HC Deb 28 July 1961 vol 645 cc833-51

Lords Amendment: In page 18, line 45, leave out "and Good Friday" and insert: but nothing in that section shall affect the permitted hours on Good Friday or shall extend beyond midnight the permitted hours on Maundy Thursday or Easter Eve.

Read a Second tune.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Does the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) wish to move his Amendment to this Lords Amendment?

Mr. Fletcher

Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if that would be convenient to you and to the House.

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, to leave out "or Easter" and to insert: "Easter Eve or Christmas".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Would it be convenient for the House also to take the next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, East, in the second Lords Amendment in page 19, line 17, in subsection (1, c) to leave out "or Easter" and to insert "Easter Eve or Christmas"?

Mr. Fletcher

I am not quite so happy about that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Then we shall take just the one Amendment.

Mr. Fletcher

It may be that, when we come to my second Amendment, what we have said on the Amendment I have moved may render it unnecessary to have further debate on the second Lords Amendment in page 19, line 17, which introduces the new Clause A, but I myself should prefer to postpone any debate on my Amendment to that new Clause A until I had heard what the Solicitor-General had to say about the new Clause A, which, after all, is a very long one. I had expected that we should hear an explanation about the Lords Amendment in page 18, line 45, before my Amendment to it was called, but, as we have not, I shall explain the position as I understand it.

When the Bill was before us in Committee, we had a good deal of discussion about whether it was reasonable that the provisions of the Bill with regard to special hours certificates—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that I could meet the convenience of the House if it were desired that the Solicitor-General should speak on the hon. Member's Amendment. That would be quite possible within the rules of order.

Mr. Fletcher

All I was saying, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, was that, to explain the Amendment I have moved, I should preface my remarks by indicating what the Lords Amendment itself does. I think that that would be convenient and, indeed, I think it would help my case.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. How can we discuss an Amendment to something which is not in the Bill and which is not before the House? I should have thought that the most convenient procedure, if not the proper procedure—I say the "most convenient procedure" because I do not wish to cast reflections on anyone—would be for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Vosper) —whose Ministry I forget because it is so newly established that one cannot recite its name by heart—to explain what another place has suggested should go into the Bill. I gather that, for some reason or other, that does not satisfy the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). However, if we know from the right hon. Member for Runcorn what the explanation of the Lords Amendment is, we may then be better able to understand why so intelligent a person as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East does not like it.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher

The two matters hang together. I think it might be convenient if I explained what my Amendment is designed to do.

The background is that, on Report, we had considerable argument about whether or not the extended hours certificate should apply to Sundays. If I remember aright, we had a Division about it. The position with regard to Sundays was left in a very unsatisfactory state, and the matter was again ventilated at length in another place, with the result that their Lordships made an Amendment the effect of which is to preserve the provisions in the Bill with regard to an extended hours certificate for Sundays but to make an exception in respect of Good Friday, Maundy Thursday and Easter Eve. The object of my Amendment is that those days which are now to be excepted should be extended to cover Christmas Eve.

It was said in another place that, by agreeing to treat Good Friday and the eve of Easter Day as days of exceptional importance and sanctity in the religious and social life of the country, the Government were making a compromise. But, of course, that is not really so. The compromise in the Bill as it stands, if the Lords Amendment be accepted, is that Sundays should in future be treated as ordinary days of the week, which they are not at present, but there will be the special exemptions for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve.

My suggestion is that, as a matter of logic and of common sense, the arguments which justify those exceptions should apply equally to Christmas. I say that for three reasons. If we turn to the provisions in the Bill dealing with permitted hours generally, we find in several places that for various purposes Christmas Day is put on precisely the same footing as Good Friday. For instance, in Clause 5 (1) the provisions for ordinary licensing hours in the country on weekdays are constant but there is an express exception if a weekday should be Christmas Day or Good Friday.

