HC Deb 14 July 1987 vol 119 cc1089-106 11.41 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

I beg to move, That the draft Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved. This is the second and, I hope, less controversial part of the package of reforms. However, it is equally important and I am glad that this measure had the support of the Assembly when it was debated there.

The order repeals the existing Northern Ireland law contained in the Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Act 1967. It deals with the registration of clubs to permit them to supply alcohol to members. It contains many new provisions to consolidate some of the existing law. Like the previous licensing order, this order has its roots in the recommendations of the Blackburn report for improving the law. The Government have accepted most of those recommendations in this order.

Blackburn identified a phenomenal growth in registered clubs compared with licensed premises in the Province. That growth has continued in recent years, as has the amount of drinking that takes place in clubs. I would like to give some figures. In 1975, there were 370 registered clubs. There are now more than 600. In 1975, they spent over £9 million on purchasing drinks for their members; in 1985, that figure had risen to £34 million.

I can be more specific. I know of one club whose members on the face of things spend about £40 each a week on drinks. That is about five bottles of scotch or 45 pints of Guinness each. Strangely—or perhaps not so strangely—its membership is now down to 66. If someone happens to be the member of a certain old age pensioners social club, his limit is a mere two bottles of scotch or 17 pints of Guinness a week.

However, the more worrying still is the scope for profiteering in some clubs by criminal and paramilitary elements. In some cases this has already happened. We must have adequate measures to combat this grave situation.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister has said that the people were drinking scotch all the time. Why was it not Blackbush?

Mr. Needham

Madam Deputy Speaker, I did not wish to insult the name of Blackbush in the kind of clubs to which I was referring.

There are two main prongs to the Government's strategy for dealing with these problems. The first is to make it harder for clubs to become registered and to keep their registration. There are stricter criteria on which courts can determine whether or not clubs applying for registration are bona fide. District councils will now have a say in registration procedures. In addition, the advantages that registered clubs have over pubs are largely removed by bringing such things as their drinking hours, and the law on the presence of minors and on drunkenness generally, into line with requirements for pubs. Penalties for offences are also greatly increased. The second is to make the affairs of clubs more open to detailed examination, and to limit the uses to which they apply their money. To assist in that, police powers are strengthened, particularly regarding examination of clubs' accounts and records.

Those, in broad terms, are the reasons for the order. Most clubs in Northern Ireland are respectable, well-run organisations. They have nothing to fear, and will, I hope accept the additional controls brought in by the order as necessary for the protection of the community.

Let me now quickly deal with what the order does, concentrating on the main provisions, especially those that are new or depart in some way from the 1967 Act. Part I is introductory; part II deals with the registration of clubs. Article 4 describes the genera] requirements for registration, and brings in schedule 1, which sets out the provisions which must be included in club rules.

Paragraph (4) provides that the court must take account of any arrangement that restricts the club's freedom to purchase alcohol. It must also have regard to any provision in the club's rules or other arrangement under which it can spend money except for its own benefit or for charitable purposes. Through that provision, and the increased police powers of investigation, the Government aim to prevent any clubs from giving financial support to paramilitaries out of club profits.

Article 6, with schedule 2, deals with the grant of registration of new clubs and the issue of a certificate of registration. Under the 1967 Act, all registration business is administered by magistrates courts. The order introduces a two-tier registration system comparable with the licensing system. The county court will now deal with the initial grant of an application for registration, and the magistrates courts will continue to deal with renewal applications. In future, a club intending to apply for a new registration must give the court notice two years in advance, and must copy the notice to the police and the appropriate district council. That provision should allow the courts to be satisfied whether such clubs can exist without having to rely on income from the supply of drink. Applicants will be required to give more information than at present.

The court will now have no discretion to accept late applications. It must also be satisfied that planning permission to use the premises as a club is in force, and that the club has been conducted in good faith as a club for two years, and not for one year as at present.

A court will be able to turn down an application if the club is used for an unlawful purpose or by persons of bad character, or is conducted so as to cause disturbance, or if any club official is not a fit person to hold office or the club has been convicted of an offence. All these provisions are aimed at stopping the undesirable clubs from being registered.

Article 8 deals with the renewal of registrations, and the renewal procedure is set out in schedule 3. The existing clubs will have to meet just as stringent requirements to have their registration renewed. Again, considerably more information will be required. Article 8 paragraphs (5) and (6) list the various grounds on which the court must or may refuse an application. There is no provision for late renewal. The court must also satisfy itself that the club is conducted in good faith as a club and not mainly for the supply of drink, and the additional information to which I have referred should be strong evidence of whether a club comes into that category.

There are several new grounds on which renewal can be refused. They relate to the conduct of the club, the nature of its clientele, the fitness of a person to hold office in it and whether it has been convicted of an offence under the order.

