§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Swinton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]
§ Clause 1:
§ Repeal of State management of liquor trade in new towns
§ 1. Part I of the Licensing Act, 1949, shall cease to have effect so far as it provides for the extension of State management of the liquor trade to new towns; and accordingly the said Part I shall be amended in accordance with the activities of the Schedule to this Act."
LORD SILKIN moved, after "towns" to insert:
not included in the Schedule (New Towns to be Exempted from the Provisions of this Act) to this Act;
The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Milner of Leeds. The purpose of this Amendment is to seek, even at this late stage, a compromise between those who believe that State management in new towns as a whole is the right thing and those who are opposed to State management and in favour of private enterprise. What this Amendment seeks to do is to continue the experiment of State management in a limited number of new towns—namely, those set out in the new Schedule which is incorporated in the Marshalled List of Amendments, that is to say at Aycliffe, Cwmbryn and Peterlee, and in such other new towns as may be set up in the future, where the Home Secretary thinks it expedient.
§ There are at present some fourteen new towns, and as the Amendment is drafted the experiment will be limited to three out of the fourteen. Perhaps the Committee would like to know why these particular three have been chosen. The Committee will remember that on Second Reading considerable reference was made to the Royal Commission on Licensing, which reported in 1932. In their Report the Commission were, I think, unanimously of the opinion that the continuance of the Carlisle undertaking was desirable. They 936 felt that there was no doubt whatever that nowhere else in the country was so uniformly high a standard of management reached, and it was therefore their view that there was a good reason for the customer to be satisfied with the service offered. Those views are set out in various parts of the Report. The Commission recommended that it was desirable that public ownership should be applied elsewhere, in circumstances which would submit the system to a further test, both in a social and in a financial sense.
That was in 1932. Since then it has not been possible to carry out the recommendation, which the Commission thought so desirable, to submit State management to this further test, and many of us feel that that test could suitably be applied in some of the new towns. I accept that the House has decided that it shall not be applied to all the new towns. It is true that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in replying to the debate the other day, referred to the next sentence of the recommendation of the Royal Commission—namely,
An area in which there is such superfluity of licences as to make it doubtful whether our reduction proposals would meet the case might be selected for this purpose.
He also pointed out, as of course is perfectly true, that that second sentence did not necessarily point to new towns. Whilst I think that is perfectly true, it is also true to say that in 1932 there were no new towns. Furthermore, this second sentence is not a recommendation but a suggestion that this system might be applied in certain areas. I think that, if properly read, it could be construed as being applicable to some new towns, but I do not want to make too much of that point. The Commission could not have applied their minds to the point whether new towns were suitable places for this extension, because, in fact, there were no new towns then.
§ On the occasion of the Second Reading my noble friend Lord Milner and I gave reasons for submitting that the new towns were particularly suitable places for an extension, if there was to be one. To-day we put forward an even more specific case—that of the three new towns referred to in the Schedule—Aycliffe. Cwmbryn and Peterlee—as being exceptionally suitable. If we are to have an extension Aycliffe is specially 937 suitable, I suggest, because there are no licences of any kind in the new town, ether on-licences or off-licences, and you would, therefore, start with a clean sheet. As regards Peterlee, there are no off-licences and there are only two on-licences. So, again, it will be a relatively simple matter, if an extension is desirable, to apply it at Peterlee. Cwmbryn is in a different position. It has twenty-three on-licences and seven off-licences, but by virtue of the fact that Cwmbryn, as its name implies, is in Wales (as a matter of fact, it is in South Wales), where the temperance conditions are rather peculiar, where conditions are really sui generis, particularly in the county of Monmouth, it is thought that suitable extension might be made in Cwmbryn new town.
§ These three new towns would provide varied experience. There is one new town where there are no licences at all, one where there are very few, and a third where there are a number but where the licensing conditions are rather peculiar. And there would be eleven other new towns where public-houses would he under private enterprise. I feel that if there is any intention of trying to carry out, at this late stage, the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Licensing this is a suitable opportunity and that possibly it represents the last chance we shall get. I am still in hopes that Her Majesty's Government will see their way to endeavour to apply the recommendations of the Commission to these new towns. Alternatively, if they accepted the principle, but thought that my selection in this Amendment could be improved upon, other new towns being deemed preferable for the extension, that would be so much the better. As I said on the occasion of the Second Reading, I have given some of the reasons why I thought the extension to new towns would be desirable and would make a useful experiment. I do not wish to repeat those reasons now; they will be within the recollection of the noble Earl, and possibly also within the recollection of the Committee.
§ There is one other point which I might add. In another place, a suggestion was made—I think it was on the Report stage of the Bill—that there were cases where the consuming public had not been supplied with beer of the strength, or 938 even with the quantity, which they were entitled to expect. I said during the Second Reading debate in your Lordships' House, and I repeat, that I do not for a moment believe that it is the practice of brewers either to adulterate their beer or to give short measure. That is certainly not their practice. On the other hand, no one can deny that there are black sheep in every community, and if in a particular instance, or in a number of instances, bottles of beer have been analysed by a public analyst and have been found to be wanting, there is some case to answer; and the public mind will be somewhat disturbed by those facts. But it seemed to me that in the new towns at any rate there would be some further safeguards if there were State management. The State would have no particular interest in any proprietary brands, and the State could take steps, if it thought necessary, to have those brands analysed from time to time, to ensure that they were of the appropriate strength.
§ As regards draught beer, it was not the intention, necessarily, that under State management the State should brew its own beer. It certainly was the intention not to limit the beer to one particular type, as would be the case in a tied house. It is possible, of course, under State management to give to the customer a greater variety of beer at each public-house or each licensed establishment than would be possible under the tied-house system, and I should like to say just a few words on that. Our debate turned to a considerable extent on the desirability of giving the customer the greatest possible freedom of choice. The case made by the noble Earl and others was that with a variety of brewers operating in one particular area the customer had some freedom of choice, in that if he did not like the beer at one place he could go to another. That is true. There may be half a dozen or a dozen different brewers operating in one particular town, and it is right that a customer should be able to go from one public-house to another to satisfy his preference. But that might be very inconvenient. It might mean that he would have to travel long distances.
§ In another place, examples were given of the kind of distances that might be involved. A case specifically mentioned was that of Welwyn Garden City, where a 939 customer might have to travel two miles each way in order to obtain a particular sort of beer which he fancied. It certainly would be more convenient to the customer to be able to get the different varieties of draught beer at each of the licensed houses which were State managed. From that point of view, I submit that State management might be used as an experiment, with a view to making the provision of intoxicants more convenient for the customers themselves. I do not rest my case primarily on that. I rest it on the desirability—and this, I think, the Royal Commission on Licensing abundantly made clear—of an extension of State management to places other than Carlisle, and on the ground that here is an opportunity to carry out this extension, perhaps on a considerably smaller scale than was contemplated under the 1949 Licensing Act. I say that, if we are to carry out this extension, these new towns afford us the opportunity of doing so. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Earl will not lightly set aside this Amendment but will give it very serious consideration. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 7, after ("towns") insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
I have no wish to delay your Lordships for many minutes, but I was unavoidably prevented from being present on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill and I want to support my noble friend Lord Silkin in this Amendment. As we cannot have all the advantages of the 1949 Act, I urge the Government to give us this concession at least, because it would admit the principle for which we contend. I dissent from the point of view that the Carlisle experiment has been a failure. It has certainly been a success. It has been a success even under the competition in those towns in which some licences are held by the State management authority and some by private individuals. The advantage of State ownership with disinterested management is that it removes the incentive to increase sales. I submit that a value created by the community through the collective effort of the community should not be handed over to private enterprise to exploit. Under this Bill there is no protection for the tenant of a tied house 940 in any shape or form. He can be charged a higher price for his beer than the same brewer is prepared to charge to either a free house or a club. The tenants of tied houses ought to be protected from even the possibility of such exploitation.
I am opposed to tied houses not only in new towns but also elsewhere. In this at least I am consistent, for I hold in my hand a copy of a Billto provide for the abolition of tied houses and to secure freedom for holders of licences for the sale of ale, beer and spirituous liquorswhich I introduced into the House of Commons so long ago as May 28, 1906. It was read a first time and ordered to be printed, but, unfortunately, I was not successful in the ballot for Private Members' Bills, so it never had a chance of reaching the Statute Book. The Royal Commission on Licensing said that the tied house system has led to many evils, and recommended that legislation should be introduced to alter it. I am in favour of barring tied houses as I am in favour of freedom in most other spheres. I urge the Government to give very sympathetic consideration to this Amendment and plead with them to accept it.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has moved this Amendment in an agreeable and felicitous spirit. If I answer him shortly, it is not out of any discourtesy; it is be cause the issue raised by this Amendment, though one of great importance, is a simple one. As he himself admitted, the short, simple issue is the issue which the House decided upon on Second Reading. The noble Lord said, very reasonably and fairly, that if we are going to have further experiment in State ownership and State running of public houses, the new towns are the best places to try it. But, of course, the whole point of this Bill is to decide the issue of whether or not there should be that further extension, and the House has decided against it.
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, of course, is quite frank upon the subject. He told us he was going to deliver to us, as he did, the speech he would have delivered on Second Reading had he been in the House when the Bill was considered. I am not quite sure whether it was not the speech he meant to make on Second Reading in 1906, if his Bill had been picked in the ballot. At any 941 rate, it was a perfectly frank speech. He said he hated brewers. I am not sure he did not even say that he hated beer. I hope he did not go so far a; that, because I should not like to join him in that condemnation. And, of course, he said the State ought to run it all. That, indeed, is the simple issue of this Amendment. It is true that it says we should try it only in three towns, which are selected by name, and then in any other towns where the Home Secretary might think it was a good thing. But the simple issue before the House in this Bill is not a dependence of this matter on local circumstances, but the plain issue: should we or should we not extend this State enterprise? The view we take is that it is not a good plan to extend this State enterprise and that it does not depend on one town or another. We think that the planning for what is right for these new towns can better be done by the joint committees of licensing justices and development corporations provided in the Bill, and by leaving the provision of liquor to private enterprise; and the House has endorsed this.
