HC Deb 27 April 1988 vol 132 cc441-74

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 11, at end insert— ( ) In section 60(1)(b) of the principal Act (permitted hours in licensed premises on Sundays etc.), for the words "five hours beginning at two" there shall be submitted the words "four hours beginning at three".

10.10 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

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

The amendment extends Sunday opening by one hour. It is right that I should re-emphasise to the House that, on previous occasions, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I made it clear that it was not the Government's intention to extend licensing hours on Sunday. The reasons that we put forward were never reasons of principle. They were always conceded to be pragmatic reasons. We wanted to make it plain, and we made it plain to the House, that our objective in giving that assurance was to reconcile as many as possible to the passage of the Bill. That was a candidly stated reason. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Would hon. Members below the Bar of the House not participating in the debate kindly leave the Chamber or come and join us?

Mr. Hogg

I was reminding the House about the Government's position on this amendment when the matter was last before the House. However, when the amendment was discussed in another place, the Government were unable to persuade their Lordships to take a similar view. Consequently, the amendment was carried in the other place. The question that we now must decide is whether the Government should seek to persuade the House to try to reverse that amendment.

Mr. John Evans (St. Helens, North)

Is the Minister aware that some hon. Members are not particularly bothered one way or the other in relation to the extension of hours for Sundays? However, is the Minister aware that some of us are extremely concerned that the amendment appears to deal only with public houses? It does not appear to deal with the important matter of members' clubs. Will the Minister immediately clarify the position? Does the amendment relate only to pubs and ignore clubs?

Mr. Hogg

As the hon. Gentleman has raised the question, I shall certainly deal with it, but I hope that he will forgive me if I deal with it at the conclusion of my remarks rather than straight away.

I was saying that the question that now arises is whether the House should seek to reverse the amendment that was accepted in another place. The suggestion that I make to the House is that we should not. In all conscience, I cannot say that the amendment that was passed in the other place was wrong in principle. I do not believe that it is wrong in principle. Moreover, it clearly meets a genuine demand. It is modest. Having regard to those three considerations, it seems to me to be nonsense to invite the House to disagree with the amendment. It is on that basis that I recommend that we agree with the amendment.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) raised a question about clubs. The amendment does not apply to clubs. I do not recommend that the House should enlarge clubs' opening hours to parallel what has been done to pub opening hours. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?] I was in the process of explaining the two reasons why not. First, while the licensing regime as a whole applies to public houses, it does not apply to clubs. There is therefore no powerful reason why a relaxation in the licensing regime for pubs should automatically apply to clubs, unless clubs were to accept that the full body of the licensing law should apply to them, which is not a concession that they are willing to make.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

For a long time, pubs and clubs have enjoyed the same total number of opening hours, so why should we now be asked to differentiate?

Mr. Hogg

I was reciting two reasons why we should differentiate. I shall repeat the first reason because it is important. The licensing regime that applies to pubs does not apply to clubs. Unless clubs are prepared to accept, as a principle, that the entire licensing regime that now applies to pubs should also apply to them, I can see no compelling reason for treating the two the same.

Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I shall give way after I have finished my second point.

With regard to Sunday opening hours, the other place thought that there was a justification for extending what was generally regarded as the lunch-time hour on Sundays. As the House will know, clubs already have the facility to extend their opening hours to 3 o'clock. Therefore, under present law, clubs can do precisely what the other place decided pubs should be able to do.

Mr. Cunliffe

The Minister is attempting to quantify and qualify a principle. Will he now tell the House that clubs are permitted to open only for five and a half hours on a Sunday, compared with pubs, which are allowed to open for six and a half hours? There is a clear anomaly of one hour which discriminates against clubs. Will the Minister give the House a straight answer?

Mr. Hogg

Whatever else I can be criticised for, it is not for not giving a straight answer. The hon. Gentleman may not like the answer, but nobody could say that it was incomprehensible or other than straight. He may not like it, but the reasons are as I have stated them to be.

I shall repeat the first reason, because the hon. Gentleman obviously failed to understand it. The licensing laws that apply to public houses do not apply to clubs. It is curious that clubs say that on the one hand they should be treated more favourably than public houses, but on the other that they should be given exactly the same hours. Either they agree to the licensing regime being applied to them in its totality or they accept that, from time to time, there may be differences.

While it is perfectly true that under the proposal, if we accept it, there will be a difference between the total opening hours available to pubs and clubs, the narrow question considered in the other place was whether on Sundays pubs should be able to remain open until 3 o'clock. Under existing law, clubs are already able to do that.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

The Minister will be aware that the differences between the licensing procedures of clubs and pubs have existed for many years and that pubs and clubs have been allowed the same number of hours. Will he explain why there should now be a difference in the total number of hours they are allowed?

Mr. Hogg

We come back to our starting point. The licensing laws in the more significant respects have always made a distinction between clubs and pubs. That is a distinction which clubs which to see perpetuated. Sometimes it works in their favour, and sometimes it does not. The narrow point that we are considering is whether we should relax the licensing hours for Sunday lunchtime by one hour. Clubs already have the capacity to do that, but pubs have not. The other place decided that an extension of one hour should be made for a Sunday, which is something that clubs can already do.

For the reasons that I have outlined, I commend the amendment to the House.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

The Minister has given us an amazing account of the reasons why he has now changed his mind completely and is saying that we should accept the amendment. His speech was an attempt to justify the unjustifiable and to stand on its head all that the Government have previously said about this matter. His logic was an attempt to reconcile irreconcilable differences. His exchange with my hon. Friends proves that Labour Members, and, I suspect, some Conservative Members, know far more about the realities of licensing law for clubs and pubs than he does.

There are several reasons why this amendment creates difficulties. It goes back on all the previous promises that the Government have given on licensing laws. When the Bill was published, when we debated the issue on Second Reading, and when we discussed it in detail in Committee and on Report, the Minister and, indeed, the Home Secretary made it clear that there would be no change in the rules for Sundays. They said clearly that that was a matter for Sunday trading legislation, and it would have been better if the Government had left it at that.

The Government have behaved badly. I hope that the House is aware of exactly what went on in another place when the amendment was discussed. In another place the Minister, Earl Ferrers, said that amendments of this kind to extend drinking on Sunday should not be accepted, and he acknowledged that one of the reasons was that there would be difficulty in this House. When the amendment was moved in the other place the Government did not vote against it. The amendment went through on the nod, despite all previous assurances.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will the hon. Lady concede that she and her hon. Friends are worried that the Government are doing something that will be immensely popular? Yet again, the Opposition are out of step with public opinion and she is now trying to cover that up.

Mrs. Taylor

I should have thought that Conservative Members would be worried that the Government were going back on assurances given to the House and the Committee on numerous occasions. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether it was an act of deliberate Government policy to insert this measure into the Bill or whether the measure went through by accident because their Lordships were not paying attention.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

It was not an act of deliberate Government policy—[Interruption.] I heard the sedentary intervention. It was inadvertence. There are two explanations. One is conspiracy, and the other is cock-up. [Interruption.] It was cock-up.

Mrs. Taylor

Having served in the Whips' Office, I am quite willing to believe in a cock-up by the Government rather than the conspiracy theory.

Now that this amendment has gone through the other place and we are faced with it this evening, we have to consider the problems that it creates. It should create problems in terms of honour on the part of the Government, who have given us these assurances. However, if we put those on one side, it does create other difficulties as well. First, it creates difficulties for those people who work in public houses. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), who tabled an amendment, will wish to go into this in some detail, but the licensed house managers, USDAW, and other unions that represent people employed in this industry are extremely worried.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

The hon. Member is arguing that public houses, by opening for an extra hoar on Sundays, could cause problems for employees. Will she tell us whether the Opposition's policy is to shut all public houses for all of Sunday?

Mrs. Taylor

The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) knows better than that. Having looked at the Bill in detail, I should have thought that he would have some concern for those people—especially husband and wife teams—who run many of our public houses and will be under considerable pressure from extended opening hours. Some people will be facing far longer working hours. As the Minister acknowledged in Committee, the brewers will be pressing managers to open all permitted hours. Proper agreements will not be reached between the brewers and the managers, and there will be extreme pressure on those people who work in the industry.

This morning I received a letter from someone in Cardiff, saying that no one has thought of the landlord. Sunday is the only time when the landlord and his family can go out or put their feet up for a well earned rest. Many families run pubs together, and we should be thinking of them. I am sure that my hon. Friends will wish to pursue that point.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Does the hon. Lady not understand that the best time for any publican is Sunday lunchtime? It is family time and it is a very social time for visitors. Each publican wishes his cost centre—his pub—to be profitable. Therefore, it is an essential time for a publican. I think that the hon. Lady may be wrong when she is singing the case of the publican not wanting to work Sundays. Most publicans to whom I have spoken would welcome that extra hour, because of their profit centre.

Mrs. Taylor

I am glad to say that most publicans serve beer rather than tea, but that is another matter. The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) gives an example of what Conservative Members think the Bill is all about. He mentioned profitability. That is all that the brewers are worried about. That is why we have the Bill. We should consider those who work in the industry. The husband and wife team is worthy of some consideration. I shall refer to the point about families later. That is another problem that the Bill will create.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

I have some sympathy with what the hon. Lady says about employees in public houses. However, I do not think that we on this side can expect the Labour party to go overboard for this amendment because of its links with the trade union movement. Employees in public houses are in a collective negotiating position with the brewers. They will not accept extra work on Sundays without having agreed with the brewers their terms of employment for the extra hour that they will be asked to work. As it has been conservatively estimated that about 50,000 additional jobs could be generated by the Bill to which we are about to give our blessing, could the hon. Lady be a little more bullish about supporting what, in essence, is a good job-creation measure?