Part III of the order provides for the hours during which clubs may supply drink. The flexibility given under the 1967 Act goes, and is replaced by the same fixed hours as for other licensed premises. The effect is that all clubs will lose four hours each week in their total permitted hours—half an hour each weekday and an hour on Sunday. Article 25 largely reflects existing law relating to police authorisations extending club hours on special occasions. The limit on 12 on the number of these allowable in a year is increased to 20, but the hours are reduced so that drink cannot be supplied after 1 am, compared with 3 am at present.

Part IV relates to the conduct of registered clubs. Article 28 provides that intoxicating liquor can only be supplied to or obtained or consumed by a member or his guest or an employee of the club. Article 30 is especially important. Some clubs are engaging in what are almost commercial enterprises, such as dinners, dances and discos or other entertainment which members of the public attend. I will not embarrass the clubs by reading out some of the advertisements which they have been putting in the papers. They go far beyond the spirit of the clubs law, and those abuses must be stopped.

Therefore, article 30 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the holding of functions in club premises which are not for the benefit of the club as a whole or controlled or run by it. Functions must relate clearly to the objects of the club and be run exclusively for members and their guests. However, charity functions or private functions for the benefit of members will be permitted. Further, under article 39, it will be an offence to advertise in the media any function to be held on a club's premises.

Articles 32 and 33 contain provisions with respect to young people. At present, no one under 18 can be employed in a club or be admitted to club membership, except in the case of a sporting club. Club rules must also contain a provision that drink must not be supplied to anyone under 18. The original intention was to mirror licensing law by excluding minors from bar areas of clubs, as the Blackburn committee recommended. Sporting clubs and the Sports Council for Northern Ireland told me that this ban would seriously harm the activities of sporting clubs and the involvement of youngsters in sport. The Government have recognised the difficulties which many sporting clubs would face, not least of which would be the major structural alterations needed to many of the premises, were the ban to go ahead. They have decided that young people will be allowed until 7 pm in the drinking area of a sporting club. It does not mean that they can be supplied with drink. Any registered club which supplies drink to someone under 18 or allows him to drink on its premises will be liable to a fine not exceeding £2,000, or to imprisonment. Also, club premises could be disqualified from being used by any registered club for up to five years.

Enforcement of the new law is all-important, and the police must have adequate powers. Therefore, article 37 contains significant changes to police rights of inspection and entry into registered clubs. These provisions demonstrate the Government's determination to strengthen the hand of the police in investigating club accounts. They have been designed in consultation with the police and should help them to investigate a club's affairs and, in particular, to establish where the money goes and whether it is putting it to proper use.

Article 38 strengthens the powers of the court to disqualify club premises when a club has been convicted of an offence under the order. Part V contains miscellaneous provisions. Article 41 deals with the accounts of registered clubs. Clubs will have to keep proper books of accounts and maintain a satisfactory system of control of accounts, cash holdings and receipts and remittances.

The remaining provisions deal with items such as proceedings against clubs, proof of consumption of liquor, appeals, amendments, transitional and savings provisions and repeals.

That concludes my outline of the main provisions of the order. As hon. Members will recognise. this is a substantial tightening of the law, but given the background which I have explained I hope that they will accept that it is a much-needed reform.

Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

I warmly welcome the provisions of the order, which are long overdue, and I commend my hon. Friend for bringing them forward. But the period of two years before a new club can register seems to be rather restrictive and could jeopardise the club getting off the ground. Will he justify the period of two years?

Mr. Needham

The reason for the two-year period is that the Government wish to ensure that a club which sets up in Northern Ireland does not do so for the main purpose of supplying alcohol, and that the club can exist and thrive without the supply of drink. The Government's opinion is that, if a club can set itself up with a sufficiently large membership and exist for two years without drink, drink will not be the main reason for the club's existence.

As I said earlier, we deal with particular difficulties in the enforcement of club registration law in Northern Ireland and we are determined to crack down and to eliminate the disreputable club. I am reassured by the fact that almost all the letters which we have received from the public at the consultation stage have strongly supported the Government's proposals. I know that some clubs are concerned that the new controls will work unfairly against them, but I am sure that hon. Members will recognise that it is just not possible to have one law for the good and another for the bad. I believe that the new laws are vital and that they will go a long way toward the two main objectives of curbing the growth of drinking clubs and cutting off an important source of paramilitary funds from a minority of clubs.

I remind hon. Members that this order is the other half of our overall package of reform. I hope that the House will accept that, together with the licensing order, it represents a sensible codification of the law which provides a new and improved structure covering both licensing hours and the relationship between licensed clubs and licensed premises. I commend the order to the House.

11.56 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome the spirit of the order's contents. It is perhaps not as controversial as the licensing order, but in many ways it is much more important. It does much to deal with one of the major scourges of Northern Ireland—the financing of paramilitaries on both sides by illicit drinking, often of stolen liquor. It enables the police to control that drinking and those activities and to prevent those funds from getting into the hands of paramilitaries. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance.