The noble Lord gave us a sad picture of one or two public-houses he had been into where he received either short measure or indifferent beer. I am sorry that he did. But I do not think he would go so far as to say that with State enterprise we should have stronger and better beer. I hope we can be sure of getting the amount we paid for. But if somebody sells you short measure, in beer or in whisky or in anything else, the remedy is a much simpler one than State enterprise. He can be taken to court, where he will get short shrift. I do not think that is a very relevant argument. As the noble Lord, himself admitted, this Amendment tries to graft an exception on to the principle which the House has endorsed. In our view, it does not admit of that exception. We have the simple issue: do we or do we not want State enterprise? We do not, and hitherto the House has supported us in that view. Therefore, I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment.
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
I should like to say a word in reply to the noble Viscount. The object of the Committee stage of a Bill is to introduce exceptions to a general principle which may have 942 been laid down on Second Reading. There is no rule whatever to the contrary and I am sure the noble Viscount did not wish to give the impression that as the House had generally approved of the principle of no State management in the new towns, there cannot be exceptions to that principle.
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
It seems to us on these Benches that here is an opportunity perhaps for a simple extension of the Carlisle experiment. It would be an experiment in a small way where, as the Royal Commission said, circumstances afforded such an opportunity. As my noble friend Lord Silkin said, the opportunity presented by the new towns may never arise again. Here are at least two towns—I am not quite sure about the third, because there the principle seems to be different—in one of which there are no licensed premises and in the other only two off-licences. Therefore, it would seem advantageous, irrespective of one's views "Aye" or "No" on the general principle to carry out what an eminent Royal Commission twenty years ago advised should be done. I feel it would be a matter for regret if that opportunity were not taken.
It would appear from what the noble Viscount has said that in no circumstances would the present Government, or those who sit behind him, agree to an extension of State management. That goes quite contrary to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and quite contrary to the Carlisle experiment, which I think I am right in saying was introduced by a Liberal Government, and certainly not by a Labour Government. To give a flat refusal to continue an experiment in a different sphere, under rather special and favourable circumstances, seems to me to be a very wrong attitude to take. I still hope that the Committee may think it right in these special circumstances to enable that experiment to be made. New towns and particularly these new towns will presumably be occupied by young people. If there are no licensed houses there are presumably few old people there. It will be a new population altogether. It does seem advantageous from every point of view and an opportunity that ought not to be missed.
943 I hope therefore that the Government and this Committee may reconsider the position.
§ 4.20 p.m.
LORD CHORLEY moved, after "towns" to insert:
and in any new town the development corporation of that town may exercise in respect of the liquor trade in that town any of the powers conferred upon the Secretary of State in regard to that trade in a state management district and no person, other than the development corporation or any person acting on behalf of that corporation, shall sell intoxicating liquor by retail in any new town;
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Milner of Leeds and myself I beg to move the Amendment which stands in our names. The object of this Amendment is to give the Government another opportunity of allowing some elasticity and experiment944
§ On Question: Whether the said words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 73. in respect of the arrangements under this Bill. I am rather afraid, from the almost intractable attitude which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, took up on the last Amendment, that he will not be any more helpful on this one. The Amendment opens up a certain avenue for him, if he is prepared to take it, in that it proposes to leave the question of whether there should be a certain amount of experiment in these new towns to these development corporations themselves. After all, the development corporation, having the responsibility of building up the new towns, are in a better position to judge whether the conditions in the particular new towns for which they are responsible are such as to make it advisable to introduce State management.943
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Burden, L.||McEntee, L.|
|Jowitt, E.||Chorley, L. [Teller.]||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morrison, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Greenhill, L.||Pakenham, L.|
|Stansgate, V.||Haden-Guest, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Kenswood, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Bingham, L.(E. Lucan.) [Teller.]||Lawson, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Wise, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Munster, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Ennisdale, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Rothes, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Wellington, D.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Fraser of North Cape, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Gifford, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hacking, L.|
|Reading, M.||Allenby, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Willingdon, M.||Bridgeman, V.||Hankey, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Furness, V.||Hayter, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Harcourt, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Hudson, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Monsell, V.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Swinton, V.||Leathers, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Trenchard, V.||Leconfield, L.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Llewellin, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Aldenham, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Craven, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Newall, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Barnby, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Blackford, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Carrington, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Cherwell, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Howe, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Teynham, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Cozens-Hardy, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Not long ago, when noble Lords opposite were sitting on this side of the House, 945 they used to stress the importance of elasticity, and I suggest that this is an excellent opportunity for them, now that they form the Government, to allow some elasticity and to enable such development corporations as they think fit to introduce State management into their particular town. It may be that they will not wish to do so, but at any rate this Amendment gives them the chance. I entirely agree with what was said on the last Amendment, about the importance of experiment, and with the view that was expressed by more than one noble Lord as to the value of the experiment which had been conducted over the last thirty years or more in the city of Carlisle. Let it not be said that it is only the people who are interested iii the teetotal cause who think that Carlisle has been a success. It is a city which I have had opportunity and cause to visit on a number of occasions, and it has always struck me that the arrangements in that city for supplying beer and alcohol generally are excellent—and I speak as one who likes his pint on occasion.
§ I would also suggest this point to the Government—here I speak as a Back Bencher, and must not be taken as in any way committing the future Government, although on this particular matter there is a great deal of feeling in the Party to which I have the honour to belong. If the present Government are not prepared to be reasonable and to allow some elasticity and experiment, they will not find it easy to come back—and, after all, they are not going to be occupying those Benches for a very long term of years—and say: "Well look here, experiment is going on in this town, in that town and in the other town. Would it not be better to give it a fair run before you decide to go back to the provisions of the 1949 Act?" If they are going to be intractable and take up a non possumus attitude, they will find it very difficult on a future occasion to ask, in their turn, for a reasonable experiment to be conducted until it is possible to tell whether or not the experiment has been a success. I will not take up the time of the Committee any further, because, after the speech we heard a few minutes ago, I do not imagine that the noble Viscount is likely to be helpful. Therefore, I will just move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend and myself.946
Page 1, line 7, after ("towns") insert the said words.—(Lord Chorley.)
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Lord guessed right the very first time! I am afraid that I am not going to ask the Committee to accept this Amendment. The noble Lord said that here was another avenue which we might explore. I am afraid—and I think the Committee will agree with me when they see the true meaning of this Amendment—that this is a much less attractive avenue than the one down which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked us to wander. After all, in what this proposes to do the basic principle is the same. It says, "Let its have this State enterprise," but does so in a much worse form. If there is to be a State enterprise in drink at all. I am quite sure that it is better run by the State management entity, as in Carlisle, than as the noble Lord proposes in this Amendment, by the corporation of the new towns. Observe what that would mean. It is certainly not the function of the corporations of these new towns, who are themselves temporary bodies, to engage in this work. Where a new town develops, the functions devolve upon the local authority. Therefore, what the noble Lord is proposing to do here is not to continue or expand the Carlisle experiment, but to embark on municipal enterprise in drink. Whatever may be said for or against the Carlisle experiment, I think there is extraordinarily little to be said for municipal trading in drink, which is what this Amendment means. It would mean that the drink trade of the area would be brought directly into local politics. I doubt whether even those on the opposite side of the House who would like to see the Carlisle experiment extended—and I appreciate their sincerity in that—would really face up to giving the local authorities the power to engage in the drink traffic. I am afraid, therefore, that I must ask the House to reject this Amendment.
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
It seems to me unfortunate that the noble Viscount should adopt such a doctrinaire attitude on this matter. The Act of 1949 provided for State management. That Act is now to be repealed, and another Bill is brought in which provides for private enterprise to operate 947 in new towns. Here is an opportunity where perhaps a middle course might, with advantage, be adopted. It seems to me that, as a general principle, one Government ought not, when it comes in, immediately to take upon itself the responsibility of repealing all important legislation carried out by the immediately preceding Government, and to do so without any real trial of the principles set out in the previous Government's Act of Parliament. That is what this Bill proposes to do, and it has seemed to some of us that there should be a middle course. I think I am right in saying that the development corporation is not a municipal body at all but is appointed by the Minister.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I did not say that. I said it was a temporary body and that when it had discharged its functions it would be succeeded, and its functions would in future be discharged by the local authority. The development corporation could not be kept in being just to run the drink trade, and that would mean that the drink trade would have to be run by the local authority.
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
I am not sure that that would he so in any case. We are looking further ahead. This Bill deals with private enterprise, on the one band, and State enterprise on the other. The local authorities are to be responsible for quite a number of years. After all the local authority is responsible for roads and streets, shops, various public offices and so on, and it would seem that they should equally have the right to decide on the conduct of the licensed premises in the same area. I think it is a matter for regret that this middle course which has been suggested should not be adopted in consequence of the doctrinaire attitude of the Government. It seems unfortunate that some compromise could not be accepted on these or some of the other lines which have been suggested.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 4.33 p.m.
