HC Deb 11 July 1962 vol 662 cc1465-70
Mr. Ross

I beg to move, in page 16, line 17, to leave out "ten" and to insert "eight".

This Amendment is rather timely after the last remarks of the Under-Secretary. He said that representations had been made to the effect that the authorities, including the police, were worried about off-sales to young people and its giving rise to drunkenness. The Amendment should, therefore, be welcomed by the Government. Indeed, I am rather surprised that the Secretary of State did not think of it himself.

According to the Clause, off-sale shops will remain open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. With due respect to the Under-Secretary and his balancing of opinion and also to the terrible tug of war that the Secretary of State has been having with himself over this matter, I am sure that when they look at this in the cold light of reason they will agree that to open for such long hours is unnecessary and undesirable. After all, why should off-sale premises be open even before most business and commercial premises start their daily activities? From 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. gives them 14 hours in which to sell liquor.

I realise that the Under-Secretary's answer will probably be that, while these are the permitted hours, they do not need to keep open. We shall, no doubt, also be told that an anomaly would arise in that most licensed premises stay open so that if off-sale premises closed at 8 p.m., off-sales would be permitted over public-house counters until closing time.

We have already been told that the police are not particularly worried about the sale of liquor to young people in public houses. It has been emphasised time and again that nothing can be consumed in public houses by very young persons. The moral of this is the place in which young people are most likely to get liquor and it is, therefore, all the more desirable that off-sale hours should be curtailed.

To suggest the closing time for off-sale premises of 8 p.m. is reasonable. Even then I would regard it as being far too late. I would rather see off-sale premises treated like ordinary shops and subject to the Act governing shop hours. However, my Amendment is a compromise which should lend itself to ordinary men. I will not exaggerate any of the difficulties involved, but merely content myself by saying that no one can suggest that people would be denied obtaining what they want if off-sale premises were open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

I was prepared to support a reasonable change in the hours of off-sale premises, but the Government have gone too far. An anomalous position may have existed, but they have used that position unwisely. The Secretary of State has failed to appreciate what will happen when the Bill becomes law and what Scotland will be like in a few years' time. Not until then will hon. Gentleman opposite wake up to see what has been the result of the pressures brought upon them. There will be far more opportunities for people to drink. There will be more restaurants, hotels and other licensed premises, not only on weekdays but also on Sundays.

Since more opportunities will exist for young people to drink there is even less reason why off-sale premises should remain open for 14 hours a day. Indeed, I think that it is desirable to impose considerably more restriction. If the Government are already worried about sales in bulk to young people, why do they not do something about it? My Amendment presents one small opportunity for them to do something.

The whole of this Clause has been quite misconceived. Insufficient thought has been given to the problem of licensed premises, the balance of interest, justice, and the effects particularly on younger people. It is the young people who are the target today for all the advertisers, whether for clothes, cigarettes or, indeed, the sale of drink. Those people who make their living from the liquor trade are also making the young people their target, and I am afraid that, in spite of many of these Clauses, the Government will help them, wittingly or unwittingly. We have given the Government two or three suggestions. This Amendment represents a final and despairing attempt to do something, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept it.

Sir M. Galpern

The main argument advanced for the extension of hours for off-sales premises was that a definite disability and penalty was placed upon the housewife in not being able to obtain liquor from off-sales shops when she was doing her shopping in the morning. That was the main argument in favour of the interminably long hours of opening for off-sales shops. We are prepared to accept that argument, but what argument can the Under-Secretary adduce for keeping those places open until ten o'clock at night? Surely, the Government do not expect us to accept that a housewife suddenly remembers, between eight o'clock and ten o'clock in the evening, something she needs to buy if it has not been important enough to buy during normal shopping hours.

The hours between eight o'clock and ten o'clock at night will be the danger period for teen-agers, as I have seen so often in Glasgow. I have seen groups of young men and women carrying these containers, and bags filled with all forms of alcoholic liquor. It is during that period that they will start going into off-sales shops and then go on to parties in houses where, sometimes, a great deal of disturbance and nuisance is created. If the Government want to make it convenient for people to make purchases at off-sales premises during normal shopping hours, by all means let them do so, but how they can defend this extension is beyond all understanding.

Mr. Brooman-White

I can see the point of the arguments that have been very cogently put by the hon. Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). Clause 12 imposes a limitation on much of what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock had in mind. If there is to be a reduction in hours, I entirely agree that it would cause less inconvenience to shoppers to chop time off the evening period from eight o'clock to ten o'clock. The difficulty we face is that off-sales over the counter in public house premises are permitted during those hours.

That would mean that we would be denying to, perhaps, only a small number of premises, but nevertheless a number of premises—the wine shops and others—the chance to cater for what they have found it worth while catering for, and competing with public-house counter off-sales. We do not see any reason for that. There has been no abuse attributable to the wine shops. Indeed, the effect of the Amendment would be that anybody who wanted to make an off-sale purchase at that time of evening would have to go into a bar to do so. I should not have thought that it was desirable to force them to go into a bar if they do not want to. Some may not, in certain circumstances, want to, and may find it more convenient to go to off-sale premises.

The Guest Committee in its Report pointed out that it is administratively difficult to have hours for over the counter off-sales in public house premises different from those for other off-sales premises. The gist of our case that! if off-sales are to continue over the counter in public houses up to the closing hour, it is illogical to restrict the same facilities in other premises which 'might wish to be open for off-sales during that time.

9.45 p.m.

Miss Herbison

It seems to me that the case that has been made by my hon. Friends is a very good one. They have put it logically and clearly. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), I do not know how, at this stage of the Bill, the Under-Secretary can call to his aid recommendations of the Guest Committee. We shall have in all our villages and towns, if this Amendment is not accepted, off-sale premises open as early as eight o'clock in the morning and closing at ton o'clock at night. The only answer that we were given by the Under-Secretary is that off-sale premises are in competition with the public houses and that it would be unfair to those who own off-sale premises that the public houses should have something over them. I would have thought that the Under-Secretary would have been just as concerned with what might happen to our young people.

I have not seen the things happen in Glasgow that my hon. Friend, who lives in Glasgow, has seen, but my fear is what might happen if this Amendment were not accepted by the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) is quite right. First, this was based on the housewives and on shopping and on friends dropping in unexpectedly. It seems strange that in Scotland, where we have almost rigid legislation for the hours when milk, bread and other things so important to the family can be sold, we do not find limitations on off-sale premises for the sale of drink.

It seems to me that in this, as in many of the other matters that I have listened to today and in Committee, the Government have yielded all along the line, even before the Bill came to the House, to the pressure of the vested interests of the brewers and others. That seems to be quite evident to me. It is only if it suits their book that they bring to their aid the Guest Committee.

Mr. Brooman-White

With the leave of the House, I should like to reply to the hon. Lady's point about young people. I do not see how this provision would help. If they are under 18 they cannot make off-sale purchases. It is illegal. If they are between 18 and 21, I do not think that there would be any advantage in their having to go into a public bar to make the purchases.

Mr. Ross

Has not the hon. Gentleman heard that the police are worried about sales to young people?

Mr. Brooman-White

The answer is that we have taken steps under Clause 12 to tighten up the law relating to off-sale premises.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: In page 16, line 21, leave out "a condition as is" and insert "conditions as are".

In line 24, leave out from "the" to "as" in line 25 and insert: off-sale part as defined in the said subsection (2)) of those premises".—[Mr. Brooman-White.]