HC Deb 28 July 1961 vol 645 cc826-8

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 35, at end insert: or (c) in the case of any such licence, because the contemplated provision of intoxicants would be by 'self-service' methods, that is to say, any method allowing a customer to help himself on payment or before payment.

1.20 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Amendment allows licensing justices to refuse an application for the grant or renewal of a Part I licence on the ground that the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor on the premises is undesirable because the liquor would be provided by self-service methods. There are obviously serious objections, which I will not elaborate, to self-service methods in respect of liquor. The Amendment seeks to deal with them. It does not allow licensing justices to refuse an application on the ground that the food is supplied by self-service methods. Thus, the Amendment will not affect a self-service restaurant where the liquor is dispensed to customers by one of the staff.

The Amendment gives licensing justices a discretion. They are to refuse an application only if the self-service methods make undesirable the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor on the premises. It is obvious what the objections to self-service methods for the supply of liquor are. The proprietor—the person in control, the licensee—cannot ensure that young or drunken persons are not served. He cannot, in a restaurant, ensure that only persons taking table meals consume liquor. For all these reasons I hope that the House will agree that this is a safeguard which should be included in the Bill and will, therefore, agree to the Amendment.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I welcome the Amendment. It is in line with a number of Amendments which we pressed on the Government in Committee. It adds one further very desirable safeguard.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 38, at end insert: (4) If on an application for the grant or renewal for any premises of a restaurant licence, residential licence or residential and restaurant licence it is made to appear to the licensing justices on behalf of any such authority as is mentioned below in this sub-section—

  1. (a) that the authority or an officer designated in that behalf by the authority desired in connection with the application to have the premises inspected for purposes of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above; and
  2. (b) that after reasonable steps had been taken by or on behalf of the authority or officer for the purpose it was not possible to have the premises so inspected;
the licensing justices may refuse the application. The authorities above referred to are—
  1. (i) (according to the situation of the premises) the Common Council of the City of London or the council of the county borough, metropolitan borough or county district; and
  2. (ii) the authority (if not included in paragraph (i) above) discharging in the area where the premises are situated the functions of fire authority under the Fire Services Act, 1947; and
  3. (iii) the chief officer of police for the police area where the premises are situated.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The background to the Amendment is this. In the debate in this House on what is now Clause 28, which gives fire authorities certain rights of inspection in connection with an application by a club for a registration certificate, the question was raised, I think by both the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) and by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), whether fire authorities would have similar rights to inspect premises in respect of which an application was being made for a justices' licence and whether the justices would have power to refuse an application on the grounds of fire risk.

I took the opportunity then to review the provisions of the Bill generally in relation to that question. I pointed out that in the case of licensed premises the licensing justices have a wide discretion to refuse the grant of a licence and that under what is now paragraph 2 (5) of the Fourth Schedule notice of the application for a new licence had to be sent to the fire authorities, among others. I indicated my view, which, I think, was acceptable to the House, that it would be unthinkable that licensing justices would exercise their discretion to grant a licence where inspection had been refused to the fire authority, or indeed to any other inspecting authority.

I pointed out that, in the case of Part I licences, there is not a complete discretion on the part of the licensing justices. I therefore said that my right hon. Friend would consider whether an Amendment should be moved in another place to enable licensing justices, when considering the grant of a Part I licence, to take into account whether inspection had been refused. On consideration, my right hon. Friend thought it right to meet that point and to fill in that lacuna. The Amendment fulfils that undertaking.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

The Amendment seems to me to make a distinct improvement in the Bill. I hope that the House will agree with it. The question was raised and discussed in some detail in Committee, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. Indeed, the Amendment follows very closely the lines of a suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher).

The Solicitor-General

I should have pointed out that it does follow a suggestion made by the hon. Member for Islington, East. I should have paid a tribute to the hon. Member. I should also have pointed out that it goes a little beyond it, because it extends to a police authority and a local authority.

Sir F. Soskice

I hope that the Solicitor-General will not think that I am speaking in any sense of complaint on behalf of my hon. Friend. It is the combined effort of Government thinking and thinking from the Opposition benches. It undoubtedly improves the Bill. It would obviously be unreasonable that the authorities should be deprived of any power in the event of a refusal of the facilities which the Bill provides for. I thank the Solicitor-General for introducing the Amendment and I hope that the House will accept it.

Question put and agreed to.