LORD GREENHILL moved, after subsection (1) to insert:
(2) If at any time within two calendar months of the Act coming into force, the development corporation of any new town, or one hundred persons registered as local government electors in any new town, shall
require that a poll be held upon the question as to whether the new town should be excluded from the provisions of the fore- going subsection, a poll shall be held, and, it the majority of the local government electors in the new town so resolve on a poll taken in accordance with the Ninth Schedule of the Local Government Act. 1933, this Act shall cease to apply to the new town. The Secretary of State may by order prescribe the form in which the development corporation or the local government electors shall require a poll to be taken and may by order adapt the said Ninth Schedule to the Local Government Act. 1933, so as to provide for a poll to be taken as aforesaid.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move the Amendment which stands in my name. A few moments ago the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, read a statement, the implications of which may be of fearful consequence in one sense yet hopeful in another. Now we are discussing this Licensed Premises in New Towns Bill, and I wonder whether noble Lords opposite feel, as I do, that it is almost an anticlimax that, after discussing things of such tremendous import, we should now be discussing this comparatively trivial matter. I ask myself whether the apparently larger number of noble Lords now opposite is due to the statement which was made a few minutes ago or to their interest in what this Bill proposes to encourage. All my Amendment does is to propose that the opinion of the public in the new towns—that is to say, the opinions of those who are most concerned—be asked. It seeks to provide that they shall have a say in the question of whether or not the licensed trade in the towns shall continue under State management or shall continue under private enterprise. That is all the Amendment asks, and it gives as a precedent of what can be done what has been done under the Local Government Act of 1933, the Ninth Schedule of which is probably better known to the noble Viscount than it is to me.
§ We on this side are following a similar course to that which was followed by the Opposition when the 1949 Licensing Act was being considered. On that occasion, I gather, noble Lords opposite took the view that people in these new towns should have the opportunity of being able to say whether they wished to contract out of the conditions of the new towns or whether they would remain. All we are asking is that the people shall be given the same opportunity in the opposite direction. It is, I suggest, a highly 949 democratic method of ascertaining what the people want and of satisfying their needs, and I hope that in the circumstances the noble Viscount will be prepared to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 9, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Greenhill.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, has proposed an Amendment that two months after this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament any new towns should be able to take a poll to decide the form in which licences should be issued. This is similar, I think, to the local option poll which can be taken in Scotland, though not in England. That is a principle to which we attach great importance in Scotland and we think it right and proper. I think there might be much to be said, in principle, for the noble Lord's Amendment, but there seems to me, one absolutely cardinal difficulty about it. At the present time these towns hardly exist. In most cases they are only a minute fraction of what they will eventually be. There are some instances in which there is in existence a town of some character which is eventually to be extended to include perhaps 80,000 people. But at the present juncture it is really not practicable to suggest that these people who, by chance or otherwise, happen to be resident in that area can speak authoritatively with the democratic voice which the noble Lord has emphasised.
§ LORD SILKIN
The noble Earl will surely remember that on the Second Reading he made that very case by referring to meetings in the new towns, at which people gave their views.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
Certainly. People may meet anywhere and express their views, and we in this House pay attention to them. I do not suggest that that was a decisive issue; I said it was indicative, so far as it went, that in certain towns this measure was unpopular. That is the central difficulty this particular Amendment. I could give population figures. In some cases a town which will number perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 has at present only about 2,000, or fewer; and to say that these people should have the authority to give a decision on this matter is wrong. Otherwise, 950 I do not differ at all from what the mover of the Amendment has said. After all, noble Lords decided that the development corporations should be appointed by the Minister. I think it regrettable to say that the people resident at present are necessarily competent to speak for those who may come in future.
§ LORD GREENHILL
If this Amendment were worded:… excluding the period of two calendar months permit a poll to be taken at any time …would that satisfy the noble Earl?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
That is a most interesting proposal. But why should it be confined to new towns? Why should not the people in any town take that view and pass a resolution saying they would like the "pubs" in their town to be controlled by the State? Why should that not be the case if it were felt that it was so desired? Noble Lords opposite had the opportunity for six years to do this but they did not think fit to do it.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am very much interested in the argument which has been used for turning down this Amendment. Because they are small in number we are not to permit people in the new towns to choose for themselves what kind of arrangement shall be made. They need, apparently, to be taken care of. There are two ways of doing this. The late Government, in 1949, decided that, because the new towns were in that condition, the corporations should have the responsibility of looking after those small populations, which corporations, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has said, are temporary in character, and therefore must in a few years present a problem of their own for settlement. We believed, and still believe, in the establishment of these corporations to look after the growing populations and not to pin them down. But surely that is the reverse of the attitude which the Government are now taking up. The Government are now taking up the attitude that licensed premises shall be handed over to the brewing interests, and the brewing interests are under no dubiety about the permanency of their tenure. They are not looking upon the gifts in this Bill as of a temporary character. They will take their stand on this point, that, 951 having been presented with these gifts, they should retain them permanently because of the work that they will have done. I am sorry that we on these Benches have to offer different opinions from those which have been offered on the other side of the House, but it seems to me that, if we are engaged in experiments in these new towns, and have an organisation responsible to the Government for their development, we should leave the control of the liquor traffic with them for the time being, and not hand it over to private exploitation.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Committees to determine distribution of licensed premises in new towns
§ 2.—(1) For the purposes of determining the number, nature and distribution of licensed premises in new towns there shall he a committee constituted in accordance with the following provisions of this section for each new town or, if it appears to the Secretary of State that by reason of the proximity of any two new towns it is expedient that one committee should be appointed for them and the Secretary of State by order so directs, for those two new towns.
§ (2) Any such committee shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State as being an independent person, and of such even number as may be prescribed by order of the Secretary of State of other members appointed as follows, that is to say—
- (a) one half shall be appointed by the development corporation for the new town for which the committee is constituted or, if the committee is constituted for more than one new town, by the development corporations for each of the new towns in such proportions as may be specified by order of the Secretary of State;
- (b) the remainder shall be appointed from among the number of, and by, the licensing justices for the licensing district comprising the area for which the committee is constituted or, where that area comprises, or comprises land included in, more than one licensing district, from among the number of, and by, the licensing justices for each of those districts in such proportions as the Secretary of State may by order determine:
§ Provided that where the said area comprises part only of a licensing district, and it appears to the Secretary of State that by reason of the small extent of that part of the district and having regard to its nature the licensing justices have insufficient interest in the working of the committee to justify their representation thereon, it shall not be necessary for the committee to include any licensing justice for that district.
§ (3) The appointment of a member of any such committee shall be for such term, not 952 exceeding three years, as may be determined by or under an order of the Secretary of State, with or without eligibility for being reappointed, as may be so determined, and shall be subject to such conditions as may be so determined.
§ (4) The quorum of any such committee shall be such as may be determined by order of the Secretary of State.
§ (5) In the event of an equality of votes on any question, the chairman shall have a casting vote, but save as aforesaid the chairman shall not have a vote.
§ (6) Subject to the provisions of the two last foregoing subsections, the procedure of any such committee shall be such as the committee may determine.
§ (7) The proceedings of any such committee shall not be invalidated by reason of any vacancy therein or any defect in the appointment of a member thereof.
§ (12) Any order under this section may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order thereunder.
LORD SILKIN moved to leave out subsections (2) to (7), inclusive, and to insert:
(2) The Secretary of State shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act or the coming into operation of the order under section one of the New Towns Act. 1946, designating the site of the new town, whichever is the later, consult with the development corporation of the new towns or town affected, with every local authority whose area includes any part of any new town affected and with the licensing justices for every licensing district which includes any part thereof, and also with such other persons and bodies of persons as appear to him requisite to be consulted as to the constitution of the committee, and shall then prepare a draft scheme for the constituting of the committee.
(3) Any scheme made under the foregoing subsection—
(4) The scheme shall have effect when confirmed by the Secretary of State either as submitted by him in draft or subject to such modifications as may be made by him in consequence of any representations made to him in accordance with the provisions of the foregoing subsection.
The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Charley. If noble Lords will look at Clause 2, they will see that this sets out the machinery for planning the provision of
licensed premises in new towns. We are all agreed, on both sides, of the House, that the provision of licensed premises should be planned. Clause 2 sets out the conception of the machinery that shall he provided, and the Amendment sets out an alternative conception. We agree on both sides, I think, that as many people as possible who are concerned should have the opportunity at some time of expressing their views on the question of
the number, nature and distribution of licensed premises in new towns.
There we are on common ground. The Government believe that that can best be achieved by setting up a committee, to be presided over by an independent chairman. One half of that committee is to be appointed by the development corporation and one half is to be appointed from representatives of the licensing justices; and thereafter anybody who is interested should have the right to express his or her views and, if necessary, to object and to have a public inquiry.
§ The purpose of this Amendment is to lay down a less rigid method of setting up the committee in the first place. As the clause stands, the Home Secretary is committed to setting up the committee in this way: one half of the members are to be licensing justices and one half are to be persons appointed by the development corporation, and there is no guarantee whatever that the people who are really concerned will get on to this committee. We do not know what the size of the committee will be. There is no indication in this clause, but I do not complain of that. I do not know whether it is to be a small or a large committee. If it is a small committee, the probabilities are that the representatives of the development corporation would, in practice, be members of the corporation. If it is a larger committee, I imagine that some of the representatives would he members of the development corporation and some would be people from outside, but there is no guarantee that that will be the case. After all, there are a great many people outside who would be greatly concerned about the number, nature and location of these licensed houses.
§ The noble Earl, in speaking on the last Amendment, said that there were some new towns where the population was very 954 small. That, of course, is perfectly true. On the other hand, he will agree with me that there are some where the population is large—for instance, at Hemel Hempstead there is an existing population of over 20,000, and at places like Crawley, Stevenage and Harlow the population is considerably over 5,000 and is growing every day. There are many people, both in the new towns and in the locality, who have an interest in the kind of licensed houses that will be going up, and these people ought to be on the committee at the earliest stage.
