon. Members who study the Bill in Committee will look at very closely indeed.
By contrast, there is a detailed point, but still an important point, slightly mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley. There is a very wide power here, and it is this provision that any bona fide resident in an hotel may not only buy drinks for himself but for his bona fide guests. As I have said to one or two of my hon. Friends, if I were the secretary of a rugger club, and if that rugger club were going to have its annual beano in an hotel, I should have a whip round amongst the boys beforehand, and I should book a room, and I should send 80 up my pyjamas, and so I should become a perfectly bona fide resident, and I reckon that the boys would have a cracking good evening with me as their host long after the closing hour.
I think that this places the man who runs an hotel in a very great difficulty.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
With great respect to my noble Friend, it really presents no difficulty at all. This arrangement would take place long before I went inside. I quite appreciate that I must do the paying; but it puts an appalling burden upon the manager of the hotel if he has to ascertain whether or not I collected quietly beforehand the money I am having to spend. I think that my noble Friend rather underrates the intelligence of rugger clubs.
I do not want to offend any hon. or right hon. Member who sits for a Welsh constituency, but my last point is that I am profoundly unhappy on principle about this provision for a special option in Wales.
I believe that it is the duty of this House to legislate. Wales is an honoured and integral part of the United Kingdom. There are inevitably times when we in this House have to take decisions which affect a smaller or larger area, and it seems our duty to do so today. Otherwise we might have a kind of patchwork quilt in passing from county to county or from borough to borough in Wales and Monmouthshire, which surely only the most arid temperance worker could think was an advance on the present situation.
I say simply—though I do not say that it is right—that there is at least as much Sunday drinking in Wales today as elsewhere. On a number of occasions I have had to be a so-called resident of an hotel in order to get a drink. I have done that frequently. All hon. Members know that it goes on.
This is an occasion when the House should decide and come to a view while, of course, paying due attention to the preferences and views of Welsh Members. In general, I believe that this Bill is an advance. It is endeavouring to keep that balance, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Newport 81 rightly drew attention, between the licence of the man who drinks too much and the proper interpretation of conviviality and the ability to take refreshment in the twentieth century. I personally shall support it in that spirit.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I have listened to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken today, and I am glad that we are able to approach this subject reasonably and without high feeling. But it would be wrong for us to believe that there is not a very great deal of feeling amongst responsible people in the country about this matter. They regard this as a bad Bill, containing only one part to which they look with any sort of approval—the part that deals with bogus and bad clubs, and with the penalties.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has reminded us that there are warnings to the House from social workers who are dealing with youth problems every day and from other people who are concerned with the well-being of our public affairs. None of us will approach this problem without bias of some sort. I freely admit my own. I am a temperance worker, and I know that that seems a funny thing in this House. Many people think that to be a temperance worker means that there is something wrong with one. The Home Secretary refers to Sabbatarians, who are people who want to keep Sunday as a day honoured and apart. This is only an indication of the way in which people are bringing in their own bias to this question.
I belong, like the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), to the temperance group in the House. The hon. Member for Wimbledon is, I believe, president of the Band of Hope in this country. I am a vice-president, and I therefore admit to the House that I come with a vested interest—but it is not a financial interest.
A good many Members who have interests in the brewing industry will, no doubt, be pleased to declare their interest as the debate proceeds, and I am quite sure we know where they will be found. They will not be found on this 82 side of the House—at least I hope not. [Laughter.] I may be more innocent than I believe.
I ask: who put the pressure on the Home Department to produce this Bill? Was it the police? Do they want longer drinking hours Was it the brewing industry? Was it the licensed victuallers, who are now eagerly making representations to Members on both sides? What evidence is there that there was a public clamour for reforms such as are initiated in this Measure?
It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who described the party opposite as the party that always has an open hand at the public door. I must say that the party opposite, in bringing forward this Measure, is in perfect harmony with its long tradition of acting for the brewers in this House. [Interruption.] Hon. Members need only look at history; they will soon see. Every big brewery firm in Britain has a financial interest in the Tory Party and shows that interest—as Members opposite know—at the right time, during General Elections. What will be the overall result of this Measure?
§ Mr. Shepherd
Is the hon. Member seriously suggesting that the majority of people in this country take the view that he is putting before us?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am saying that this Bill is in the interests of the brewers and only the brewers, and I can think of no other section of the community which will make the gain that the brewers will. This Bill will be worth millions of pounds to brewers.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
There is another body in the country which will also benefit by this Bill. The Co-operative Wholesale Society is the owner of one or two public houses in the Midlands.
§ Mr. Thomas
That does not affect my argument in the slightest. Increased drinking and, inevitably, increased drunkenness, will result from this Measure. I suppose that the Home Secretary will concede that if we have increased drinking we shall also have 83 a proportionate increase in drunkenness. This is at a time when, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Come Valley reminded the House, drunkenness among young people under the age of 21 is increasing at an alarming rate. Convictions for drunkenness in charge of a car have also increased at an alarming rate, and the figures provided by the Home Office ought to be enough to warn every right hon. and hon. Member that he ought to think twice before he supports any Measure to increase drinking facilities at the present time.
I shall consider one or two proposals in the Bill before dealing with the Welsh aspect. First, there is this proposed quarter of an hour for people in which to consume their drinks. If ever there was a naïve proposal, it is this one. It makes me think that perhaps the Home Secretary does not know any more than I do about pubs. Perhaps we ought to go together to find out if it is true.
§ Mr. Thomas
He is obliging in this, but only in this. I gather that it is the custom to drink the lot in the last few moments. Guzzling is an unkind word but it is sometimes used of heavy drinkers who keep their eyes on the clock. Will they not be tempted even more to keep their eyes on the clock by this proposal? Will they not be tempted, as the barman shouts that the last quarter of an hour is about to begin, to have more drinks? I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is defeating his own purpose by adding this quarter-hour when he might have said that the last quarter-hour of the present drinking hours should be merely for the purpose of consuming such drinks as are on the table.
The new restaurant licences are deplored by the Free Churches, from whom I had a letter this afternoon. The Free Churches deplore the intention of the Minister to create these new restaurant licences which are going to alter the whole of our way of life from the point of view of the catering services of this country. The Minister must know that he is flying in the face of responsible-minded people who have already spoken to him on this point. I am sorry that he has not put a restrictive 84 Clause in the Bill stopping brewers from advertising as much as they do, since drink is such a major social problem today.
Will any hon. Member deny—the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) keeps giggling all the time—
§ Mr. Thomas
He has been doing it all through the evening. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that between 60,000 and 70,000 people were convicted of drunkenness last year. Is the hon. Gentleman aware—is the House aware—that in the prisons today there are young people who have spoilt their lives through drink? Is there anyone who has to deal with social affairs at all who does not know that drink is still an evil to some of our people and that is why it is necessary to have licensing laws at all? This is not a laughing matter, it is a matter which concerns human beings and family life in thousands of homes—I do not exaggerate—in this country at the present time. At the turn of the century when the drink problem was at its worst there were only 209,000 cases of drunkenness a year. Now we are climbing again each year and we have almost reached the 70,000 figure.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Gentleman must remember that I am talking about people whose lives have been spoilt. I therefore believe it the bounden duty of Parliament to move very slowly indeed when it comes to dealing with a question of this sort. I should like to see the brewing industry prevented from advertising and tempting young people to begin drinking. Surely that would not be imposing a curb on liberty. People could shave their drink but it need not be advertised in the way it is, with the special appeal to the young.
I turn now to the Clause dealing with Wales. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and a number of my hon. Friends have tabled a Motion asking that this question shall be dealt with by hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies. I am fortified in what I wish to say now by something said by the noble Lord the 85 Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) in a debate in this House on 29th January of this year, which I believe the noble Lord himself initiated, and in which he referred to the special problem in Wales. He said:… it would not be right for this House to act against the almost overwhelming wishes of Welsh Members in regard to the opening of public houses on a Sunday in Wales."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1960; Vol. 616, c. 510.]He went on—but no doubt he will not want me to continue because that was the burden of his argument, and I hope that the noble Lord will pursue that argument if he manages to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Gentleman has quoted my words. Perhaps I may remind him of the words of, I think it was, Emerson:A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.Therefore, I should have every possible excuse for being inconsistent in this matter, but if I do have the good fortune to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall be able to show that I am entirely consistent on this subject.
§ Mr. Thomas
The noble Lord is making a virtue of inconsistency and he is in good company on the benches opposite. It ought to be sufficient to give him a seat on the Government Front Bench rather than on the back benches.
I turn now to the question of Wales. I am sorry that the Home Secretary, who gives all the appearances of wanting to approach this subject in a fair manner, has behaved in so unfortunate a way to Wales. As the House well knows, there is provision for Bills that deal specifically with Welsh affairs to be referred to those hon. Members who have the privilege of representing Welsh constituencies. In this Bill we are repealing a specifically Welsh Measure which is on the Statute Book, I think the first Welsh Measure for a long period, perhaps hundreds of years. This Measure has been on the Statute Book since 1881 and I should have thought that the party opposite owed it to Wales to let us have a major debate on the Sunday Closing Act and not seek to repeal it in this hole-and-corner way by a Clause in a major Bill.
86 I acknowledge that the present position regarding Sunday opening in Wales is unsatisfactory. I do not pretend that there is not an invidious distinction between the public houses and the clubs in the Principality. That is not the fault of the people of Wales; it is the fault of this House and the legislation which is passed here and it arises because of the loopholes in the law. But what is happening now? Now the Home Secretary—I hope the right hon. Gentleman is listening as well as reading—is seeking to perpetuate this anomaly in parts of Wales. In those parts where the Welsh people elect for Sunday closing of the public houses there will still be the clubs which will be open, and I believe that it would have been far better for the right hon. Gentleman to acknowledge that he does not intend to do anything about the anomaly which now faces the Welsh people on this question.
Local option is not a policy, as I said in a letter the other day. It is a formula of fear, because I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is afraid to face this problem and let us decide the question in this House. I believe that the Government are behaving in a cowardly fashion on the question of Sunday opening in Wales. By saying that they are allowing the Welsh people to decide, they are running away from their responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman knew about our feeling regarding the betting shops but he did not say, "Let the Welsh people decide upon the betting shop question by local option." He does not say to my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, "Let us have local option on the Polaris base"—if he did he would have nowhere to put the missile. He does not say that there shall be local option on other matters of urgent vital importance, so why is he saying that there shall be local option on the Sunday opening of public houses? I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is right that people should have this privilege of deciding whether the public house shall be open or not.
§ Mr. G. Wilson rose—
§ Mr. Thomas
Let me finish this argument and then I will give way. Why confine this privilege to Wales? Why not have a local option for England? There are parts of England—the 87 hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) comes from one and so do some of his hon. Friends so that they had better be quiet, as I know their divisions. If this question of an option for Sunday closing arose there are a great many parts of Devon and Cornwall where the votes would be heavy for Sunday closing—and in Lincolnshire, too.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
What are the hon. Gentleman's observations on local option on the closing of cinemas on Sundays, which applies in England and has been applied in Cornwall?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am trying to be fair, but I cannot for the life of me compare local option on the question of drink and local option on cinemas. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will tell hon. Gentlemen why not; hon. Gentlemen opposite only have to be patient. The answer is this. Local option on drink creates a problem which local option on cinemas does not create. It would be a magnet drawing people from one part to another, if the argument be true that border towns suffer today from people going by car to get drink because they cannot get it in their own locality. Now, the best that the party opposite are offering Wales is that we might well have a dry Swansea and a wet Llanelly, or vice versa.
§ Mr. Thomas
My right hon. Friend knows Llanelly. We might well have a wet Cardiff and a dry Pontypridd, or the other way about. I should not like to speak with any certainty on how the vote would go. I do not believe that anybody is in a position to say how the vote would go, because there are plenty of people in Wales who drink but who do not want Sunday opening.
Then, we may have people chasing from Merthyr to Brecon or from Newport to Monmouth. Is this the sort of prosperous 'sixties which the right hon. Gentleman wants to paint for us? I say to the Government Front Bench that they will carry the responsibility for people dying on the roads due to people chasing for drink from one place to another if local option is allowed to go on in this way. We might as well face it. We all know that the terrible figures of death on the roads which my right hon. Friend 88 quoted will be increased, because when people drink they are not fit to drive a car as well.
The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said that this House is the place to legislate. I should like the Home Secretary to tell me whether I am right or wrong in believing that there is Sunday closing in Northern Ireland. I believe that there is. If so, why does he not give them local option? He knows why. That little group of Members who come from Northern Ireland would soon be joining the Welsh Members on that issue. Is he now proposing to tell the Welsh people that local option—never mind the problem which it would create between locality and locality—is to be persisted in, although he is willing to give way to the trade about the extra hour on Sundays?
It has been my privilege to meet the trade. The licensed victuallers in the Principality have spent a lot of money on the campaign for Sunday opening, and when I met them, I found them, as I expected, courteous people who put their case reasonably to me. They knew my views as well as I knew theirs, but I think that none of us here has a right to fasten his own personal convictions upon the community. I happen to be a teetotaller and believe that total abstinence is the best way. I happen to belong to the Methodist Church, which asks its people to practise total abstinence, but does not make it a condition of membership. That is our position.
None the less, I believe in my heart that this Measure is dangerous for the weaker members of our community, and that we have a responsibility to these people. The strong are well able to look after themselves. I ask the Home Secretary, who has brought a not unenlightened attitude to problems of crime and punishment and other social problems in our generation, to look again at this, because we believe earnestly and sincerely that he is taking a step that will result in trouble and sorrow for people who ought to be protected.
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)
From the speeches we have heard already today, it is apparent that, despite 89 the reservations of some hon. Members, of whom the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is a shining example, the main objects of this Bill have for the most part been welcomed as a realistic attempt to modernise, amend and improve the licensing laws of of this country.
The intention to do this was broadly outlined in the Conservative Party's manifesto prior to the last General Election, and it was also included in the Socialist one as well. It seems, therefore, that prior to the last election, at least, both parties found some measure of agreement in the need for some reform in the licensing laws of the country. As far as I have been able to ascertain, however, none of the party manifestos included any specific mention of the licensing laws of Wales, and for that reason I particularly welcome the form in which the question whether or not Sunday opening is to be permitted in Wales is dealt with in the Bill.
This controversial and difficult question has already been the subject of much debate in Wales, both in and out of political circles, on and off licensed premises, in the pulpit, in the drawing room and in many other places besides. From these discussions among the people of Wales have evolved, perhaps not surprisingly, several different points of view and at least four schools of thought. These are, first, those who think that the status quo should be maintained and that no action is therefore required; second, those who think that the licensing laws of England and Wales should be brought into line without further reference to the Welsh people; third, those who think that this matter should be decided by means of a national referendum in Wales; and, fourth, Chose who think that this matter should be dealt by means of local option on the lines of Clause 6 of the Bill.