However, some problems arising from the measure must be carefully considered. Many social and sporting clubs depend on profits from the sale of liquor to maintain some of their services to their members. From the way in which the order was presented to the House—perhaps this was done unwittingly by the Under-Secretary of State—one could gain the impression that what in many clubs in the United Kingdom would be regarded as legitimate sources of revenue to facilitate the purposes of, for example, a sporting club might be lost while a club awaited registration.

The powers given to the police in article 37 are very wide, both with and without warrant. Those powers, if used in an oppressive or harassing manner, could be seen to be resting unfairly on particular bodies in the community. Therefore, those powers must be applied with sensitivity and finesse, so that this order is not seen as providing an increased police power to harass people otherwise going about their lawful business. Legitimate and respectable clubs might suddenly become flashpoints if a heavyhanded policeman went in there. Neither the Secretary of State, the Government nor the Opposition would like that to happen. We want the police to have these powers, but we want them to be used sensibly and with great sensitivity.

Equally, that applies to the power which is given to local authority, which is one of the groups to which an application must be made. A local authority may object to the creation of a particular club. One club may be denied permission because there is within the locality another club which belongs to another tradition and group of people. It would be wrong if the location of one club were used to prevent the creation of a second one dealing with other people and traditions. They are some of the problems.

The other problem that worries me arises from the nature of many clubs—the legitimate ones and the respectable ones. They are run by eminently respectable and law-abiding people, but some of the provisions in the order, for proper reason, demand greater knowledge, accountability and observance of the law by ordinary citizens. In some ways, that could weigh heavily upon respectable people who conduct voluntary organisations. The Government could be seen to be over-bureaucratic in the way in which they deal with them.

Again, I trust that, in the operation of the rules, the police will look on such matters with flexibility. We are not seeking to catch the person who perhaps makes an error, does not get his papers in on time or does not always produce his account directly on the dot. The main purpose behind the proposals that we welcome is to catch the evildoer, get rid of the shebeens in east Belfast and in west Belfast, and get rid of the people who supply funds for paramilitaries. That is the main purpose of the order. If we can achieve that and, at the same time, enable ordinary people in Northern Ireland to carry out their business and social activities without fearing the contents of the order, we welcome it.

12 midnight

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

I am sorry that I did not catch the Chair's eye during the previous debate. As the Minister said, many matters in this debate relate to the previouss debate. There is one reason why my colleagues and I must divide the House. Although we accept some of the recommendations, the House must appreciate that we are witnessing a sham. We had a one and a half hour debate, but not one word against the legislation mattered one iota. The Order in Council and the manner in which debates are carried on and legislation is passed will ensure that any hon. Member who opposes Government legislation for Northern Ireland may present a rational argument that the Government may accept as rational. Yet not one comma in the legislation will be changed. It will be passed. The Government will make sure that there are enough hon. Members to pass through the Division Lobby to vote for it. What we witnessed during the previous debate proves that the House does not care what the people of Northern Ireland want or what they have to say.

It is interesting that, in this debate, the Government are quick to quote statistics and tell us about the letters that they have received supporting their attitudes. But they dismiss letters concerning Sunday opening. They are irrelevant—they do not matter—because they are against the Government and their way of thinking in regard to this legislation.

No one can say that drink-related problems in Northern Ireland are a joke. Drunkenness in any part of the kingdom cannot be treated as a joke. Under-age drinking and alcohol-related illnesses cannot be treated as a joke. There are social problems. Many parts of Northern Ireland suffer from poverty. One must accept that the cause of much poverty can be traced to alcohol. Family funds are spent on the consumption of alcohol, and children are left to go without. Such matters should not be treated in a light-hearted manner.

The voting power of the Government is being used in such a way that, whether or not the people of Northern Ireland want this change, it will be made. That is no way, in a democracy, to treat the people of the Province. They are not children. They have minds of their own and if they want to be different from the rest of the nation in matters such as these, why not permit them that difference?

I shall not detain the House for long, because nothing I say—any more than what my hon. Friends said in the previous debate—will have any effect when we vote on this issue soon, and the Minister, like most hon. Members in the House tonight, hopes that it will take only a few minutes to get yet another piece of legislation concerning Northern Ireland out of the way.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

But the problems will not be out of the way.

Rev. William McCrea

My hon. Friend is right. The problems related to this legislation will not be dismissed as easily as the legislation is being passed. I warn the House that the way in which the people of Northern Ireland are being treated proves that, no matter what an Ulsterman wants, an Englishman thinks he knows better.

The Government seem to have got themselves on the hobby-horse of sabbath-bashing. Having dealt with the Sunday opening of shops, we now have Sunday drinking. Such legislation will not bring prosperity to Northern Ireland. Peace, reconciliation and stability are, we are told, the Government's aim. What they are doing tonight will help none of those objectives, and let it not be forgotten that many Opposition Members are supporting the Government tonight.

In opposing this order, my hon. Friends and I are registering our abhorrence of the way in which the Government are legislating for the Province. God speed the day when Ulstermen and Ulsterwomen can once again legislate for Northern Ireland and right the great wrong that is being done tonight.

12.9 am

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

By an accident of the business of the House, the previous order took not an hour and a half but two hours and three minutes. But as has happened in the past, all the words that were spoken did not make one jot of difference to the outcome of the vote. I have no doubt that the outcome of the debate on the order that is now before us will be the same.

It was interesting that in the last debate—on the first half of the legislation before the House—something happened that has happened time and time again over the years. The Minister said, in reply to points that were put to him by hon. Members, that he did not have the answers then, but that he would reply when he came to wind up. However, if my memory serves me correctly, he did not answer those points. No doubt he will write in the fulness of time to the hon. Gentlemen in question—in two or three months—giving them the answers to the queries that they made publicly in the House. When the hon. Gentlemen receive their answers, no doubt they will be delighted to receive them. The point that troubles me, as it should trouble all hon. Members, is that that information, which should be available to all hon. Members and the public, will be available only to the hon. Members concerned. It will be entirely up to them whether to publish; whereas all hon. Members who took part in the debate would be interested to hear the Minister's reply. That is a little thing that highlights the shortcomings in the procedure that we are following this evening, and which we have followed now for 15 years too long.

This evening I have listened to the Minister and other hon. Members quoting from the work of the late Northern Ireland Assembly. That Assembly was able to debate these issues, but as it lacked the ability to put its own views on Northern Ireland legislation into action, it was left in a position in which the Government, under the procedures that are being followed this evening, could accept or reject anything that it desired.

The only way in which to overcome the difficulties that I have touched on so briefly this evening is to bring in Bills, to pass them through the House in the proper manner so as to hear what the various factions in the House have to say about them, to put down amendments for all to see and to discuss them, either in Committee of the whole House and or in Standing Committee. In that way, those who sometimes treat what hon. Members from Northern Ireland have to say about the society in which they live—and the legislation that affects it—rather lightly would have a clearer and deeper understanding of the ills that we are trying to cure, the fears that we have, and the cures that we would propose, which I believe would be far wiser than many of those that are so cheerfully passed through the House by hon. Members who are not even here for the debate.

I also noticed that the Minister took umbrage, when winding up the last debate, at what the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) said about young soldiers. The Minister will know, of course, that North Down is a seaside resort that attracts large numbers of young people, who occasionally become unruly in pubs, or when coming out of them. That would apply whether they were in uniform or out of it, whether they were soldiers or members of other security forces, or whether they were just young fellows out for an evening. However, the Minister did not say who had rendered the legislation that we have just replaced unworkable. Who rendered it unworkable? Who is responsible for the build-up in the drinking clubs of Northern Ireland, to the extent that they have competed on such unfair terms with the traditional pub owners there? Why were we not given the answer to that question? It was because the Government do not want hon. Members to hear the truth, which is that it was the activities of the paramilitaries and the drinking shebeens that are run principally in Belfast and, at various times, throughout other parts of Northern Ireland, which led to the enormous increase in the consumption of alcohol right across the Province and, inevitably, to these changes in the law. If hon. Members on the Minister's own side of the House had had that put clearly before them, as they should have had, they might not have been willing to support him so blithely.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) talked about knocking on the pub door. I live close to a village but I do not go to pubs. However, that is a personal preference. I remember being told when I tasted whiskey for the first time that I would get to like it. I figured that if it was that hard to get to like I would not bother with it, and I am glad that I did not. The hon. Gentleman talked about knocking on the pub door and about the thrill that one got when one was in getting a drink. He said that stolen fruit was sweet.

When Mr. Speaker was being elected for this Parliament the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) drew attention to the danger of making partial biblical quotations. I think that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh was referring to a section from Proverbs. Perhaps he should look at the end of the passage about forbidden fruit. If he does that, perhaps he will not be so happy with the quotation that he gave. It is a passage that I recall very clearly because I read it many years ago.

I do not have the same objection to the content of this order as I had to the content of the last one. My objection is to the principle of legislating for Northern Ireland in such a way that we cannot have the in-depth, detailed examination that is needed to enable us to give an explanation to other hon. Members about the attitude that we adopt to these matters. If these things were presented as Bills, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and I might find a common meeting place occasionally. We might not have found that in the first order but we might have found it in this one.

Rev. William McCrea

Earlier in the debate the Minister said that the previous legislation could not he easily policed. Perhaps the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) would like to hear the Minister tell us how this legislation will be policed. It is also complex legislation.