§ The purpose of this Amendment is to provide that the Home Secretary should eventually, after hearing everybody's views, set up the committee and appoint the particular people who, in his opinion, would be best suited for the purpose of making a decision. Under the provisions at present in the Bill, people who are not on the committee—people such as members of churches, and those concerned with education, social services and so on—will have their chance of putting forward their views only after the scheme has been put forward by the development corporation and has been approved by the committee and by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. They will then have their opportunity of objecting only at a time when the scheme has been crystallised, when people's views about it will have become set and when, quite often, it will be difficult to retract without losing face. Under the Amendment which I am moving, however, all these people will have their say at an early stage, and the scheme will be eventually prepared in the light of their views. The Minister of Housing and Local Government will have heard what they all have to say, and will then approve the scheme in the light of their views.
§ I think it is unfortunate, particularly in a new town, that differences of opinion on matters of this kind, on the provision of licensed premises, should be the subject of a public local inquiry, with people briefing counsel, with feelings becoming exacerbated and the Minister eventually having to come down on one side or the other. I think it is much better if these things can be settled inside the committee, where all views are heard privately and where eventually a decision is arrived at. I hope that the noble Earl will see his way to think again about the method 955 of procedure (after all, it is only a method of procedure), to see whether the views set forth in this Amendment are not preferable to those in the clause itself. It may well be that improvements can be made in the drafting of the Amendment; but there is another stage to this Bill, and if the drafting can be improved, the noble Earl, with all the resources at his disposal, is in a position to do it.
§ I hope he will appreciate that while we are seeking to achieve the same objective of getting a scheme for the provision of refreshment houses in the new towns which will meet with general approval and will meet the needs of the new town, the only difference between us is as to which method is preferable, that set out in Clause 2 or that indicated in the Amendment. I think the method set out in the Amendment is more democratic. It has the advantage of giving more people who are concerned with the new towns a voice in the determination of what licensed premises shall be there, which is a very desirable thing. In these days I believe that the basis of democracy is to get as many people as possible intimately concerned with the administration of the locality, and this is one method of doing it: not of dividing people up into those who are running the show and those who are objecting at a public inquiry.
§ I hope, therefore, that if the noble Earl does not see his way to accepting this Amendment, he will give it serious consideration between now and the next stage, and not insist dogmatically upon the clause as it stands in the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 1, leave out subsections (2), (3), (4), (5), (6) and (7) and insert the said new subsections.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The Amendment which the noble Lord has moved was, with the exception of one subsection, moved on the Report stage in another place, and was discussed for about an hour. It is taken from the 1949 Act, and I think I am correct in saying that in fact it is the basis on which the advisory councils exist at the present time. But I should point out at the beginning that the function of the advisory councils is very different from that which the committee 956 under this Bill has to perform. Admittedly, besides certain preliminary tasks, the main duty of the advisory council was, as I think the noble Lord will agree, to act as a link between the State who were running the licensed premises and the public who were interested as possible consumers; whereas this is definitely and positively a planning committee. It is intended that the planning should be done by the committee itself, and not by the State management organisation at all. Therefore, the function of these two committees is entirely different. For that reason, what I might call a rather more definite and a clear-cut committee is required to take executive decisions.
The noble Lord suggests that there are people who should be in at an early stage. I wish he would explain just what type of people he means, because under the clause as drafted, you have on one side the members of the corporation, or their representatives, who are selected by the Minister—and the Minister, of whatever political complexion he may be, would, I am sure, do his best to select people who know the locality. On the other side you have the representatives of the magistrates, who elect their number to sit—it may be four, five or six. Those are two separate sources from which I should have thought there was a fair chance of getting pretty good people in at a very early stage.
§ LORD SILKIN
Does the noble Earl really mean that those people appointed by the development corporation have to be approved by the Minister? I see nothing here which states that. Is it not the fact that the development corporation appoints them?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am not suggesting that for a moment. The noble Lord was anxious that certain people (I am not clear who they were) should get in at an early stage. It is perhaps difficult to define that, but I am saying that they can come in as representing, on the one hand, the magistrates or, on the other hand, the corporation, which is appointed by the Minister. I suggest, with respect, that there is a very fair chance of any outstanding man of judgment, respect and understanding of these problems getting on this committee at a very early stage. That I think is important. I should like to draw attention 957 to something else—the point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, earlier. When he was moving his Amendment, he said that the corporation understood the locality; that it was their job to do so—I want the noble Lord to note carefully what I am about to say. Under this scheme what guarantee is there that the corporation would have a reasonable opportunity of expressing its views? As a matter of interest, the advisory councils which have been built up under this Act contain, I believe, three or four members of the corporation and a committee of twenty. The noble Lord, who has been very interested in this matter, will realise that that sort of representation of the corporation, in a matter which fundamentally affects its planning duties to the new towns, would be quite unsatisfactory.
I should like to recapitulate what we are trying to do. When we were first faced with the task of deciding how to license the new towns, there were, roughly specking, two alternatives of an extreme character. The matter could have been left entirely in the hands of the magistrates to judge, as if nothing had happened, or it could have been left entirely to the decision of a Government Department. That is what the 1949 Act did. What we have tried to do is to compromise between those alternatives. We have had a number of appeals for compromise and, with respect, the scheme under the Bill is a compromise. On the one hand, we have taken the corporation representatives, who are fundamentally interested in the planning, and we have added to them an equal representation of the magistrates, who are supposed to be thoroughly acquainted with, and to understand, the problems of licensing. We have set them up in one committee, half and half, and we have set what we call an independent chairman on top. It seems to me that that gives a fair balance. For that reason, if the noble Lord thinks it out, I am sure he will agree that it is a more balanced way of proceeding. It is also more democratic, because it is the people concerned with the place—either the development corporation, who are immediately concerned, or the magistrates, who are more directly there—who make the choice.
958 I wondered just why this Amendment appealed to the noble Lord. Lord Silkin. There was one thing which he mentioned, which does not come out in the Amendment but which I think explains the reason for its appeal to him. He apparently wanted the whole of this committee to be appointed by the Secretary of State—at any rate, he suggested it. I believe that what the noble Lord has in mind is a committee entirely appointed by the Secretary of State, instead of one with which the Secretary of State has nothing to do at all. I think the arrangement we have is more satisfactory in that respect, and I suggest that probably any Home Secretary, of whatever political complexion, would feel that he had enough appointments to make at the present time without being responsible for any more. I ask your Lordships to reject the Amendment.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am very disappointed with the reply which the noble Earl has given. It was a much less sympathetic one, if I may say so, than that which was given by the Home Secretary in another place. He appeared to have been—I will not say convinced by the argument that was put to him, but at any rate impressed. The noble Earl has tried to persuade your Lordships that the scheme set out in the Bill is more democratic than the scheme for which my noble friend and I are asking. It is difficult to see how he can make that out. Under the Bill, the Committee is to consist partly of the development corporation—a centrally appointed body—and partly of the local magistrates, who are representative of the whole area and not just of the new town itself, so that the inhabitants of the new towns, at any rate in the early stages, are likely to be very little represented. Therefore, the committee, I should have said, would be almost as undemocratic a committee as one could get. I appreciate and agree with the noble Earl that the development corporation, which, after all, has been responsible for the build-up and planning of the new town knows a great deal about site requirements and that sort of thing. But we are not proposing in the Amendment to leave out the corporation. Clearly, it would play a very important part on the committee which we are asking the Government to set up.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I ask the noble Lord how does he propose to ensure that it would play an important part? The Amendment says absolutely nothing about it at all.
§ LORD CHORLEY
The Amendment says that the Secretary of State shall consult, first of all, with the development corporation. The indication, clearly, is that the committee will be based partly on the development corporation, partly on the local authority representatives and partly on representatives of organisations of citizens who are particularly interested in this sort of problem. In other words, it will be a democratic organisation. Instead, the noble Earl asks us to agree that a committee composed partly of the development corporation and partly of the magistrates is a democratic organisation. I should have thought that the sort of proposal we are putting forward was one which the Government might well accept. We are asking for some sort of elasticity in the administration of this measure, but we are being given no sort of elasticity at all.
The noble Earl points out that the advisory committees which were to have been set up under the 1949 Act are not the sort of advisory committees which would have been concerned with the sort of problems facing the committees to be set up under Clause 2 of the Bill. Up to a point, that is true. We are not asking that an advisory committee under this measure should take care of these problems. What we are asking is that an advisory committee as under the 1949 Act should be constituted so as to enable it to bring to bear on problems of this sort the opinions and the desires of the local people. After all, the people who are to live in these new towns will, through their local authorities, govern these towns; and, in the long run, surely, they are the people best qualified to judge where they wish to have their public-houses and other places of refreshment and, generally speaking, how the whole thing is to be organised. I am very sorry indeed that the noble Earl has been so inelastic in his approach to this problem. I ask him and the Government if they cannot, between now and the next stage of the Bill, think the matter over, and see whether they cannot be a little more helpful.
I think the noble Lord—perhaps not intentionally, but by a sidetrack—has cast some innuendo upon the licensing justices. When he says he wants a democratic body to do this, his statement seems to imply that the body proposed in the Bill is not democratic. From the democratic point of view—and, incidentally, one is apt nowadays to get very suspicious of that word "democratic"—surely the development corporation can be relied upon to appoint their half of the committee in a democratic manner; and surely the licensing justices are a democratic enough body. After all, they are a body who from very long experience know the people's requirements with regard to liquor.
§ LORD CHORLEY
May I intervene to say that the licensing justices' job up to this particular point has been a judicial job? It is an innovation of a very serious character which is introduced by this Bill.
