HL Deb 31 March 1925 vol 60 cc852-5

LORD LAMINGTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will have an inquiry on the different systems of disinterested management of licensed houses, and in particular on the licensing system in Carlisle, as was agreed to by His Majesty's Government last July and accepted by this House without a Division; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will do no more than ask the Question which stands in my name. I had not in any case, apart from the lateness of the hour, intended to raise a debate, but I added a Motion for Papers because last July, when I asked a Question of similar purport, it led to a rather prolonged debate, and in case such an eventuality occurred again I wished to give myself a right of reply. As circumstances are, I will ask my Question without moving for Papers.


My Lords, my noble friend is, I think, quite right in saying that it is not necessary to trouble your Lordships at great length upon this matter, which was very fully discussed last year. He will not be surprised to learn that His Majesty's Government are prepared to grant this Inquiry. I had almost hoped that I might be ready to submit to your Lordships this evening the terms of reference which they were prepared to accept. This is not yet quite possible, but I should like to say that it will be appropriate to limit the Inquiry to the specific matters which my noble friend mentions. He will remember that in the debate last year a view was held in certain quarters of your Lordships' House that the Inquiry might be enlarged, but I think the general feeling of the House was expressed by those of us who were then sitting upon that Bench and resisted anything like an extension of the Inquiry on every ground, and notably that it would lead to quite unnecessary controversy and that if you burdened the Inquiry with a very large reference, the result would be to suffocate it. Consequently I desire to say, in order to prevent any misunderstanding, that when your Lordships see the terms of reference you will recognise that we have practically limited them to the actual matters which my noble friend mentions in his Question. With that very small explanation, I merely have to say that the answer to my noble friend's Question is in the affirmative.


My Lords, last summer, when this matter became practical, the noble Marquess and I were at one upon the desirability of this Inquiry, and I think we had some communications about its wording. There is only one point I wish to make with regard to his remarks. I quite agree with him that to have this Inquiry in a form which would lead it to run into everything all over the field would be disastrous. It will die away if you give it too much body. But on the other hand, it may he that disinterested management, as you have it, for instance, in Carlisle, might be too narrow a subject if you kept to it altogether. You might want to know about other forms of disinterested management and whether there were certain minor improvements which you could add to it. Accordingly, I would express the hope that when the noble Marquess proposes his terms of reference they will be drawn in such a way as not to tie the Committee too tightly, but will leave them free to consider these improvements without going into the whole subject-matter of the field.


My Lords, I think that it would be very desirable that the Inquiry should be as limited as possible. As regards disinterested management in Scandinavia, and elsewhere, we have abundant material already upon which to form a judgment. I should hope that the Inquiry would not be specially directed to the Carlisle area, because there is an excrescence there on Government control in the shape of the manufacture of liquor, which I think it will be well that the Government should avoid doing. In Scotland you have two areas where the manufacture of liquor is not a part of the undertaking, and where you find, as in Carlisle, an example of disinterested management as compared with management for private gain.

There has been some movement towards bringing pressure upon the Government to dispose of the Carlisle area, and probably other areas under their control, and to dispose of them to the trade. That, I think, would be undesirable, because these three areas afford most valuable object lessons, and it is in order to point the results of these three interesting experiments that it is so desirable to have an Inquiry. I am very glad indeed that the Inquiry is to be undertaken, because it would be a great misfortune if these three areas disappeared without an inquiry into the results. I think that these three areas will afford a very substantial field for inquiry, and that it would be quite easy to compare the results obtained Tinder Government control with the results under the ordinary system of retailing liquor for private gain in the surrounding district.


I am glad to hear the reply of the noble Marquess. I am, however, not quite sure, with reference to Carlisle, whether the noble Viscount wished to have excluded the Government supply of liquor.


No, I was only pointing out that in the Carlisle area the question of Government control was complicated by the manufacture of liquor, which I think most of us regard as an unnecessary excrescence.


I am glad to hear the explanation of the noble Viscount.