10.30 pm
Mrs. Taylor

I did not realise that the Bill was being put forward as a job-creation measure. I thought that it was the pay-off to the brewers for their contributions during the last election. Be that as it may, the hon. Gentleman is forgetting the many difficulties that arise at present with the arbitration procedure between licensed house managers and the brewers. The managers have very little on their side. We have seen examples during the past 12 months of pub managers being badly treated by the brewers, but having little that they can do about it. Many managers have had a bad time at the hands of the arbitration system and that has created many difficulties. That is one problem that is created by the amendment.

Another problem is the anomaly that is now being created between clubs and pubs. Several of my hon. Friends will wish to speak about that. It is strange that the Minister should say that it will be perfectly all right to stay in a pub for an extra hour, but not in a working men's club. In Committee we discussed at some length the provisions of working men's clubs and the ways in which they organise their affairs. At that stage the Minister was sympathetic to the view that many working men's clubs exercise far more control over drinking than do many pubs. The committee members of many clubs play an active role in ensuring that the atmosphere in their clubs is proper and that drinking to excess does not occur. I am glad that some Conservative Members agree with me.

I hope that the Minister will reconsider that point and tell us that he intends to do something about the anomaly that is being created. The present safeguards for the clubs do not create equality. The flexibility that is now being given to pubs will not apply to clubs. Therefore, the Minister is accepting a strange anomaly. I am surprised that, having once accepted the extension for public houses in another place, the Government should put the Whips in against clubs in this way.

Mr. Greg Knight

Is the hon. Lady saying that, if we agree with the Lords in the amendment, at a later stage she would agree with a measure to bring the clubs into line?

Mrs. Taylor

We have not yet agreed to this measure, but, if it were to go through, I see no reason why clubs should not be treated in exactly the same way as pubs. However, we should think about certain considerations before we get to that stage. We should consider the whole principle of extending drinking hours on Sunday.

The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth seems to have turned his attention from other matters and is now talking about the advantages to the family of having Sunday drinking. I know that some families like to go out for a meal at Sunday lunchtime—occasionally I do that myself—but we do not need to extend Sunday drinking time to do that. The restaurants, or restaurants attached to public houses, to which families go will have a restaurant licence. If they are serving food, they do not need this extension.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

Does the hon. Lady agree that the Bill which Viscount Montgomery initiated in another place and which became an Act last year has given restaurants and pubs with restaurants a distinct advantage over those pubs which serve bar meals, often at competitive prices, and that that discriminates against pubs which could be part of the Sunday lunchtime family thing?

Mrs. Taylor

There may be some special pleading in that.

I return to the principle involved here. Is this the best use of families' Sunday lunchtime? I know that there are people who think that extra hours at Sunday lunchtime will create more problems than they will solve. Families who want to go out with children to have a meal on Sundays have enough time now. We do not need to extend drinking time in order to help them.

This measure is the thin end of the wedge. The Minister and the Government have allowed a back-door extension of Sunday opening and taken a serious step in that direction. They are tricking the House into extending Sunday opening times without thinking of the problems and difficulties that will be created. The problem is not as simple as the Minister thinks. Perhaps it was the Government's incompetence that led to this measure, but it is a dangerous step to take. The Government are foolish to accept the Lords amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Sir Bernard Braine.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Father of the House to abuse his position to be called early in this sort of debate to put forward his narrow-minded prejudices on this subject?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I call Sir Bernard Braine.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

For the benefit of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), I should say that I spent about nine years as chairman of the National Council on Alcoholism. This is a subject upon which I have spoken fairly frequently in the House, and about which I feel passionately. In a moment the hon. Gentleman will understand why, if he has the capacity to listen.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Bernard Braine

I rise to express my dismay and regret that the Government have agreed to accept an amendment that will permit an extra drinking hour on Sundays. I recognise that the Government have been subjected to intense pressure about this by the vested interests concerned. None the less, this is a concession that should not be made, and I hope to give the House the reason why.

First, there is no evidence of majority public support for extending drinking hours on Sundays. The evidence from opinion polls suggests, on the contrary, that the majority of the public would prefer Sunday opening hours to remain as they are. By accepting the amendment the Government are bowing, not to public demand, but to the demand of vested interests. The game was given away—

Mr. Foulkes

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult his hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who is sitting about 2 yd from him? The licensing laws in Scotland have changed and are now much more civilised throughout the week—not only on Sundays. Experience in Scotland has been that there is much less drunkenness and aggravation, and much more civilised drinking. Why does the right hon. Gentleman not learn from the experience of Scotland and from his hon. Friend, and use that knowledge in England for once?

Sir Bernard Braine

This debate is not about Scotland. If it were, I would show how alcohol harm had increased there. If the hon. Gentleman chooses to intervene, he should make sure of his facts. He is only making me more than ever determined to place the facts before the House.

The Government promised not to tinker with Sundays, and they intended to stick to that, but there was an error in another place. The right formula was not uttered at the right time. The result is that a "cock-up"—that is the term that my hon. Friend used—is now being made into a virtue.

Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

As the Father of the House. does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has listened to many Ministers commending amendments from another place, but he has never heard a Minister argue in favour of an amendment on the grounds that it was unprincipled, inadvertent and a cock-up? Surely they are good reasons for rejecting it.

Sir Bernard Braine

I must confess that I have never heard such an argument before.

Mr. Cunliffe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This evening I approached Mr. Speaker and I asked him whether I could use the phrase "cock-up" in this debate. Mr. Speaker is a member of the all-party non-profit making clubs association that I represent. He replied, "No, I do not think that it would be in order." The Minister has used those words, as has the Father of the House and the Liberal leader. I accept the Queensberry Rules, but if it is permissible for certain distinguished Members of the House to use that phrase, I claim the same privilege for the contribution that I shall make.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If those words were used too often, I believe that our debates would become somewhat inelegant.

Sir Bernard Braine

I entirely agree and I promise faithfully not to use that phrase again. I cannot promise not to refer to the inadvertence that led to the amendment being accepted in the other place, contrary to the Government's intentions.

I praise my hon. Friend for his honesty and the integrity that I know he possesses. I acquit him of any share of the blame for what happened in the other place. He may go there one day, but for the time being he is here and he has no responsibility for what happened. I am only sorry that he has to defend the indefensible.

My hon. Friend has claimed that the concession that has been made is so limited in scope—just one hour—as to be entirely innocuous. That claim lacks all credibility. Indeed, it is no more than the Government's version of the housemaid's proverbial excuse for her baby, namely, that illegitimacy does not matter because the baby is such a little one. The amendment matters a great deal.

Let us consider the likely effect of one hour's extra drinking time on local residents on a Sunday. If the amendment is carried, they will have to tolerate additional disturbance during what, for many, is the only afternoon during which they can enjoy peace and quiet with their families. Let us consider the likely effects on the existing problems of drinking and driving, and public disorder linked with alcoholic consumption. I believe—we have it on the authority of my hon. Friend—that, because of the relatively more restricted licensing regime, extended drinking hours are likely to result in more alcohol consumption on a Sunday than on other days of the week.

Mr. Foulkes


Sir Bernard Braine

If it is rubbish, it was said by my hon. Friend in Committee.

If consumption increases, it is clear that alcohol-related problems, such as public disorder and the mayhem that flows from drinking and driving will also increase. Sonic football fixtures are held on. Sundays, in preference to Saturdays, to reduce the likelihood of alcohol-fuelled disturbances. If the present more tranquil and peaceful atmosphere of Sunday afternoons is impaired by the amendment, it will turn out to be a mixed blessing.

I am amused at how the advocates of the drink trade pour scorn on the idea that such a little extension of drinking on a Sunday will do harm. They believe that it will add to the enjoyment of living. No doubt this will be so in remote villages and in the genteel suburbs, but the reality for much of the country is different.

10.45 pm

I shall limit myself to just one recent report in The Times of 25 April. It is a chilling report, because it shows that what is happening in inner cities is now invading the shires. [Interruption.] If it takes place on a Saturday, it will take place on Sunday as well. Let me quote from the report: Police warnings that outbreaks of violent disorder normally associated with deprived inner-city areas were increasingly being seen in small towns were borne out at the weekend … 300 youths fought with police in Carlisle, Cumbria. Five officers, including a woman police constable, needed hospital treatment. The violence was repeated on a smaller scale in towns in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire … 'The common denominator— said the spokesman for the Police Federation— 'seems to be people drinking far too much and then turning on the police with a viciousness which is particularly nasty when policewomen are involved. The pattern is for people to take part in mob rioting with no feeling that there will be any retribution'. This was just over one weekend. Ten youths were arrested in Reading, Berkshire, after fighting broke out at a private party in a public house … In Alton, Hampshire, a woman was attacked with a broken glass during a brawl involving about 25 men in a public house. So it goes on. Those of use who are in close touch with our constituencies know that this sort of thing is on the increase. Before the little inadvertence in the other place, the Government knew that it was wrong to extend licensing by this amount of time on a Sunday.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is fully aware of all this. He is not here tonight, but I will still say this. Having seen the Bill leave the House to go to the other place, I was amazed to read his comments on the occasion of the Robert Peel anniversary in the midlands on 5 February, when he said openly: In dozens of our cities and market towns up and down the shires, we have seen disturbances caused largely by youth who were white, employed, affluent and drunk. Those are the words of the Home Secretary, not my words; I have not thought them out. How can my right hon. Friend say that and then, because of the failure of a Whip in the other place to maintain the Government's position on Sunday opening, condone that failure and break the Government's pledge to many of us in this House not to interfere with Sundays? Does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State not feel that granting extra time on Sunday afternoon will add to the problems outlined in the Tamworth speech of the Home Secretary?