To assess the relative merits of these differing views, it is necessary to consider each one in isolation from the others. First, as to the status quo, this appeals strongly to religious and temperance groups, of which there are many in Wales, which on ethical, moral and/or spiritual grounds, have strong objections to the sale of intoxicating liquor at all times, and in particular on a Sunday. These are sincerely held views and even 90 if one does not always agree with them one is bound to have the most profound respect for them.
This approach to the problem might be more effective, however, if there were no sales of intoxicating liquors in Wales on a Sunday at present. But fortunately or unfortunately—whichever way one likes to look at it—this is not the case, for over a period of many years there has been an increasing consumption of liquor in clubs throughout the length and breadth of Wales. We have, therefore, become acclimatised to the somewhat ludicrous and certainly hypocritical position that whilst the man in the street is forbidden by law to buy an alcoholic drink in Wales on a Sunday he has merely to join an erstwhile club, in some cases for a purely nominal subscription, to be able quite legally to imbibe at will during the permitted hours of Sunday opening in the clubs of Wales.
In these circumstances, I conclude that the great increase in club membership in Wales in recent years is irrefutable evidence that the demand for facilities covered by the Bill exists on a substantial scale in some parts of Wales. In these conditions, quite apart from any election promise to review the licensing laws, I do not think that the status quo can possibly be entertained.
Secondly, should the licensing laws of England and Wales be brought into line without reference to the people of Wales? Before the publication of the Bill, when there was a fair amount of speculation in the Press and elsewhere on how Wales was to be dealt with, I felt some apprehension as to whether the Government might feel justified in taking action without some definite indication of the wishes of the Welsh people. It seemed to me that as this was a nonpolitical question dealing with a purely domestic issue, and as the licensing laws of Wales were not specifically mentioned in the Conservative election manifesto, we did not really have a mandate to take action in this matter of conscience without prior reference to public opinion in Wales. I was, therefore, very relieved to find on publication of the Bill that no such action without prior consultation was contemplated by Her Majesty's Government.
Thirdly, there are some people who are of the opinion that, having decided on 91 the principle of a referendum or poll, it should be conducted on a national rather than on a local basis. In theory that is both reasonable and attractive but it just would not work in Wales. The Welsh have a reputation for being a strong, independent-minded people. If the thickly-populated areas of South Wales and Monmouthshire, as it is popularly supposed they may, vote heavily in favour of Sunday opening, communities in other parts of the country with strong religious or temperance principles would complain bitterly and with some justification that they were being forced to fall in with the wishes of a majority who had little or no knowledge of local conditions in their area.
Fourthly, and lastly, there are those people who, like myself, think that local option is a good solution to the problem and therefore support Clause 6. To me the great merit of this method is that the people of Wales are given complete autonomy to decide for themselves whether or not they want Sunday opening, for a poll in the county and county boroughs of Wales and Monmouthshire can take place only on the requisition of 500 or more local government electors. Where requisitioned, the polls then take place within six weeks on the lines of a local government election with suitable alterations, and a majority decision is taken. It is possible, of course, that the large proportion of the county and county boroughs will find that they are of one mind on this matter. If most of them wish to retain Sunday closing, for example, they may do so under Clause 6 while still allowing those areas which are in favour of Sunday opening to alter their regulations.
If the reverse should prove the case. Sunday opening will not be forced on those areas where the majority decides against it. Even in an area where a majority is in favour of Sunday opening it will still be possible for licence holders to contract out of opening on Sundays if they so desire. This can be done by an application for any individual seven-day licence that is granted to revert to a six-day licence. The cynics, of course, will say that in practice the brewers will not allow that to take place, but I would remind them that there are still quite 92 a large number of free houses in Wales and that even the brewers are unlikely to be enthusiastic about keeping their houses open on Sundays in areas where the demand proves negligible. A further safeguard is provided by the fact that if county and county borough electors decide that they want it, further polls can be requisitioned at intervals of seven years in order to test afresh the feelings of the people of Wales.
No one claims that this is the complete answer to the problem. Indeed it would be quite impossible to find a solution that would satisfy all shades of opinion in Wales. The method outlined in Clause 6, however, is a genuine and realistic attempt by the Government to let the people of Wales resolve this sociological issue for themselves. As presumably the objections to that principle are few, the point of disagreement would then appear to be between a national referendum and local option. It is evident from the comments of some hon. Members opposite, both in and out of the House, that in their opinion the people of Wales are so sharply divided on this issue that Sunday-opening areas will be like a patchwork quilt in Wales. Such conceptions, in my opinion, are mistaken, because I believe that we shall find a considerable majority either in favour or against Sunday opening. If this proves correct, local option will enable some regard at least to be paid to decisions in minority areas.
As one of the main objects of the Bill is to exercise much-needed control over the many undesirable clubs that have been springing up in recent years, I hope that some of the groups who oppose the Bill on religious or temperance grounds may, after due reconsideration, find that they are able to approach it in the same way as they approach the Betting and Gaming Act, for, although we cannot expect them to agree with many of the provisions in the Bill, they may find some consolation at least in the fact that it includes effective measures to clean up the clubs. Though one automatically thinks of London in this connection, there has been evidence recently that this disease is spreading to the provinces. It will go on spreading unless the stronger powers of registration and supervision included in the Bill are brought into effect.
93 In my submission, therefore, the Bill redeems our election promise to review the country's licensing laws, it gives complete autonomy to the people of Wales to decide this matter for themselves, and it allows licence holders to contract out even though they operate in a Sunday-opening area, and it allows for a review of the situation every seven years. This is a method which will commend itself to all fair-minded Welsh people. I am firmly of the opinion that anyone opposing Clause 6 other than on religious or temperance grounds lacks confidence in the maturity, wisdom and judgment of the Welsh people to decide these important issues for themselves.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), I am biased. I have no financial interest in the drink trade, but I am interested in civil liberties. As a matter of principle, I think it right that people should be able to have drinks when they wish to have them, provided that in exercising that right they do not unduly take away from the liberty of others, or cause nuisance to others.
I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). He thought that the law ought not to take account of the sober, but that it should be designed for drunkards and those who fall by the wayside. I think that the law should be primarily concerned with the rights of normal individuals. If it is necessary to take steps to deal with certain sections of the community who misbehave and make nuisances of themselves, then there should be special laws dealing with these groups. The community as a whole, the sober, should not suffer because there are others who are not sober.
There may be times in a country's history when the drink problem becomes so serious that specially restrictive laws are required to deal with the situation. That is probably now the case in France, where there is much alcoholism. I accept that at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early part of this century drink was a serious problem in this country and that the community as a whole was entitled to introduce restrictive legislation to deal with it at that time.
94 As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said, at the beginning of the century the number of convictions for drunkenness was enormous compared with what it now is and the barrelage of beer sold was enormous compared with the present. However, one has to consider the recent figures and to allow for the fact that people as a whole are much better behaved than they were in the early part of the century. My own recollection of conditions when I first came to London, nearly thirty years ago, is that drunkenness is much less widespread now than it was then; and people with experience of other parts of the country probably take the same view of their areas.
I agree with the Government that a stage has now been reached when it is right and proper to have a libertarian revision of the law and that it is right and reasonable to consider how far we can go in that direction. I do not think that young people are particularly addicted to strong drink. I agree that there has been some unfortunate increase in convictions for drunkenness among young people recently, but the figure of 6,000 is still a very small proportion of the total number of young people in the country.
One of the outstanding things about the present younger generation is that it takes its pleasure in expresso bars, holding hands in the dark and talking rather than going to a public house. Indeed, publicans complain that younger people do not come into the bars and that it is older people who form the larger part of their clientele.
Although it is important to deal with the problem of young people who become drunkards and make a nuisance of themselves, one should not exaggerate the extent of that evil. The tendency among young people is rather away from alcoholic drink and from taking their enjoyment in "pubs" Than the other way round.
While we are trying to increase civil liberties in this respect, the Government ought to be considering measures to deal with the minority who are a nuisance, and in that respect we might learn from other countries. In Denmark, if a person makes a nuisance of himself and, because of his continual drinking, his family does 95 not have the wherewithal to maintain itself, the family can get the man convicted and he is sent to one of the islands of the Danish archipelago for six or twelve months so that he can get the alcohol out of his system. The community maintains his family in the meantime. It is found that a remarkably small number go back to become alcoholics again after they have once got the alcohol out of their system in that way.
There is a strong case for a strengthening of the law about those drunk in charge of a motor car, and a good case for the Government putting proposals of that kind before the House at the same time as they are extending the liberties of the general public. In 1890, the number of deaths on roads in the County of London was very much the same as it is now, largely because even in those days of horse traffic many people got themselves drunk and were then knocked down and rolled over by horse-drawn vehicles. With the enormous increase in the number of motor cars, there is naturally an increase in the number of people drunk in charge of motor cars. That does not alter the fact that this is a serious problem and that definite steps should be taken to deal with it.
However, the matter goes further than that, and it is not enough to legislate. The public must back the legislation. One of the most striking things about the present situation is that magitrates will not convict and adequately punish those who are brought before them charged with being drunk in charge of a car. There is far too much tendency to let such people off lightly. We have not only to see that the law is tightened up, but, by propaganda, ensure that public opinion wants the law to be enforced, so that magistrates treat these cases rigorously.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Is it not a fact that most motorists accused of this offence elect to go before a jury and are not dealt with by the magistrates?
§ Mr. Parker
That reinforces what I was saying about public opinion. We have to ensure that we get convictions when people are justifiably brought before magistrates far being drunk in charge of a motor car.
96 I welcome the proposals for allowing more people to have drinks in restaurants and guest houses. With the rising standard of living, mare people go out to meals and like to have a drink with their meals and more people have a glass of wine with a meal than was the case in the past. We have to recognise such changes in social conditions.
However, I underline the fact that, in Committee, we will have to consider carefully the provisions dealing with restaurants and refreshment licences, because there is a danger that magistrates in some areas might allow a roadside café, largely used by road transport drivers, or an ordinary fish and chip shop, or one that sells eggs and chips, to serve drinks, and that would be undesirable. It is essential that we should devote a careful study to these provisions, although the proposal as a whole is good.
I agree with the complaints about midday closing times on Sunday. Why should not closing hours on Sundays be the same as those on weekdays, instead of public houses automatically closing at 10 o'clock? That would bring more conformity into the law and it would be a good idea in the summer months especially when, with Summer Time, 10 o'clock SCAMS unduly early to close the "pubs".
I do not like the idea of the local options which it is proposed to introduce in Wales. I think that it is a bad idea for Sunday cinemas, for instance, and with the local option on drink which is found in Scotland. If a thing is wrong in itself—and I think that it is wrong that people should not be given the opportunity to have a drink on a Sunday, even if it is only a minority which wants a drink—it is equally wrong to have it in a limited area. This is a form of dictatorship in a local area and I dislike that form of dictation; and I hope that the Government will drop the idea of local option in Wales.
I agree that there may be a difficulty about election pledges and, if that is the case, I would prefer to see a referendum for Wales as a whole rather than for individual areas. I do not favour plebiscites, but it might be better to have a vote over Wales as a whole than to have the clubs, which are already open 97 in all areas side by side with "pubs", open in some areas but not in others. That would increase rather than decrease the chaos.
The present law in Wales is ridiculous. In my time I have done a lot of walking in Wales, and if one calls at a "pub" in a rural area on a Sunday one will find all the farmers having a drink in the kitchen at 10 o'clock in the morning. That is tine general custom. It is more difficult to get a drink in the towns, unless one happens to have a friend who is a member of a club and can introduce one to it. However, I have never had the slightest difficulty about getting a drink in Wales during all the time that I have been climbing and walking there, and I have no doubt that most people travelling around that country have had similar experiences.
Morality is brought into contempt when people know that the law is broken and when it is known that there are ways of getting round the law if one does not actually break it. It is high time that all that form of hypocrisy was swept away, and that the "pubs" were allowed to open alongside the clubs, with similar rules governing the two. I recently spoke to the Students' Union at Swansea University, and I was struck by the vast number of young people who asked, Cannot something be done to rescue us from the Nonconformist Establishment, which tries to bully us all the time? We are not allowed to have drinks in our bar in the university. They treat us as children and we want to decide such things for ourselves. We are forced to go outside the university premises and to pub-crawl when we want a drink." I think that the present generation will demand more freedom of choice and will want to sweep away some of these old laws, which are so largely hypocritical, which are to be found in Wales.
I am sorry that the Government do not propose generally to repeal this Sunday closing law. I do not like the idea of local option and I hope that the Government will reconsider the matter when the Bill goes to Committee. If a referendum is necessary because of election pledges, I would prefer it to be taken for the whole Welsh people rather than area by area.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) correctly stated the principle on which the House should work when he said that the law in matters of this kind ought not to be directed with severity towards those who do not have a sense of responsibility, but should be directed towards those who have a sense of responsibility and know how to exercise it. It would be wrong to take the relatively few cases of drunken adolescents in the last few years and to say that all adolescents were so minded. As the hon. Member said, publicans complain that their customers are no longer the young but the older people. I hope that we shall not be stampeded by selective figures into doing something contrary to the best interests of the community.
We should also force to the front what the figures really are. In 1913, about 189,000 people were convicted of drunkenness and last year the figure was about 65,000, so that there has been an immense reduction in drunkenness. That indicates that we have a responsible population and the Bill is therefore a proper tribute to the increasing responsibility of the British people in matters of drink.
I am fortunate, like the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), in having been brought up as a Methodist, the same as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black).
§ Mr. Shepherd
I am sorry. I also have had the distinction of being a member, as I am certain my hon. Friend is, of the Band of Hope. In fact, I think it was my singing in the Band of Hope concerts that began the downfall of the movement. Therefore, if today I take a view contrary to these two hon. Members, it will not be because I have no knowledge of their purpose and it will not be because I am a confirmed drunkard. In fact, I drink very seldom.
It is time that we had up-to-date laws on social matters. I hope we will drop the convention that up-to-date laws on social matters ought to be only for 99 foreigners. Why should we say to ourselves that we must do this for the benefit of foreigners who are here? Are not sensible, intelligent, up-to-date laws required for the British people? We ought strongly to take the view that these changes are necessary for our own benefit. If, incidentally, they please the foreigners who come into our midst, so much the better.
I do not support those who say that we should abolish all licensing laws. The retention of some control over drinking hours is necessary. I certainly consider it desirable, for example, to have control of drinking hours on Sunday, because I am not one of those who believe that the British Sunday should become continentalised. Keeping the British Sunday a separate and distinct day, on religious and social grounds, is highly desirable. I hope that the House will never take the view that we should make Sunday the same as any other day.