§ LORD SILKIN
I would press the noble Earl to give further consideration to this Amendment. No question of principle is here involved; it is just a matter of machinery. With great respect, I want to emphasise that in my view, and in the view of a great many people, the machinery proposed in the Amendment is preferable. I do not want the noble Earl to be under any misapprehension. I was not suggesting that the Home Secretary should actually appoint the committee. The Amendment makes it clear that he will consult with different people. It sets out with whom he is to consult and that he will eventually, as a result of those consultations, put forward a scheme. In that scheme will be set out the constitution of the committee—the numbers, and how that committee is to be appointed. He could, of course, if he wished, say that he will appoint them himself, but I imagine that he would be very unwise if he did so. The purposes of the advisory committee under the 1949 Act and the committee suggested in this Amendment are very much the same. In both cases they are to have regard to the needs of the locality and to make recommendations. They will not be able to settle in either case. In the one case it was to be the Home Secretary who would decide. In this case the person deciding will be the Minister of Housing and Local Government. There will still be the possibility of an inquiry if people are dissatisfied. 961 But in the initial stages I am concerned that the production of the scheme should be in the hands of the widest number of people.
The noble Earl asked me whom I had in mind. I had in mind, for example, representatives of local authorities in the area. Under the clause as it stands, it is possible that there would not be a single local government representative, not a single elected person, on the committee. That, as I say, is possible, and the Minister would have no redress if that were the case. He has no voice under the clause as it stands in the selection of that committee, whereas under a scheme that he might make he could insist that there should be a certain number of local government representatives. There could be representatives of the churches who, I think, are very much interested in this matter; there could be representatives of people interested in social services, and of people interested in education. All these people could be appointed to the committee under the Amendment, whereas under the rigid terms of the clause as it stands, the probabilities are that they would not be.
Moreover, I see no particular reason why the magistrates should constitute one half of the committee. I do not want to eliminate the magistrates at all; I think it is essential that they should be represented on the committee, because they have a knowledge which no one else is likely to have. But I cannot see why they should necessarily make up one half of the committee. It is true that this was discussed in another place on Report stage. The noble Lord will know that after a discussion that lasted an hour the guillotine descended and it was not possible to reach any conclusion.
§ LORD SILKIN
It was withdrawn because the guillotine was about to descend and because an assurance of further consideration had been given by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary did not give any promise about what his attitude would be, bit he gave the definite assurance that it would be further considered. I am sure that he would not for a single second intend to mislead, and no one was under the impression that he was giving way. He made that abundantly clear. Nevertheless, the Amendment 962 was withdrawn on the assurance that the Home Secretary would look at it. I ask the Government to look at this matter again. They have time between now and Report stage. I think the Amendment provides an improvement on the existing provisions. If the noble Lord can give an assurance that he will look at it again—I do not ask him to commit himself—I should be perfectly willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
No. I intervene only for a moment out of courtesy. The Home Secretary undertook to look at this. We have looked at it, very closely and fully. I do not say that this is a vast matter of principle or one that divides us on Party lines, but we have looked at it again, and on the sheer merits of the case we are quite sure that the plan proposed in the Bill is better than the complete revolution which the noble Lord proposes in his Amendment. It is not as if it were something we had invented entirely. What we are doing here is exactly what Mr. Herbert Morrison did in the Act of 1945, which set up a body to deal with exactly this kind of case. The noble Lord says we must have this and that represented on the advisory committee. But it is not an advisory committee; it is, subject to the Minister's approval, an executive committee. It is not for a hundred-and-one purposes. I am not sure I agree with the noble Lord that in a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom. I think a more limited number of wise persons with a great deal of local and administrative knowledge, who would consult with other experienced people as need be—as all sensible people do and as we do in this House in this kind of business—would give a better result than a loose and amorphous committee including Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. What is the limited purpose for which this body is to be established? It is to decide how many licensed premises there should be in a new town and where they should be placed.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Be it so: and the nature of them. That is very much what Mr. Morrison proposed in 1945 and his committees worked very well. Surely the two sets of people who will very well 963 know how to deal with this limited purpose are, first of all, the corporations themselves, who are the fathers of the new towns—and the noble Lord would not wish to cast aspersions on his own children—and secondly, the licensing justices, who know more about licensing than anybody else. I cannot think of a better body. Observe what happens. They start with all their own local knowledge and no doubt consult with other people, because sensible people do not work in a vacuum or in a Trappist monastery. Then they publish their plan, so that all local people may consider it and raise any objections, and, if necessary, the responsible Minister can hold an inquiry. Then the plan is finally made. I would say that between these two sorts of committee, the one provided for in the Bill, proposed after great consideration and following what I may call the Morrison precedent, is much the better one for this purpose. It would be idle for me to say that I shall take it back and look at it again. We have done so already, not merely out of courtesy but because, while we differ in principle from noble Lords opposite, we are just as keen as they are
§ to get this working in the best possible way. All those working on it have come to the conclusion that the Morrison plan is the best plan and I would ask the House to stand by it.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
There is one important point on this matter which the House has missed. If the Bill stands unamended, there is no possibility of any question being asked in Parliament about the membership of any of these committees.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am sure that whatever form the committee takes, there is nothing to stop the noble Lord asking a question in Parliament about who is on any committee.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
Indeed there is. If the Minister has no responsibility for the committees, he has no responsibility before Parliament and so questions can never be asked.
§ On Question: Whether the Amendment be agree to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24: Not-Contents, 72.965
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Chorley, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.|
|Jowitt, E.||Crook, L. [Teller.]||McEntee, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Greenhill, L.||Pakenham, L.|
|Haden-Guest, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Archibald, L,||Henderson, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Bingham, L. (E. Lucan.) [Teller.]||Kenswood, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Burden, L.||Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.||Wise, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Munster, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Aldenham, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Rothes, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Audley, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Selkirk, E.||Blackford, L.|
|Reading, M.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.|
|Allenby, V.||Carrington, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Bridgeman, V.||Cherwell, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Buckmaster, V.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Bathurst, E.||FitzAlan of Derwent, V.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Furness, V.||Cozens-Hardy, L.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Harcourt, V.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Leverhulme, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Craven, E.||Margesson, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Monsell, V.||Gifford, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Simon, V.||Hacking, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Swinton, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Trenchard, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Hayter, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Aberdare, L.||Hindlip, L.|
|Howard of Glossop, L.||Newall, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Jeffreys, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Teynham, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Remnant, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Leathers, L.||Rochdale, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Llewellin, L.||Rockley, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Lyle of Westbourne, L.||St. Just, L.||Wolverton, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 5.30 p.m.
LORD BURDEN moved: Page 3, line 39, leave nut subsection (12) and to insert:
(12) Any order made by the Secretary of State under the provisions of this section, or any subsequent order which varies or revokes a previous order, shall be by statutory instrument and no such statutory instrument shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and has been approved by each House of Parliament.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This Amendment obviously refers to orders in respect of new licences or modifications, and not to existing licences. The Amendment rests upon two simple propositions. The first is that these values will arise from State action in building up these new towns by the corporations, which is part of national policy. The second proposition is equally simple and it is this. The State, by and through Parliament, having created the need for these new values—licensed premises—Parliament itself should retain control or be aware of all that arises from the work of the committee to which the noble Earl referred in the last Amendment. It would be to the advantage of the Minister himself and the Government to accept this proposal, for this reason. I know that the clause indicates—that is, of course, when it is passed and accepted—that the Minister will have power to confirm proposals coming up from the committee. As I read the Bill, when these proposals have been confirmed by the Minister, it would seem to follow almost automatically that the justices or the licensing authority would, at the appropriate time, grant the new licence. Someone or other will submit proposals to the Minister. We all know the capacity for work and the powers of assimilating a mass of detail which Ministers of any Government possess, but it would be a profound mistake if the right, the almost automatic right, to valuable properties were disposed of by a confirmation of the Minister behind the back of Parliament. That is what it would come to. Parliament 966 would not know that, so far as a new town is concerned, there had been a proposition for a new licence or licences.
§ I would point out to the noble Earl that these proposals when confirmed, and when a licence or licences have flowed from the confirmation, will mean, notwithstanding any reasonable rent which may be charged, hundreds of thousands of pounds flowing into the pockets of the lucky people who ultimately get the licence. I submit to your Lordships that, in disposing of valuable properties of that kind, Parliament itself should keep some control over what is done. I confidently appeal to the noble Earl to look at this Amendment in a sympathetic way and, even if he cannot accept the precise form of words, to do something to meet the substance of the point I have the honour to submit. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 39, leave out subsection (12) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Burden.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I must confess that I had a little difficulty in following what the noble Lord intended, but what I can tell him is that the Amendment he has down will certainly not achieve what he has in mind, if his Amendment intended that Parliamentary approval must be given to action under Clause 2. It has nothing to do with confirmation, nothing to do with new licences, nothing to do with State values and nothing to do with exchange of property at all. The effect of this Amendment would be that Parliament would have to approve certain extremely simple actions taken by the Secretary of State. One concerns the fixing of the number of members and term of office of the committee. Having come to his conclusion, he would then decide the quorum of the committee, and then he would decide action where a joint committee for two towns is necessary. That is all he would be asked to do. I say with respect—and I am the first to acknowledge that Parliament should watch carefully the executive powers exercised by Ministers—that these are 967 matters which are not worthy of the consideration of Parliament, and I must ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Proposals as to new licensed premises
§ 3.—(1) It shall be the duty of each committee constituted under the last foregoing section to consider from time to time, having regard to the existing circumstances of the area for which the committee is constituted and of the proposed development of that area, the requirements of the area as respects licensed premises, the accommodation and amenities which should be provided thereat and the facilities which should be available thereat for obtaining both intoxicating liquor and meals and other refreshments.
§ (2) In the light of their consideration of the matters aforesaid, any such committee shall proceed to formulate from time to time proposals as to the places in the area for which the committee is constituted at which licensed premises should be established, and the proposals shall specify the way in which any licensed premises established in accordance therewith should be licensed, and shall contain provisions (hereinafter referred to as "supplementary provisions") as to the type of accommodation, amenities and services to be provided in premises being or comprising any such licensed premises, including, unless the committee in any particular case otherwise decide, provision for the service of meals and refreshments other than intoxicating liquor.