Mr. Ross

This debate may not run the full one and a half hours and the Minister may have more than the 12 minutes that were allotted to him because of speakers over-running during the debate on the last order. No doubt if he has an hour or so he will be able to give us a detailed explanation about how the legislation will work in practice. Perhaps he will also give way when he makes one of his frequent mistakes. If that happens those few hon. Members who are here will have a clearer understanding of the complexities of the legislation that is before us.

I was speaking about my objection in principle to the whole procedure that is followed in Northern Ireland legislation. The evident annoyance of many hon. Members who support the Government, never mind the hon. Members who support the Opposition, is clear to all who take part in these debates and to those who stand at the Doors of the Lobbies. I hope that as the months and years of this Parliament roll away and as we have several of these orders being debated for an hour and a half at a time, that annoyance will increase until, to adapt another biblical quotation, even the unjust judge will bow to the reasonable request by Northern Ireland Members to produce legislation by Bill so that we can have the detailed scrutiny that all legislation passing through the House deserves.

12.18 am
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

When I spoke earlier I was remiss in not extending a welcome to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) in his new post. We look forward to working with him and to his success.

In general, I welcome this legislation, and for one reason in addition to the reasons that I gave before. It ends the unfair competition between clubs and public houses and in addition it allows people to get to grips with the situation in which paramilitary groups are running clubs in the North of Ireland in order to further their own causes. I woonder how many young men—whether nationalist or unionist—would not be in prison, or, indeed, dead, had these places not existed. For that reason alone, this must he a good piece of legislation and in general terms, I support it. I support the provision concerning the bring-a-bottle clubs, which seem to be unique to the North of Ireland; I have never heard of them anywhere else. Those clubs were a nonsense, and I am delighted that the legislation will deal with them. Those who operate such clubs do not have staff to pay and they have no overheads or responsibilities. The arrangements made no sense from any point of view.

There are dangers inherent in the order. Like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, I have reservations about the sweeping powers that it gives a constable. Under the order, a constable of 18 years of age can, on his own initiative, demand to see not only the structural plans of a club but its membership list and its books. There is something wrong there. That decision should be made at a more senior level—for example, by a superintendent. It is a serious decision which could have great ramifications in terms of the law and would put a tremendous onus on the club. If that decision has to be taken, it should be taken by a senior police officer so that it has the full weight of his seniority behind it. Then it could not be misinterpreted, as might be the case were the decision made by a young police constable.

I also have reservations about the role of district councils in relation to applications and the registering of clubs. We need some clarification on that. What are the checks and balances? Knowing the prejudices that exist in the North of Ireland, can the House imagine the kind of attitudes that might be displayed by, for example, Craigavon council, which has already cost its ratepayers £500,000 by refusing to act fairly towards St. Peter's club in Lurgan? Twice in the courts the council has been found guilty of that; it is a matter of court record. What checks and balances will protect clubs or personal licensees applying for a licence under the order from being subjected to such prejudice? That requires some explanation, because it is potentially a dangerous state of affairs.

I have reservations about the two-year rule as well. In some circumstances it might well prevent a bona fide club from developing its facilities properly. I am thinking especially of golf clubs and sporting clubs whose overheads on equipment are very high. The two-year rule could create problems for them.

I am puzzled, too, by the distinction between a sporting club and a social club. I simply cannot get to grips with it. Paragraph 22(c) does not make the distinction and the legislation becomes even more ambiguous when it goes on to define the position of young people. The Minister has clarified it to some extent by saying that young people under the age of 18 could be in the drinking section of the club until 8 o'clock. However, if that young person happens to be playing at Muirfield—and many of those playing at Muirfield this week are under the age of 18—does that mean that he cannot go on to the premises to eat once he has finished his round?

That is the kind of situation that could arise. Football matches in summer may not end until 10 pm. Will some members of the team be able to go into the club for a meal afterwards while others may not? As the Minister knows, golf competitions often do not end until 9 pm or 10 pm. Is it suggested that people under the age of 18 should not take part or that if one of them wins a major trophy he cannot go into the club to receive it? That kind of ambiguity requires clarification.

I repeat that I support the order on the grounds that it sets out to create equality between the public house and the club and it gives the Government power to deal with illegal drinking clubs supporting paramilitary groupings, but I have reservations about the way in which it will be operated. Some Members from the North of Ireland may be surprised to know that I agree with them that there should be a system allowing far more scrutiny and a proposal for change. I suggest that one way for them to achieve that would be to involve themselves in the search for legislative devolution—then we could blame nobody here.

12.26 am
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I should welcome the statement of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) if he would join other Members of the House in wanting legislation to be dealt with in this House in the proper manner, but I have heard no protest whatever from him about it. He raises a whole series of matters that he does not like but then says that he intends to vote for the order. The hon. Gentleman's speech conclusively proves what unionists have been saying for years. To hear the Liberals, who are no longer present, one would think that they first carried the banner to have legislation for Northern Ireland done in a proper way, but how many times have unionist Members stood up and insisted that Northern Ireland should be treated like any other part of the United Kingdom?