The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) properly drew attention to the immense burden upon publicans, not only of the proposed hours, but even of the existing hours. I find the hours of work of publicans and their wives very harsh indeed and I am afraid that, as a result of the Bill, there will have to be a substantial change in the structure of the public house trade. I can see that there will be probably many fewer public houses in ten or twenty years' time and they will probably have to be staffed with more than one manager. It is impossible to impose any additional burdens upon many of these small house tenants. They have to work very long hours indeed for what is, in the end, a fairly small return.
There has been a lot of discussion about what the opening hours should be and, in particular, about the drinking-up time. I should like to make a suggestion which might possess merit. There is a good deal to be said against the idea of having drinking hours until 10.30 p.m. in one place and 11 o'clock elsewhere. An extension from 11 o'clock to 11.15 would lengthen the hours extensively, but would it not be a good idea to have drinking time until 10.45 p.m. all over the country and to 100 allow a quartet of an hour for drinking up? That would give an inclusive time of 11 p.m. all over the country and it might well prove an agreeable solution to a particularly difficult problem.
The provision concerning restaurant licences is, perhaps, the most important change in the Bill and, in general, I welcome it. I am very glad that the Government have seen fit to make this change. There is, however, a problem which has already been mentioned and which I should like to emphasise. The qualification of the provision of a substantial meal would easily include espresso bars and cafés of that kind. I am somewhat disturbed about this, because I find it difficult to conjure up a form of words that would distinguish between the ordinary espresso bar serving a substantial meal and the other form of restaurant which would be serving a similar meal. I know that the justices can inspect the premises and decide on the basis of that inspection whether a licence should be granted, but many of these places which are espresso bars and the like have very good facilities of the kind that are normally looked for by the justices. I hope, therefore, that before the Committee stage, my right hon. Friends will be able to devise a form of words which, whilst giving freedom to genuine eating establishments, will prevent the proliferation of licensing over areas of the restaurant trade where it would be clearly undesirable.
I wish to refer next to the question of clubs. I have no interest in this matter in a financial sense. I welcome intensely the tightening up of the law relating to clubs. I congratulate my right hon. Friends on being able to do so well in this direction. Dealing with clubs is an extremely difficult proposition and I think that my right hon. Friends have done extremely well in this connection.
As the Bill stands, the bogus club and the club conducted entirely for the purpose of selling drink for profit will be at an end. At the same time, I hope that the genuine proprietary club will be able to continue. That may seem a simple proposition, but those of us who have taken an interest in this problem know that it is by no means easy to achieve. I hope that my expectations 101 in this direction will prove to be fulfilled.
I should like to raise one other matter concerning clubs. I congratulate my right hon. Friends on including indecent displays among the matters that would cause a club to be struck off the register. Without being excessively prudish, I think that some of the displays which have been going on in the striptease clubs in London are wholly indecent and ought not to be allowed. They have been extremely damaging to the prestige of the country and I congratulate my right hon. Friends once more on including in the Bill provisions that will prevent these shows going on. I am also glad that the magistrates in London have taken the view which they have done in connection with recent prosecutions against those clubs.
I am somewhat concerned that the Bill will make it exceedingly difficult for proprietary clubs to carry on. I know that this is not the intention of the Bill and that the wording of Clause 17 is designed to allow proprietary clubs to continue where it can be reasonably shown that the profits are mainly derived other than from the sale of drink. That is what we all want to see. Elsewhere in the Bill, however, it is clear that a magistrate can, if he so wishes prevent a proprietary club from carrying on. As hon. Members will see, he may require the balance sheet of the club to be circulated among the members. If one is running a club for profit, it is undesirable to do that. There are many other provisos which are provisos for genuine members' clubs which a magistrate may insist upon before he grants or renews a licence. Therefore, I take the view that, before the Bill goes into Committee, it would be desirable to look carefully at its wording to ensure that magistrates are not in a position unreasonably to withhold registration or renewal from genuine proprietary clubs.
In 1949, I was very much concerned because the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) introduced a Bill into Parliament which would have eliminated what were then known as night clubs. They had existed until then by a subterfuge, an evasion of the then licensing law. The right hon. Gentleman very properly stopped that subterfuge without making provision for the continuity of 102 those clubs. I had the pleasure of discussing with him from time to time what we could do about it, and from those discussions there evolved the special hours certificate. I think we can say that in respect of late night entertainment in London, the special hours certificates have been entirely successful. We have done what we set out to do, which was to establish a much better class of place than existed under the old regulations and to present a high standard of entertainment, of drink and of food. We can say that London is now in no way inferior to any other capital of the world. Those who care to go around will see that the standards are indeed high.
The change concerning Saturdays is a very just one. It is extremely annoying to people running these businesses, with extremely high expenses, to find that on Saturday night, which might well be their best night, they have to tell people that they can have no drink after 12 o'clock. It is exceedingly difficult to try to persuade people that there is any sense in that restriction. It is even more difficult to get every member of the club community to conform to that regulation. Therefore, I am happy to see that a change has come about.
I am not, however, satisfied with the hour of 2 a.m. for the finishing of the serving of drink. This hour should be extended, in the general interests of the customers and of the trade, until 3 o'clock in the morning. Nowadays, there is a large element of entertainment in late night restaurants and night clubs, sometimes a show lasting as long as an hour, while no service is given. In view of this change in the nature of the business, I should like to see the hour extended from 2 o'clock until 3 o'clock.
The other point about which I am rather concerned is that the Government have seen fit to alter the law relating to credit for drink in hotels, but are not doing so for restaurants and clubs. It is not generally known that there was a restriction on credit. It arose, I understand, from the days of D.O.R.A. Clearly, if we do not extend this facility to clubs, we are inviting people to break the law every day of the week, because a lot of people who go to clubs and to late-night restaurants sign their bills or pay their accounts through one of the many dining clubs that now exist. I 103 hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friends will consider this question to see whether they cannot include restaurants and clubs in the extension of the areas to which credit is permissible.
Many people have asked—and I agree with them—why London should not have late-night entertainment at a more reasonable price, which the ordinary man can afford. I hope that, as a result of the Bill, we will see a movement in this direction. A criticism of London at night is that it is extremely expensive. Only if one has a fair amount of money can one go to these places.
It seems to me very regrettable that those magnificent halls which are owned by Messrs. J. Lyons and which, when I was a young man and came to London, were open at night as great centres of foregathering for the populace, are now rigidly closed against the public. I know that that company had very unfortunate experiences immediately after the war when there was a good deal of lawlessness which compelled it to close its establishments relatively early in the evening. I hope that in the interests of those who cannot afford to pay high prices at different kinds of establishments, the company will look at the possibility of those places being opened again, because it would be of immense service to the people of London and visitors if it could do so.
I welcome the Bill and I hope that it will have a speedy passage through the House. I am convinced that as a result of this change there will be no increase in drunkenness. Our people on the whole are sensible and responsible. Those who want to fill themselves with drink to the point when they are drunk can do so well within the permitted hours now. There will be no temptation by a moderate extension of hours of increased drunkenness. There is a very good argument that an extension of hours in fact decreases the amount of drunkenness. This has a scientific background, because 90 per cent. of the alcoholic intake of a person is absorbed by the metabolic processes, and it is true to say that if one drinks slowly enough one can never get drunk. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is absolutely true—because the metabolic processes absorb the alcohol to the extent that one would never really 104 be drunk. To get drunk the alcoholic content of the blood must be raised. I do not want to press that argument to the point of absurdity.
§ Mr. Shepherd
A lot of drunkenness takes place through people gulping down drinks to keep within the drinking regulations. It is equally true to say that more sensible hours of drinking will, on the whole, tend to reduce the kind of drunkenness that is induced by the rapid gulping down of drinks. Those people who said that the Street Offences Act would have disastrous results were proved to be wrong, and I am certain that those who oppose this Bill for similar reasons will prove to be wrong. I think that this is a sensible Bill for sensible British people, and I commend it to the House.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. T. W. Jones (Merioneth)
I wish to confine my remarks to Clause 6 of the Bill. I am rather intrigued to know who, in Wales, advises the Minister for Welsh Affairs and, through him, the Government as to what should happen in Wales. I say this because of the unhappy knack which the Minister has of constantly upsetting the sentiments of the people of Wales. I am sincerely sorry for this, because those of us who are intimate with the Minister agree that he has great charm, so much so, indeed, that when he deserves a good thrashing I always find it difficult to knock him about.
I had occasion recently to do this three or four times. I had to attack him on the question of Tryweryn, on the establishment of the club at Capel Curig, then on the appointment of Mrs. Rachel Jones as chairman of the Welsh B.B.C. Advisory Council, and I do so now on the infamous Clause 6 embodied in the Bill.
The inclusion of this Clause has shocked a great many people in the Principality because, as the Minister knows, many deputations came to London to interview the Home Secretary and the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and they were all led to believe that it was definitely not the intention of the Government to introduce in Wales Sunday opening. They were left clearly with that impression, so I am told by those people, when 105 they came to London. They had a rude awakening. I ask again: who on earth advises the Minister for Welsh Affairs?
I am certain of one thing—that this is a brewers' Bill; that it is instigated by the brewers. I am sure in my mind about that. I have always contended that the brewers subscribe handsomely to the coffers of the Tory Party. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Of course they do. I cannot prove it for the simple reason that the Tory Party does not issue a public balance sheet of its funds, but there is such a thing as circumstantial evidence and when I think back on the record of the Government regarding the brewers I am convinced that the brewers must be heavy subscribers to the funds.
It is an old saying that he who pays the piper calls the tune. This Bill is a clear instance of that. Not a demand from a single quarter in Wales has come for this change—not from the clubs and not from the licensees. [Laughter.] I will repeat: not from the clubs, not from the licensees and not from the general public because, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said, it was not included in any of the election addresses, so Welsh Members have no mandate to vote for the Bill and particularly Clause 6. It is solely a brewers' request.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
As one who lives on the borders of the hon. Member's constituency, may I say that if he is right that no one wants it in his constituency or elsewhere in Wales, why is he worried about the Welsh people having an opportunity to vote for this because, obviously, on his remarks, the Government's case will be clearly defeated.
§ Mr. Jones
Every hon. Member from Wales has received a letter from the Licensed Victuallers' Defence League of England and Wales. The writer of the letter makes an outrageous claim. Referring to Clause 6 and Sunday opening, he states: 106The response to this proposal by certain sections of the Press in Wales and Monmouthshire, and by the more responsible religious denominations"—I would ask hon. Members to note those last few words—would indicate their full support for the change being effected in the law.That assertion is totally untrue. As one of my hon. Friends says, those are absolutely barefaced lies. The fact is that the most responsible religious organisations in Wales are against the Bill. Wales is still, thank God, a Nonconformist country—very much so. The most responsible religious denominations in Wales—the Baptists, the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians and the Methodists—are all against the Bill. There is not a single Church in Wales which would support it.
§ Mr. Jones
My hon. Friend asks what about the Church in Wales. If there is an irresponsible Church in Wales—and I hate to connect such a word with any Church, and the fault is not mine—it is the Church in Wales. I say that because fairly recently it appointed an archbishop, and he is the only archbishop in the world who cannot speak the language of the country in which he is an archbishop. If the word "irresponsibility" is to be used, there was evidence of it.
It has been said that Sunday closing adversely affects the tourist industry in Wales. I find that Dr. W. H. Scott, in his memorandum on the subject, repeats this fallacy. He states:Sunday opening, as such, could make a contribution to employment, and also by the increased attractiveness which it would bring to the tourist industry in general in Wales.If that is true, is it not strange that the Welsh Tourist Board is not supporting the Bill? That organisation has been brought into being in Wales to help the tourist industry, and yet it is against the Bill. The chairman of the Welsh Board, Dr. H. T. Edwards, said the other day— 107 and I agree with him—that not only is Sunday closing not adversely affecting the tourist industry, but it actually encourages the tourist industry.
Every nation has its own way of living, and the Welsh nation has its own way of living. It has its own language. I could speak in that language now. If any hon. Member opposite could be converted by that medium, I would gladly do so. Wales has its own traditions and its own way of life, and when visitors come to Wales they expect to see this difference. They are well aware of our traditions. They know full well about Sunday closing. Yet they come, and they come because they enjoy our quiet Sunday and our beautiful scenery.
I live on the border between Wales and England. From my bedroom window I can see Offa's Dyke. For every car that passes from Wales to England on a Sunday, twenty go from England to Wales. That may be thought rather extraordinary, but that happens throughout the summer months. That is within half a mile of my home, and any hon. Member is welcome to go there and see for himself. Those motorists are leaving the "wet" region for the "dry". Yet we are asked to believe that Sunday opening would help the tourist industry. It is an extraordinary argument.
I would remind the House that throughout the last seventy-nine years the brewers have failed to find a single Welsh Member of Parliament who would dare advocate Sunday opening in the House. I am reminded that there is one here now. However, we have been waiting for it for seventy-nine years. Throughout that long period, not a single Welsh Member of Parliament has presented a Private Member's Bill to permit Sunday opening.
While an hon. Member opposite was speaking, I went down to the Tea Room for "a quick one," and I read this evening's Evening News. I should like to read to the House what the Evening News political correspondent says:The Home Secretary had a last-minute shock as he prepared to open the two-day debate on his Licensing Bill in the Commons this afternoon, when he received details of a ballot among the country's licensees. The men and women in the licensed trade have rejected six out of the Government's seven main proposals. More than 97 per cent. are against 108 extending Sunday lunchtime drinking to 3 p.m.; 97 per cent. are against the general range of permitted hours suggested in the Bill; 98 per cent. object to the continuation of the present system which frees clubs from restrictions, including police supervision, as compared with public houses. More than 78 per cent. oppose the creation of residential and restaurant licences for private hotel and guest houses and a similar proportion attack the unrestricted opening of off-licences. The 15-minutes 'drink up' margin after licensing hours is also under fire from 74 per cent. of those who ballotted.The next paragraph may please the Home Secretary's heart.The only proposal which meets with majority approval is the proposal to hold local referendums in Wales to decide on Sunday' opening.However, I would ask the Home Secretary to analyse even that. It does not mean that the licensees, even there, are in favour of Sunday opening. All they favour in respect of Clause 6 is that the people of Wales shall decide whether they want Sunday opening or not.