§ 5.38 p.m.
LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR moved to add to subsection (1):
including the provision of accommodation to be provided for the consumption thereon of beverages other than intoxicating liquor and in which the consumption of intoxicating liquor is prohibited.
§ The noble Lord said: Clause 3 is the clause about which the Secretary of State was perhaps most conciliatory. I have here the debates in another place, both on the Committee and the Report stage, and I find that he was very ready to try and improve Clause 3 in the direction suggested by the Opposition. One appreciates his readiness to accept those Amendments, and I feel sure that he himself would be sympathetically disposed towards this one. This Amendment really carries a very small step further the Amendment which has already been accepted, and I do not think that, if accepted by Her Majesty's Government 968 and implemented by the committee, it would impose a very heavy burden on the brewers.
In moving this Amendment, I have no intention of entering into a discussion as to the merits or demerits of the brewers. In an earlier debate in this Chamber two of my noble friends differed from an honourable friend of mine in another place in their attitude towards the brewers. I have served on various public bodies with brewers, and I serve with a number of them now. I find them public-spirited men in their approach to, many questions, although they and I differ. They seem to think that it would be a good thing for this country if the number of people who imbibe alcoholic liquor were increased. I think it would be a good thing if fewer people imbibed. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House—whose absence, owing to indisposition, I, and I am sure the whole House, deeply deplore—seemed to think, when he was speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday, that we were afraid of the brewers because the brewers were interested in drunkenness. I have never thought that of the brewers. They are much too wise to be interested in drunkenness. They appreciate the dangers of drunkenness to themselves. It might create a tremendous outcry throughout the country. But I have been worried once or twice with regard to individual brewers. A statement was made a few years ago which disturbed me immensely, and I am sorry that it was ever made by a brewer. What possessed him I do not know. He said:
We want to get the beer-drinking habit instilled into thousands—almost millions—of young men who do not at present know the taste of beer. These young men, if they start with what beer they can afford to-day, as they grow up will afford better beers to the greater advantage of the brewing industry.
I do not like running an industry such as the brewing industry for the brewers. I believe that that industry ought to be run for the country.
§ Having said that, I want to suggest that the Amendment I am now moving does not impose a very heavy burden on the brewers, and I do not think they would object to it. It is now twenty-odd years ago since I was asked to take the affirmative side in a debate on "Would improved public-houses improve the 969 public?" The majority of those present were temperance people and I am pleased to say that the affirmative side won that debate because I was able to show that an improved public-house would not be an improved public-house unless it had improved the people. People who go to a public house are sometimes people who do not enjoy intoxicating liquor and do not, perhaps, enjoy having their non-intoxicating drink in the same room with beer drinkers: not that they object so much to the beer drinkers as to the fact that there is, I understand, a kind of aura in a public-house which is sometimes objectionable to those who are not accustomed to it. We are anxious that the public-house of the future should be a place where men or women or a whole family who do not enjoy intoxicating drinks can go and have the drink that they do enjoy and have it under the conditions that they like. We ask that they should have a separate room. It would not be a great expense to anybody, and it would make the public-house of the future a better public-house. I do not subscribe to the belief that this or any other Bill can make the drink trade an asset to country. I do not think any Bill will ever do that. But I do think that a Bill dealing with drink might possibly make it less of a liability. I am satisfied that this Amendment will improve this Bill; and I hope that, if it is the noble Viscount the acting Leader of the House who is to reply, he will show the same conciliatory spirit as the Home Secretary did in another place, and will accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 4, after ("refreshments") insert the said words.—(Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor.)
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I will not follow the noble Lord into all these happy memories. But, whatever one may think about the brewers, it seems to me that, whichever Party is in office, the man who does best out of the brewers is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Certainly I am not going to argue whether beer is a liability or an asset generally, but it is certainly an asset to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Both my noble friend Lord Selkirk and I would have liked to reply on this Amendment; we tossed, 970 and I won, and I am very glad to be able to tell the noble Lord that we accept it.
§ 5.42 p.m.
LORD SILKIN moved in subsection (2) after "established" (where that word first occurs) to insert:
and which existing licensed premises shall be required to remove to new licensed premises.
The noble Lord said: Since the mood of noble Lords opposite, seems to have changed, I hope the Amendment which I am now moving will have a similar happy fate. Its purpose is this. In Clause 2 there is a provision setting up committees who are to give consideration to proposals for new licensed premises. We are now dealing with the question of proposals. The committees will have to have regard to the needs of the locality, the number of premises that are needed, their condition, the kind of facilities to be provided, and their location. In order to get a proper view of the needs of a locality one must have regard to the existing licensed houses. One cannot look at the needs of a town with an ultimate population of, say, 60,000, without considering what are the existing licensed premises. All my Amendment seeks to do is to ensure that when the committees formulate their proposals they shall formulate not only
proposals as to the places in the area for which the committee is constituted and at which licensed premises should be established,
but also—and then I insert the words on the Marshalled List:
and which existing licensed premises shall be required to remove …
It may be that existing licensed premises are happily situated in relation to the larger towns, and that no removal will be necessary. But it might equally turn out that, as in the case of a number of existing new towns, the existing licensed houses are not particularly suitably situated in relation to the larger town, and that a number might with advantage be removed to other parts of the new town.
§ I am asking in the Amendment that these words shall be inserted so that, 971 when the review takes place, the committee will consider not only which new houses are needed but which existing houses should be transferred to other parts of the town. I am not dealing here, of course, with the question of redundancy. As the Home Secretary said in another place, it is hardly likely that there will be redundancy where the population is to be so largely increased in a relatively short time; and in any case there is provision under the Licensing Act of 1910 for dealing with redundancy. That is not the point. The point is that while there may be, at a particular moment, redundancy in an existing town, in large towns the existing houses may well be suitably and appropriately transferred to other places. It is with a view to ensuring that that is one of the factors in the formulation of a scheme for the provision of licensed premises in the new towns that this Amendment is moved. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 9, after ("established") insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am afraid that noble Lords opposite cannot expect to win every round of the game. I also feel that this Amendment is ill-conceived in relation to the purpose of the Bill, and would not help. After all, what is the purpose of these committees? They are to decide, subject to the Minister's approval, after they have published their report, where the new public-houses in the area are to be—that is a definite thing they have to do. Then it will be for the corporation to make the arrangements, either to build these places and let them, or part of them, on lease to a firm of brewers to take up. That is to be the function of the corporation, and not of the committee. The corporation have various powers. They have, for instance, power to close particular licensed premises if they feel that to be the right course—not on grounds of redundancy but because the premises are undesirable at that spot. The corporation have the same power over, say, a butcher's shop. They have the same power of purchase and acquisition of premises. Moreover, it may well be that the corporation—not the committee—in making their arrangements for the provision of public-houses in the places 972 where the plan says that public-houses ought to exist, would come to some arrangement with the brewer and say, in effect, "All right, we will give you the opportunity of having a lease of these premises, or of putting up these premises, provided that you will acquire this other one and suppress it." That is the kind of thing which may well be done, as other business operations are carried out between a willing landlord and a willing tenant, each having something to give and something to get.
I think it would be wrong to mix up the functions of the corporation, who have to "run the shop," and the functions of the committee, whose job is the limited one of saying where, how many and of what character the new premises are to be. If the noble Lord wants to have a different system of compensation, compulsory purchase would have to come in, unless he means that, once they have laid down on a plan that a "pub" should cease to be in a particular place, there should be no compensation. I am sure the noble Lord does not mean that. Then, in order that the thing may be suppressed, the corporation would have to exercise its compulsory powers of purchase. I can well suppose that it might not be a wise thing to say in advance exactly what premises ought to be suppressed. I cannot see that it has any advantage, but I can see that it has a possible disadvantage, because if you tell somebody that he is going to be suppressed, and is going to get compensation, you may be apt to give him a bit of extra value. Somebody who did not really want to run the "pub" properly but who thought: "This is a good thing to come in on," might come in and speculate in the hope of being eventually bought out. In days gone by, when you were going to run a railway through a particular place, it was not wise to say exactly where the railway was to go because, if people could buy up land at the site, they were apt to get a bit more for it when they came to sell. It misconceives the function of the committee and the corporation. We should not approve of it at all.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am bound to say, with great respect, that I think it is the noble Viscount who misconceives the function of this Bill. I cannot understand 973 how the committee can, as stated in Clause 2, determinethe number, nature and distribution of licensed premises in new townsor, as stated in Clause 3,consider from time to time, having regard to the existing circumstances of the area … and … the requirements of the area as respects licensed premiseswithout having regard to the existing licences. This Bill is not concerned merely with the provision of new licences. The whole conception of the Bill is that it reviews the situation as a whole. It takes into account what is there and what will be needed. After all—and surely the noble Viscount will agree with me here—the committee cannot properly consider what new licensed premises are needed unless they take into account what are the existing licensed premises. All that this Amendment seeks to do is to ensure that they will do that. The noble Viscount tried to pursue the matter by suggesting that it might be undesirable to say which existing premises might have to be dealt with. But if his argument is sound, does not it apply with even greater force to the location of new premises? After all, the Bill actually requires that the committee should say where the new premises should be; and if it is undesirable to say which existing premises are going to be dealt with it is even more undesirable to say where the new licensed premises are to be. In fact, this difficulty does not arise, because in the normal case the land in a new town is already owned by the development corporation, so that no question of speculation such as took place in the days of railways can arise.