As the unionist spokesman, I welcomed the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) to the Opposition Front Bench today. I had to get in before the SDLP, but I am glad that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh came under conviction outside and returned to apologise. I am glad that we showed him the way, but he well knows—

Mr. Mallon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley

There is plenty of time. There will be time in this debate for a great reply from the Minister. He will have time to answer the whole debate without having to do any writing. I shall not talk for too long as I want to give him plenty of time.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh knows that unionists have stood up not only in this Parliament, but in the last Parliament and in those which preceded it, and argued that this is no way to do legislation. The hon. Gentleman has made our case today in saying that the Minister should clarify so many points. But what use are the Minister's clarifications? They do not alter anything.

Mr. Mallon


Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman should possess his soul with patience. He may not know the end of the matter. When he gets his nightcap in a certain place he should go to the Book of Proverbs and begin with chapter 1. He will come to the part about how the stolen fruits are sweet and he will learn about the matter that was in the fertile mind of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). I am sure that that will provide the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh with a most edifying thought on which to sleep and I am sure that he will not have nightmares.

Mr. Mallon

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley

I will give way in a minute or two.

If there was a devolved Government in Northern Ireland and if the majority in that Assembly voted for legislation that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh did not like he would boycott the Assembly. He would knock at the door of the Government and say, "Please let me in." The hon. Gentleman has advocated the joy of law breaking.

I do not understand how the Minister will police this legislation. He knows perfectly well that he cannot do so. To take the example given by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, a boy of 18 may win a trophy, but he will not be allowed inside the door of a club for the presentation. Who will police this legislation? It will not be policed. Everybody knows that this legislation is meaningless in its practicable application.

Mr. Mallon

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way at last. I took the opportunity—a fairly unique one—of taking part in the deliberations of a Standing Committee that dealt with a Northern Ireland Bill. It was a valuable experience because it gave an insight into the thinking of people within this House.

I believe that there is something hypocritical about people adopting a quasi-integrationist position and demanding such legislative approach while, at the same time, portraying themselves as devolutionists. They cannot have it both ways. In effect, they are putting a foot in both camps. If they made up their minds about whether they were integrationists or devolutionists, this House might more easily come to a decision about how to deal with legislation for Northern Ireland.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I would like to hear a little more about the registration of clubs.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The club that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh would wish to register with is the united Ireland integration club. He does not want the people of the United Kingdom to legislate properly for the whole of the United Kingdom.

At present, there is no devolved government in Northern Ireland. We have the farce of the Intergovernmental Conference, supported by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. He makes his representations to Dublin Ministers and Dublin Ministers make representations of his views to the Ministers on the Front Bench. That illustrates what the hon. Gentleman thinks about devolution.

We are totally opposed to any form of devolution that is not based on proper, democratic British principles. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh was elected to the Assembly in Northern Ireland and then took the deliberate step of becoming a senator in the Irish Republic to get himself out of that Assembly. That is what he thought about legislation for Northern Ireland.

I do not wish to run foul of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know that you want me to speak to this order. The Minister got away with saying that this order is the second half of the first order and that both halves go together. However, one point has been missed by the House. If we had been given proper legislation, it would have been impossible for the Minister to get this order before the House. With the general election, all that went before it would have fallen and we would be starting again. Ministers love Orders in Council because they can be introduced regardless of general elections. I searched the Order Paper to discover what orders were coming before us, and suddenly the orders that we have discussed this evening seemed to jump from nowhere. It was only a few hours before business questions last Thursday that we were told by the Government Whips, "Perhaps they will be brought before the House next week. That is just a word in your ear."

Perhaps there are good reasons for some "generosity" to be extended to Northern Ireland Members. Perhaps it was generous to alert us in the way that I have described. If that is the Government Whips' generosity, I do not know what their charity would be.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

That is how they treat Conservative Back Benchers.

Rev. Ian Paisley

If that is the way that the hon. Gentleman allows himself to be treated, I am prepared to enter into an intergrationist compact with him to fight such treatment to show that Ulster people will help the English in their battle against the Patronage Secretary, but I do not want to fall out with the right hon. Gentleman.

Many provisions in the measure that is before us are good and I am not condemning it out of hand, but it cannot be policed. I shall be interested to know how the Minister intends to police it and how the police have told him that they can police it. A serious measure is before the House and if it could be implemented it would be helpful, but I do not believe that that is possible. The Minister has told us that he could not provide the necessary policing to keep the pubs closed on Sundays, and it would be far easier to keep the pubs closed than to implement the intricate legislation that is now before us. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh knows that, and some of his colleagues know it even more that he does.