In Clause 5 (1, b) we again find that Christmas Day and Good Friday are put in the same category as Sunday in respect of afternoon closing hours. We find the same in Clause 5 (7). I think it true to say that elsewhere, not only in the Bill but for several other purposes, Christmas Day is regarded as falling into the same category as Good Friday. They are both Bank Holidays but they are essentially religious holidays or Bank Holidays associated with religious festivals unlike August Bank Holiday or New Year's Day, which is a Bank Holiday in Scotland, which have no religious significance of any kind.

On grounds of logic, I submit that we should be consistent. We ought to recognise the special features of Christmas Day in the religious and social life of the country. We ought not to enable justices to grant special hours certificates permitting not only restaurants but other licensed premises to serve intoxicating liquor until three o'clock in London and two o'clock in the provinces, with, of course, the additional half-hour permitted in both cases.

I cannot believe that there is any great demand for such licences on Christmas Day, that is, after midnight on Christmas Eve. I should have thought that the case for making an exception in respect of Christmas Eve was even stronger than the case which has been recognised by the Government in respect of Easter Eve. Christmas Day and the eve of Christmas are essentially the one time of the year—the one evening of the year—when most people wish to congregate in the family home. Most people try to get home as early as possible on Christmas Eve. There are the familiar family duties associated with children and relatives to be carried out. Christmas is essentially a family feast to be spent in the home.

I believe that there is very little demand from people wishing to go to restaurants and to stay until two or three o'clock or later on the morning of Christmas Day. If that were to become a recognised feature of our social life. I think that it would give the same kind of offence as is recognised would be the case if special hour certificates were available on Good Friday or the eve of Good Friday or Easter Eve.

There is this further consideration which I hope will appeal to the Minister. This argument is put forward not entirely on religious grounds, although that I think it can be sustained on religious grounds. It can also be supported on grounds of general social convenience. It cannot be in the interests of those working in licensed premises or places of entertainment to require them to stay at work until the early hours of Christmas morning. If a change of that kind were made we should be doing something contrary to the general pattern of social arrangements which is now being contemplated.

There is already a great deal of support for the view that postmen should no longer be required to deliver mail on Christmas morning. Postmen are very busy during the period immediately before Christmas. The tendency is to get Christmas cards and Christmas mail delivered well in advance of Christmas. Some people hold the view—I strongly support this view, which is widely held —that it places an intolerable burden on postmen that they should have to deliver mail on Christmas morning. I hope that the suggestion that this practice should be stopped will soon he implemented by the Government. It is for that sort of reason that it seems to me equally undesirable that we should now for the first time sanction local authorities outside London to be able to grant special hours certificates for dancing and other entertainment and for the consumption of alcohol until the early hours of Christmas morning.

I have been reading what was said in another place about this matter. I was very disappointed with the remarks of the Lord Chancellor, who resisted what I regard as a very reasonable Amendment on what seemed to me to be very flimsy grounds. He recognised the general case which a number of noble Lords had urged in support of this Amendment, but he said that there were some young married people living in small flats or lodgings for whom it was necessary to provide this kind of entertainment in the early hours of Christmas Day.

I cannot believe that that is the case. Everyone knows that there are plenty of festivities immediately before Christmas and plenty of festivities in restaurants and elsewhere immediately after Christmas, including New Year's Day, which is essentially a pagan festival. It seems to me that the Government would be responding to a widespread desire on the part of a large section of the community if they were to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps it would he of advantage at this stage if I replied to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) as to why I have pursued this procedure. It is laid down on page 581 of Erskine May that an Amendment cannot be proposed to a Lords Amendment after the Question for agreeing to the Lords Amendment has been put from the Chair.

Mr. Vosper

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) has moved the Amendment very reasonably, but I wonder whether he fully understands the background to this issue.

The matter raised by the hon. Member's Amendment and by the Government Amendment which I shall be asking the House to approve shortly arises out of the Licensing Act, 1949, which originated the special hours certificate, with which we are solely concerned at this stage. That Act made it clear that weekdays included Good Fridays and Christmas Days when they did not fall on a Sunday. A certain amount of ambiguity arose from the consolidation Act of 1953 and the declaratory provision contained in the Bill is simply inserted to clear up that ambiguity. It does not in any way alter the original provisions of the 1949 Act. It merely reaffirms that, as was then intended, weekdays do not exclude Christmas Days and Sundays for special hours certificate purposes.