To bring all that I have read to its logical conclusion, if these people object to an extra hour on a Sunday, and an extra quarter of an hour each night, surely they will object to an extra day. Consequently, I also draw from this the conclusion that what they mean—every licensee who has approached me has asked me to vote tomorrow night against the Bill; not a single licensee has asked be to support it—is that they do not want their day of rest taken from them. At the moment the Tory Party has seven Welsh Members. If the Bill is carried into effect, at the next General Election we shall be asking whore those seven are. The Tory Party will not have seven Welsh Members after the General Election, I can assure the Home Secretary.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary has refused our appeal that he should take back Clause 6 and allow us, as the representatives of the Principality, to decide this issue. Last Thursday, I asked the Home Secretary whether he knew what Gladstone said in 1881. Mr. Speaker, in his wisdom, restrained me from quoting as much as I should have liked to do. Anyone who reads Mr. Gladstone's speech on that occasion will find that he—perhaps the greatest of all statesmen—appealed earnestly to the House to allow the representatives of the Principality to decide what they thought was in the best interests of their country.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) into Welsh affairs, but I can give him the satisfaction of knowing that if he looks closely across this Chamber he will be able to see the horns, hooves and forked tail of a director of a brewery company.
I start by declaring my personal interest in that matter. I have, therefore, some knowledge of the conduct of the brewing industry. I have a further interest, in that I have also seen some of the work of the licensing justices in the courts. Thirdly—and not least important—I, personally, delight in drinking beer in the atmosphere and surroundings of a public house.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about this being a brewers' Bill, and said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. As all we have asked for, apparently, is half an hour extra in the permitted hours, presumably the brewers' contribution to the Tory Party is not very big. I suggest to the hon. Member, however, that that view is merely old-fashioned and nineteenth century. That many share the delight which I think most of us in this House have in drinking beer in a modern public house is due to two things. The first was the introduction and maintenance of a system of licensing, and the second is the part that has been played by the brewing industry over the last seventy years in reforming the whole character of the English "pub". Reference has been made already to Dr. Johnson—I mean Samuel Johnson, not the Dean of Canterbury—so perhaps I, too, may quote him. He said:There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so much as in a capital tavern.I think that that is true today, but in the eighteenth century not all taverns were particularly capital. Lord Chesterfield spoke about the advertisements reading "Drunk, one penny; dead drunk, twopence; free straw, free". We also have the comments of Dostoviesky and of other nineteenth-century visitors on the horrors of the gin palaces, public houses and taverns of the time. All that has changed, and remarkably changed, over the past fifty to sixty years. It is right to remember that in 1913 there were about 188,000 convictions for drunkenness— 110 two-thirds greater than the present figure. The character and nature of the public house has completely and utterly changed.
But we cannot have the maintenance of the English public house, with all its character and atmosphere, unless we maintain a system of licensing and unless we have the brewers owning the vast majority of the houses. I am very glad that the Bill does not attempt to abandon the control which has in the past, through the licensing justices and the police, worked extremely well.
The history of licensing from Wellington's Act of 1830, to which my right hon. Friend referred, to Balfour's Act of 1904, showed that there was some need for control of hours. We can, of course, go to the opposite extreme, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to whom I always listen in this House with great delight for his humour and sincerity. But he talked about the increased number of hours meaning more drunkenness. Does he not know what happens in Australia, where the "pubs" are open for a short period and where all the drinking is packed into that short time? With that system one gets scenes of great drunkenness.
Therefore, although hours certainly must be controlled, an extension by half an hour, or whatever it may be, would not be a cause of increased drunkenness. The cause of any increased drunkenness is that there is a weak-willed younger generation which does not have the discipline at home, which has not been taught the virtues that it should have been taught. Those are the reasons for the lack of control that are reflected not only in the drunkenness figures, but also in the figures of crime.
Some people suggest that the "pubs" should be open all day and all night at will; that we should have no restrictions of any kind. That is certainly not compatible with having the English "pub". It might be much more profitable for the brewers, but it certainly would not be compatible with the continuance of the English public house. One would want a different kind of licensee. No licensee at present—who, heaven knows, has a hard enough life—would tolerate opening his premises more of the night and all day.
111 France has been referred to by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice). I must say that I was surprised when he said that he had an image of a Frenchman with a brimming glass of beer—not even wine. It seems that it would be much more likely nowadays to be a glass of Calvados or absinthe, or some other drink of that type, which seems to have caused the present situation there. If we did have a complete relaxation in hours, then we would tend to introduce a bar on the United States model—that murky, uncomfortable and rather sleazy establishment. That would be the system if the brewers did not accept responsibility for providing a social need such as they have in the last three-score years, when they took over responsibility for the public house.
The demand for this Bill does not come from them; it comes from the public, who are sick to death of the niggling, absurd, little restriotions that bring the law into contempt. For instance, the resident in an hotel who can have a glass of beer himself but cannot give one to his visitor; the restaurant That has to go through the complicated procedure of getting a wine licence. There are all these minor, childish restrictions which people are tired of having to live under.
Criticisms are made, of course, of the tie and as I said, I speak as a director of a brewing company. A vast number of public houses—about 60,000 out of 70,000—are owned by the breweries, but we could not have the modern house, which represents a very heavy capital investment, with any other system. A public house costs from £15,000 to £80,000, and one cannot readily find the tenant who has the capital available to do that.
The only alternative is to introduce a middle man—and who wants that? The brewery industry provides between £15 million and £20 million a year for its houses. This system is to the advantage of the tenant. He can be selected as a person without substantial capital. He becomes almost immediately the master of his own business. He has premises at a low rent, a repairing lease with the brewery, and he can pass on the tenancy to his widow. Of course, it is a retail outlet for the brewers—they want this retail outlet—but there is an advantage 112 to the customer that he would not otherwise have; the advantage of having the many attractive, up-to-date public houses we now have.
We take too much for granted this system of drinking as we do; we take for granted the advantage of having a public house. For this system is very much envied by those who visit this country from overseas, while even though there are so many tied public houses no brewer or brewery concern dominates the industry. There are about 250 breweries producing about 2,000 different beers, and there are 180 brewery groups. The 1931 Royal Commission on Licensing, to which the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) referred, found:… single tie under which a tenant contracts with a producer of beer to obtain from the latter all his beers as fundamental.The Royal Commission recommended, of course, that there should be a supply of other intoxicants at market prices, and that recommendation has been widely followed.
I therefore approve of the Bill's retention of control by the licensing justices. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has not been tempted to remove that control, or to relax it by allowing permitted hours beyond those that are reasonable—that control that ensures that the English public house remains as it is. Many hon. Members have argued about what should be the minimum or maximum permitted hours, and whether the hours should be fixed by the local justices. Of course, we have to meet the difficulty of people travelling from one place to another to continue to drink, but perhaps that may easily be done by fixing geographical boundaries. I think that there is a case for having much earlier closing in places where there is not a demand or a need, and later closing where people want it who, because of their lives and employments, are nut later at night.
There always will be abuse in driving and no amount of legislation or speeches here, or powers given to magistrates or to juries will ever stop it. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) intervened during the speech of one of his hon. Friends to say that it was juries who mainly acquitted. It is, but who are the juries? They are ordinary men and 113 women, the mothers and fathers of children who may be run over. They are themselves drivers. They are the ordinary people of the country who try their fellow citizens, and, if they choose to acquit, who are we in this House or anywhere else to say that they are wrong so to do—
§ Mr. Rawlinson
Of course—in exactly the same way as any man is entitled to be judged by his peers and to have the question of whether he is guilty or not guilty left to the judgment of his fellow citizens. His fellow citizens are people who are daily on the roads. They may or may not drink, but they can apply their decision and judgment to his case.
Therefore, if we criticise those people, we must take into account the number of acquittals there are on this charge, and must take into account that juries perhaps feel that, with the number of motor cars there are, and with the amount of social life that goes on, they want a very high standard of proof before deciding that a person has been incapable of driving a motor car and has committed this serious offence.
My main comment is made, as I have said, as someone who knows something about the brewery industry, and as a person who enjoys particularly the character of the English public house. In the nineteenth century, William Cobbett was very anxious because there was so much tea drinking. He thought that it might sap the national character. With respect, like some hon. Members opposite, he exaggerated in this matter. This is a great industry and we have to remember that the taxation of it provides 3 per cent. of the national revenue. After the terrible period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it has shown that it can produce responsible places of entertainment and attractive places of refreshment. It should be encouraged, and this Bill goes forward to help it.
114 I am glad that we are removing the petty irritations, and that my right hon. Friend has left the "pub" where it is. He would have been a rasher man than I know he is had he dared to interfere with the last meeting place of British citizens.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
I believe that mine is the only voice from the Welsh constituencies that will attempt to reflect what I consider to be the very strong, almost overwhelming evidence that exists in the Principality in favour of the opening of public houses on Sunday. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. T. W. Jones) told the House that from his privileged position in his bedroom he can on Sundays see one line of traffic going out of Wales and another coming in. He said that people come into Wales in cars. Let me assure the House, from my observation, that they go out of Wales into England in buses.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
Would my hon. Friend tell the House how, from his part of the constituency, he can see people crossing the border of Monmouthshire?
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
From my local point of observation and from my knowledge of the 1960 habits of the Welsh-speaking people in a very highly industrialised part of Wales—namely, the Rhondda Valley and its contiguous valleys and townships—I know that whenever many of our local people go on a bus trip for a Sunday they make sure that the bus is going over the border.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
Would my hon. Friend also agree that many charabancs and buses come over the border from England into Wales on Sundays, so what does that prove?
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
I do not dispute that many people come over the border into Wales on Sundays to see the beautiful scenery of Snowdonia. I might add that their visit to Wales would be greatly enhanced if, after climbing the heights of Snowdon and coming down to the plains, they could enjoy a drink in the local inn.
115 The last time that the fury of some of my Welsh compatriots was aroused was over a matter of 65 million gallons of water that was going to flood the beautiful valley of Tryweryn. Today their fury has been aroused over a pint of beer. If this question is to be judged fairly, it must be judged and considered objectively. We must not, particularly in this House, allow our own private views, attitudes and habits to override the wider considerations as they affect the population of Wales and Monmouth-shire as a whole. As we are here in a privileged position as Members of this House, it would be a contradiction of the much-lauded principles of democracy if our private views on morality and standards of life were to be imposed on the rest of the community. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies will not be unduly influenced by those prejudices or governed too much by their passions.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
It applies to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), too.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
It applies to me, too. I am looking at the matter objectively. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) have not yet convinced this House that there is violent opposition to Sunday opening in Wales. In fact, the evidence is the other way.
I want briefly to examine the matter from three principal standpoints. There are the civic, religious and moral angles. Let me take the religious angle first, giving it the highest priority. From time to time a great deal of opposition has been expressed in this House and throughout the Principality against drink as a whole and not merely against Sunday opening. There is this attitude against drink as a whole in Wales because it is associated with sin. A great deal of this misconception arises from the religious traditions, outlook and propaganda in Wales on this subject. I am not an authority on the Scriptures, but I am entitled to quote a person who is such an authority to show that there are no scriptural or biblical sanctions against drink at all. My authority is Dr. Edwin Morris, the Archbishop of Wales.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
I do not think anyone can object when I say that I am prepared to surrender my judgment into the safe keeping of the Archbishop of Wales, who, as a scholar of the scriptures, publicly declared in the Western Mail that there is no authority or sanction in the scriptures against drink as a sin. The Dean of Llandaff, too, has declared in favour of Sunday opening.
This is a paradoxical situation. Here we are, the grandchildren of the Reformation. Here are the descendants of those people whom we know in Wales as dissenters. These people, who proclaim their morality on this question, are the descendants of people who, during the time of the Reformation and subsequently, dissociated themselves from the Established Church and claimed nonconformity with that doctrine, claiming the right of the individual to enjoy personal freedom. In 1960, the Nonconformist conscience and Nonconformist elements in Wales have surrendered that right and privilege to what we in Wales consider to be the Established Church.
It is rather ironical to think that we have to rely upon the Archbishop in Wales to state the proposition that it is for the individual himself to exercise his right on a matter that is private, and to protest against any attempts by pious people to impose their morality upon the majority.
Let us now deal with the civic angle. A fundamental principle and conception of democracy is that all men shall have equal rights and privileges and shall enjoy the same freedom before the law and within the law. I want to pose this question to those who object to Sunday opening in Wales. For the rest of England, involving about 45 million people, there are certain freedoms and liberties concerning Sunday opening. Those people have the option to drink or to refuse to drink on a Sunday. That is a basic right which they enjoy under the constitution of this Parliament. What argument can be put forward, especially by radical democrats, to deny 2½ million people in Wales the same rights, liberties and freedom enjoyed by those 45 million people over the border?
117 As a democrat and as a Member of this House, I maintain that the people in Wales are entitled to the same liberty and freedom given by Parliament on matters of a private character in order that they are put on a par with people in the rest of Britain. Why is it that the miner, the steelworker, the quarryman and the docker in Wales is denied these things that are enjoyed by his fellows in the rest of the country?
There have been arguments against local option. I trust that the Government will remain firm on Clause 6 which is vitally important. I myself would have preferred the Government to proceed in a more direct manner and to open the front door rather than to allow this object to be achieved by going through the back door. That would have been more honest and direct. However, we must take the Bill as it stands. I cannot see how anybody who believes in political democracy can oppose the principle embodied in Clause 6.
Already some of my hon. Friends have said, "This is the voice of Wales as expressed through the temperance organisations and religious institutions". I could produce evidence to indicate the voice of Wales as expressed through other forms of social organisation. When my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth says, "Where is the evidence?" all I say is that the trade unions in Wales, representing over a quarter of a million workers, have expressed their views on this matter. The National Union of Mineworkers, the Transport and General Workers Union and other large organisations have already declared that they are in favour of Sunday opening.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
My hon. Friend has made a great deal of the fact that he is a democrat. Would he support the Government in repealing the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, although the majority of the Welsh Members were against so doing?
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
In this context I say that the majority of Welsh hon. Members do not reflect the opinions of the Welsh people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not think that there should be any consternation or alarm about this. Statistics prove that over 60 per cent. of the adult male population of Wales are members of clubs.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
If there is any doubt in the minds of my hon. Friends on this point, or if they are convinced that I am wrong in saying that the overwhelming majority of opinion in Wales is in favour of this, why are they not prepared to have this put to the test, and to advocate not merely a county or a borough ballot, but a ballot for the whole of Wales?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Would my hon. Friend be kind enough to tell us on how many subjects he would recommend local option in Wales? Is it only on drink? What about other major issues which affect the Welsh people?
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
I cannot deal with other questions now, but that does not destroy my argument. Because one cannot get local option on other matters, that is no reason why one should refuse to accept it now. We have no right to refuse it. I am advocating a ballot, not to satisfy myself, but to satisfy the House and my hon. Friends that there is an overwhelming majority of opinion in Wales in favour of Sunday opening.
Why has the number of clubs in Wales increased? Why has the number increased from 149 in 1904 to more than 1,052 in 1959? There is the evidence that the Welsh people of today are not the Welsh people of the days of Gladstone. We have moved forward. There is the evidence to support my contention that the demand is there.