We are told that extra drinking hours are needed for the convenience of those who want to enjoy a pub lunch on Sunday. It is a delightful idea, but how do they get to and from the pub if not by car? [HON. MEMBERS: "Walk."] I am talking, not about the pleasant Chiltern village, but about the towns and places where disorder already takes place. How do they get to the pub if not by car? There is very little public transport available on Sunday afternoon. In the other place the point was conceded by the Lord Harmar-Nicholls, who said: I know that in the part of the country … where I … live. Sunday is a day when people go to the pub in a family group more than they do during the week … our neighbours, as well as ourselves, as a family get into the motor car and travel into the country to have a drink in a country pub".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 March 1988; Vol. 494, c. 1040] Thousands will get into cars to do so. The amendment is designed to encourage that practice. There is nothing wrong with it, provided only that the driver himself does not drink. However, the reality is that the amendment will encourage the very pattern of behaviour that the Department of Transport wishes to discourage. How do the Government propose to avert that danger?

The sentiments of the amendment are directly contrary to the assurance given by the Government about the scope of the Bill. Sunday drinking hours were excluded from the Government's consultative document. Time and again Ministers have explicitly stated that they did not regard the Bill as a means of altering Sunday trading laws. They may claim now that they were careful to leave themselves a let-out by stating that their objections to extended drinking hours were of a pragmatic nature. Those were words used by my hon. Friend the Minister at the Dispatch Box today. However carefully Ministers may have worded their statements, and however carefully my hon. Friend worded his announcement this evening, the fact remains that they were taken to mean that Sundays would be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. It was only on that basis that some people gave it their support.

The House should not run away with the idea that licensees are enthusiastic about the proposal in question. I totally disagree with my hon. Friend, and I am sorry to say so, because I am very fond of him.

Mr. Dickens

Will my right hon. Friend concede that we live in a different world today and that on a Saturday youngsters can obtain a case of beer, throw it into the boot of their car, and drink it wherever they like on Sunday? Is that not more likely to lead to drunkenness and disorder on a Sunday than an extension of pub licensing hours?

Sir Bernard Braine

My hon. Friend is most helpful, because he may know that the Government's OPCS survey on the drinking habits of young people from the age of 13 onwards revealed that the majority of them had their first drinks in public houses. We have a scourge of under-age drinking in this country, which alarms publicans. They hate it; they cannot control it. It is a growing problem. If my hon. Friend will consult the police, they will tell him that there is a link between under-age drinking and fracas outside public houses and in city centres.

The House ought not to shut its eyes to reality. Last month I received a letter from Mr. John Madden, the general secretary of the National Association of Licensed House Managers, which represents public house managers throughout the country. He wrote: I have been made aware that the House of Lords have accepted an amendment which if agreed would allow pubs to stay open till 3 p.m. on Sundays. Although this Association did not press for changes in the Licensing Act 1964 we gave the Home Secretary's proposal to amend the Act qualified support. The support was forthcoming because of the Government's intention not to change the Sunday trading hours. Although the proposed change in Sunday trading may appear to be a modest one the Association is of the view that it would only be a matter of time before the afternoon break would disappear, so changing the special character of Sunday. When the Bill returns to the House of Commons I would be grateful if you would bear in mind the Association's opposition to any change in Sunday trading hours. It is my duty to convey to the House the view of a large number of those who manage public houses in this country.

I should like to know whether the amendment is being accepted by the Government in the hope that by doing so they will forestall any further attempts to relax Sunday trading laws more extensively. Or is it the case, as the association fears, that the amendment is the thin end of the wedge? One is entitled to ask that question. In view of the fact that to accept the amendment will be to renege on assurances previously given, the Government are under a considerable duty to make absolutely clear their intentions. Many of us in the House, and in the country, will be satisfied with nothing less than an unequivocal guarantee that the amendment will be the end of the matter in regard to Sunday opening.

Finally, the amendment throws into even sharper relief the need for effective counter-measures against drinking and driving. The Government now have the recommendations of the Road Traffic Law Review Committee, chaired by Dr. Peter North, including the recommendation: The licensing authorities should be able to take into account, when considering whether to renew a licence, any evidence that the licensee had regularly or persistently served alcohol to customers who went on to commit drink drive offences. I suggest that a provision to that effect could and should have been included in the Bill, certainly now that extra drinking time is to be provided on Sundays as well as weekdays. As the House will know, the afternoon break has been abolished. Recently the New Zealand authorities pointed to that break as one reason why there was more sobriety in Britain than on the continent and decided to introduce it in New Zealand—at the very moment when the Government decided to abolish it here.

Mr. Favell

How does my right hon. Friend bear out what he has just said—that the English are a sober race, or considered to be on the continent—when we hear of nothing but drunkenness in holiday resorts abroad?

Sir Bernard Braine

That is a good question. Indeed, one of my greatest fears has always been that if we are not careful we shall have the same degree of alcohol harm here as there is on the continent. Twice as many people are killed on the roads in alcohol-related incidents in France as in this country, but the figure here is still very damaging. Whereas in France 40 per cent. of acute beds are occupied by people suffering from alcohol-related disease, the figure in this country is now only about 20 per cent. I do not say that the extra hour's drinking will change that, but in the abolition of the afternoon break—this latest move, this breaking of the word—we can see a reckless drive down the road that has brought so much misery to our continental neighbours.

Now that extra drinking time is to be provided on Sundays as well as on weekdays, the need to take strong measures is even more urgent than before. Paradoxically—and here I compliment the Government—the success of their economic policies in increasing affluence means, inevitably, that consumption will increase. That is what the trade wants: it wants to sell more liquor. Profits will increase, and that is all in order. Economic growth is involved, and so on, but we know for a fact that with every increase in consumption there is an increase in harm. That pattern can be seen not only in Britain but in the Soviet Union and the United States. No wonder the World Health Organisation has called on all member states to reduce their consumption of alcohol by at least 25 per cent. by 1995. This puny little measure is the only answer that the Government give to that challenge.

All that I say is that the nation has been warned by the royal colleges. It has been warned by the medical profession. It has been warned, repeatedly, that the harm from alcohol consumption rises with consumption itself. If the Government do not learn that lesson, God help us.

Mr. Cunliffe

First, let me declare not a pecuniary interest, but an interest, in that I share with the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) the joint chairmanship of the all-party association of non-profit-making clubs, which, I am proud to say, represents 181 Members of Parliament and nine Members of the other place.

At the beginning of the debate, we saw a classic illustration of a Minister coming to the Dispatch Box and telling the House that he could qualify the principle established in the Bill—or in the part that I shall consider specifically tonight—and then trying in one sentence to blow the bugles of advance and to cover the retreat of the other place and the Government of the day. At a later stage, he confesses to the House—to use unparliamentary words—that there was a blunder of the first magnitude, to describe it discreetly, by those in the other place and by those in charge of the Administration. I say that as someone who has spent seven years in the Whips' Office.

11 pm

Clause 1 now has a blatant anomaly, which discriminates in a way that is indefensibly unfair. It says that one can have a public exclusive right, based on citizenship, to enjoy, within the public house domain, the privilege of an extra hour's drinking time on Sunday. That is clear, regardless of what Ministers have said in this House and in the other place. This privilege is denied to clubs because, although they can open from 12 to 3 o'clock, in the evening they can open only from 7 o'clock to 9.30

The Minister may ask why the clubs should have that privilege. It is because, on a £100 million turnover, they pay £15 million in VAT. They are registered patrons and make a contribution to the Exchequer and to society as a whole. From the village, bowling and horticultural clubs to the Conservative and Liberal clubs, a whole galaxy—

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

What about Labour clubs?

Mr. Cunliffe

I am coming to that. My hon. Friend is a notable Labour club leader and will speak for himself on that. We do not publicly cross domains.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

If this amendment is so discrimatory as against clubs, why is it that nobody, on behalf of the clubs—for example, the hon. Gentleman— has tabled an amendment to include clubs?

Mr. Cunliffe

At the end of my speech, I shall be posing to the Minister a question that will be relevant to that point.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

Would it not have been far better if, instead of asking my hon. Friend to table an amendment, the Government had resisted the Lords amendment, thereby maintaining the status quo?

Mr. Favell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Cunliffe

I shall not. That would be the third intervention from the hon. Gentleman this evening, and the Government are responsible for their legislation. He should wait to make his own speech.

I can illustrate the cant and hypocrisy of the Minister in the other place, who clearly stated: I am bound to say that I have a sneaking sympathy because the whole philosophy behind this Bill is that it should not interfere with Sundays."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 April 1988; Vol. 495, c. 1183.] My argument is against the anomaly that the Government are creating. The amendment not only discriminates but segregates, penalises and takes away privileges from the private registered clubs. The Prime Minister recently sent to the annual conference of the Club and Institute Union a message of congratulation on its 125th anniversary, pinpointing the exceptional work that it had done in the past century and a quarter. It embellishes the record of the behavioural pattern of clubs. To a large degree, clubs do not deal with disorderly factions; the track record of the vast majority of clubs bears no comparison with the incidents that have taken place in public houses. Under the clause, patrons of registered clubs inevitably will become second-class citizens in terms of rights and privileges.

Mr. Colvin

As the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Cunliffe) has gone back in history to the start of the working men's club movement, will he acknowledge that in the CIU's initial constitution, which was written in 1926, the object of the clubs was to provide places where working men could meet, "free from intoxicating drinks"? The clubs have come a long way since then, but that is not necessarily an argument for having the licensing hours for clubs exactly the same as for pubs.

Mr. Cunliffe

That is the essence of the working classes of the day. The great Earl of Rosebery was a patron. Starting with the clerics, it was meant to bridle, inhibit and restrain working-class people from enjoying some of the fruits of their production. Eventually, the coin was reversed. That is what we call democratic evolution, and it has worked extremely well.

