HL Deb 21 July 1949 vol 164 cc335-9

3.9 p.m.

Read 3a (according to Order).

Clause 7:

Power of local authorities to provide board and laundry facilities

7.—(1) The power of a local authority under Part V of the principal Act to provide hous- ing accommodation shall include power to provide in connection with the provision of such accommodation for any persons, such facilities for obtaining meals and refreshments and such facilities for doing laundry and such laundry services as accord with the needs of those persons.

LORD ROCHESTER moved, in Clause 7, after "refreshments" to insert other than the sale or supply of intoxicating or excisable liquor. The noble Lord said: My Lords, since the demise of the National Government of which I was a member, I have owed allegiance to no political Party; but I avow myself a Liberal—albeit unattached. I am one of those, however, who believe that the result of the last Election was such that it may well have saved us from a violent revolution; but we have had the revolution all right! My tendency is more and more to the Left, and I think noble Lords on the Government Front Bench would agree that, by and large, I have supported the present Government. I confess, however, to having felt greatly concerned at times about their attitude to some moral and religious issues. The temperance question is a case in point.

Look at this Bill. There was to me something really disquieting about the attitude of the Government a week ago. I am not criticising the noble Lord the Paymaster-General, whose courtesy and consideration is always exemplary. We know that it was through no fault of his that there was such rigidity last week, for he was representing a Department other than is own; and with that candour which we so much admire in him, the noble Lord told us frankly that he was speaking under instructions and had no discretion to concede anything on this point. However, I still refuse to believe that the persuasive powers of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House and the Paymaster-General, aided and abetted by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, are not such as to overcome the unwillingness even of the Minister of Health to subscribe to a compromise that was conceded by a perfect galaxy of Ministers on the Civic Restaurants Act, including the Leader of the House, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Food and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who was in charge of that Bill in your Lordships' House.

Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, moved an Amendment last week in almost the identical terms as he did on the Civic Restaurants Act two years ago—namely, to restrict the granting of a justices' licence for the sale of liquor for consumption only with meals; and on the Civic Restaurants Act it was conceded as a compromise, after my Amendment in exactly the same terms as the one I am now moving had been negatived. In resisting the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Llewellin last week, the Paymaster-General, in charge of the Bill, used these words—and I ask your Lordships carefully to note them: The Government have made no reference to licensing or intoxicants; they have kept them out of the Bill, and it is better to keep them out of the Bill. The corollary of that statement is just this: that the door is deliberately left wide open, not only for restricted licences for liquor consumption with meals, but for full justices' licences, with cocktail bars and all the rest. Was ever a more innocent-looking formula evolved by any Government, for which one was expected to vote quite happily and not discover its ambiguity until later? Fortunately, some of us did discover it.

My noble friend in charge of the Bill also said: The Government feel that this is a case where no applications are likely to be made. Well, then, why provide for them? My Amendment will avoid any ambiguity on that score, for it rules out licences altogether. We fought this matter out on the Civic Restaurants Act two years ago and, thanks to the intervention of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, the compromise to which I have already referred, restricting licences for the consumption of liquor to be consumed only with meals, was accepted by the Government. That being so, could anything be more inconsistent than the attitude of the Government in resisting just such an Amendment to this Bill? It was because of that inconsistency that I have put the present Amendment on the Paper. However, I have no wish to delay your Lordships by arguing the case all over again, and I apologise for talking at such length on the previous occasion. What I want to say is this. I am a realist, and if I cannot get a whole loaf I try to content myself as an interim appeasement of hunger, with half a loaf. If, therefore, the Government upon reflection can see their way, after all, to stand by the compromise agreed to on the Civic Restaurants Act, and intimate their willingness to accept the restrictive Amendment of my noble friend Lord Llewellin when he moves it, then I shall have accomplished my end in putting this Amendment on the Paper, and I shall not be unwilling to ask your Lordships to permit me to withdraw it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 2, after ("refreshments"), insert the said words.—(Lord Rochester.)


My Lords, in order to avoid a continuation of the debate, I can promise the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, that he wilt get his half loaf if he withdraws this Amendment.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD LLEWELLIN moved to add to Clause 7: () A Justices' licence granted under the Licensing Acts 1910 to 1934 for the sale of intoxicating liquor in connection with the provision of facilities for obtaining meals and refreshments under this section shall only authorise the sale of such liquor for consumption with a meal and a local authority shall in carrying on any activities under this section be subject to all enactments and rules of law relating thereto including the enactments relating to the sale of intoxicating liquor in like manner as other persons carrying on the like activities. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, although I would not describe it as "half a loaf." Noble Lords who were in the House on the Report stage on the Bill will remember that we nearly had a Division on an Amendment in very similar terms. The main reason why I put down this Amendment was that it seemed to me to be absurd that a local authority, under the Civic Restaurants Act of only two years ago, if they wanted a licence to sell alcoholic liquor, should be restricted to a licence to sell it only with meals, whereas under Section 7 of this Bill when it becomes an Act they could apply to the justices for a full licence, which Would allow them, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester said, to run a cocktail bar if they wished to do so. The great thing, it seems to me, is to have consistency between the two measures. Just as we were on the point of dividing last time the noble Viscount the Leader of the House intervened and asked that a little extra time should be given. It is probably no secret that we have had discussions since them, and I would now like to thank the noble Viscount for his intervention, which I hope, when we have heard the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, will mean that Parliament is being consistent in these two matters and that this Bill can be sent back to another place without any Division in your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 12, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Llewellin.)


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin mentioned, towards the end of the previous discussion on the Amendment now before us he agreed to withdraw the Amendment provided that consultations took place. Since then my noble friend the Leader of the House and myself have contacted my right honourable friend the Minister of Health. We did it separately and we did it jointly, and we both agreed that there was little hope of this Amendment being accepted, but my noble friend, with that persistent persuasiveness of his, suggested that we had another try. We had a further consultation with the Minister of Health, and the outlook was much more encouraging. At that point we were reinforced by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. After some little talk, I think perhaps due to the superior forces or due to the wisdom of the counsel given, the Minister of Health relented, and I am pleased to inform your Lordships that I can now accept the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons.