HC Deb 28 July 1961 vol 645 cc829-32

Lords Amendment: In page 10, leave out lines 4 to 8.

The Solicitor-General

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

The effect of this Amendment and the one to follow is to make the provision about off-licence hours a separate subsection of Clause 5. Their purpose is to provide some flexibility as regards the bringing of the Act into operation by Order of the Secretary of State under Clause 32 (5). It is contemplated that different provisions will be brought into force on different dates. The Amendments make the provision about off-licence hours a separate provision so that it could, if this course should seem expedient, be brought into force in advance of the general provision about permitted hours in licensed premises contained in subsection (1). At present, the provision about off-licence hours operates as a proviso to subsection (1). Without the Amendments it would be necessary to carry out the rather awkward exercise of bringing the proviso into force before the main provision on which it is to operate.

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

Will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us a little more about the programming of bringing these different parts into effect? I appreciate that the reason here is that it may be desirable to bring part into effect at one time and part into effect at another time. It is of the greatest importance to the country generally to know when these different parts will come into effect. If my right hon. and learned Friend does not wish to answer this question now, will he be able to answer it on another Amendment, so that we shall have an answer today?

It is of particular importance to know, for example, whether the clubs parts as they affect this will come into effect now and, if so, how he will be able to manage that without the difficulty of having to wait for the permitted hours and other provisions to come into operation, which, presumably, will be during the brewster sessions. Can my right hon. and learned Friend give us some guidance on this topic and, with the per- mission of the Chair, on a rather wider basis than just this Amendment?

1.30 p.m.

The Secretary for Technical Cooperation (Mr. Dennis Vosper)

So much depends upon the passage of this Bill that we have been rather reluctant to put forward a programme for bringing into operation its various parts. It would, for instance, make a great deal of difference whether the Bill goes on the Statute Book before the end of this month or later in the year.

For that reason, I have always avoided making any forecast or putting forward a programme for bringing into action the various parts of the Bill, and even at this stage I am a little reluctant to commit myself. I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. Many of those in the trade and the authorities are anxious to know about this. I do not know whether it is possible to make a statement about it on any further Amendment, but I note what my hon. Friend says, and in some way or another I will ensure that in the very near future a statement to that effect is made.

It is our intention to bring the various parts into operation on different dates, and no delay will be caused on that account. The reason for the different dates is that in certain cases consultations will be necessary, but we see no reason to delay the other parts of the Bill on that account. My hon. Friend will remember that in the case of the Betting and Gaming Act we adopted the same procedure, and various parts came into operation in October last year. I suggest that roughly the same procedure is followed here. I will take note of my hon. Friend's point and see whether a statement can be made or notice issued to meet his request.

Mr. Rees-Davies

May we take it that the position is that the whole Bill will certainly not come into effect later than the brewster sessions of next year? Would it be safe to say that the last date for the entire Bill to come into effect will be the normal brewster sessions period of next year?

Mr. Vosper

I have for the moment passed this responsibility to others, and I hate to give off-the-cuff answers, but I see no reason why the whole Bill should not come into operation by the next brewster sessions.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

All we are doing here is transposing words which appear in this proviso to a subsection on their own, and the reason for that is that the Government might find presently that they wish to bring this Measure in piecemeal; at any rate, this section. It seems to me, from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, that negotiations will have to take place, and, for that reason, the Bill, as a whole, or the Act as it will be, will not be ready to be implemented on one and the same date. Why not wait until they are ready?

What is the hurry? We are getting on very well under the present licensing laws. It seems to me rather curious to bring in a Measure piecemeal, and not only that, but to bring in, as I understand it, possibly part of the section dealing with permitted hours and at a later date other parts of the section also dealing with permitted hours. For that reason, I am not objecting to the change, because as a change it makes for tidiness, but the reason given strikes me as peculiar, and I am sorry that the Government have it in mind.

The Solicitor-General

I hope that I may be able to clarify and expand what my right hon. Friend has said. The intention, as at present envisaged, is that the permitted hours provisions will be brought in before the next brewster sessions; that is to say, next February or March. The provisions as to off-licence hours may be brought in earlier. The provisions as to clubs will probably be later in order to give the clubs enough time to adjust themselves to the new procedure. The other parts will be brought in as soon as possible.

If it is any comfort to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), I would ask him to bear in mind that certain of these provisions, for example, sales to juveniles and young persons from off-licence premises, are restrictive and in the direction which he wants to see the law take. Therefore, I should have thought that he would have welcomed their implementation at the very earliest date.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 11, line 11, after "three", to insert "and a half".

The Solicitor-General

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

The Amendment relates to permitted hours in registered clubs, and it is therefore consequential on an Amendment which was accepted on Report stage in this House which made the Sunday closing hour 10.30 p.m. instead of 10 o'clock, and thereby gave licenced premises three and a half hours in the evening. The permitted hours in club premises are governed by Clause 5 (7), and under the provisions of that Clause as it stands, clubs will have the same total, that is 5½ hours, of permitted hours on Sundays as licenced premises, but will be able to have no more than three hours in the evening, compared with 3½ hours, in licenced premises.

There is no conceivable reason for restricting the choice of hours in clubs in that way. Indeed, the policy of the Bill and of all earlier legislation is to allow clubs to have the same hours as licenced premises, if they choose, and to allow the clubs to choose their hours, within limits. This Amendment gives effect to that policy and amends Clause 5 (7) to bring it into line with the provisions of Clause 5 (1, b).

Question put and agreed to.