There has been much argument about, and cheap reference to, the brewers. The brewers are secondary in this matter. It is because the brewers realise that there is a demand there that they are in favour of Sunday opening. Brewers will not open a "pub" without knowing what the demand will be. That is how business is done. Brewers will not open public houses on Sundays if they are not likely to get customers. They know that the demand is there.
I ask my hon. Friends this question very seriously. Do they consider that the Welsh people are more decadent, more depraved, more lacking in self-will and self-control than the English people? Is the English working man or woman a more decadent, more anti-social, more 119 depraved and more immoral citizen because there is Sunday opening here, and are we in Wales "holier than thou"? The time has come when we must discard this piety, this mask of hypocrisy. I know that in the Rhondda Valley—and some of my hon. Friends who represent similar constituencies also know this—more drinking takes place on Sunday—
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
Because I am a member of a club. There is not a club in my constituency to which I do not go. I am an associate member. I am not ashamed of it. I am convinced that if anybody joined me on a Sunday night and we went to the clubs in the Rhondda Valley we would find more drinking on a Sunday—and this is true of the other industrial parts of Wales and Monmouthshire—than on other days of the week. There is the evidence. Let us face the matter squarely. Let us put an end to this hypocrisy. Let us put an end to this attempt on our part to say that we are the Welsh way of life.
The Wales of yesterday is not the Wales of today. I know that forty years ago it would have been dangerous for anybody in this House to speak on the lines on which I have been speaking, but I am convinced that the habits of the Welsh people have changed, and are changing, and that the Bill is welcome. It is welcome because it will serve two ends. First, it will make the clubs more comfortable and compel them to compete for their customers. Secondly, it will avoid the necessity of men and women who like a drink on a Sunday, and on every other day, from entering the clubs as visitors with a guilty expression on their faces knowing that they are going into these clubs when they are not always welcome.
I hope that the Government will remain firm on Clause 6. I do not want to see it taken from the Bill. It is said that Bills are sent upstairs to have their throats cut. If Clause 6 is referred to a Welsh Standing Committee it will be taken down to the cellar and strangled. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] My hon. Friends have spoken against local option, yet they want Clause 6 referred 120 to them so that they may exercise local option on its contents.
I admit that certain points in the Bill will have to be carefully considered, and here I speak with a vested interest as a member of a club. From what I know of the long history of these clubs and the traditional way in which they applied for licences, and remembering that they have never been in trouble—and this is proved by the fact that although the police have the necessary powers to see that they do not break the law none of their licences has been cancelled—it is regrettable that, by attempting to legislate against some of the disreputable clubs in some of our principal cities, we will make these clubs, which have had good records for the last eighty years, apply annually for a licence, and perhaps be bothered and harassed by some bake-house woman who hears a little bit of gossip and considers that that is sufficient evidence on which to object to the renewal of the licence.
There are other aspects of the Bill which I hope to have the opportunity to discuss in Committee, but I am satisfied that if the Government see that Clause 6 goes through it will meet with the acclamation, the approbation and the goodwill of the Welsh people who have suffered for too long, who have been the victims too long of this ethos and this image that we in Wales are "holier than thou". I say that we are no better and that we are no worse than English people. Because we are men and women of that character I think that the House should give the people of Wales the same liberty, the same freedoms, as are enjoyed by our contemporaries over the border.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
I hope that the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), who has just spoken from the other side of the House, will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not attempt to follow the speech Which he has just delivered. I feel myself that the subject of Sunday closing in Wales has already been well discussed, and although, naturally, along with other Members, I have my own views on the subject, predominantly the matter is one, I think, for discussion by the Members who represent Welsh divisions. They are, quite clearly, so much more in touch 121 with local opinion in their own constituencies than Members for English constituencies can ever hope to be.
I do not imagine that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will expect a speech of lyrical praise of the Bill from me, and if any of them does imagine that such a speech will be forthcoming it is necessary that at an early stage I should disabuse him. There are, perhaps, one or two things in the Bill of which I can approve, and I will refer to them in a moment or two.
It is very important that we should recognise correctly the background against which the House is being asked to consider the proposals of the Bill. Two of my hon. Friends have recently referred to the figures of convictions for drunkenness in 1913 and from those figures have drawn the conclusion that conditions today have very greatly improved Of course, no one will deny that the figures today are much better than the were in 1913. Other Members have referred to what they regard as the very great improvement which has taken place it the drinking habits of the people during recent years, and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) said in his speech that his impression was that conditions today, compared with conditions thirty years ago, When he came to London showed a very great improvement in regard to drinking and drunkenness in London and in the country.
If that were the case there might be some justification for the relaxations which are contained in the Bill, but, of course, in the past thirty years the position has been one of continual deterioration. At no stage during the period has there been any discernible improvement. This is the background against which the House is being asked today to debate the considerable relaxations in respect of the drink traffic which are contained in the Bill.
It is a fact that convictions for drunkenness now are greater than they have been at any time during the past thirty years. It is also a fact that during the past fifteen years convictions for drunkenness have risen from about 20,000 a year to about 65,000 a year. It is also a fact, to which reference has been made this evening, that amongst young people convictions for drunkenness have doubled during the past four or five years.
122 Reference has been made by one or two previous speakers to the position of chronic alcoholism. According to the best estimates which are available there are in this country at present upwards of 100,000 chronic alcoholics, and there are about 300,000 other very heavy drinkers who are very well on the way towards becoming chronic alcoholics. The expenditure of the nation on alcoholic drink is now closely approaching £1,000 million a year. Hon. Members have referred—I touch upon it only in passing—to the rising toll of the roads and to the fact that drinking drivers and drinking pedestrians are a considerable contributory factor to those figures.
Therefore, we are dealing with this matter not in the context of an improving situation, improving sobriety of the people, but in a situation in which all the facts, all the statistics and all the evidence show a continuing deterioration in the position during the past thirty years. Therefore, it is relevant to ask the House to consider, whether in these circumstances, and in the context of these tendencies, this is the time to make substantial relaxations in the present safeguards in the licensing laws. I do not want to make a long speech tonight, because there are many other Members wishing to speak, and I shall, therefore, curtail to the utmost what I want to say about the three main parts of the Bill.
It is, of course, obvious that the provisions of Part I, will lead to a vast increase in the number of licensed restaurants and hotels. Indeed, that is the very purpose of this part of the Bill, and it is a purpose which the Bill will quite obviously achieve. One point has been mentioned in this connection, and that is the very greatly limited powers which the licensing justices will have in deciding whether a restaurant shall or shall not have licensed facilities. I refer to the position of licensed restaurants upon the motorways and in particular the M.1.
It will be within the recollection of the House that when the Minister of Transport brought legislation before Parliament relating to the M.1, an effort was made to get written into the law a prohibition against licensed houses along the motorway, having regard to the danger which they would afford, and that the Minister then rested his case upon the 123 view that he would prefer to leave the matter to the discretion and the good sense of the licensing justices.
We are aware that in the exercise of that discretion the Newport Pagnell justices decided—wisely, I believe—that it would be inexpedient and dangerous to grant a drink licence to a restaurant along that motor way. But, of course, the right of justices in the future to exercise that kind of discretion will be completely removed from them by the provisions of the Bill.
Part I is nothing more nor less, in this respect, than a backdoor method of overriding what the Newport Pagnell justices have done in refusing a licence on that motorway, notwithstanding the fact that, when the Newport Pagnell justices reached their decision, the director-general of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents—not a person who might be regarded as a prejudiced witness on a temperance matter—said this:The position at Newport Pagnell focuses public attention on the fact that drink and driving do not mix. It is an important gesture psychologically.I hope that the position of restaurants along the motorways will be considered in Committee in the general context of Part I.
Part II of the Bill provides for increased permitted hours. Rather euphemistically, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum which is provided with the Bill refers to "slightly longer hours". Those "slightly longer hours", if we take into consideration the drinking-up period, which has already been discussed today, amount to an increase of about 20 per cent. in weekly drinking time in the provinces and to a 7 per cent. increase in London. I suggest that "slightly longer hours" scarcely does full justice to the nature of the proposal that is made. On this point I really must differ, with the greatest respect, from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), who, as I understood his speech, said that it might well be that shorter hours would promote more drunkenness and that longer hours would lead to less drunkenness.
All I can say is that every statistic that I have been able to find which bears on 124 this matter, and all the experience of those who have made a study of the question, inevitably, I believe, lead to the conclusion that increased drinking facilities and increased drinking time lead to more drinking and more drunkenness, whereas, of course, greater restrictions and shorter licensing hours lead to less drinking and less drunkenness. I have myself not the slightest doubt about that general proposition.
Part III of the Bill is the only part to which I can give a measure of qualified approval. It is, of course, within the knowledge of the House that for considerably more than twenty-five years temperance and social reformers have been pressing successive Governments to bring into being a suitable system of controlling registered clubs, and the Government are at least entitled to the credit for having taken a first if tardy step in the right direction.
Whether the restrictions proposed will be fully adequate to the requirements of the situation, I very much doubt, and I must share the regret of other speakers that the provisions do not include a restriction on children and young persons being admitted to the drinking bars of registered clubs, and that there is no prohibition of the employment of young persons in the bars of these clubs. That is clearly a matter to which attention and consideration should be given in Committee.
The Bill contains some quite fantastic concessions to the licensed trade—concessions, which, I think, cannot have been fully realised by those who had the responsibility for drafting it. In certain respects, it puts the licensed trade in a privileged position, for which there can be no justification. I will give two examples only of this kind of concession to the licensed trade which the Bill contains.
The first example relates to off-licence premises which, in future, will not be subject to the ordinary licensing hour restrictions, nor, be it noted, to the shop hours. The Bill proposes that on weekdays there should be no restriction on the hours of sale in off-licence premises which, under the law as it will be if the Bill becomes an Act, can be open all round the clock, for twenty-four hours.
125 This is an absolutely unique position for a retailer, and, as far as I am aware, completely without precedent in the retail trade. The vendor of soft drinks, be it noted, is not to be given a similar right. The dairyman and the baker are not to be given a similar freedom for the sale of milk or bread at any hours they choose. If a family finds itself short of milk or bread, does the Home Secretary regard with equanimity the children having to go to bed without a proper meal, and having to go to school next morning without a proper breakfast, while the parents' supply of beer is to be safeguarded so thoroughly that the off-licence is to be free to serve them day and night?
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
My hon. Friend said that he could not think of a precedent for this. What about the retailing of petrol?
§ Sir C. Black
If my hon. Friend regards the retailing of petrol as being in any way analogous to the retailing of liquor, I have to differ very respectfully from him.
I am saying that it is monstrous that the off-licence holder should be able to sell his wares round the clock for twenty-four hours while the vendors of soft drinks, milk and bread are rigidly bound to defined hours by law and commit an offence against the law, no matter how great the emergency or the need of the customer, if, outside those permitted hours, they sell their wares. I cannot think that those who had responsibility for drafting the Bill really intended to produce such a monstrous result as that would be.
The second example concerns music and dancing licences. Under the Bill, a music and dancing licence is not to be required in future for certain classes of specified entertainment, but this exemption from the need for a music and dancing licence applies to licensed premises only. The coffee bar next door to a public house does not enjoy the same exemption; the youth club in the church hall or community centre does not benefit from this provision. If a singer and an accompanist give an entertainment in the town hall, a music and dancing licence is required, but if they entertain in the public house across 126 the road, no music or dancing licence is needed.
In an hotel in which certain parts of the premises are licensed and certain parts are not, an entertainment can be given in the licensed part without a music and dancing licence, whereas the same entertainment in the unlicensed drawing room of the hotel requires a music and dancing licence. This is another monstrous proposal for which it is difficult to conceive that any justification can be found. The Home Secretary, I hope, will not mind my saying that in the light of examples of this kind it is not surprising that he is charged from the benches opposite and elsewhere with showing an undue tenderness for the licensed trade.
I conclude by referring to the attitude of the Churches on this matter and I wish to take this opportunity of getting on to the record the statement on the Bill which, in the last day or two, has been issued by the body that speaks for and is representative of every major Christian church and body in this country. I refer to the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches.
To make quite clear the authority and the constitution of this body let me say that its presidents are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Secretary of the Free Church Federal Council and the General of the Salvation Army. The Council comprises within its membership, and speaks on behalf of, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, every major Free Church body and the Salvation Army. It is difficult to find any other organisation in which so many Christian bodies come together and speak with a single voice.
After expressing support for the provisions relating to clubs in Part III of the Bill, this is what the statement of this Church body says about the rest of the Measure:We are compelled to express the gravest disquiet over the provision for new types of licences for hotels and restaurants and the extension of permitted hours. We are definitely opposed to the extension of drinking facilities and enlarged opportunities for the supply and sale of liquor envisaged in the Bill. Our opposition arises from the certainty born of history and experience that such provisions will lead to more and excessive drinking, to increased perils on the roads and 127 an increase in temptation to youth. In the interests of the public good we register our opposition to these provisions.I know, we all know, that the Home Secretary and, indeed, all who have any responsibility in public life are gravely concerned at present at the lowering of the moral standards in so many directions. Appeals are continually being made to the Churches and to others who have a concern in these matters to try to give a lead to stem the tide and to bring the nation back to more sober and more righteous ways of living.
When every Christian Church in the country combines to express a judgment of that kind upon a Bill before the House then all of us who have at heart the best interests of the people and the moral and the spiritual standard of the nation brush aside such warnings at our peril. We shall be very wise indeed if we give heed to what has been said on behalf of those whose motives in this matter are entirely altruistic and who, whether we agree with their judgment or not, are actuated by one consideration alone—the best interests of the people whom they seek to serve.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I should like to express my general support for the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) and particularly for the way in which he has drawn attention to the pronouncement of the leaders of the major religious denominations in this country; for it has not always been possible in discussions about licensing laws to get at least two of the Churches whose leaders he included into line with the Nonconformist Churches and their general attitude.
I approached this Bill as I approached the betting and gaming legislation last year. I asked myself how, if I were still chairman of the Epsom Licensing Justices, I should have been able to carry out my duties under Part I of this Bill. I came to the conclusion last year that I could not have acted as a justice within the provisions of the First Schedule of that Measure, and the Under-Secretary of State did me the credit when we came to the Report stage to admit that as a result of my criticism he had redrafted the First Schedule. I can only hope, if 128 I get on to the Standing Committee which will discuss this Bill, that when we get to the Report stage he will be able to pay me the same compliment with regard to Part I of this Bill.
To be frank, I do not understand how licensing justices will be able to administer the law under the provisions contained in Part I of the Bill. The three types of licence associated with restaurants cannot be refused by the justices except on three distinct grounds, and anyone who could not meet those grounds would be very foolish to apply in any case. If a licence is refused, the applicant can take the matter to quarter sessions on appeal. There is no criterion set down as to the way in which the justices should reach a decision that will be required.