This is a matter which received a good deal of consideration in another place. I believe that I am right in saying that the Home Secretary was sympathetic and, as I read what he said, he was under the impression that existing premises would be taken into account. Here again, I make the offer that the noble Viscount rejected on a previous occasion. I am perfectly willing to give the noble Viscount an opportunity of discussing this matter with his right honourable friend and to withdraw the Amendment to-day on the assumption that he and the Home Secretary will give it proper consideration. But I cannot understand how it is possible to consider the requirements of a new town 974 without taking into account the existing licensed premises.
§ EARL JOWITT
I hope very much that the noble Viscount in charge of this Bill will consider this point again. Neither my noble friend nor I ask for an answer here and now. All I ask is that the matter may be looked into between now and Report stage. Let us look at the various clauses. In Clause 2, for instance, you set up committees and their function is to determine thedistribution of licensed premises in new towns.Then, in Clause 3, you have proposals as to new licensed premises. It seems to me quite obvious that the function of this committee is to survey the thing generally, to see that there are reasonable and suitable facilities given to the lieges who live in the towns to get their drink. Surely it must be the fact that, if the function of the committee is to survey the thing generally, they must consider where the existing licences are. If you get two or three licences quite close together in a street, surely it might be reasonable for the committee to say: "We think that licence ought to move to another part. You can have one licence in the street and let the other licences go from this street somewhere else." I should have thought that, in the survey which the committee make, obviously they ought to consider the question of the removal of a licensed premises from one part of the town to another. That is all I am asking: that is all that this Amendment covers. I very much hope that the noble Viscount will not absolutely shut his mind to this matter but will discuss it with his right honourable friend the Home Secretary to see whether there is not something in this Amendment, and whether they cannot meet us on this matter.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Of course, we will consider this again, but quite definitely I am not holding out any hope. I have come new into the Bill as my noble friend has unfortunately been taken ill. My noble friend has also taken a very great amount of trouble over this matter with the Home Office. I too, went to some trouble to have a meeting with the Home Office and the Departments on this. Because it puzzled me a little, I took particular trouble to find out about it. The Home Office have a 975 definite view that this would not help and would not be the right way of doing it. I am not saying that the committee have not to take into consideration what the existing premises are. Of course they have to take into consideration the whole town; but to lay this down as a function of the committee, to be put into the plan which they submit, would, in the view of my noble friend and the Departments, definitely be a wrong thing to do. The noble Lord knows that we on these Benches do our best to come to this House—because it is a revising Chamber—not merely with a brief supplied and something to read out, but after a great deal of consideration of the subject. Of course, it is open to the noble Lord to put down another Amendment on Report stage. I cannot hold out any hope that if the Amendment is put down again, the Home Office will alter the view they have very definitely expressed, not only in the written advice which they have given but also in all the discussions
§ LORD SILKIN
I want to say this. It may be that, from a drafting point of view, this Amendment is not all that it should be, but the noble Viscount himself has conceded that, of course, they have to take into account existing licences. That is axiomatic. The committee cannot consider what new premises are needed unless they take into account those which already exist. What I am concerned with is that that should be stated in the Bill. If the noble Viscount will do that and consider it from that angle, I am perfectly prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am not prepared to do that. Having consulted with the Home Office, and they having come to the conclusion that this would be a blemish on and not a help to the Bill, I really cannot undertake to ask Parliamentary draftsmen to redraft something which we do not think is right.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am not asking the noble Viscount to go as far as redrafting the Amendment, because that would be equivalent to accepting it. I am asking the noble Viscount to look at the substance of the case that has been put, and to discuss it once more with the Home Secretary. We have to remember that the guillotine procedure was adopted in 976 another place, and it was not possible to put all these points at the length which has been possible here this evening. A great many arguments were, of necessity, cut short, and the Home Secretary may have decided this point without having heard the full case. Well, it can be put to him now. What I am asking is simply that the case should be reconsidered; and, if the result is favourable, possibly the noble Viscount himself would put down an Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am very sorry. I try to be frank with the Committee. It is easy to say: "We will reconsider this," but I should not be frank with the Committee if I did not say that this matter has been most carefully considered, and that it is the considered and reconsidered view of the Home Office that an Amendment on the lines proposed by the noble Lord would be wrong. I do not mind telling the noble Lord that I found the matter a little difficult to understand myself, and I may not be very clear to the Committee; but when I went into it, I was completely convinced that the Home Office were right. As I say, it is perfectly open to the noble Lord to put down any Amendment he likes on Report, but I can hold out no hope to him that either my noble friend or I, or the Home Office, will give him a different reply. It may be more skilfully phrased than it is to-night, but in the result I am certain that the answer will be the same.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 6.3 p.m.
LORD MILNER OF LEEDS moved after subsection (3) to insert:
(4) Before formulating any such proposals the committee shall comply with such general or special directions as may from time to time be given to them by the Secretary of State as to consultation with such authorities or bodies as may be specified in the directions.
§ The noble Lord said: This, I hope, is an Amendment which will appeal to the noble Viscount. The proposal is very simple—namely, that permissive powers should be given to the Home Secretary to give directions to the committee as to the authorities or bodies with whom the committee should consult. The real object of the Amendment is to provide that, where necessary, there shall be consultation, in particular with the development corporation. In the terms of the Bill the committee is not bound to include any member of the development 977 corporation; the committee can consist of persons other than those who are members of the development corporation. Therefore, there may be many occasions when it is desirable that the development corporation should be consulted. It may be desirable that other bodies should also be consulted.
§ This proposal is purely permissive. The Secretary of State may, or may not, give directions. If this Amendment is included in the Bill, it will give him power to give those directions, and, in certain circumstances, it may be very useful. I may say that I am not altogether sure that the Amendment is in its right place in the Bill, but that is quite a minor matter, if the noble Viscount feels that he can accept what I hope may be a useful contribution to the Bill. I beg to trove.
Page 4, line 23, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Milner of Leeds.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The noble Lord has, I think, taken this Amendment from the 1945 Act. I am informed that it was inserted in that Act in order to ensure that in some cases consultation took place between two local authorities, and I believe particular cases in point were the City of London and the London County Council. In actual fact, the powers under the Statute have never been used, and I am bound to say that I find it very difficult to visualise circumstances in which it would be necessary under this Bill to use them. May I take the example put forward by the noble Lord? Half the committee will consist of representatives of the development corporation. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that the Secretary of State should have power to tell those representatives to consult the development corporation?
§ LORD MILNER OF LEEDS
If the noble Earl will forgive me, I would point out that one half of the committee are not members of the development corporation; they are appointed by the development corporation. That is not quite the same thing. They need not be members of the corporation.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
They need not be members, but, with great respect, I suggest that they do, in fact, represent the development corporation. Therefore they should at least be knowledgeable of their part in it; and I think it would be 978 entirely inappropriate for the Secretary of State to say that these appointees of the corporation should consult with the corporation. I am only saying that that does not carry very much weight. I should like the noble Lord to look for a moment at what would take place under this proposal. The committee will be set up and will come to the point where it considers its proposals. Before it formulates its proposals, the Secretary of State may say: "You must consult with A, B and C." It then formulates its proposals and, in the end, the Secretary of State has to confirm what it has formulated. I must say that that is reducing the committee to an extremely low level. First of all, the Secretary of State or, in this case, the Minister, tells them with whom to consult, and then at the end of the day confirms their decision. It seems to me that if these committees have not the sense to consult with the right people, or people who are interested, they are hardly worth while appointing at all. They are bad appointments.
Further, I would point out that in itself compulsory consultation is not really very valuable. I say, with respect, that it does not carry much weight. We can quite easily arrange to consult with each other and come to no decision, and be as wise or unconvinced as we were when we started. I do not think that this particular Amendment adds anything to the Bill. If the proposal regarding a committee is wrong, then it is wrong, and we have made a mistake. But I do not think that compulsory consultation at this stage would make any difference at all, and I must ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD GREENHILL
I wonder whether the point of view just put forward by the noble Earl is correct. Speaking in support of the Amendment moved by my noble friend, Lord Milner, I rather think that the noble Earl is taking too narrow a view of the situation. As I see it, what happens is this. You have a development corporation who are very much concerned about the whole of the new town; then you have this committee which concerns itself only with proposals as to new licensed premises—that is, within the framework that the development corporation have laid down. It seems to me perfectly reasonable to suppose that even in finding places in which to put new 979 licensed premises the committee may come into contact with people occupying different kinds of premises—it may be a church, a cinema, or perhaps some tree lovers' society, who feel their amenities are not being looked after. Therefore, there is this possible conflict of interest between the development corporation and the committee which has a specific function to perform. You may ask: is it right that the Secretary of State should be brought into this picture? The answer is, that the proposals must in any case come before the Secretary of State, and, if my information is correct, the Home Secretary in another place gave an indication that he was rather in favour of this Amendment.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
For some time some noble Lords have been thinking that there is too much central interference with properly constituted local bodies. I am glad the Government have not accepted this Amendment, for if a committee such as this is set up with a properly appointed independent chairman, one half of the members, as I understand it, being appointed by the development corporation and the other half by the licensing justices of the area, it forms a responsible body of people, and I should much sooner see them not working in leading strings of this sort but being left to function, as no doubt they will, as a responsible local body, consulting those people who ought to be consulted. I hope the tendency will be to decentralise a little more, and not to keep locally elected bodies, whether local authorities or bodies such as this, too much in leading strings to the Central Government. That is why I am glad that my noble friend has not seen fit to accept this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I just add this to what I have already said? The noble Lord has laid emphasis on the question of getting in touch with various bodies. There is a perfectly good channel for that already provided for in the Bill. These bodies can either get in touch informally through various members of the committee or, alternatively, formally make their views known at a later date. That is already provided for and that is why we consider the provision which is sought to be made by the Amendment to be redundant.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.980
§ 6.12 p.m.