It may well be that the hon. Member disagrees with that decision taken in 1949, but it was a clear decision and, as I shall show, it has been carried out in practice. The Bill does not alter that principle. It makes three changes. It proposes that in London the extension shall be until 3 a.m. and not 2 a.m.; it extends the existing provisions for London to the rest of the country; and it extends the provisions to Saturday nights, which were not included in the 1949 Act.

The original intention that Good Fridays and Christmas Days, when not falling on a Sunday, should be treated as weekdays remains from the 1949 provisions and that has been in this Bill from the day that it was introduced into the House. To the best of my recollection, it was not questioned at any stage during its passage through this House.

As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, in another place the question arose as to whether Good Fridays and Christmas Days should be so included. As a result of the debates in another place, I shall shortly be asking the House to approve an Amendment excluding Good Friday and Easter Eve. The hon. Gentleman now wishes to extend the scope of the Amendment to Christmas Eve. In practice, over the last few years special hours certificates have been granted on Christmas Eve in accordance with the 1949 Act.

Mr. Fletcher

In London.

Mr. Vosper

The special hours certificate applies only in London. I cannot say that every one of the fifty-one establishments in London has taken advantage of that provision, but many of them have done so. The London County Council has issued the music and dancing licence which is necessary before a special hours certificate can operate.

Therefore, the practice at present is that the special hours certificate in London extends into the early hours of Christmas morning. Over and above that, for a great number of years, the Commissioner of Police in the Metropolis !and, no doubt, licensing justices throughout the country have granted special exemptions to places which do not qualify for a special hours certificate to allow the consumption of alcohol until 1 o'clock in the morning. Therefore, the practice over a number of years has been to allow public houses and restaurants to remain open after midnight on Christmas Eve. Therefore, the hon. Member in his Amendment asks the House to reverse something which has been the practice in the case of special hours certificates since 1949 and, in the case of special exemption orders, probably for a great deal longer. That is one of the reasons why my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor resisted this Amendment in another place.

2.0 p.m.

The position of Good Friday and the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, to put it that way for clarity, is somewhat different. Theoretically, it has always been possible for special hours certificates to be granted on Good Friday, but the London County Council has never issued music and dancing licences for that day. Therefore, in contrast to Christmas Eve, it has not been the practice to allow a special hours certificate to be granted for Good Friday. In the case of the Saturday before Easter Sunday, that has not been possible because Saturday has been excluded hitherto from the operation of special hours certificates. Therefore, in accepting the two Amendments, one is not reversing what has hitherto been the practice but is preventing those two days —Good Friday and the Saturday before Easter Sunday—from becoming open in future to special hours certificates.

Therefore, in moving the Amendments which I shall move I am asking the House to reaffirm the existing procedure. The hon. Member for Islington East is asking us to put back the clock. He may well say that the Labour Government were wrong in 1949 in allowing special hours certificates to operate on Christmas Eve and that we should take a new decision. The hon. Member says that as these certificates will now be available to the rest of the country the case is made even stronger.

Mr. Fletcher

And the hours have been extended.

Mr. Vosper

Yes. But probably if one were to go on beyond midnight I do not think that the House would take the view that there is all that difference between 2 and 3 a.m. That is the view taken by the House earlier.

My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor was right in drawing as he did in another place, a difference between Christmas Eve and the other days under discussion. He argued that Christmas Eve was a traditional night for gaiety or celebration and that it was the practice of people in this country to celebrate on Christmas Eve. He drew attention to the ease of young married families who, possibly, could not celebrate in their own house. It was, I think, accepted in those debates that there was a difference between Christmas Eve, on the one hand, and Good Friday and the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, on the other hand. Celebrations on Christmas Eve are a tradition in this country and they have been permitted in practice both in the premises with special hours certificates and in countless places throughout the country by the ordinary extension of licensing hours. I do not feel that it would be in accord with public opinion that we should reverse that trend.