The association, of which I am proud to be joint chairman, has 10 million members and 33,000 registered clubs, and it turns over to the Exchequer hundreds of millions of pounds a year because of the service that it renders.

The argument is not whether alcohol is good or bad for people. I take the view that, no matter what the Minister may say this evening, there is no doubt that the Ministers, both here and in the other place, in trying to solve what they considered to be old problems, have inevitably created new ones. The administration of this Government have gone from blunder to blunder. They are inept. They cannot maintain the discipline that is expected by a policy that is sane and fair.

We are not asking for extra hours for clubs. We want only the basic equity that we now have. We shall say that again, and we may very well vote on it this evening.

I shall ask the Minister one final question. He has now admitted that there is an injustice and an anomaly within the clause. In view of the formidable representations that will be made by millions of people, will he consider with a degree of fairness a one-clause Bill to be initiated in another place? What would be his response to an attempt to correct a serious anomaly which is—I shall not use the Minister's words—a blunder of the first magnitude?

Mr. Couchman

I shall detain the House for only a few minutes at this time of night. First, I declare once again, as I have at all points during the progress of the Bill through the House, my vested interest as a multiple licensee and as the majority shareholder in a company which runs five public houses in London.

On Second Reading and on Report, I suggested to the Government that if they had been prepared to take on board the suggestion of extending Sunday lunchtime for a little while, they would be acknowledging a practice which is already prevalent in London and which, in any case, would add to the enjoyment of Sunday lunchtime by many families.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) said, Sunday lunchtime is one of the sessions that licensees enjoy. I ran a big public house in London for four years, and I certainly enjoyed it. But a session between 12 o'clock and 2 o'clock is very brief. Many will welcome the sensible extension from 2 o'clock to 3 o'clock that their Lordships have written into the Bill. It will help to restore the balance between restaurants and pubs that have restaurants attached to them that serve Sunday lunch. More families now go out to Sunday lunch —

Mr. Hoyle

It is about profits.

Mr. Couchman

Of course it is about profits, and that is nothing to be ashamed of; pub hours could be extended at times when public houses would serve nothing and when it would not be worth their while to open.

What harm would it do if families with children over 14 were allowed into public houses to enjoy a bar meal, representing good value for money, and if they were able to linger over their Sunday lunch until 3 o'clock? The apocalyptic vision of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) will not come to pass.

I should have preferred Sunday lunchtime to be extended from 11 o'clock to 3 o'clock, but if it is to be extended from midday until 3 o'clock I do not believe that the question of licensing hours will return to the House for quite a long time. It will satisfy those who want a drink with their Sunday lunch. It will also satisfy the trade and the wicked brewers. I am a tenant of the wicked brewer landlords. It will not cause immense damage or harm to the fabric of society and it will remove the licensing issue from this House for probably a decade. If the extension had been from 11 o'clock to 3 o'clock, I suspect that it would probably have removed it for all time.

I ask the House to give the amendment a fair trial and to vote for it tonight. I sympathise with the point made by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe). It will create a difference between pubs and clubs that is probably undesirable. However, the clubs fought publicans. They wanted to install jackpot fruit machines and to enjoy that privilege over public houses.

Mr. John Evans

The proceeds of a fruit machine in a public house go to the tenant or to the brewer. The proceeds of a fruit machine in a club are returned to the members.

Mr. Couchman

It is the profits of fruit machines in clubs that allow their members to drink so cheaply. That is a very large raison d'être for clubs. But that is by the by, and I was perhaps unwise to mention fruit machines.

I should have looked favourably on an amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Leigh that would have put clubs on all fours with pubs in that respect. It is a very poor reason to oppose the amendment because clubs, in the hon. Gentleman's eyes, are discriminated against by their Lordships' amendment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point suggests to people who may oppose other measures in which he is interested that, by giving those measures a fair wind, they may be taken off the agenda. My right hon. Friend knows of the legislation to which I refer. I hope that he will give this Bill a fair wind, as I hope he gets a fair wind for those measures for which he has an aspiration. I encourage hon. Members to agree with their Lordships.

1.15 pm
Mr. Hoyle

I, too shall declare an interest, but not a profitable one. I speak, I hope, for the National Association of Licensed House Managers, which has an interest in the debate. The Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), read out a letter from the association's general secretary. Account should be taken of that association's views.

NALHM regards Sunday as a special occasion. Its members work hard all week. The break on Sunday is precious to them and their staff. It enables them to enjoy Sunday with their families. They oppose any measure to take one hour off them. The Minister knows full well that the NALHM agreed, with some reluctance, to changes in the licensing hours, on the understanding that there would be no change for Sunday or bank holidays.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Castle Point that this is the thin end of the wedge. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) said that he would have preferred the opening hours to be from 11 o'clock. It would go from 11, to 10 to 9 o'clock, until the break began to disappear. People will not be satisfied with what has happened.

Mr. Couchman

That is not right.

Mr. Hoyle

If the hon. Gentleman disagrees, I shall give him every opportunity to rise.

Mr. Couchman

I suggested on Second Reading that a more suitable amendment would provide for opening between 11 and 3 o'clock because many licensees in London and elsewhere already take a liberty with licensing hours. I do not in any way, shape or form condone their actions. They open because there is demand. There is a demand from people who do not necessarily want to go to church and who would like to he able to have a drink on a Sunday morning from 11 o'clock rather than from midday. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to my speech on Second Reading. I do not wish to see Sunday as an ordinary day of the week. I remember when Sunday afternoon was a welcome break.

Mr. Hoyle

I know that I made a mistake in giving way. We have just heard a speech. I hope that the pubs in which the hon. Gentleman has an interest are not breaking the law.

Mr. Meale

All five of them.

Mr. Hoyle

Yes. I shall allow the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) to see whether his pubs are breaking the law this coming Sunday. That does not excuse what is happening to the staff. The hon. Gentleman has confirmed my worst belief, that my fear is justified. Having achieved this little extra hour, some licensees will come back for more. It is the old theme of profit for the brewers.

Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hoyle

Yes, but only because the hon. Gentleman is a near neighbour, and for no other reason. The hour is late, but I shall give way.

Mr. Butler

I suggest that profit is important to both our constituencies. We both have breweries in our constituencies. The hon. Gentleman has Tetley Walker and I have Greenall Whitley. Should they not be allowed to make a profit?

Mr. Hoyle

If the hon. Gentleman knew a little more about our constituencies, he would know that I have Burtonwood too. I have been under no pressure from either to say that the licensing hours should be increased. I am speaking for the staff who work in those pubs controlled by Greenall Whitley, Tetley, Burtonwood and others, because they deserve to be spoken for. If we do not speak for them here, no one else will speak for them. Many Conservative Members will speak for the brewers and we shall no doubt hear from them later.

The Minister has behaved like Mr. Chad by getting down in his seat so that we can only see his nose peeping over the Dispatch Box. The Government have ratted on a promise made in good faith. The Minister is very uncomfortable and I am not sure whether he went along with that. It is the second U-turn by the Government today because of the pressure put upon them.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a fundamental difference between the U-turn carried out by the Government this afternoon and tonight's U-turn because the latter is in accord with what the Government wanted all along? Home Office Ministers made it clear from the start that they favoured complete liberalisation on a Sunday and only what they called pragmatic reasons prevented them from accepting it and induced them to give that promise which, for whatever reasons, is not now being honoured. The Government are therefore yielding to something that they wanted all the time.

Mr. Hoyle

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is not a matter of principle; it is a pragmatic arrangement. Many people who went along with the rule now feel badly let down. It is a disgraceful episode.

I have never seen the Minister look more uncomfortable than when he was trying to explain why the Government were not opposing the measure. He used a phrase which, because of your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not intend to use, although it aptly describes the situation.

The Father of the House was right when he said that many of us have gone along with the proposal on the understanding that Sundays and bank holidays would not be interfered with, although the Minister does not go along with that. We now fear the worst because what has been done can happen again. It is important that we speak for the staff, many of whom are badly paid and poorly represented. The house managers have a difficult time in their negotiations with the brewers on such matters, as I have explained to the Minister. Pressure will be on those people all the time and it is a shame that we are eating into Sunday, which the country regards as a special day. Those people work long hours, are dedicated to their jobs and try to run their houses in the best way.

My hon. Friends are right to feel aggrieved when they speak for the pubs. One of the points that has not been made but which should be taken into account is that, because of the anomalies, people may go from clubs to pubs and may drive a motor vehicle to obtain that extra drink. That is where the danger lies.

The Minister suggested to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) that he should table an amendment as a remedy, but the Government should have tabled an amendment to remove the provision made by the House of Lords to return to the status quo, that both clubs and pubs should open for the same length of time. That makes a great deal of sense, but the alternative will lead to chaos, anomalies, accidents and a loss of life. When there were "dry" and "wet" counties in Wales, people would cross the border to obtain an extra drink. That will happen on a Sunday lunchtime. We are being asked to take a retrograde step. It is a step in the wrong direction and one that is not welcomed by the managements and staffs of public houses.

Mr. Greg Knight

I disagree with most of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), but I find that my support for the amendment is lukewarm because it does not go far enough. I have no difficulty in accepting that pubs should be allowed to open for an extra hour on Sundays. Licensees must be adjudged by the courts to be fit and proper persons, and I believe that they should be allowed to open their pubs as and when they choose. I accept, however, that that is not the issue before us. We are asked to approve an amendment that seeks to give one extra hour of opening to pubs on a Sunday.