This will mean that along some of the fronts of our seaside towns there may be fifty premises next door to each other all serving intoxicating liquor. In these days there are few towns from which there is no bus service to and from the surrounding villages where there may be a number of teashops quite suitable for the purposes of teashops and able to meet the present need. According to the wording of this Bill the proprietors of those teashops will be entitled to come to the justices and ask for a licence. The justices will be unable to refuse to grant one.
What is the position of the justices when there is, in the ordinary way, an application for a new licence? They then have to consider the proof provided by the applicant of the need for the new licence. He will produce the usual petitions and there will be a map showing the licensed houses within a quarter of a mile, half a mile and a mile of the premises in respect of which the application is made. There will also be shown the licensed premises in the same area.
Will these restaurant premises, the residential licences and so on, all have to be shown as licensed premises when the new applicant is having to prove the need for the kind of service which he is willing to offer? Will the brewers—I am sorry that my representative in the House, the hon. and learned Member far Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), is not here to answer this question—will the brewers be entitled to assist in the provision of these restaurants in different ways? If 129 they are, will they be able to appear in opposition to another brewery which wants a new licence with the story that they already make adequate provision in that neighbourhood?
I think that the Under-Secretary has had some experience of appearing before benches of magistrates in these circumstances, and that he probably moved from the case of licence No. 1, which he supported, to licence No. 2, which he opposed, because the brewers who had briefed him for the first one were opposing the second. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that all he had to do was to cross out the names on the paper and make the appropriate speech on the second occasion by adapting the speech made on the first occasion by his opponent, and so the merry game goes on.
It is difficult enough now when we have a number of licences brought in over which the justices have no control at all, and it seems to me that we shall make the work of licensing justices at their annual sessions very difficult indeed. Let us not forget that for new licences one can make an application not only of the annual sessions but at each quarterly meeting of the justices for licensing purposes. I do not disapprove of that; I think that it is probably a good thing, but it ought to apply to all sorts of licences and not merely to these three new types. I hope that before we get to the Committee Stage the Minister of State will manage to get in touch with the Justices' Clerks' Society or some other body of people who are intimately concerned with the actual administration of this very difficult law.
The Home Secretary this afternoon—I suppose we shall not see him on the Committee stage, but we shall hear him again on Third Reading when he winds up and pays his right hon. Friend all the compliments which that right hon. Gentleman will have earned by the preservation of the Bill from shipwreck during the Committee stage—alluded to the "Duke of Wellington's Act". The First Schedule is the nearest approach I have seen to that. Anybody who runs a tea shop and has reasonably convenient premises, for which no standard is set, for that is, apparently, within the discretion of the justices, subject to appeal by the applicant to quarter sessions if the 130 justices refuse, anybody like that in a seaside town or market town can get a licence. To use the word used by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), which was repeated by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), who is not uninformed on these matters, these will proliferate and will be like a rash on a map. By the time that we have five or six betting shops and a couple of dozen of these places in a market town, the opportunity for carrying on ordinary business will be very circumscribed, and I have no doubt that property owners will not lose under the transaction.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Does my right hon. Friend think that the tea shops will be likely to become tied houses to the brewers as a result?
§ Mr. Ede
I have already dropped a hint about that. When the present Lord Chancellor brought in a Bill to enable seamen's clubs to be established in seaports, we persuaded him to include in the Bill before it became an Act a subsection which prevented those clubs from being tied to the breweries. Despite what the hon. and learned Member for Epsom said this afternoon, one matter that needs dealing with is the problem created by the tied house. I accept what the hon. and learned Member says—that in these days one cannot get a new public house built except by the brewers. One has to be careful to ensure that there shall be reasonable opportunity in the new public houses and in the new licensed houses to be established by Part I of the Bill to see that the spread of the tied house system is prevented. My answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) is that I have no doubt that the brewers will be willing. Whether we ought to acquiesce in their getting the business is quite another matter.
I was chairman of the Epsom Licensing Committee where we had the problem of the annual proliferation of licences in booths on Epsom Downs on certain days when well-known festivals take place there. There is a curious provision, to which my attention was drawn, in the Epsom and Ewell Downs Conservancy Act which says that three stalls may be established on Epsom Downs on annual licence from the Grandstand Association. 131 Will a stall of that kind qualify under Part I of the Bill and will the holder of the stall be able to obtain a licence independent of anything that the justices may do with the granting of occasional licences for the booths?
Will the justices be entitled to say, "There will be the three extra licences in respect of these stalls and therefore we need not grant the three that we used to grant"? This matter, when one gets down to working it out, will require an amount of consideration in detail that so far it does not appear to me the Department has given to it. I can only hope that the Department will deal with this.
As to clubs, I am I suppose slightly heteredox. I have been a member of one club or another associated with the Club and Institute Union since I reached my eighteenth birthday in the year 1900. I have sixty years continuous service on the management of one club or another. The clubs with which I have been associated will not admit members under 18 years of age. Is that still to remain? This is the rule of these clubs and I suggest that a long-continued practice ought to ensure that this should be made a part of the law of the land.
The publican is a recognised citizen. I have known many Members of Parliament who could not have got the kind of certificate of good conduct which is required by the licensing justices before they will allow a man to become a Publican. I have heard it said that some bishops would not be able to get a licence. It is not fair to the publican if young people are admitted and served in clubs no matter what the law may be. I know from my contacts with them in the past few days that the officers of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union still have, if not respect, at least some affection for me, and I say to them that, in the interests of maintaining public confidence in clubs, it would be as well for them to say that they have no fear of illegalities being conducted in their clubs which carry out the advice given to them.
I have been associated with the British Legion Club, of which I am president, ever since I was demobilised on 20th February, 1919. The British Legion said that our club could not be affiliated to the British Legion and to the Working 132 Men's Club and Institute Union. My members said, and I agreed with them, that we belonged to the Working Men's Club and Institute Union to get advice on the intricacies of club law—it is a very lucky blub which can run for a few years without having to seek advice in one form or another. We said that we would continue to be in the Club and Institute Union to get the best available advice about clubs, but that when it came to dealing with the pension rights of our members, then we wanted to be affiliated to the British Legion. We had two distinct purposes to serve and we thought that we were entitled to be affiliated to two separate bodies in order to get the appropriate advice which we required for our double purpose. We were never expelled from one or the other.
I suggest to the Working Men's Club and Institute Union that it would be good for it and its members if it agreed to the police having a right of entry to its clubs. What happens now is that the local Licensed Victuallers Association discovers that there is a minor or major infringement of the law going on in a club. It informs the police and a search warrant is obtained for a night on which the licensed victuallers say that something will be going on which ought not to be going on. A prosecution follows and sometimes—very rarely with a club that is in the Union—a club is struck off, or some officials are fined, and there are other difficulties. The club should be willing to accept the right of entry by the police as an evidence of their belief in the correctness of the course which they pursue.
I recollect that more than thirty years ago Mr. Robert Richardson, who was then the Member for Houghton-le-Spring and president of the Union, said on one occasion that the clubs should not be afraid to let the police in. They could do so without being afraid that the police would then be allowed to enter all the West End clubs and the West End clubs did not need to have the police in, so they would be safe.
It would not be a bad thing, in the interests of the equality of all persons before the law, far the clubs to invite the police, through the House of Commons, to have a right of entry. I am sure that that would make no difference 133 to the way in which the clubs are conducted, but it would give a great deal of reassurance to many people who do not frequent clubs and who believe that they are only drinking dens. I commend that course to the Club and Institute Union as one who has had a very long connection with the Union and who respects the way in which it gives advice to its affiliated members.
The hon. Member for Cheadle spoke of some negotiations which he had with me when we legislated against what were called bottle parties and some of the disreputable things which went on before the Licensing Act, 1949. I have never regretted the concession which was then made. It has done a great deal to give confidence to the general public and to ensure that people who wish to have these late dancing parties can have them in physical circumstances which enable reasonable comfort to be ensured. Frankly, if the need can be proved, I do not see why similar concessions should not be made elsewhere. Such a concession involves negotiations not merely with the licensing justices but with the local authority, which has certain powers to ensure that physical comfort and security are guaranteed.
However, I cannot go with the hon. Member in what he said about the concession continuing after midnight on Saturday. I hope that I am as broadminded as anybody who has been proclaiming his liberality of outlook during the course of the evening. I have heard some strange claims from strange quarters. The Liberal Party was never respectable until I left it. Now, I hear the word "liberalisation" from the Government side to cover all sorts of iniquities. It reminds me of what the French lady said—"Liberty, oh liberty. What things are done in thy name." Even the Home Secretary himself proclaims that this is a great liberalising Measure.
We have to have respect for strongly held convictions. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood if I say that I do not attach any particular significance in my daily life to the incidence of Good Friday. I know, however, that there are a large number of people who regard certain hours on Good Friday as being particularly sacred to them in their attitude on this same problem. Therefore, 134 I endeavour as far as I can not to do anything during that short time which could give offence to a person who holds certain views very profoundly.
I ask the hon. Member for Cheadle, who is a broadminded man—I would not describe him as a Liberal, but he is broadminded—to recognise that there are people who regard Sunday as a day which is in a peculiar way sacred and which they do not wish to see profaned. I hope that the demand for going beyond midnight on Saturday will not be persisted in.
One other thing which I should like to mention—it has been referred to by the hon. Member for Wimbledon and certain of my hon. Friends—is the question of being able to get a bottle at any time of the day or night from an off-licence. Let us be quite clear on this. There is no compulsion on the person who buys a bottle or half a dozen bottles from an off-licence to take them home. As soon as he is off the off-licensed premises, he can unscrew the stopper and in the public street, as long as he does not obstruct somebody else in the free passage along the Queen's highway, he can consume the contents.
I have known the trouble that this has sometimes given to grocers in the old days, when, very late at night, a gentleman, possibly having been refused a drink in the public house on the ground that he had already had too much, would go into the grocer's shop, demand a bottle of beer and then have to be pushed off the premises because he wanted to drink it straight away. There was always difficulty as to how far the grocer's premises extended beyond the shop door as to whether he was not supplying drink to be consumed on the premises if the man did not get a sufficient distance away. I see no reason whatever why the concession should be made in this matter in the sweeping way in which it is being made. This is one of those things on which the Home Secretary and his right hon. Friends might well take the opinion of those who are engaged in the difficult task of administering and enforcing laws of this kind.
I do not believe in local option. I am surprised that the Home Secretary has brought in a Bill enshrining local option. I am old enough to recollect 135 the General Election of 1895. The leaders of the Tory Party of that day must be turning in their graves to hear the advocacy of local option from the benches opposite. When we were engaged in building up the Education Act, 1944, the question of local option with regard to raising the school leaving age came up. The Home Secretary said, I believe quite rightly, that the House of Commons made the laws for the country and we must have the courage one way or the other. I do not believe in local option.
I share, without expressing it in quite the same broad language that he did, very largely the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) on this matter. We have no right to curtail the liberties of the well-behaved subject. If the subject is ill-behaved and breaks the law, the appropriate action should be taken against him and he should be prosecuted for drunkenness.
It is very difficult to know what one should do in this matter. I have received from the Licensed Victuallers' Defence League of England and Wales, North and North-East District, its members' views on the Measure. They have asked me to present them to the House. I shall never be asked to do it again. I have never been asked to represent licensed victuallers here before, but I desire to put before the House the views of these people, who are engaged in the daily business. They say:There is general objection by our members to the proposal to extend the Sunday permitted hours from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.I thoroughly agree. I am surprised at the number of licensed victuallers who know my views on the general issue and who have asked me to express that point of view and have expressed their horror that that proposal should ever have been suggested. They state:In connection with the proposed general weekday permitted hours we are unanimous in feeling that more flexibility should be allowed to the local licensing justices to adjust these hours to meet local requirements.I am not sure that I could advocate that.We object most strongly to the creation of residential licensees except where there are a minimum of twelve letting bedrooms.In view of the value attached to certain premises where these licences are 136 granted, I suggest that that is a reform which ought to receive the attention of the Government.We view with concern, and most strongly object to, the proposed increase in penalties to be imposed on licensees in connection with serving people under 18 years of age, and consider that the heavier penalty should be imposed on the consumer.While I do not agree with the first part of that, I do agree with the second. I think that when it comes to the serving of youths and the difficulty that there sometimes is in ascertaining whether a girl is 17 or 37, she should be warned that if she is in fact under 18 she will be committing an offence for which she will be answerable to the law.We are concerned about the proposal to remove all restrictions regarding permitted hours in relation to off-licensed premises.I have already spoken on that. They also feel that members of the police should have the same powers of supervision over registered clubs as they now have over licensed premises. I have made my appeal to the clubs on that issue.
It is very difficult to say whether or not one ought to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. I am relieved of the task of having to make up my mind because tomorrow evening I have to address the centenary dinner of the Sunderland Technical College. Therefore, I shall not be here. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman realises that if I serve on the Committee I shall have certain suggestions to make, which I hope he will consider with the open-mindedness that he considered my suggestions on the Betting and Gaming Bill. I cannot at this stage tell him what I shall do on Third Reading.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) finds it difficult to make up his mind which way to vote on the Bill. In the circumstances, I am glad that he is relieved of the necessity at the moment. I have no such difficulty about it. I agree with much that the right hon. Gentleman said, particularly about Part III of the Bill, relating to clubs, in which he has, of course, such considerable experience. I support Part I of the Bill entirely, but it is about Part II that I want to say a few words, very briefly at this hour.
137 I must declare not my interest but my position in this matter generally, and it is that I do not believe that there should be any restriction on the hours in which one may legally buy anything. I cannot see why it should be illegal to buy, for example, milk at midnight, shoes at 7 o'clock in the morning, or a whisky and soda at teatime.
§ Mr. Atkins
If one wants to buy an ordinary article at any time, one should be allowed to do so. There is a good case for restricting the sale of certain dangerous articles altogether, but I do not see why I should not buy anything I want at any time if I can find anyone willing to sell it to me; but at the moment I may not do so. In particular, I may not buy a drink at certain times of the day, with one exception which I do not understand. If I am staying in a hotel, I can buy a drink whenever I like, but, if I am not staying in a hotel, I am restricted.
I will not suggest to the House that all the licensing hours should be completely removed and that "pubs" should be allowed to stay open for twenty-four hours a day, because I can see that that has its dangers. It would have the danger of destroying what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) spoke about, the character of the English "pub", and none of us wants to do that. But I should like to see the following procedure in Part 11 of the Bill rather than what is there at the moment. It should be legal for a "pub" to remain open for any nine and a half hours of the day that it likes, provided, if one wishes, that there is a break in the middle.