I advise the House this afternoon, with all respect to the hon. Member for Islington, East, that we should follow the practice of the last few years and allow these extensions to be granted, even though they will, of course, be extended to the rest of the country. We are, however, logical in asking the House also to endorse the Amendments sent from another place that we should exclude Good Friday and the evening before Easter Sunday. On those days, it would be a great pity if special hours certificates were granted, and that is the view of most thinking people. Therefore, although I do not go the whole way with the hon. Member, and although this issue was not raised when the matter was before the House earlier, we are going some way towards the view advanced by the hon. Member continually throughout the Bill.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The Secretary for Technical Co-operation has done himself less than justice. He was criticising something in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) which was not there. I am not clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said whether he intends, on behalf of the Government, to resist this Amendment submitted by another place. If he does not resist it, it seems to me that if he accepts the suggestions made in another place it would be only one further step to accepting Christmas Eve. All these feasts are religious feasts. The one which my hon. Friend and myself suggest including deals with the birth of Jesus and Easter deals with His death.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

His resurrection.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am sorry. His death and resurrection.

That being so, in the minds of many hundreds of thousands of religious people both are special days. To those people, the day begins not at three o'clock in the morning, but at midnight. That has been recognised in the law for some time. All that the Bill does—it provides the peg upon which this Amendment from another place has been hung—is to make the Saturday night the same as any other day.

The right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong at various times in Committee and on Report. Criticism was made of the fact that the law was about to be altered to make early Sunday morning the same as any other day. We objected to that even if we did not in terms deal with what was done in the 1949 Act. Therefore, for the right hon. Gentleman to concentrate much of his speech on the 1949 Act is beside the point.

Mr. Vosper

What we are now discussing arises directly from the 1949 Act. The question of whether we should have an extension into the early hours of Sunday morning arises out of something which is contained in the Bill as a new proposal. I agree that we discussed that at earlier stages, but we did not discuss what we are now discussing, that the 1949 Act was wrong in allowing extension into the early hours of Christmas morning.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I am grateful for that intervention. It underlines, however, what I was trying to say, perhaps badly. We are dealing here with the suggestion that certain feast days during the year should be dealt with separately under the licensing laws. In another place, their Lordships thought fit to insert this Amendment. I am not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman will accept it. If he does, it seems to me common sense to include Christmas Eve.

As the right hon. Gentleman and those associated with us in Committee know very well, I am in favour of stopping drinking at midnight on a Saturday night for quite a number of reasons which to me at least are valid. One is that to continue drinking until three o'clock creates noise and nuisance to neighbours in the vicinity of a public house or restaurant which is unfair to them. It keeps staff busy, perhaps, until five o'clock in the morning in many instances and it gives them no chance of treating the Sunday as it should be treated. In every respect, we thought that the present general law that places selling intoxicants should close at midnight on a Saturday was a right and proper thing to do.

It is true that under the 1949 Act, special arrangements can be made, but they are not universal. Up to now, they have been principally, if not almost entirely, confined to London. Under the Bill, they will be extended to the whole country, with dire results, as some of us pointed out during earlier stages of the Bill, to the life of the community in small towns and even villages. This we thought grossly unfair.

We cannot undo that, but what we can do, if the House is so minded, is to extend what another place in its wisdom seeks to put into the Bill by associating Christmas Eve with Good Friday and Maundy Thursday. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accepting this small but useful Amendment.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I will be brief. I think that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) entirely misconceived the whole of the Amendment for Christmas Eve. For the past twelve years, it has been the tradition to be able to have a party on Christmas Eve. It is a festive occasion before a festive religious event. I must, however, point out that throughout the whole of our tourist centres, very large numbers of people spend their Christmas in the hotels by the seaside. Towns like Torquay, Bournemouth, Margate and Ramsgate are all packed with a large number of people who regard it as an additional short holiday. They all expect to stay up, and have for years past been staying up, on a proper feasting and wining on Christmas Eve.