My support for the amendment is lukewarm because I believe that it will create an anomaly between pubs and clubs. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State rightly said that there are important differences between pubs and clubs, and he went on to ask whether those who run clubs want the differences to remain. I do not think that that is the issue. Hitherto, clubs have been allowed the same number of hours as pubs. If we accept the amendment, we shall be creating an anomaly. Pubs will be able to open for six and a half hours on a Sunday and clubs will be restricted to five and a half hours. I find that difficult to accept, especially as the Minister of State in another place said that the Bill had been introduced to tidy up some anomalies. In my opinion, the amendment is creating an anomaly.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State asked the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) why he had not tabled an amendment to the amendment if he felt so strongly about the issues raised by it. The views that have been expressed by Opposition Members are not peculiar to the Labour party. Some of my hon. Friends are worried about the effect that the amendment will have on clubs. A few days ago, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell), who is treasurer of the Association of Conservative Clubs, I went to the Public Bill Office to seek to table an amendment to the amendment. We were told that because the House is able to consider only amendments that come within the narrow base of the Lords amendment, our proposal would be ruled out of order. That is why there is no amendment on that relating to clubs. The absence of such an amendment is not due to a lack of will on the part of Labour or Conservative Members. The rules of order prevent the tabling and selection of such an amendment.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for his candid opening remarks. He acknowledged that the debate is taking place as a result of a cock-up. I take it that the consequences of the amendment were not envisaged by the Government. I am prepared to accept this amendment on the basis that the Government and the House are prepared to keep an open mind. If a measure is brought before the House to remove the anomaly to which I have referred, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give it his support.

Mr. Anderson

The anomaly to which the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) has drawn our attention reflects the foolishness of the Government in adopting a piecemeal approach and accepting in part that which their Lordships stumbled into at a certain hour of the night, for no good reason. It seems that they were not competent enough at the correct time to do what they should have done.

I found it interesting when the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) argued that the amendment will stop for a decade any further liberalisation of licensing laws. He asserted that if there had been yet further liberalisation within the Bill, the reform of the licensing laws would have been removed from the agenda altogether. Were that the case, I would say aye to him, but I think that almost certainly he is speaking for himself, although clearly he is very experienced in the trade.

I admire the constancy of the stance of the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). I fear that, as he said, Cassandra like, alcohol consumption is increasing, outlets are increasing and its availability is increasing. That will inevitably lead, as night follows day, to alcohol-related harm and all the adverse effects that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned so consistently in the House.

11.30 pm

The Minister is a skilled advocate. I am sure that he could put forward an equally plausible and well-argued case for any of the various options that he might have adopted. He suggested that the House should accept the amendment for three reasons. First, he suggested that it was modest—rather like the housemaid's baby. It was further suggested that, as in planning law, it would be a creeping commitment. There is a dynamic in the process of adding an hour here or there, until one finds that the whole structure has changed. In this amendment we see salami tactics being used by the trade.

We are seeking from the Government a willingness to stand up for the public interest against those vested interests that seek profit at all costs. When profit was mentioned, we heard a lone voice from the Conservative Benches say, "If it were not for profits, you would not have your National Health Service." It was interesting to hear such a comment during a debate on alcohol.

The second proposition advanced by the Minister in support of the amendment was that there was public demand for this measure. If the Government had been responsive to public demand and public opinion in relation to the poll tax or the social security changes, I might be rather more ready to listen to the argument about public demand. It comes ill from a Government who, over a series of issues, have not shown themselves to be ready to listen to the voice of public demand.

The Minister's third proposition was that the amendment is not wrong in principle.

Sir Bernard Braine

In fairness to my hon. Friend the Minister, I should remind the House that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary: If such a misguided amendment were brought forward to try to include Sundays in the Bill may we have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that he would not back such a move? She received the following answer: have already stated why I believe that it would be a mistake to overload the Bill by including such a provision." —[Official Report. 9 November 1987; Vol. 122, c. 41.] The House was given a clear understanding at that time that, in the Government's view, it would be a mistake to include Sundays. We still have not heard why, because of the failure of a Government Whip in the other place to do his duty, this is being foisted on the House tonight.

Mr. Anderson

The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual prescience, has anticipated the point that I was proposing to make. The Minister was raising a point of principle, but which is the more important principle—to say that the amendment should be considered on its merits or not on its merits, however modest the amendment may be, or in the light of the undertakings that the Government have consistently given to the House, which no doubt influenced the attitudes of certain hon. Members to the Bill?

The Government, who were bloody-nosed after their battering on the Shops Bill, were concerned not with principles, but with pragmatism, because they wanted to get the Bill through. They assured us that Sundays would not be affected in any way because of the Bill. The Bill was presented to us as a package, with Sunday excluded. I wholly accept the explanation that the Minister, a man of integrity, has given, that it was not a conspiracy; that it was not a wicked Government who wanted an extra hour on Sunday all along and encouraged their Lordships to look the other way; that it was a genuine mistake, and not something for which the Government should be held responsible.

However, the problem still remains as to how the Government should react. What I would like from the Minister is something similar to what the hon. Member for Gillingham said. Accepting that this has been an unintended measure of liberalisation—inadvertent and something that the Government had not intended—they can respond by saying, "Let it be; we shall let it go as it is", or they can seek to remove the amendment. The alternative, which I would commend to the Government, as the hon. Member for Gillingham has properly said, is that this is a measure of liberalisation which has gone so far and should go no further. The Government should commit themselves not to allow any further measure of liberalisation during the lifetime of this Parliament.

The hon. Member for Gillingham, who has consistently declared his own experience and interest in this matter, said that this would be accepted for decades, and would push the matter away from public debate. If the Minister were to say that, because of this mistake in the Lords, for pragmatic reasons, principled or otherwise, the Government were prepared to commit themselves to oppose any further measure to liberalise the licensing laws, I would say amen and leave it at that. No doubt that would have a degree of consensus in the House. However, if the Government leave it at that and encourage further measures of liberalisation, I would say that they are acting dishonourably.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Due to the procedural irregularity in another place, we have the opportunity well after half-past 11 on a Wednesday night to discuss what I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister is a very modest amendment, to permit an additional hour's drinking in public houses on a Sunday. I believe that it is a measure which will be welcomed by the public, the licensed victuallers, the hoteliers and visitors to Britain.

My only reservation is the one expressed by my hon. Friend for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) about clubs. I declare an interest as president of the Uxbridge Conservative club. However, we are not considering clubs tonight. We are considering this amendment as it comes from another place. It is not open to us to consider clubs, so we must address ourselves to the amendment.

Many public houses on Sundays now serve food, ranging from hot bar snacks, to brunch, to traditional Sunday roast. In pubs and restaurants with separate restaurant areas, customers are able to take advantage of the reform which allows alcoholic drinks to be served with a meal all day. As hon. Members know, that reform was passed by this House in 1987. However, even more pubs would offer food if the 2 pm peak were to be spread out.

I believe that Sunday lunch is an important family occasion. It is an important part of the traditional British Sunday. It contributes to the special nature of the day.

Many families wish to enjoy an occasional Sunday lunch at a pub, but the occasion is spoilt by the abrupt closure at 2 pm. All of us in this House are used to closures, but I dare say that many hon. Members present tonight would agree that an abrupt closure at 2 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon spoils what should be a leisurely family occasion. Not only does it seem strange and inconvenient to many people, but it causes them to wonder how such restrictive laws could still operate in 1988.

Sunday is a day on which most families have time for activities quite different from the busy rush of the working week. Many of them want to retain the traditional character of the British Sunday, and I am one. However, I do not believe that this change, which has come about inadvertently in another place, would in any way change the character of that special clay. On the contrary, it would make the day just a little less frantic for all those people who want to go into a pub for lunch on Sunday.

I also want to draw the House's attention to the fact that the traditional pub, for which Britain is justly famous, is at an economic disadvantage compared with licensed restaurants. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman ). Such restaurants can open all afternoon. Other food operations are allowed by law to trade all day. That means that many pubs cannot provide food for a reasonable period on Sunday and thus compete fairly with those other establishments. That is a powerful case for change.

I advise the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle), who spoke earlier about the position of staff in pubs throughout the country, that the view that I am expressing tonight is strongly supported by my local branch of the National Licensed Victuallers Association.

Mr. Hoyle

I did not refer to the National Licensed Victuallers Association; I referred to licensed house managers. My hon. Friends will be speaking about the staff who work in them. We are talking about the people who are employed, not about those who claim to be self-employed.

Mr. Shersby

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I understood that point well from his remarks. However, my point is that my remarks are strongly supported by the Uxbridge and District branch of the NLVA, which has made it clear to me that the association feels that it is in the public interest that public houses should be allowed to open later on Sundays if their customers require it.

I end by referring to visitors to Britain. All of us know that visitors to Britain face the closure of pubs of Sundays in a state of utter bewilderment. Many have come many thousands of miles to visit our country and find it strange that they cannot have a drink or something to eat in one of the famous British pubs after 2 o'clock on a Sunday —

Mr. Foulkes

In English pubs.

Mr. Shersby

I take the hon. Gentleman's point—they cannot do so in English pubs.

I understand that 47 per cent. of the complaints received by the English tourist board relate to the premature closure of pubs on Sundays. All of us want visitors to come to Britain and to come again.

For all those reasons, I believe that by accident—certainly not by design —their Lordships were right to ask the House to think again on this matter. I have done so, and I shall support this change this evening.

Mr. John Evans

At the outset I declare a non-paid interest in this subject in that I am the political secretary of the National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs and vice-president of the committee of the Registered Clubs Association.

I believe that there is little demand for any additional hours of opening on a Sunday. Despite my well-known interest in the subject, I have not received one letter from anyone urging me to extend Sunday opening hours. The National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs has never expressed a demand for additional hours on Sundays. If the Government had acted fairly in this respect and had ensured that there was conformity between clubs and pubs, I suspect that there would have been little interest in this debate and that many of us could have gone home much sooner.

