HL Deb 10 April 1924 vol 57 cc227-32

Debate resumed (according to Order) on an Amendment, moved by Lord Lamington on Tuesday last, to Clause 5.

Clause 5:

Children on licensed premises.

5. The prohibition of the presence of children in the bar of licensed premises contained in any Act for the time being in force shall apply to premises to which an "improved public-house" certificate is attached, unless the licensing justices deem it desirable, owing to the special circumstances of any premises, that a specified part of such premises should be open to children."

Amendment moved— Clause 5, page 3, lines 13 and 14, leave out ("in the bar of") and insert "upon"—(Lord Lamington.)


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD STUART OF WORTLEY moved to leave out Clause 5. The noble Lord said: My Lords. I rise to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice, to omit Clause 5. I hope your Lordships will not think it inconvenient if this subject is raised again at this late stage. I take this course because I saw signs on the Report stage that a good many members of your Lordships' House would have been glad to have an opportunity of giving a decision on this question, and I can assure my noble friend who is in charge of the Bill that I raise this point quite as much in the interests of his Bill as in any other interests. In truth, I am sincerely friendly to the principle of his Bill, which, I believe, is the only deliverance for which we can hope from the disastrous conditions which, I will not say, are created, but seem to be perpetually continued, through the intemperance of the temperance people and the zeal of zealots who will not allow us to have any remedy except pure prohibition.

First, as to the form of this clause. Your Lordships will observe that, in order to create a dispensing power, it begins by reciting a provision of the Statute Law which everybody knows to exist, and which requires no re-enactment. Then, in a subordinate sentence, beginning with the word "unless," it proceeds to create a dispensing power in the justices which many people will think highly objectionable and one which I do not hesitate to say would, on the arrival of the Bill in another place, constitute a formidable obstacle to its progress and acceptance there and. in fact, might be fatal to it.

Now, as to the substance. Your Lordships may remember that in 1908 a Statute entitled The Children Act, 1908, was passed into law which said: The holder of the licence of any licensed premises shall not allow a child to be at any time in the bar of the licensed premises, except during the hours of closing. That clause goes on to define what is meant by a bar. This definition is, I think, of importance because it ought to get rid of any idea that might be raised that any harmless bit of shelf on which you might put glasses to supply drinks to people who are having the most innocent kind of meals, might be construed to mean a bar. The words are these: any open drinking bar or any part of the premises exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor. That is the definition, and your Lordships will observe that it means some place where drink is actually sold and consumed on the spot. It is, in fact, an institution with which we are only too familiar, and which, no doubt, has to go on being provided for the convenience of persons who do want to get intoxicating liquor.

The Legislature has said that in such places a child should not be allowed to enter, and I think it is not desirable to create a dispensing power to cause suspicion and that it is better to leave this prohibition in force. The main contention which I wish to submit to your Lordships is that if you do leave the prohibition in force the inevitable effect will be that efforts to get certificates for improved public-houses, which I hope will often be made, will be made by persons who are prepared to separate entirely structurally and otherwise the bar from what I may call the improved part of the public-house, and there never can arise any question whether a child can or cannot be admitted to the bar in contravention of the present enactments on the subject. Therefore, in the interests of this Bill and with the greatest possible friendliness towards the principle which my noble friend wishes to advocate, I move my Amendment, which aims at the removal of a clause which. I think, can be of no use to my noble friend or to his purpose.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 5.—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)


My Lords, I recognise the friendly intentions of my noble friend. Like him, I have no desire to see children allowed to be frequenters of the bars of public-houses, but I am advised that it is technically very difficult in practice to distinguish what is really a bar and that, therefore, it is desirable to give some dispensing power to the magistrates. In view of the general practice, I cannot believe for a moment that there will be any abuse of this power, or that under this clause children will be allowed to frequent a bar. That was the reason for the insertion of this clause. In some cases where you have an improved public-house it might be difficult to differentiate what is known as the common bar and what would be the bar under these new conditions. Therefore, I am advised by those who know better than I do that it is desirable to have this clause in the Bill. It has been slightly altered from its original drafting at the instance of the noble Viscount, Lord Cave, who thought that the present wording was better. I should be very glad indeed if my noble friend would withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, I am afraid I cannot hold myself responsible for the wording of the clause, because the changes which I desired to see made were not made, but if my noble friend holds to his clause I shall vote with him. I want to say how I understand the clause. I think many of us feel very much that under the present law you sometimes see outside a house of refreshment a line of young children left there under somebody's care, or perhaps under the care of their mothers, waiting while the father, and perhaps the father and the mother go inside. It is a hateful thing to see, but if you have a really improved public-house you need not insist upon that kind of thing.

I have said it so often on this Bill that I hesitate to repeat it, but if this Bill is worth anything at all it will lead to the starting in this country of houses of quite a different character from the ordinary public-house which we are accustomed to see. I tried to persuade the House that these improved houses could be opened without bars, but I was told by the most rev. Primate that I was wrong—although I had seen hundreds of places abroad without bars—and that such a thing was contrary to the British constitution. I believe, however, that in these improved public-houses the bars will be of quite a different character from those which we see in other places. It is true, as the mover of the Amendment said, that any room, however large, where intoxicating liquors are consumed, and which is mainly used for that purpose, is a bar, even although the actual serving bar is right at the end of the room, and there is a large space where people are consuming their refreshments at tables in a decent way.

If this clause goes out no child can be admitted to a room of that kind, and, as I understand it, the whole purpose of the clause is that if the magistrates, when they grant their certificate, are satisfied that some room in the house, although it contains a bar at the end, is yet not unsuitable for allowing men with their wives and children to come to it, they shall have a dispensing power and may allow that to be done. I trust the justices, and I think that in most cases they will exercise their dispensing power reasonably, and I am desirous of giving them that dispensing power. If the clause is struck out, there is very little left in the Bill. People may be granted this special certificate, but it brings no privileges except the dancing and music licence. It is not worth having the Bill for that purpose only. If you strike out this clause, which seeks to give effect to the improvement which I desire to see, I cease to have much interest in the Bill as a whole.


My Lords, I hope that Lord Lamington will stick to his clause. Lord Stuart of Worthy said that this particular power, which the. licensing justices were to have, was not right. I must point out to the noble Lord that in my opinion the licensing justices know the local conditions better than anybody else, and that is one of the reasons why I trust that Lord Lamington will maintain the clause in the Bill. I have some knowledge of a public-house which has been specially built, not solely for the purpose of selling liquor but for the provision of refreshments also, where the bar is not exactly separated by a complete partition from, but adjoins, the place where refreshments can be sold. Children can go in there, can go to the counter and purchase provisions, and anything they like. The bar is next door. To say that no child shall be allowed to go into that place because there happens to be a bar within view, with half a partition dividing it off, seems to me to be carrying the matter a little too far.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, expressed the hope that many houses of this sort, which are an improvement on the present public-houses will be built, and I hope so, too. You will be astonished to hear that the house I speak of is in Ireland, and a curious result of that house being built, where you can get every sort of refreshment, is this. There is another public-house at the other end of the village, which sold excessively bad liquor, but when it found that its customers, who used to get drunk on whisky and other deleterious stuff, went to the public-house specially built on this improved plan, it had to get good liquor, and the drunkenness in the village, such as it was, has almost ceased. That is my experience of a public-house built under the conditions that Lord Lamington wishes to introduce under this Bill. I think that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, has put the matter quite clearly. If this clause is cut out of the Bill, the Bill is really not worth the paper it is written on.

On Question, Amendment negatived:


I beg to move that this Bill be now passed.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass. (Lord Lamington.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.