I speak, I am certain, for the whole of my constituents and all the workers in the trade there when I say that it is an integral part of their life that they want to be able to be of service to the community on Christmas Eve. All that this now does is to reinforce the law and enable it to operate under this provision without people having to go to the justices for special licences, as they have to do today. I hope that in those circumstances the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to press his Amendment. The whole of the hotel and tourist industry certainly want this, and they certainly want it for Christmas Eve.

The whole of the employees and staff without, I think, a single dissentient, are anxious to do it. It must be remembered that those who are waiters and engaged in catering expect to serve the community at certain particular times of the year at very late hours.

I do not want to go into the rights and wrongs of postmen, although it will be over my dead body if postmen do not deliver on Christmas morning. It will upset me very much indeed and I shall have a proper showdown if they try not to do it, because I think that it is part of the service for postmen to be of service to the community on Christmas Day, just as it is part of other people's service to have to serve on special days. So the caterers of this country serve us on Christmas Day in the hotels for very long hours and on certain other festive occasions. Christmas Eve is one of them.

I would say one word on the Amendment to the Lords Amendment. I think that everyone, however robust his views may be, accepts the case for Maundy Thursday, that is, the eve before Good Friday, because Good Friday is a holy day. I accept that entirely, but I should like to amend the words in the Amendment in respect of Easter Eve, that is, the Saturday night before Easter Day, because I think that is more directly analogous to Christmas Day. I should have been delighted to see it.

I do not know whether it is too late to seek to submit a manuscript Amendment to leave out "Easter Eve", but I should have left out "Easter Eve" and if the Government had come to the conclusion that the proper balance was to include Maundy Thursday but not Easter Day that would have met my wishes. No doubt if my hon. Friend felt that Easter Eve was really in line with Christmas Eve, and were willing to do it, and if he were then to ask the Chair if he himself was able to amend his own Amendment, the Chairman might be able to say that he had power to do so.

I think that the only valid argument of the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) was when he said that in logic we cannot exclude Christmas Eve and include Easter Eve. That is logical, but as it was based on a fallacious argument that we should exclude Christmas Eve, it does not do very much to say that two wrongs make a right in his favour.

If we exclude part of the Government's Amendment—Easter Eve—I hope that they will do it, because we shall come to this later—and all of us agree that Good Friday should be so treated, we should get the right balance, because again at Easter, as at Christmas, a vast number of people go to hotels and boarding houses and expect to be able to have a good night out on the Saturday before Easter, just as they expect to have another pleasurable eve before Christmas Day.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Driberg

I rise with some reluctance to differ from my right hon. and hon. Friends who spoke with patent sincerity and considerable eloquence. I differ from them on two grounds. There are two interests mainly concerned here. The first is the interest of the churchgoing minority of the nation—a substantial minority, admittedly at Easter and Christmas time. The second is the interest—or what may by most people be conceived to be the interest—of the nation as a whole.

On the first point, the specific interest of church-goers, there is one consideration which I do not press very hard, but it has not been mentioned hitherto: this is that, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) rightly said about Christmas Eve as a day when most happily married people, people with young families in particular, try to get home early, it is none the less also true that late on Christmas Eve and late on Easter Eve there are substantial number of church-going Christians out and about—for the simple reason that there are late night services on those two days, both in Roman Catholic and in Anglican churches. There is the Faster vigil service and there is the midnight Mass of Christmas: it is not inconceivable, or improper, that people leaving church at about one or two in the morning should wish to call in for supper or breakfast, with or without alcoholic refreshment, on their way home. I do not say that all or most of them do it, but I have done it myself and I know that many other people do it.

My hon. Friend also referred in passing to the catering trade workers, waiters and others, who have to work late at night on such occasions, some of whom may well be church-people themselves, wishing to go to church. On this I would say two things. First, in general, as I think my hon. Friend would agree, working hours, overtime and all that kind of thing, like Sunday work, are matters for negotiation, preferably through the trade unions concerned, and one only wishes that catering trade workers were more fully organised in their unions.