11.45 pm

We were told that the purpose of the Bill was to modernise and relax licensing hours in England and Wales, and to remove anomalies. That proposition had all-party support in the House. I voted for the Bill on Second Reading. The Government Minister in another place said on 15 March: The question of Sunday hours is always a vexed one. I wish to make the Goverment's view clear. The Bill is intended to be a modest, non-controversial measure. The amendments are controversial."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 15 March 1988; Vol 494, c. 1051.] That is right. There is little doubt that when the Bill left the House it had a great deal of support in all parts of the House. But that unanimity was destroyed when the Government allowed the amendment through the House of Lords.

How did the Government get into this mess in the first place? The Minister described this as a cock-up. That may or may not be so, but he has not explained how he got into this position or why the Goverment made no effort during the remaining stages of the Bill in another place to put the mess right. Nor has the Minister offered any explanation of why the Government did not move an amendment to put right an anomaly that they had created. And I assure the Minister that he has created a real problem. Clubs close, and will continue to close, at 2 pm on Sundays. They would have difficulty if they tried to vary their hours of opening —from 1 pm to 3 pm would be highly unpopular; they could try from 12 pm to 3 pm and then again from 8 pm to 10.30 pm, or from 7 pm to 9.30 pm on Sundays. None of those times would be popular. There is little doubt that clubs will be pressurised to maintain their present hours.

It will be an unedifying spectacle to watch people troop out of a club at 2 pm on Sundays sand stay in the pub next door until 3 pm. That will create problems for the managers of licensed houses. Clubs can, to a large degree, control the people who enter them—they must be members or affiliates. But managers of licensed houses have no control over who enters their premises. The opposition that the National Association of Licensed House Managers has offered to this, through the medium of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington. North (Mr. Hoyle) and the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), is well thought out and well intentioned.

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) accused the Labour party of being out of touch, saying that this was a popular measure. It might be popular with the brewers, but it will be somewhat unpopular with the millions of members of political and non-political clubs in this country, who will want to know of their Members of Parliament, Labour and Tory alike, why this ridiculous piece of discrimination has been introduced at such a late stage into what was was described as a non-controversial Bill.

The all-party clubs committee, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) pointed out, is by far the biggest parliamentary group, has made it clear that there should be no such discrimination between clubs and pubs. We are all united about one thing, irrespective of the massive political differences between us in every other area: we all want clubs to prosper and grow. We want them to continue to offer their services to the communities; that applies to Tory, Labour and Liberal clubs and non-political clubs. I remind the House that there are far more non-political clubs than political ones.

I seek an assurance from the Minister that goes further than that sought by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight). I do not think that we should ask the Minister to keep an open mind regarding the future. The Minister should give a clear undertaking that he will, at the first opportunity, introduce a simple one-clause Bill that will correct the anomaly for which the Government are responsible.

I am aware that some of my hon. Friends wish to discuss the terms of employment and conditions of those who work in public houses, and I shall not dwell on that subject.

Unless the Minister gives us the clear undertaking for which we have asked, it is my intention to divide the House to ensure that the unnecessary anomaly that has been created by the Government will be voted upon.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

In common with other hon. Members who have contributed to the debate, it is necessary for me to declare an interest. As a practising advocate I have represented a number of companies that might be expected to profit were the amendment to be accepted by the House.

That necessary declaration of interest is perhaps less significant on this occasion in view of my attitude to the amendment. I regret that the amendment does not find favour with me. I say that with regret because, as a member of the Clayson committee on the licensing law reform, whose report formed the basis of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976, I supported the opening of public houses on Sundays, which, before 1976, was not permitted by Scottish law.

I favour a much more relaxed licensing regime on Sundays, but I recognise that that view is not necessarily universally held inside or outside the House. It is notable that, after the passage of the 1976 Act, the opening provisions were among the most controversial and those that provoked the greatest public opposition when applications were made to licensing boards in Scotland. It is also notable that, as the Act made its way through Parliament, the Sunday opening provisions were most controversial.

When the current Licensing Bill received its Second Reading, Ministers described it as a modest extension that dealt with weekday opening only. It has already been pointed out, in a telling intervention from the Father of the House, that when questions were asked of Ministers it was made perfectly clear that they had no intention of making any alteration to licensing provision on Sundays. As a result of that assurance, a number of my hon. Friends, together with a number of other hon. Members, were persuaded to vote for the Bill on Second Reading who might otherwise not have been constrained to do so.

On Report a clause was tabled in relation to Sunday opening, but that clause was not pressed in spite of lengthy debate in which many of the issues that have been canvassed this evening were discussed.

Mr. Foulkes

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Sunday opening provisions in Scotland were controversial and he implied that they were not proving a success. He will be aware that my constituency is principally a tourist centre and Sunday opening is extremely popular not just with tourists, but with the local residents. What has been the reaction in Scotland to Sunday opening? My experience is that it has been almost universally successful, and that seems to be the case throughout Scotland. Does he deny that?

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman should attend the three-day meetings of Glasgow district licensing board and listen to the applications which are made for Sunday opening and to the objections which are made to the applications. He should follow some of the cases through to the sheriff court, where Sunday opening is frequently the subject of considerable dispute and contest.

Of course it has been successful. As someone who supported it in the report of the Clayson committee, I would hardly be likely to suggest otherwise. But there is a distinction to be drawn between its success and the public attitude to it. That is a very important distinction in the context of what we are discussing, having regard to the rather bloody nose that the Government got when they attempted to change the law on Sunday trading in England and Wales.

No acute constitutional issue arises from the fact that the amendment originated in the other place. However, good faith arises in the light of the Government's attitude previously and robustly expressed. The Bill is not a proper vehicle for an alteration to Sunday opening provisions. To innovate upon the existing provision is essentially a matter of principle. Although it has been explained by the Minister in some infelicitous language as inadvertence, that if anything makes the matter even more indefensible.

If there is to be an alteration in Sunday licensing provisions, it should come about only as part of an overall review not only of licensing on Sundays but of other activities as well. This is an accidental, piecemeal change which the Government are prepared to accept. That is hardly the basis for good legislation.

Mr. Favell

I too declare an interest, in that I am treasurer of the Association of Conservative Clubs Ltd. If anybody had an interest in an extra hour for drinking in clubs on a Sunday it is I. I support the amendment, but I join the hon. Members for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) and St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) in pressing the Government to introduce a short Bill during the next Session, hopefully, to put the matter right for clubs.

As for the extra hour for drinking on a Sunday, it may well have slipped through in another place, but it would not slip through in this House if there were not overwhelming public support for it; of that I have no doubt. Indeed, the Labour party would not be on a one-line Whip unless it too thought that it was a popular proposal.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that, on every occasion on which licensing has been discussed in the House, the Labour party has had a free vote and will continue to do so? It is only Conservative Members who are subject to the interests of the brewers and who have to have a Whip on that basis.

Mr. Favell

I am glad to hear that members of the Labour party are on a one-line Whip, and always will be, on such matters.

No matter what is said in the House, the British public house is a British institution which is the envy of many foreign visitors and which is cherished by the people who live here. Our public houses do very little harm and a great deal of good. The people who run and man them are to be congratulated on what they do for society. I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment. It will be highly popular and the House should accept it.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

We have heard a great deal about public demand and the popularity of the amendment. Hon. Members who make such statements are speaking for only half of the population, the male half; indeed, it is not half, but the smaller part of the population. I have yet to hear any evidence that women are queuing up to urge hon. Members to ask for longer opening hours for public houses.

12 midnight

Conservative Members seem to imagine that the country is populated by some peculiar families. All the references have been to families who are prosperous, who are childless, and who spend all their Sundays in pubs. There are a good many other things that families can do on Sundays. Families in which there are young children, and where the wife has spent time cooking good food. will be left waiting until the husband arrives home, and they are not asking —[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)


Mrs. Wise

We know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that if any Member talks about the interests of women, it immediately becomes a matter for hilarity among Conservative Members. They should be ashamed of themselves. I noticed earlier that when an hon. Gentleman spoke about attacks on the police and on a policewoman his remarks were the source of great hilarity on the Conservative Benches, which was very inappropriate. We become accustomed to the way in which women and women's interests are regarded by some male Members of the House.

I do not know of one right hon. or hon. Member who has been besieged by women from his constituency asking for public houses to be open for longer on Sundays.

Mr. Dickens

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Wise

No. The hon. Gentleman has had many bites at the cherry during this debate, and I shall not give way to him.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)


Mrs. Wise

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), because I am a feminist, and proud of it.

Miss Widdecombe

I thank the hon. Lady. I put it to her that, although I am not a great advocate of longer Sunday opening hours, perhaps there is a group of women who would welcome them. I speak of housewives who cook all week and who want to be taken out for lunch on Sunday.

Mrs. Wise

There is an opportunity to go out for Sunday lunch. No one is suggesting that people who do not want to be tied to their house should be, but it is not necessary to extend drinking hours so that people can find the time to go out for Sunday lunch.

Mr. Hoyle

Does not all this show just how far Conservative Members are out of touch? Is it not true that the male-dominated household that we are trying to replace—[Interruption.] We expect the yahoos among Conservative Members to laugh their heads off— especially those who have a vested interest, such as the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman). It is in their interests, is it not?

The point is that when the husband goes drinking on Sunday the family's midday meal is ruined. We shall find that there are more disturbed families because of this provision. If the man of the house does not go to the pub but stays at home, a meal will be cooked—and that is how it should be.

Mrs. Wise

I take my hon. Friend's point. As I said before, the women of this country are not queueing up for longer drinking hours on Sundays. Many families will be disturbed by this change. I do not believe that Conservative Members have been asking their women constituents for their views on this matter. The interests of the family will not be served by the amendment.

I suggest also that at this particular time the emphasis placed by Conservative Members on extra drinking is particularly inappropriate. Many families do not have enough money to go out for their meals or even to provide a meal in their own homes. Some people are growing steadily poorer, and the emphasis placed by Conservative Members on the opportunity to spend more money on drink on a Sunday is inappropriate.

I turn briefly to the interests of those who work in the licensed trade. Hon. Members have said that they can be protected. Working people can always be protected, and trade unions are always powerful and efficient when Conservative Members want to remove protection from them but at the moment, throughout the service trades, workers' conditions are deteriorating. They are being presented with contracts of employment which are disgraceful, which extend their hours and worsen their conditions—and they are told that if they do not like those contracts there are plenty of people queueing up for their jobs.

It is folly to suggest that those workers face their employers on equal terms, especially such employers as the brewers. Indeed, many workers in the service trades are not lucky enough to have contracts of employment at all, and fear for their jobs from week to week. That is the sort of society into which we have been led. The public demand detected by Conservative Members does not include the majority of women, and it does not include the workers involved in this trade. Certainly members of my trade union have a strong objection to any interference with Sunday trading of any description.

The Minister has told us that the amendment is with us because of the incompetence of his colleagues in another place. We are told that because of that incompetence we should accept it. There is no reasoned case for the measure—it was not advocated when the Bill came to this House—but because there has been incompetence and a mistake has been made, that mistake is now turned into a virtue and we are told that we should support it. I think that if one has made a mistake it is common sense to try to correct it as early as possible, and that is what should be done tonight.

I must part company from some of my hon. Friends. The correction that we seek is not that of the anomaly between the pubs and the clubs. We should not extend to the clubs what is being wrongly extended to the pubs; the status quo is what is required. This is not supposed to be a Sunday trading matter, and it should not become so because an amendment is sneaked in in the other place, and then presented to us to be made a permanent error.

I hope that hon. Members will join us in voting against the perpetuation of the amendment.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

I shall be extremely brief, as the hour is late.

Do the Minister and his hon. Friends consider Sunday to be special? The House did a while ago, as was made clear in the vote on the Shops Bill 1986. If they consider Sunday to be special, do they really feel that five and a half hours' drinking time is sufficient on a Sunday?

If we continue along this road, Sunday will be just like any other day. I believe that the vast majority in this country want Sunday to continue in its traditional way. In my opinion, the vast majority of households still enjoy Sunday lunches at home—usually, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) has said, prepared by the lady of the house.

Traditions differ from area to area. In the mining community in which I had the privilege to be brought up, it has always been traditional for the male to have his drink at Sunday lunchtime. Sunday lunch was prepared for a certain time, so that the family could enjoy it together and the children could go to Sunday school. Unfortunately, that way of life is no longer the norm in many parts of the country.

I see the dangers in keeping pubs open for another hour on Sunday. God forbid that it ever happens. There will be the temptation for males to stay that extra hour in pubs and clubs.

Mr. David Lightbown (Staffordshire, South-East)


Mr. Lofthouse

If the answer is "never", why is the extra hour needed? This could lead to matrimonial upset. We have heard that many divorces are caused by drink-related problems. The longer the opening hours, the more people will stay away from their families, drinking. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, I do not want the clubs to get the extra hour. I want the change to be the other way. Five and a half hours drinking on the Sabbath is quite enough. When that is no longer so, the Sabbath will mean very little. Conservative Members may laugh, but that is a dangerous road to go down.

The extension of club opening hours would place a financial strain on some of those who use the clubs, which provide the only recreation in areas similar to that which I represent and have lived in all my life—the mining communities. Because the clubs are non-profit making, members enjoy lower prices for drinks than those charged by the pubs. If the pubs have an advantage of an extra hour on Sunday, the club members could be attracted to them for the whole of their opening time, or even just for the extra hour. That could destroy some of the clubs. We all know about the large unemployment rates in the mining communities. The new law could threaten those clubs.

I know of no person in my constituency who desires an extra hour of drinking at Sunday lunchtime. There may be pockets of demand, but overall there is no general desire for it in the country.

I do not want to shove my beliefs down anybody's throat, but I hope that the House will always protect the Sabbath and keep Sunday as a special day. To extend the opening hours of pubs, or those of shops, would destroy the traditional Sunday, which I hope we shall always strive to maintain. If we should lose our Christian traditions, in which we have always brought up our children, and instead get into the habit of taking them to the pub, God protect us.

12.15 am

My final point shows that Sunday drinking could become very dangerous. Great anxiety has been expressed recently about under-age drinking. A great deal of that drink is bought in supermarkets. In my area supermarkets are closed on Sundays, so young people are attracted to the pubs and clubs. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), who owns pubs, will appreciate that it is difficult to ascertain the ages of those youngsters. Because the supermarkets are closed, youngsters will go to pubs and stay there for the extra hour that has been proposed.

I hope that if there is a Division the House will throw out the amendment.

Mr. Cryer

I am not a drinker of alcohol, but I have a degree of tolerance for those who drink that has not been exhibited by drinkers towards people like me.

I have received representations about the legislation from the parishioners of Great Horton parish church, who sent me a petition signed by 400 people who were opposed to the legislation. I raised the matter when the House discussed the issue. The Minister came to the Dispatch Box and said that he would advise Conservative Members to vote against the proposal to add an extra hour on Sundays. The Bill went to the other place, and the same Minister came back to the House and, with breathtaking arrogance, said that the Government had made a complete mess of their organisation in the other place. Their Lordships were intoxicated either with their own majority or with alcohol and could not manage to vote on a decision that had already been made in the House of Commons.

The Minister then told us that, having made that serious error, the Government did not consider it, but are throwing it in front of us—

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) put into the Minister's mouth words that he certainly did not use. I have been present throughout the debate, and the Minister did not use that language about the other place. It is wrong of the hon. Gentleman to introduce such language.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is capable of putting words into the Minister's mouth, but the hon. Gentleman should restrain his language.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not inappropriate for the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) to accuse their Lordships of being intoxicated? That is certainly unparliamentary.

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is a more direct point of order and certainly a genuine one. It would be quite approprate for the hon. Member to withdraw the remarks that he has just made.

Mr. Cryer

I did not say that their Lordships were intoxicated. Hansard will show that I did not say that. I said that that was a possible explanation for what the Minister told us. The Minister said that they had made a cock-up. That is the sort of language that we are told should not be used, but it is what the Minister said.

What does a cock-up mean? It means that they made a mess of it. Why did they make a mess of it? The Minister has not told us. I suggested two alternatives. I did not say that they were intoxicated. I asked whether that was a possible explanation. The Minister told us that there was a cock-up, but he did not define exactly what that means.

The Minister comes to the House and says that after that mess up in the other place the Government, with a massive number of civil servants, and with massive facilities at their disposal, have thrown the mess that was made in the other place in front of us and decided to recommend acceptance of the Lords amendment. That does not make much sense. I do not believe that even this Government can be so casual.

An amendment was made in the other place. Perhaps the Whips missed a few strokes, but the Government are shrugging their shoulders and have decided to brazen it out. The Minister is quite good at brazening it out. He, as a brazen Minister, is acting according to his usual instincts. He said that when he recommended his hon. Friends to vote against the amendment it was a throw-away line, that no reasoned argument was put to hon. Members at that time, just as no reasoned argument has been put before hon. Members tonight.

The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) made a telling speech. It is very good that there are some hon. Members who are prepared to adopt a minority line against the trend, which is to let the brewers have free play and to acquiesce to the mythical notion that some tourists are confused about the licensing hours in this country, though they take about five minutes to explain to anybody of average intelligence.

The right hon. Gentleman is right. Alcohol ravages our society. Hon. Members know that, because we see it here. We are not supposed to say that any hon. Member gets drunk, but we know that we could stop some of the drunkenness by closing or limiting the opening times of some of the bars in this place. If we shut our eyes—. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is muttering about this providing more copy for The Sun. I thought that the article in The Sun was extremely offensive. I was among those who were characterised as being certified alcoholics. That is absolutely and completely untrue. I am a teetotaller. But that matter is being taken up. The agenda for me is not laid down by The Sun, The Daily Express or any other organs of the gutter press. If I choose, for the purpose of my speech, to point to faults in this place, that is a matter for me, whatever the hacks who cook up the stories for The Sun care to think about it.

You were not here at the time, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is very interesting to note that when this debate began there were a number of anxious faces looking down from the Press Gallery. They are very interested in this subject because some of them are very experienced in it. They are part of the havoc that alcohol wreaks in our society.

The right hon. Member for Castle Point referred to the fact that one fifth of all acute beds in the National Health Service are filled by those with alcohol-related problems. Because of the crisis in the National Health Service, would we not give our right arms to make those beds available to others? Ten years ago the Blennerhassett committee pointed to the link between driving and drinking and the resultant accident rate. The danger is that the extension of opening hours will result in a greater degree of alcoholism.

Many people enjoy drinking in pubs and clubs, but some people want to enjoy quiet Sundays. Many people have a strong religious faith. We must cater for those who want to enjoy a quiet alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink in a pub or a club, and for those who do not. Alcohol can be an intrusion, and we have to make a judgment about it. The Minister has not shown that he has made a judgment based on a serious examination of the problem. He said that a mistake had been made in the other place and that this House should approve it. That will not help to create a society that will accommodate both points of view— those who want to relax in pubs and clubs, and those who want a reasonably quiet and special sort of Sunday.

Mr. Foulkes

I think that we have had that argument.

Mr. Cryer

If my hon. Friend keeps interfering and inerrupting, I shall be happy to go over every point repeatedly until he feels that I have made it clear to him beyond peradventure.

Mr. Foulkes

My hon. Friend has done it.

Mr. Cryer

I know that other hon. Members have been listening with much more tolerance, and I do not want to detain the House for long, but there is an alternative open to the Government. They can take the legislation away and bring it back on another day. It was their decision, not ours, to bring the Bill on late at night.