Many of us are aware of the problems that come from drinking and the Minister must answer our questions fully and take up the issues raised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. The Minister congratulated the hon. Gentleman on his previous speech, so let him provide all the clarification that the hon. Gentleman sought. I shall listen with great interest to what the Minister says.

The Minister knows that he cannot do more than provide the dots and the commas. Even if he makes statements tonight, they will be worthless in a court of law, and the Minister knows it. He is smiling because he has all the winners in his hand. He can laugh at us while the order is accepted by the House.

This legislation will not sleep away the problems. It is extremely difficult for the best ordered drinking club or bar to keep persons under 18 years of age outside the doors. Is the management to ask for birth certificates? Flow is it to be done? The answer is that it is almost an impossibility to keep young persons under 18 from these premises. We in Northern Ireland will reap what the House decides to do during what could be two one-and-a-half-hour debates. We shall reap the broken homes, the broken hearts, the broken families and the broken lives. The problems are already with us, but they will increase as a result of the decisions of the House.

12.39 am
Mr. Needham

As the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) moved down the Bench towards me I wondered, before he resumed his place, how close to me he would finally arrive. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) on some of his remarks this evening and so I congratulate the hon. Member for Antrim, North on some of his. I agreed with some of the things that the hon. Member for Antrim, North said about the previous measure.

The hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) spoke about the two-year difficulty. I have considered the matter long and hard. It will be more difficult for clubs to show that they can survive for two years without the benefits of the profits from drink, but the basis of the legislation is the need to show that a club can exist in good faith for purposes other than the supply of liquor.

It is therefore absolutely right that there should be a gestation period in which clubs can thrive without relying on profits from selling drink to achieve reasonable membership. We make no apology for that. We have taken this course of action because we have problems with clubs and their objectives in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh asked about the difference between a social and a sporting club and said that he did not see the distinction laid out clearly in the order. He did not see the distinction laid out because it is not there. A club has to show that it exists in good faith for social, sporting or purposes other than for purely the supply of intoxicating liquor. Social intercourse is such a reason.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North asked about the breadth of police powers and mentioned his concern about the possibility of a heavy-handed constable. I accept the necessity of the police administering the order properly and sensibly. In England and Wales, rights of entry without a warrant to inspect a club which has applied for registration are similar to those in Northern Ireland. The circumstances in which a constable can enter under the powers of a search warrant arc also similar except that, in England and Wales, a constable needs a search warrant to obtain evidence that grounds exist for cancellation of a club's registration. In Northern Ireland, a constable would be able to enter club premises without a warrant in those circumstances. In Scotland, I understand that there is no statutory right given to the police to enter and inspect the premises of a club which is applying for registration, although that can happen in practice.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh spoke of the possible age of a constable and his experience. The phrase "a contable" is defined in the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 and means any member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary or reserve constable. A young constable at present has powers to arrest people for far more serious crimes than are likely to arise out of his seeing whether a club is operating illegally. I agree that the order will have to be policed sensibly, and I am sure that the police are aware of that.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) spoke of the sham way in which the order is proceding through the House. I have already stated the Government's position on that matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I take no great pleasure in having to bring forward Orders in Council as a result of the direct rule legislation, which does not allow for proper and full debate of these issues. I would welcome an opportunity to see the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster about that. Since last October, I have asked him to discuss this matter but, for reasons which I fully understand, he has declined my seductive invitation, which does not make amending legislation any easier. The Northern Ireland committee could be set up to discuss these matters, but it has not been operating. All I can say this evening is that I hope that we shall all find the discussions that may be about to take place will prove to be a more satisfactory way of conducting our affairs.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Surely the Minister must admit that it is for this House and the usual channels to take up these points about how we should work for Northern Ireland with the various parties. The Government should be prepared to meet us. We have heard representations from the Liberal party and from the various unionists in this House. Other hon. Members sitting behind the Minister have expressed the same view. Surely the Minister should be interested, not in talks with him, but in talks with the usual channels to find out whether the House wants to proceed in this way.

Mr. Needham

It may well be a matter for the House, and the usual channels will no doubt be fully involved. They always are in such matters. I have replied to several debates on such measures and I concede that there could be better ways to proceed, one of which might be through a devolved Administration in Northern Ireland to tackle these issues, as we said in our manifesto.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) pointed out that in the 12 minutes available to me in the preceding debate I was unable to answer all the points raised and that no doubt in many months time some joyful letters would arrive in the post which would not be publicised throughout the Province. That is not unique to debates of this sort. He will know as well as I do that in many debates reply speeches must be curtailed for one reason or another and that when it is impossible for Ministers to answer all the points involved, letters are sent. This Order in Council is no different in that respect.

The hon. Gentleman asked who made the legislation unworkable. It became unworkable because the Licensing Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 and the previous order were flawed as public opinion altered and the legislation was not in tune with what the public was prepared to accept. The Registration of Clubs Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 did not have the teeth to control the clubs which is why we have this order.