Secondly, I rather agree with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that people go into particular trades or professions with their eyes open, knowing the conditions of work that prevail in such trades. Just as journalists working on daily newspapers normally have to work on Sundays, as I did for many years of my life, so waiters know that they will have a rush of work at times when most of their customers are enjoying holidays. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in this. Particularly in conditions of full employment, it cannot be said that anyone is forced into the catering trade.

More profoundly, I would say that there is no such thing as a purely secular job, profession, or trade. In every walk of life we ought to be able to say laborare est orare. Even in the garish surroundings of a late-night restaurant or night club or public house, I cannot see why people serving their fellow-men and helping to make their hours of relaxation more enjoyable, in quite an innocent way, should not be doing so with some sense of vocation. It is also true that there are workers in the catering trade, waiters and others, who are church-goers and therefore particularly want to go to church at Easter or Christmas. They have other opportunities of doing so—particularly if they are Roman Catholics, as many of the Italian and Irish workers are—as a result of the pastoral concession of evening Mass authorised in recent years by the Holy See and now widely adopted in most countries in the West.

My main point, however, is a more general one. It really applies to the whole of this Bill and also to my hon. Friend's Amendment, and, indeed, to the Lords Amendment—which, I rather regret, it has been indicated that the Government are moving in this place as they did in another place. This point is simply the overriding importance of freedom of choice: we who belong, more or less actively, to the churches have really no right Ito impose our views and our wills on the majority of our fellow-citizens who choose not to belong actively to any Christian denomination. We cannot fill the churches by emptying the pubs; we cannot get a single extra person into church at midnight on Christmas Eve or Easter Eve, or on any other occasion, by preventing him by law from getting refreshment elsewhere. This is really the basic point.

What my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East, said so eloquently would, I think, be acceptable, and indeed irresistible, if this were in the full sense of the term a Christian country, but I do not think any of us would argue that it is. Certainly it is not a Christian country in the sense that a majority of the people are actively attached to any place of warship of any denomination. We all know that it is only a relatively small minority who are so attached; and I maintain that we who belong to this minority have no right to try to enforce our ideas of Easter or Christmas or any other occasion, however holy we may hold those occasions to be, on the majority of our fellow-countrymen.

Mr. Vosper

By leave of the House, I would say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) said that I had not made clear my attitude to the Amendments brought from another place. I thought I had said that I would advise the House to accept those Amendments, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that even in going that far, I am not going far enough for my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanes (Mr. Rees-Davies) and, I think, too far for the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg).

However, I think that we are justified in asking the House to accept this, for two reasons. One is because that is the position which exists at present. Special hours certificates were not granted in respect of those days prior to the present Bill. Secondly, I hold, as my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor said, that there is a difference between Christmas and Easter Eve. The former is a festive occasion; the latter is, or should be, an occasion far sorrow. I think that it is the practice of the people of this country to celebrate on Christmas Eve in a way that they do not in Easter Eve. I do accept that the case for Easter Eve is less strong than the case for Good Friday or Maundy Thursday. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor moved an Amendment in respect of Good Friday himself on the Government's behalf. There is a less strong case for Easter Eve. I accept that.

Nevertheless, at present no special hours certificates can be granted for Easter Eve and it is my advice to the House that that position should be maintained, and I would not wish to move an Amendment to the Lords Amendment. Therefore, in that sense I am suporting the view expressed by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher).

I would not advise the House to accept his Amendment to the Lords Amendment, again for two reasons. One, because it has been the practice for twelve years to grant these special hours certificates in respect of London, and, secondly, as has been said on both sides, it has been an occasion for celebration by the people of this country, and, I think, rightly so, and the Government hold that the Labour Government in 1949 were right in allowing this to happen. What has been right for London for the last twelve years should surely be right for the rest of the country under this Bill.

Therefore, I would hope that this Amendment to the Lords Amendment will not be pressed, because we have gone some way towards meeting the point expressed by the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that the hon. Member will be content with my advice to the House, that we should accept the Amendments brought from another place.

Mr. Ede

One lives in really astonishing times. It is now contended by the Conservative Front Bench that something ought to be preserved because I presented it in 1949, and something which I established twelve years ago is now to be regarded, since it has lasted for twelve years, as one of the most essential parts of the British constitution. Anything established is right, according to the Conservatives; but that also entails the corollary, that nothing that ever was was wrong.