The Government should withdraw the motion. On their own admission, it is a bad amendment. There have been many comfortable smiles on the faces of Tory Members who have financial interests in this matter. I hope that all those who have a direct pecuniary interest will not vote, so that the accusation cannot be made that they will gain a direct financial benefit from the extra hour during which pubs will be open because it will help to line their pockets. That would clearly be against the interests of the reputation of those hon. Members and of the House.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

There are three matters on which it might be helpful if I responded. The first is what happened in the other place. The omission to press a Division in the other place was due to an act of inadvertence. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who was responsible for the legislation in the other place, cried "Not content" the first time, but, in order to press a Division, it was necessary that somebody—either my right hon. Friend or the Whip —should cry, "Not content" a second time. That either did not happen or it was not heard. Probably it did not happen. We are dealing with recollection, so I am trying to be strictly accurate. The amendment was made without a Division. That was not in any way part of the Government's design. The Government's design was to resist the amendment and to press it to a Division. That did not happen, for the reason that I have given.

It is fair to say to the House that it was the judgment of everyone present in the other place that the mood of their Lordships was very much in favour of the amendment. Those who had to assess the mood in the other place were quite plain that the amendment would have been carried. That was not the reason for the failure to cry "Not content" a second time, but it is the context in which we must set our decision now.

Mr. John Evans

What a fairy story.

Mr. Hogg

I heard that sedentary intervention. I am not deceiving the House. I am stating the facts clearly and precisely, and I believe the information to be true.

Mr. Evans

If it is not a fairy story, will the Minister tell us why, in line with his pledges on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, and in view of the Home Secretary's statements, he has not asked the House of Commons to reject the Lords amendment?

Mr. Hogg

The hon. Gentleman is eliding two questions. The first is whether I am deceiving the House. The answer is no. The second is why we are asking the House to agree to the Lords amendment. That is a separate question. Those who were present in the other place were quite plain that the mood was in favour of the amendment. Therefore, the question is whether it makes sense for us to try to reverse that decision. If we are being candid with ourselves and with one another, we should recognise that we should do that only if we really have good cause to argue.

That takes me to the second point—

Mrs. Ann Taylor


Mr. Hogg

Perhaps I may finish this point, and then I shall give way to the hon. Lady. It raises the question whether the amendment before the House is wrong in principle or in practice. I recognise that it is a matter of individual judgment, but my judgment is plain: we are asking the House —

Mr. Hoyle


Mr. Hogg

When I finish this point, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor).

We are asking the House to extend Sunday opening by one hour from 2 o'clock to 3 o'clock to enable people to have lunch with their families and to meet a genuine need or desire. Can that extension of one hour be categorised as wrong in practice or in principle? In my considered judgment, it is unsustainable to say that it is wrong either in practice or in principle.

12.30 am
Mrs. Ann Taylor

Will the Minister confirm that the amendment was moved in Committee in the other place and that there was, therefore, an opportunity on Report and, as I understand the procedure, also on Third Reading to change it? Will he also confirm that the payroll vote operates in the other place, as it will operate tonight in the House when the Government try to railroad the measure through? Does he accept that a good cause for rejecting the amendment is the assurances that he and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary have given on repeated occasions?

Mr. Hogg

Let me deal with the hon. Lady's first question. It would have been possible in the other place to try to reverse the decision made in Committee, but, in deciding whether to do that, one must have regard to the quality of the argument and to the probability of success. I have made it plain to the House that, in the judgment of those who have to assess the mood of their Lordships, it was clear that there was a majority in favour of the amendment.

Secondly, it is impossible to say that the amendment offends either principle or logic. I have never believed that it is wrong either in principle or practice. When the matter has been before the House on previous occasions, Ministers, including myself and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, have made it plain that we opposed the extension, but we also made it plain that we did so not for reasons of principle which we do not believe apply, but for practical reasons, because we thought that it would sink the Bill. However, it has not sunk the Bill and it is leading to a small extension which, in all conscience, we cannot say contravenes logic or principle.

Mr. Hoyle

Does the Minister agree that if we relied upon the quality of the argument, the Government would have been defeated many times in this House and in the other place? Is he not going back on all the assurances that he has given? Does he accept that he has deceived the House, although that may be a strong word to use? Should not the Government have stood firm on the assurances given to so many people?

Mr. Hogg

Neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary have on this, or on any other matter, deceived the House. We stated that we would resist the amendment and try to persuade our colleagues to do likewise because the position has now changed. The other place has passed an amendment, and we must decide whether this is an issue on which to go to war with the other place. It is a matter of some substance. The other place has expressed a clear view. The question is whether, where we do not believe that an issue of principle is involved, it is right or sensible to lock ourselves in an argument with the other place.

Mr. Steel

The Minister is advancing an interesting, novel and, in some ways, encouraging constitutional theory. He is saying that if the other place has a certain mood and produces a certain quality of argument, the Government should turn turtle. Will this apply to the poll tax?

Mr. Hogg

The right hon. Gentleman knows that, while I may have had a hand in drafting the Licensing Bill, I did not have a direct hand in drafting the Local Government Finance Bill.

Sir Bernard Braine

My hon. Friend will recall that on Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) that he did not wish to overload the Bill. That was in response to a question from my hon. Friend in which she sought an assurance that there would be no tampering with Sunday opening hours. My hon. Friend the Minister is telling the elected House of Commons that, owing to inadvertence in the House of Lords, it was decided not to reverse that which was before their Lordships because the mood of the upper House was conveyed to the Government in some way. The mood of either House of Parliament can be conveyed only by a vote.

Mr. Hogg

I have a feeling that there is a mood now that we should proceed with the business. Therefore, I shall move rapidly to the third point that I want to make, which relates to pubs and clubs.

There is a major disparity already in the treatment by the law of pubs and clubs. That is the position in England and Wales in any event. For example, the law on under-age drinking applies to pubs and not to clubs; and the police have an unfettered right of access to pubs but not to clubs.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hogg

No. I shall bring my remarks to a close. I shall not give way again during this debate.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hogg

No, I shall not give way.

Mr. Allen McKay

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it right that the Minister should say that clubs allow under-age drinking?

Madam Deputy Speaker

The Minister has the right to deploy his argument as he thinks fit.

Mr. Hogg

It is true that the internal rules of many clubs prohibit the supply of drink to the under-aged. It is true also that the law on under-age drinking applies to pubs and not to clubs. That is the distinction that I was emphasising. The police have an unfettered right of access to pubs but not to clubs.

Mrs. Ann Taylor


Mr. Hogg

No, I shall not give way

Mrs. Taylor


Mr. Hogg


Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister has made it absolutely clear that he is not giving way.

Mr. Hogg

The point is—

Mrs. Taylor

Will the Minister give way?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister has made it clear to the Chair that he is not giving way.

Mr. Hogg

There is a case for making the law in its totality the same as between pubs and clubs, but I find it difficult to understand why clubs should be especially affronted by the distinction of six and a half hours for pubs on Sundays and five and half hours for clubs.

The problem with which the other place was concerned was whether —

Mr. Hoyle

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I have a ruling? The Minister is saying something that is patently wrong and he will not give way to enable us to correct him. We are seeking to explain to him that he is wrong and he will not give way. What can we do, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is a point of argument, not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Hogg

The other place considered whether it was right to extend the Sunday opening of pubs by one hour to 3 o'clock to enable the public to have a more leisurely drink at lunchtime. Clubs can already do that by law.

I suggest that the House will wish to agree with the Lords amendment.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 119, Noes 26.

Division No. 281] [12.40 am
Amess, David Burt, Alistair
Amos, Alan Butler, Chris
Arbuthnot, James Butterfill, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Caborn, Richard
Ashby, David Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Atkinson, David Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Batiste, Spencer Carrington, Matthew
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Carttiss, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Chope, Christopher
Bevan, David Gilroy Colvin, Michael
Blackburn, Dr John G. Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Couchman, James
Bottomley, Peter Cran, James
Bowis, John Currie, Mrs Edwina
Brazier, Julian Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bright, Graham Day, Stephen
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Devlin, Tim
Browne, John (Winchester) Dickens, Geoffrey
Burns, Simon Dover, Den
Durant, Tony Neubert, Michael
Fallon, Michael Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Favell, Tony Paice, James
Fenner, Dame Peggy Patten, Chris (Bath)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Forman, Nigel Porter, David (Waveney)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Rathbone, Tim
Forth, Eric Redwood, John
Foulkes, George Ryder, Richard
Fox, Sir Marcus Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Freeman, Roger Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Gale, Roger Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Shersby, Michael
Gill, Christopher Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Snape, Peter
Harris, David Speed, Keith
Hawkins, Christopher Stern, Michael
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Stevens, Lewis
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Holt, Richard Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Summerson, Hugo
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Janman, Tim Thurnham, Peter
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Tredinnick, David
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Twinn, Dr Ian
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Knowles, Michael Waller, Gary
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Lord, Michael Watts, John
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Wheeler, John
Maclean, David Widdecombe, Ann
Malins, Humfrey Wilshire, David
Mans, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Wood, Timothy
Meyer, Sir Anthony Yeo, Tim
Miller, Hal
Mills, Iain Tellers for the Ayes:
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Mr. David Lightbown and
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Moynihan, Hon Colin
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Loyden, Eddie
Beggs, Roy McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Meale, Alan
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Nellist, Dave
Coleman, Donald Pike, Peter L.
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Cryer, Bob Steel, Rt Hon David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Dixon, Don Wallace, James
Golding, Mrs Llin Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hoyle, Doug
Leadbitter, Ted Tellers for the Noes:
Livsey, Richard Mr. David Clelland and
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Mr. John Evans.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Back to
Forward to