The hon. Members for Antrim, North and for Newry and Armagh asked about the policing of the order. Once again, in the preparation of the order we asked the police for their advice on what they felt they could enforce. We have stiffened the penalties considerably, so that if clubs do not take account of the rules in the order, they will face stiff penalties. To return to the point of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, if a young man wins a prize after 7 pm and goes into a club, providing he goes into a part of the club which does not have a bar he can be presented with the prize. If he goes into a part which has a bar and is presented with the prize, the club is in breach of the criminal law. I do not share the hon. Gentlemans' view that in those circumstances the police will refuse to act. It is a clear breach of the criminal law and police would have to act. We have no evidence to believe that that would not be the case.

Mr. Mallon

The Minister has quite a number of points to deal with. I am sure that he would not want to overlook the point that I raised in relation to the checks and balances concerning the role of district councils. I would not like to think that he would overlook that.

Mr. Needham

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. The point about district councils is that they have right to object to the registration of a club as laid down in the order. However, the objection must be placed before the court. It is for the court—and in the initial stage of the registration, for the county court—to decide whether the objections have validity on the grounds laid down in the order. I suggest that it is perfectly fair and right to ask district councils their opinion of what is happening in their localities.

Of course the court will determine and it will clearly have the evidence of the club if the club claims that it is being penalised or objected to by a district council purely on the grounds that it comes from the other tradition. In those circumstances, the court will make the determination and the district council has no power other than to put before the court any objection laid down in the order. However, the court must decide. Indeed, one of the reasons for the introduction of the order is to ensure that the county court will make the initial determination.

I hope that I have been able to allay hon. Members' fears. The district council will rightly be involved. Beyond that, it will be for the court to determine.

Mr. Mallon

Surely one of the specified points is that the district council will have a role to play in deciding whether the person who submits the application is a fit person to hold a licence. It is difficult to see how such an objective decision could be made in a district council where there are so many varied interests and attitudes.

Mr. Needham

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. One of the grounds on which a court can determine not to register or renew a club's registration is that it is being run by unfit people. If a district council or a member of the public—and it was argued in the Blackburn report that members of the public did not simply roll off the street to make such objections—put forward a view that someone was unfit to run a club for some reason, or if that objection was made by a member of the police, it is up to the court to determine the matter. The determination will be made by the court, not by the district council.

I hope at this early hour of the morning that I have answered as many questions as possible without needing to have recourse to letter writing. I want to conclude by stating that I believe that the order—and I was glad that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster at least appeared to agree with the contents of the order—is sensible. It will deal strongly with the small number of disreputable clubs which must be dealt with. The order this evening signals a very bad day for those clubs. I am sure that the people of Ulster have suffered enough from the paramilitaries of one sort or another and the whole House should welcome and support the order.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 8.

Division No. 18] [12.55
Alexander, Richard Colvin, Michael
Amess, David Conway, Derek
Arbuthnot, James Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Ashby, David Dixon, Don
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dorrell, Stephen
Baldry, Tony Durant, Tony
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bevan, David Gilroy Flannery, Martin
Boscawen, Hon Robert Foster, Derek
Boswell, Tim Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bottomley, Peter Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowis, John Greenway, John (Rydale)
Brazier, Julian Gregory, Conal
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Ground, Patrick
Browne, John (Winchester) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Buck, Sir Antony Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Butler, Chris Harris, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heddle, John
Carrington, Matthew Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Holt, Richard Patnick, Irvine
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Irvine, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Janman, Timothy Portillo, Michael
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Prescott, John
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Rattan, Keith
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Redwood, John
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kirkhope, Timothy Riddick, Graham
Knapman, Roger Roe, Mrs Marion
Knowles, Michael Rowe, Andrew
Latham, Michael Ryder, Richard
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sackville, Hon Tom
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shaw, David (Dover)
Lilley, Peter Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lord, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Loyden, Eddie Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Stanbrook, Ivor
McGrady, E. K. Stanley, Rt Hon John
Maclean, David Stern, Michael
McLoughlin, Patrick Stevens, Lewis
McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mallon, Seamus Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mans, Keith Summerson, Hugo
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin. David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thorne, Neil
Meale, Alan Thurnham, Peter
Miller, Hal Tredinnick, David
Mills, Iain Twinn, Dr Ian
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Viggers, Peter
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Waller, Gary
Moss, Malcolm Warren, Kenneth
Needham, Richard Watts, John
Nellist, Dave Wheeler, John
Neubert, Michael Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wiggin, Jerry
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Paice, James Winterton, Nicholas
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Young, Sir George (Acton) Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Alan Howarth.
Beggs, Roy Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Kilfedder, James
Maginnis, Ken Tellers for the Noes:
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Mr. William Ross and Rev. William McCrea.
Paisley, Rev Ian

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.