I do not hold the latter view, and I did bring before the House, after very long negotiations, amendments to the law in 1949, and I still stand by them. On Report of the Bill I said what my view was about Good Friday. I adhere to that very strongly, for Good Friday does stand in a very special position. While I do not share the views of those who think in a special way of the three hours on Good Friday afternoon, I recognise that that is a very prominent part of their religious experience, and I would do nothing to offend them.

As for Christmas Eve, the whole of Christmas has now been so commercialised in every way, and in a good many ways which do not appeal to me, that I cannot think that it is right to make any special exception in the way which has been suggested for Christmas Eve. It may be one of the prices we have to pay for the life of the Prince Consort, that he so amended the traditional English view of Christmas and Christmas Eve.

There we are—because something enacted in 1949 has lasted ever since, therefore it must not be touched. I feel that it would be quite illogical to extend the same principle to Christmas Eve. I would have thought that the best answer to the Lord Chancellor was, mortgage interest rates for people buying their houses and flats are now to be put up to such a level that they will have no money left for frivolities such as these. I certainly stand by what we did in 1949, but not for the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Fletcher

We have had a valuable debate. It is quite obvious from what has been said that we are not content with the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that we should leave the matter on the basis of merely accepting the Lords Amendments, although I think that we could wish to record our appreciation of the fact that the Lord Chancellor, and the right hon. Gentleman today, have intimated that they have been willing to make these concessions and have gone a very considerable way to meet the points of view we put forward.

I think, with respect to my right hon. Friend, that it is a little unfortunate that he should have been held up as chiefly responsible for the Government wishing to resist this Amendment to the Lords Amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment to the Lords Amendment.

Amendment to the Lords Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 19, line 12, at end insert "licensed".

2.30 p.m.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

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

This, like the following Amendment in line 13, after "of" insert "licensed", does not involve any substantial change in the law. It is purely for the purpose of clarification. It arises under the Sunday Observance Act, 1780, in this way. The effect of Clause 8 (8) is to free premises where a special hours certificate is in force from the application of the Sunday Observance Act in respect of the hours of Sunday morning during which the certificate operates. This is necessary because the Act forbids on Sunday any public entertainment for which a charge for admission is made.

If this subsection had not been inserted in the Bill, no public music and dancing could take place for the rest of Saturday and the special certificate would be abortive on Saturday nights. But the Act forbids only public entertainment. Entertainment provided in a club is private. In other words, it is otiose for this provision to apply to anything other than licensed premises and hence we wish to qualify the word "premises" with the word "licensed".

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In line 17, at end insert: (9) Where under subsection (1) of section one hundred and eighteen of the Licensing Act, 1953, the special hours certificate for any premises or part of premises is revoked in consequence of a contravention of section one hundred of that Act, no special hours certificate shall be valid in relation to the premises or part in question, if it is issued on an application made earlier than two months after the date of the application or than such later time, if any (not being more than twelve months after that date) as may be specified in the order revoking the certificate.

Mr. Vosper

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

The purpose of the Amendment is to rectify an omission in the existing law. Section 118 of the 1953 Act empowers the licensing justices in the case of licensed premises, or the magistrates in the case of registered clubs, to revoke a special hours certificate if they are satisfied on application by the police that while the certificate was in force any person has been convicted of a breach of permitted hours on the premises or on the part of the premises to which the certificate relates.

As the law stands, there is nothing to prevent a person concerned making immediate application for a new licence or certificate. The licensing justices or magistrates would be bound to grant it if the statutory conditions were fulfilled and they could not take into account that the previous licence or certificate had been revoked. The Amendment seeks to rectify that omission by giving the justices or the magistrates power to prevent an application for a new licence or a new certificate for a minimum of two months and a maximum of twelve months. I think that this will commend itself to the House as a reasonable precaution.

Mr. Fletcher

We welcome the Amendment and regard it as a very valuable additional safeguard in the law.

Question put and agreed to.