It should not be for the licensing justices to decide which nine and a half hours of the day the "pub" should be open. That should be for the publican, because he is the man who knows, or should know, when his customers want to buy their drinks and when they do not, when it is worth his while to stay open and when it is not. He should not be allowed to change his hours from day to day. He should apply to the licensing justices for permission to remain open during the hours that he chooses, and 138 then those should be his hours until the next session of the licensing justices, normally a year later.
A certain amount has been done towards this already. At present a publican is entitled—it is made even clearer in the Bill—to shut if he wants to. For instance, if he finds that no business comes in at 11 o'clock in the morning, or if there is no business between 2 and 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon he may close. I believe that a "pub" should be allowed to open its doors for a maximum number of hours at a different time of the day if the publican wants to. As has already been mentioned, off-licences will be open all the time.
A great deal was said earlier in the debate about the practice of people rushing from one "pub" which was shut to another one which was still open, and that was decried and deplored. This practice has been very much exaggerated; I do not believe that it happens to nearly the extent that people claim it does. I live just outside London, in Middlesex, and I have on one side the London hours and on the other side the Middlesex hours, which are different. If I want to go on drinking to 11 o'clock at night I do not go into a Middlesex "pub", which I know closes earlier, and then have to leave it and go to a London "pub". I go straight to the "pub" which I know stays open till 11.
Precisely the same thing happens in my constituency, which is on the outskirts of London. The people who want to go on drinking until later at night do not put themselves to the inconvenience of going into a "pub" in Merton and Morden and then having to leave it early to continue their drinking somewhere else. They go somewhere else to begin with. I agree that there might be the odd occasion when a party develops in a "pub" and people wish to continue it somewhere else and they move on, but I do not think that the passion for uniformity in "pub" closing hours is necessarily right, and in any case there will not be uniformity under the Bill as it stands.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I accept much of what my hon. Friend has said, but, taking the specific place which my hon. 139 Friend has in mind, do not his constituents or neighbours very often put themselves in the position of not being turned out by moving to another "pub" by motor car in exactly the way I tried to illustrate earlier, and are they not, therefore, liable to be a danger on the road? Is that not a strong reason for a uniform terminal hour?
§ Mr. Atkins
I do not think so, because if they want a prolonged session at the "pub" they go to the "pub" where they can have it, and not to another. I have already admitted that there may be occasions when a party develops and the members of the party go from one place to another, but I think that the danger of that has been greatly exaggerated, and that it does not happen to anything like the extent that we have been told. In any case, even though the Bill speaks of a certain amount of uniformity, it will not produce it, particularly round about London, and in the country outside it, where the justices will have discretion.
I most firmly believe that the discretion should be with the publican rather than with the justices. The publican is the man who knows when he will get trade, and he it is who should decide. Whatever we do about the licensing hours, we shall not stop people getting drunk who want to get drunk. They can do so now in the "pub"—the hours are quite long enough for that—in the club, or at home. They will go on doing it. As the right hon. Member for South Shields said, the right attitude is not to restrict the liberty of the well-behaved subject, but to prosecute the ill-behaved one. We should make the penalties for drunkenness more severe. In particular, drunkenness when in charge of a motor car should be much more severely treated than it is today.
I want as far as possible to extend the liberty of the subject to buy anything he likes whenever he can find anyone to sell it to him. That is why, instead of the provisions in the Bill, I would much rather see my suggestion adopted. If it is not adopted, I shall still vote for the Bill, because it is an extension of the liberty of the subject towards having to drink whenever he likes. As I have said, Parts I and III of the Bill have my support, but I hope that in Committee my 140 right hon. Friend will consider my suggestions. He certainly has my support at this stage, and I hope that he will fall in with my view in the later stages.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), explained that on this matter he was expressing his own personal views. In like manner, let me make it perfectly clear that I speak for myself. I do not claim to speak for anyone else, although I believe that my views on the Welsh aspect of the Bill will be shared by many of my colleagues from Wales. I propose to devote myself entirely to the Clause and the Schedule relating to Wales and Monmouthshire, so the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks.
I have listened to many interesting speeches from hon. Members on both sides who have very wide experience, and have been interested in many of their suggestions. I want to refer to one or two problems that will crop up during the passage of this Measure, because I am privileged to be associated, with hon. Members on both sides, with the temperance group. Whatever our views may be on any of these problems, none of us can be anything but deeply concerned about the increase in drunkenness amongst our young people.
I am sure that the Home Secretary, who was once Minister of Education, must also be concerned with that matter. He once invited me to fulfil an important post in Wales. I was very glad to accept his invitation and so become the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Youth Services, set up for the Principality. Ever since then I have taken a very deep interest in youth matters. The truth is that we have neglected our youth. We have now had the Albemarle Report.
I do not think that this problem can be dealt with negatively, although negative means have a place. We must be positive. Young children are growing up in this modern society of ours, and on both sides of the House we have to admit that we have neglected their needs shamefully. I hope that as part of the means of dealing with the problem the Government will give as much time to 141 the Albemarle Report as to this Measure.
There is also the relationship of drink to road accidents. We are all becoming ashamed of the appalling toll on the roads; and drink certainly has a relationship to that toll. I am sorry that in his admirable speech the Home Secretary did not refer to this matter. That was probably because he had a wide field to cover, but I should certainly like to see the Minister of Transport present during our debate, at some stage, because he has promised us another Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pay attention to what hon. Members have said and will say throughout the proceedings on the Bill.
Many suggestions and criticisms have been made in regard to the Bill, but, as I have said, I propose to devote myself solely to the Welsh provisions. Whether we are for or against Clause 6 and the Second Schedule, on one thing we can all agree, and that is that the provisions in the Bill represent a major change in the licensing law as it applies to Wales and Monmouthshire. There can be no dispute about that.
I have two matters to put forward. First, I believe that this is the first Government that have made a major change in the licensing laws of Wales without seeking a mandate to do so. Secondly, I believe that this is the first Government that have made a major change in the licensing laws of my country without setting up a formal Royal Commission or inquiry to ascertain the views of the people of Wales.
First, then, the Government have no mandate. When did they first think of so radically changing the licensing laws of Wales? The first thing they do is to repeal the Welsh Sunday Closing Act of 1881. It has been in existence for eighty years. There have been many Governments during those years—Conservative, Liberal, Labour and Coalition Governments. None of them has thought it wise or prudent to repeal the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. Royal Commissions have examined this problem. Not one has voted in favour of repealing the Welsh Sunday Closing Act.
Some time ago the Government had a Licensing Bill. Why did they not introduce this idea then? Why do they do so now? They did not put this question 142 to the electors in Wales a year ago. There are Welsh Members present. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) said frankly that the Conservative Party, at the last election, did not ask the people of Wales or Monmouthshire for a mandate to repeal the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. I speak as a constituent Member, as the Member for Llanelly, and I have here the manifesto of the Conservative Party as presented to the electors of Llanelly. Of course, the results at the election showed what they thought of the manifesto, but for the moment I am not discussing the result. I am discussing the manifesto.
It is entitled "A New Era for Wales, New Freedoms for Wales". Why was this not mentioned in that manifesto? If this was a heaven-sent freedom for the Welsh people, surely it ought to have been mentioned. I have searched it again, and the only possible reference to a matter of this kind that I saw was in the Welsh article which I propose to quote. With permission, I will be my own interpreter.
First, there is a Welsh article calledCodi'r Hen Wlad"—"Raising the Old Country.It said:Codi yd yw nod Yceidwadwyr"—To raise up is the ideal of the Conservatives".Then there follows a sentence which a cynic might regard as significant:Codi dynion ar eu traed"—Lift the people on to their feet".The first charge that I make against the Government is that they are introducing a major change in repealing an old Act which has been in existence for more than eighty years. They are doing it within twelve months of being elected, and without having the honesty to say to the people, "If we are returned we are going to do it". Why did not the party apposite say that they were going to do this?
The second charge that I make against the Government is that they have not sought in any way to have an inquiry by Royal Commission or by same other commission of inquiry to ascertain the views of the people. Why did they not do so?
I shall ask the Government some questions. The Government of which I was 143 privileged to be a member set up the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to advise the Government on the impact of Government legislation on the life of the people of Wales, and to be there when asked to give advice. Was the Council asked? All we have are reports in the Press that at a meeting of the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire held in North Wales, some time ago, the Minister himself attended, and that at that meeting he discussed this matter with the Council privately. I make no complaint of that, of course.
What happened? The House is entitled to know. Did the right hon. Gentleman then intimate to the Council, before the Bill was introduced and before anyone was told, that the Government proposed to make radical changes in the licensing laws of Wales? If so, what advice did the Council give them? So far as I can find out—and I have consulted my hon. Friends representing constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshire—the Council for Wales has made no pronouncement on this matter. I put it to the Minister that if the Council was asked the people of Wales are entitled to know what are the views of the Council. A public declaration should be made.
It is said that a strong reason for making this change is to encourage the tourist trade. I myself welcome the great increase in the number of people who come to Wales and enjoy the beauty of our mountains, valleys and coast. We have a Welsh Tourist Board whose responsibility is to do everything possible to promote the tourist industry in Wales. Was that Board consulted? If so, what is its advice? We would be interested to know.
The Home Secretary said that the Government had had many representations from people in Wales and Monmouthshire asking for this change. Since he has said so, we are entitled to ask who has made the representations. Let us be told. I put it to Conservative Members who sit for Welsh constituencies—I see two of them here—did they tell their constituents that they were going to ask the Government to do this? If they did not tell their constituents, did they think that they were fulfilling their responsibilities?
144 Who asked? My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) is a courageous fighter and I am glad that he expressed his views. He said that the trade unions representing a quarter of a million industrial workers in Wales had asked for this change. I am a trade unionist. All my working life I have been associated with one of the most important trade unions in Wales, that which represents the South Wales area of the National Union of Mineworkers. I have had no official information that the South Wales miners, assembled in conference, passed a resolution of this kind. Nor have I received that information from any other trade union.
I went to some lengths to discover the situation in my constituency. I wrote to the Secretary of the Llanelly District Trades Council, to which are affiliated 72 branches of trade unions representing miners, tinplate workers, engineering workers, dockers, and others. He replied:Not one single branch out of 72 affiliated branches has sent me a resolution demanding Sunday opening.I can also assure the Home Secretary that the West Wales Federation of Trade Unions, of which my correspondent is the secretary, has not received such a request from any of the affiliated trade unions in Cardiganshire, Carmarthen-shire and Pembrokeshire. Not one of them has passed a resolution supporting Sunday opening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West said that a quarter of a million workers in South Wales had passed a resolution in favour of Sunday opening. I beg leave to doubt that. I will want more evidence than has so far been produced to be convinced that that is the case. There is not a single trade union branch in my constituency which has passed a resolution of this kind, or at any rate sent it to me.
When the Government say that representations have been received, my question is, from whom? We can guess who made the representations—it was the brewers and their satellites. The Home Secretary may laugh, but I wonder whether he would care to tell us the sum paid by way of contribution by the brewers in Wales to the Conservative Party.
145 I come now to the provisions in the Bill to replace the Welsh Sunday Closing Act. The Government propose local option. Let us look at this. I share the views of my hon. Friends about local options or referenda. I have never been in favour of them. We had a referendum about the Sunday opening of cinemas. Is there anyone who will not agree that the polls taken under these referenda are farces? They are absolutely farcical.
We are now introducing a new element into our system of government. Will the Home Secretary tell us how we can stop here? The Government propose to bring in local option. It is the Conservative Party which proposes to introduce it. In my early days there used to be local options on live issues in the political life of the Principality. I do not remember the 1895 General Election, but I remember the 1906 one. I was nurtured in a Liberal Radical home. My father was a Liberal and an active member of the Liberal "Three hundred".
The local option which was then urged was not a limited local option of this kind. It was a local option about whether any locality in the Principality would want to close "pubs" and clubs all day and every day. It was a local option about whether alcohol should be sold at all. But that is not the local option referred to here.
This is a local option by which the people of Wales—and the Government claim tremendous virtue in this—will decide whether they want the "pubs" open on Sunday. If the Government say that this is a matter for the people to decide, and a matter which the Welsh people have the right and the privilege to decide for themselves, why limit it to public houses? The Government take their stand on a principle, they say. They say they will not ask the House to decide this. They say that they, the Government, will not decide this. They say that it shall not be Parliament who shall decide this, nor the Welsh Members of Parliament—they shall not be allowed to decide. They say that the people will be allowed to decide.
Well, let them decide; but let them decide not only on this. Why not let them decide on clubs? What argument can the Government have in principle for providing a local option as to whether 146 "pubs" should be open on Sundays which which does not equally apply to clubs? This is not our proposal, but theirs, and they have to defend it. Can they defend it against that question? If we are to have local option, let us have it. Will they say to the people of my own county, Carmarthen, that they shall have the inalienable right to decide whether the "pubs" should open on Sundays, but not the right to decide whether clubs should? Is that really the option?
This is not a matter of principle. It is a dodge. This is expediency. This is an attempt to divide and conquer, an attempt to divide and conquer by a party which has been decisively rejected by the people of Wales in every election in this century.
I promised to give the Minister for Welsh Affairs ample time to answer these questions, and I shall say only one or two things more in conclusion. Reference has been made tonight, on both sides of the House. I think, to the fact that in the main, so it is said, the objection to Sunday opening conies from the Nonconformist Churches. May be that it does.
I want to say to the Home Secretary that if he proceeds with this Measure he will outrage Nonconformist sentiment in Wales. And this is not a small thing to do. Here, I speak for myself—but I speak for many other Members, too. I was nurtured in a Nonconformist home, and in a village which came under the influence of Nonconformity. I am very glad; I feel very privileged. Wales and its people owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the Nonconformist Churches. They have preserved our language when the other Church betrayed it.
§ Mr. Griffiths
They have maintained a culture which is dependent upon it. They have fostered a good democratic spirit. Many of us learned our first lessons in democracy in Nonconformist chapels. They have cultivated things of the mind and of the spirit. They now take the view that the Government, by this Measure, are challenging them. That is what the Government are doing.
I have been glad to see in my lifetime the old division between Church and chapel almost vanish in Wales. I would 147 say, if I may, with respect to the Archbishop—whom I do not know—that he has rendered his Church a great disservice. He has once more aroused the old enmity between Church and chapel which had died. I say this, without knowing him—I do not want to say a word about him of a personal nature: without consultation, so far as I know, with any in the Church which is the Church of the people of Wales in a much greater degree than that Church for which he is entitled to speak, he has, in their view, outraged them.
I shall not speak about the polls, or whether they should be in Wales as a whole or in localities, or whether, as was suggested in a letter in The Times today, they should be in the four old provinces, but it may well be that, if they are held and we have to take county boundaries for them, we will have a patchwork quilt.
I see my hon. Friends the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) the Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies) and the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), and I think of an area, in which for many years I served as a miners' agent, with the lovely Welsh name of Cwmtwrch, and which is in three counties. There is a George IV inn which is said to be in all these four counties. Are we to have a local option in each room?
Local government boundaries in Wales—which, for good or ill, may be changed by the Boundary Commission; that I do not know—rim along the rivers. Are we to have one side of a bridge with extended hours and the other side not? When we come to discuss this further, we shall point out to the Home Secretary and to the Minister for Welsh Affairs that they and their advisers have shown a great ignorance of Wales and its boundaries in deciding the areas of these polls.
The Government need not have introduced a Measure to repeal the provisions for Welsh Sunday closing in a general Licensing Bill. I said to the Home Secretary last Thursday, and I say again, that this is unfair. Why did he not bring in a Bill dealing with Wales alone? If he had done that, we would have had the right, which Standing Orders confer upon us, to take that Bill 148 to the Standing Committee comprised of Members from Wales and Monmouthshire. Was he afraid that Welsh Members would declare their views collectively? This is a matter which refers exclusively to Wales. Is it not an advantage for the House that the Members from Wales should meet together, as the Standing Order gives them the right to do?
Much is said about democracy. We have democratically elected representatives of Wales. Is the Home Secretary afraid to let us decide this issue in Committee? We do not in this way take the issue from the House, for eventually it comes back to the House for approval. We charge the Government with having designed the Bill in such a way as to prevent Welsh Members from getting the rights which the Constitution provides for their own country.
I rejoice in the changes that have taken place in Wales. I rejoice in the fact that the employment situation is better, that standards are higher and that leisure is more ample, and in all the other changes that have taken place. We welcome these changes. But it may well be that the Government are proceeding upon the assumption that the days of Nonconformity are ended, and that they need no longer be afraid of challenging it.
Speaking for myself, and in the knowledge of my wishes for my country and its people, including its young people, I say that if it is to be a choice between the chapel and the choir, the Sunday school and the guild, and all that goes with them in culture—if it is to be a choice between all that and betting shops, clubs, tombola and housey-housey, I know where my choice lies.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has spoken with intense sincerity, a sincerity matched by hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent Welsh constituencies, and who have taken different views about the contentious Clause 6 of this Bill. I find myself wholly in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that, in all our considerations of the whole of this Bill, we must never forget the welfare of the 149 young people who have to carry the burden of the country long after we are gone from this House and from the world. It would indeed be a mistake if throughout our debates on the Bill we were to narrow our discussion to a technical point and forget the far more important background.
I am also with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that these are matters of intense importance in Wales, and I certainly seek not to make any debating points tonight but to try to emulate the standard which has been set, as I remarked, by hon. Members from Wales on both sides of the House. I express my apologies to right hon. and hon. Members representing English constituencies, who have spoken more widely in the debate, if I do not attempt to answer the points which they have raised. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, and my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will both be speaking tomorrow. They will have the opportunity to read the OFFICIAL REPORT Of today's proceedings, and I know that it will be their wish to take up arguments and questions raised by other hon. Members.
I think that it would be the wish of the Welsh Members who have spoken that the Minister for Welsh Affairs should intervene in the debate and express the views of the Government. They have had to consider their proper course in relation to the Sunday closing of public houses in Wales, which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, has been the law of the land since the United Kingdom Parliament so legislated as long as seventy-nine years ago. The principle that Sunday closing of public houses in Wales should be continued is most deeply held by a great many Welsh men and Welsh women. Some indeed feel that any tampering with the law on this subject could be an affront to the Christian faith in Wales.
These views which I have described are held mainly, but not exclusively, by ministers and members of the Nonconformist Churches. They deserve the greatest respect from the House of Commons. I have heard it alleged by some that Henry Brooke could never appreciate the Nonconformist point of view. I must say that it seems strange 150 to me that that should be said of a grandson of Stopford Brooke who, I would say, was one of the outstanding preachers of his time. I know that Stopford Brooke's grandson cannot be charged with utter ignorance of the Nonconformist point of view.
The argument which weighs most with me personally in all this against making any change in the 79-year custom in Wales is that any change must cause deep offence to a number of people to whom the Sunday closing of public houses in Wales is not simply a question of social policy to be discussed on sociological grounds, but a question of moral faith. In my view, they deserve our special respect on that account. Yet I do not think that can close the matter. I do not think we can say that and say no more. We must recognise that there is also a large body of opinion in Wales, some would say modern opinion—certainly in some parts of Wales—a large body of opinion that the old law is now out of date.
It is felt that there is something absurd, as the right hon. and learned Member the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) said, in the "pubs" being closed when the clubs are open on Sundays in Wales, and are, in fact, proliferating in numbers. It was also said that there is not nowadays the same social problem of drunkenness in Wales which would justify the Welsh people enjoying less personal freedom than English people do.
I expect that some hon. Members from North Wales, at any rate, will have seen today's North Wales edition of the Liverpool Daily Post, a paper which I read daily, and will have noted that a lady who was speaking yesterday at an interdenominational service at Conway on the National Day of Prayer which was called by the Nonconformist churches in North Wales recalled how there was a similar day of prayer in Wales in 1880 before the introduction of the 1881 Bill. She is reported as having said that in 1880 the taverns were open all day and every day, and on Sundays, when men had a day of rest from their work, many spent the whole day drinking, with the result that people on their way to church and chapel had to make their way through brawling crowds. That has changed. No hon. Member, however deeply he feels on this question, would attempt to argue 151 that that is a picture of the modern Wales of today.
I do not want to prejudge this matter. All I am saying is that there is nothing wrong in Parliament taking a new look at the question in the light of the changes which seventy-nine years have brought about. If hon. Members care to look back at the 1881 Act, they will see that the Long Title of that Act says that it isAn Act to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays in Wales.That has long since passed away. There is no complete prohibition nowadays of the sale of intoxicating liquors in Wales. I do not go as far as the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) in alleging that anybody can get a drink at any time of the day or night on a weekday or a Sunday anywhere in Wales. I think that there is a great deal of truth in the statement that in most of the towns anyone who knows the way can get a drink on Sundays, but, frankly, the talk about complete prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays in Wales has long been rendered out of date.
Nobody can tell how many people feel strongly on this matter one way or the other. Still less can anybody tell how large is the uncommitted body of Welsh people who have not so far given any expression of their desire one way or the other. I put it to the House that these people need just as much consideration as those who are all out to secure the maximum time for selling beer and those who feel that they should use all their powers to restrict the consumption of alcohol to the minimum. What is undeniable is that there are very great differences of opinion nowadays within Wales, and I think that most people would agree that there is probably a stronger body of opinion in favour of some change in the law in industrial South Wales than in certain other parts of the Principality.
These were the circumstances in which the Government had to decide what to do. If my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had included nothing about Sunday closing in Wales in his Bill, nevertheless, as he explained in his speech, the subject was bound to arise in the course of our proceedings, because the Bill would have been wide open to 152 the moving of Amendments or new Clauses, as the case might be, on this subject. That was the practical case against leaving it over until such time as perhaps a Sunday observance Measure might come along one day.
The Government felt, therefore, that in introducing a licensing Bill for England and Wales they could not just turn a blind eye to the whole controversy. They further felt that it would be completely wrong, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said in his admirable speech, to legislate to abolish Sunday closing in Wales without any further effort to try to ascertain how the opinion of ordinary Welshmen really stood. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) made a most admirable speech on this matter, and he endorsed the view which I have just expressed.
I think that some of those in Wales who have urged that, if they were to touch the matter at all in the Bill, the Government should have repealed Sunday closing in Wales outright would have been the first to castigate the Government, had they done so, for riding roughshod over Wales. Some people suggested that a thoroughgoing inquiry by a committee or a Royal Commission was the right course. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Llanelly argued that at least that should have been done, and I note that the bishops of the Church in Wales put forward that suggestion to my right hon. Friend.
But here again one must take the practical view. It seemed to the Government inconceivable that any committee of inquiry could possibly produce a unanimous report that would be helpful to Parliament on this subject unless gross bias was used in selecting the members of the committee so that that would be the result. And a committee which did not commend itself in its membership to the people of Wales of all views would have been worse than useless. It is hard to see what facts that are not already known any inquiry of that sort could disclose however long it continued. It would have given rise to a great deal of hot feeling. Memoranda would have been submitted and evidence would have been given. Yet where would we have been in the end? How could any evidence 153 given to That committee have been more than the expressions of personal or organisational views?
This was how the Government, after very careful thought indeed, were led to the conclusion that the solution must be to find out what the people of Wales really desired, by polls in the thirteen counties and four county boroughs. The right hon. and learned Member for Newport accepted the idea, but suggested that the county boroughs should vote with their respective counties—Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr with Glamorgan and Newport with Monmouthshire. This is a matter to be examined in Committee, but as all local polls hitherto have been on the basis of local authority areas, the Government see some advantage in sticking to that rather than adopting the right hon. and learned Member's suggestion, or the more imaginative recommendation in The Times today to which the right hon. Member for Llanelly referred of taking the old provinces of Wales as the basic areas.
It is anybody's guess how the voting will go, but I should be surprised if local polls give rise to more travelling to drink than takes place at present. The logic of the sincere argument of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) about the dangers of travelling to drink is surely that the law in Wales on Sundays should be assimilated to the law in England, because that is one way of making certain that one eliminates the travelling to drink. If we had legislation in that way in the Bill I know quite well what the hon. Member would have said about me.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North admirably stated the case for making the polls local polls, but I know that a number of people in Wales, and people who support as well as those who oppose Sunday opening, have urged that, instead of any form of a local option, there should be one national poll for Wales as a whole.
It seems to the Government that there are two arguments against doing it that way. One is that it would be a constitutional innovation, whereas local polls are well precedented in our legislation. Never, so far as I am aware, have we had a referendum on a national basis. I am not saying that we could 154 not have one. I am not saying that it is unthinkable. I should not be at all surprised if an Amendment to this effect were moved and discussed in Committee. But the proposal for a poll on a national basis would raise more far-reaching questions. It would raise the question of when we ought to have a referendum in England on an English issue, or a referendum in Scotland on a Scottish issue. I am not sure where we should stop. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I see that I am carrying the Opposition with me. The only point I am making here is that to have a national referendum on this issue in Wales would raise large constitutional questions which would affect England and Scotland, too, and, indeed, the whole of the United Kingdom.
There is another and specific Welsh difficulty about seeking to settle the disputed problem of Sunday closing by a national referendum. Anyone who has ever looked at the figures will have seen that Glamorgan and Monmouthshire, certainly if the four county boroughs they contain are included, constitute no less than 63 per cent. of the total population which is now affected by Sunday closing. Glamorgan and Monmouthshire are the most industrialised of all the counties in Wales and they are the areas where the movement for Sunday opening is generally believed to be strongest.
Speaking as Minister for Welsh Affairs and with a full sense of responsibility, I say that it would be wholly wrong in my view if the more lightly populated and countrified counties, such as Merioneth and Cardiganshire, were asked to come into a national referendum in which they would know that their total voting strength would count for little against the big battalions of the south. Yet that would be the inevitable effect of a national poll for the whole of Wales.
Differences of opinion within Wales, cutting right across party lines, have been sharply brought to light in the debate today. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken about this controversial problem with a sincerity which has impressed the House. The Government's one purpose is to enable the people of Wales themselves 155 to decide whether public houses should open or close on Sundays, while at the same time seeking to protect local opinion democratically expressed if the polls show that different views prevail in different parts of the Principality.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly asked me what the view of the Welsh Tourist and Holidays Board was. The Welsh Tourist and Holidays Board has specifically refrained from expressing any collective view on the matter. It has neither advocated nor opposed a change in the law.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Council for Wales. I was invited by the Council for Wales to attend one of its meetings which took place four days before the opening of this Session of Parliament. There was a discussion at the Council about this question. Of course I did not disclose the Government's intentions. What I said to the Council was that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had already announced that he was proposing to bring in a licensing Bill. I could not tell the Council whether there would be any mention of this subject in the Bill. What I could tell it was that if a licensing Bill was introduced, this subject was bound to be raised by some hon. Members, either on Second Reading or by Amendment in Committee, because it would clearly be within the scope of the Bill.
Therefore, as the Council for Wales had told me previously that it would value the opportunity to express a view on possible action by Parliament, I said that I would welcome the opportunity to hear the views which it expressed. The matter was discussed for some time in my presence. I gave the Council no lead at all and I am sure that every member of the Council would endorse that. What I said is faithfully reported in the Liverpool Daily Post for 29th October for hon. Members to read. I attended a Press conference afterwards in company with the Chairman of the Council and I am sure that he would have challenged me if anything I said to the Press was not a strictly accurate account of what took place.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Are we to understand that the Council for Wales expressed no collective view about this matter?
§ Mr. Brooke
That is true, and I am sure that the chairman would endorse that if the right hon. Gentleman were to ask him. Individual members of the Council for Wales expressed differing views and, as I mentioned to the Press, they seemed largely, but not wholly, to run according to the part of the Principality from which the speaker came.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me why, if there was to be a referendum on public houses, there should not be a referendum on clubs, too. This is a matter which can be discussed in Committee. The Government have drafted the Bill as it is, but if it is felt that clubs should be closed where public houses are closed, the Standing Committee will clearly have the opportunity to discuss the matter.
§ Mr. Brooke
The Government stand firm on the principle that the people of Wales shall themselves decide this matter of Sunday closing. Reference has been made to a Motion on the Order Paper that notwithstanding anything in paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 58, Clause 6 of the Bill should be considered by a Standing Committee consisting of all Members for constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshire. Significantly, it is not proposed that it should be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee, but to a new Committee.
§ Mr. Brooke
The Government do not think that within a Bill of twenty-six Clauses, twenty-five can be committed to one Committee and one to another. Despite anything that the right hon. Gentleman said, it would be a new Committee. It is not a Committee already provided for in Standing Orders.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is provided for in Standing Order No. 58 and there is a Motion, which is strictly in order, on the Order Paper which, if accepted, would mean that it went to the Welsh Committee.
§ Mr. Brooke
Standing Order No. 58 refers to a Committeeso constituted as to comprise all Members sitting for constituencies in Wales and Monmouthshirebut it also permits the adding of fourteen other Members. The right hon. Gentleman's Motion does not permit that.
Moreover, Clause 6 and the Second Schedule are not the only parts of the Bill which concern Wales. I have already received indications that interests in Wales are very much concerned about Clause 8, which deals with the possibility of drinks being served after midnight on a Sunday night. One cannot single out Clause 6 as the only part of the Bill which is of interest to Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members have also suggested that we might treat Clause 6 as a separate Bill, because it repeals the 1881 Act. That Act, of course, was repealed as long ago as 1910. What we are dealing with now is Section 111 of the Licensing Act, of 1953. We are—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.