LORD SILKIN moved, after subsection (4) to insert:
(5) Any such proposals shall be accompanied by an explanatory statement of the general effect of the proposals and a plan showing—
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Ammon, I beg to move this Amendment. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that the public are given as full information as is possible about the proposals formulated by the committee. As your Lordships will see, the effect of subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 3 is to provide that the committee have to submit proposals to the Minister, and when they have done so they have to publish proposals by various methods to the public and give the public the opportunity of seeing them. If this Amendment were accepted it would ensure that the public would have the opportunity of studying and thoroughly understanding just what are the proposals that are being formulated by the committee. In the light of such study they would be in a better position to decide whether they should raise objections or not.
§ These are proposals which, I agree, in the normal way any committee might formulate without any direction at all. But this really is an important matter; it does affect the rights of the public, and the public are entitled to have the fullest possible information. If this Amendment were accepted, it would ensure that the public would have the fullest possible information about the proposals to enable them to decide on their course of action. The Amendment sets out that the proposals shall be accompanied by an explanatory statement of the general effect of the proposals and a plan to show two things—the existing distribution of licensed premises in the part of the area affected by the proposals, and the effect of the proposals on the distribution of licensed premises. I think the Committee will agree that that is an unexceptionable Amendment, and I hope that it will be accepted. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 29, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I believe this Amendment comes from a regulation made under the Licensing Planning Act, 1945. The purpose of the words in the regulation is, in fact slightly different, from those in the Amendment. As the noble Lord knows very well, the Licensing Planning Act of 1945 had specifically to distribute certain dormant licences—licences which were not existing; they were there but they had no physical existence at all. The word "distribution" there had an entirely different meaning from that sought to be imported by the noble Lord into this particular clause. We entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said to the effect that the public must understand thoroughly the nature of the proposals which are being made. It is most important that they should. We think, however, that the words of subsection (4) cover this, because it is there set out that the committee has to submit proposals to the Minister together with plans and other matter explanatory of the nature and effect of the proposals. I add only that I am able, on behalf of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, to say that he will require, as he is entitled to do, broad information on the lines indicated here. If he does not consider the information supplied to him adequate he can send it back and ask for it to be supplemented. On that assurance, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the Amendment. I think the point with which it deals is fully covered in the Bill as it stands.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am quite prepared to accept that undertaking and to ask leave of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN moved after Clause 3 to insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of S.I. of 12, 13 & 14 Geo. 6. c. 59
§ (". The powers of the local advisory committees constituted under paragraph (c) of subsection (7) of section one of the Licensing Act, 1949, which provide for the advisory committees to make recommendations concerning the provision of entertainment or recreation at premises in a State management district shall continue to apply to the new towns, the provisions of this Act notwithstanding, except that the recommendations of the local advisory 982 committees shall be made to the corporations of the new towns and not to the Secretary of State as provided in the Licensing Act, 1949.")
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Ammon, I beg to move the insertion of this new clause. This, again, is a fairly simple provision. It asks that the local advisory committees which were constituted under the Act of 1949 should be retained for the single purpose of advising on the provision of entertainment or recreation at premises in new towns. They will be in a sense ancillary to the committees set up under Clause 2, which are not primarily designed to comprise people who are experts or particularly well qualified to speak on the requirements of the population in the matter of recreation or entertainment. The advisory committees are drawn from a wider circle and are presumably better informed about the needs and wishes of the localities from that point of view.
§ The proposal is that they should be retained for this one purpose and for no other, and that they should report to the development corporations instead of to the Secretary of State. Their advice would go to the development corporations and it would undoubtedly be helpful to the corporations in formulating their proposals which would be specifically considered by the committee set up under Clause 2. I think the noble Earl appreciates that it is the intention in the first place that the development corporations should set out their ideas; these would then go to the committee and from there would be transmitted to the Minister. This proposal, in short, therefore, is that the local advisory committee should in fact be an advisory committee to the development corporation and not to the committee itself. We are suggesting that as these committees have been set up they should remain in being for this single purpose. I beg to move.
After Clause 3, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I hope the noble Lord will not mind my saying that I do not think he would have put this Amendment down in his own name; but that is by the way. I think the Amendment is misconceived. The advisory councils cease to exist under the Bill, and we are asked now to keep them in 983 existence for the sole purpose of advising development corporations on entertainment and recreation. These are important amenities of any new town, but I cannot see why the corporations should have advisory committees exclusively for recreation and entertainment. Further, these matters have nothing whatever to do with licensed premises, and the inclusion of this proposal would involve an alteration in the title of the Bill. In these circumstances, I must ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment, which I think has been put down under a misconception.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ LORD GREENHILL moved, after Clause 4, to insert the following new clause:
§ Grant and renewal of licences in new towns
§ ". Before granting or renewing any licence in respect of any premises in any new town the licensing justices shall take into account any application in regard thereto made to them by the committee constituted under section two of this Act and shall not grant or renew any licence if it appears to them that so to do would adversely affect any determination made by the committee as to the number, nature and distribution of licensed premises in the new towns."
§ The noble Lord said: It seems to me that perhaps there is some misconception underlying the intention of Clause 4, which deals with the granting of licences and removals in new towns. Although the new clause which I propose has not appeared on the Order Paper in another place, it is aimed at dealing with a peculiar omission from the Bill, one which was commented upon in Committee in another place. In the case of new licences and removals, the justices are bound by the findings of the committee, but in the case of old licences, or removals of old licences, the committee have not the power to bind the justices by their recommendations. The new clause seeks to bring about the prevention of an unfair distribution of licences and to deal with any redundancies which may be effected by applications for new licences. I think the Amendment would clarify the position as between the two bodies.
After Clause 4, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Greenhill.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, one question straight away. If he were the chairman of a licensing court, as he has been, how would he like to have someone outside instructing him not to renew a licence?
§ LORD GREENHILL
I should not like it at all, but if that body had the power to tell me what might or might not be and I agreed with the view they expressed, I should not resent it so much, though I should exercise my own powers, too.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I hope the noble Lord realises that under his new clause he could not exercise any power. The clause refers toany determination made by the committee.I am not clear what is meant by a "determination"; it is certainly not a proposal. The Amendment also states that a licence is not to be renewed by the justices if itwould adversely affect any determination made by the committee.I must say that is going a long way. The magistrates sit as a court. The situation is different as between England and Scotland. I do not know whether the noble Lord is talking about Scotland or England, but in Scotland the courts would deeply resent having that imposed upon them. In regard to new licences, I admit that the magistrates have to follow instructions in certain cases but that is a little different. What I think is in the noble Lord's mind and, from what he said previously, in Lord Silkin's mind also, is the question of how we are to get rid of redundant licences. We have given this matter a great deal of consideration. So far as England is concerned, there has been a material reduction in the number of licences since the original Act of 1910 by the suspension of licences subject to compensation. That is a process which has been going on continuously, and which can still go on. That is one method by which licences can be declared redundant. The second method is that the new town corporations can buy licences. They are still free to do that and have the power to do so under the original Act. In certain cases, no doubt, that would be the right and proper course to take. There is a third method, which is the more usual one—namely, the 985 process of negotiation, which is recognised by Statute. It is possible to negotiate the removal of licences from undesirable places to desirable places, and in some cases two licences may be moved into one place. It is hoped that that will be carried on extensively and will be successful. In many towns redundancy does not arise. For instance, it does not arise in many towns in Scotland. In many new towns the number of licences is at present considerably smaller than it will be when the town is fully developed. I hope that with that explanation the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD GREENHILL
The noble Earl will appreciate that this does not run parallel with the Scottish system. It was said in another place, I think by Mr. Douglas Johnston, that Clause 4 had no bearing whatever upon the Scottish situation. This Amendment is designed to include in the Bill an apparent omission from Clause 4. However, I do not wish to press the matter and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Clause 5:
§ Temporary licensed premises
§ 5.—(1) Proposals under section three of this Act may include provision whereby during such period (hereinafter referred to as "the interim period") as may be specified in the proposals, the next following subsection shall apply to any place specified in the proposals for the situation of licensed premises.
§ LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1), after "such period" to insert "not exceeding five years." The noble Lord said: The Committee will be relieved to hear that this is the last Amendment I propose to move to-day. Clause 5 was inserted in the Bill at a relatively late stage. It provides for something which was presumably overlooked in the earlier stage—namely, that in view of the restriction on building, and the great importance of preserving our resources, it might not be possible in the early stages of the life of a new town to provide the necessary licensed houses; and that there ought to be some provision for putting up temporary refreshment houses until such time as it is possible to provide permanent ones. There was a good deal of difference of opinion about this matter, because there was a strong view in the 986 Committee that temporary houses ought not to be permitted. It was not a view held by one side of the Committee, particularly, as against the other. But after consideration the Home Secretary decided that it would be unfair to the inhabitants of a new town that they should be deprived of these facilities merely because one could not give them the facilities in perfect condition, and, therefore, that it would be right to permit the provision of refreshments in temporary buildings, subject to such conditions as the licensing justices may insert.
§ Then came the question, at the very last stage of all—I think it was late on the Report stage—as to whether there ought not to be some limitation on the period for which the licence should be granted. That was a matter which the Home Secretary promised to consider. The Amendment says that the licensing justices may grant permission for a period "not exceeding five years." That does not mean necessarily that at the end of the five years the temporary premises must be pulled down. All it means is that at the end of five years, if conditions are very much as they are at the present time and it is impossible to put up a permanent building, and if the temporary premises are satisfactory, the licensing justices may grant a licence for a further period not exceeding five years. There would be an assurance, by virtue of this Amendment, that the matter would be kept under review not less often than once in five years. As the clause stands at present there is a danger that licences would be automatically renewed without consideration of the conditions. I feel that it would be wise to have this provision, so that the matter can be kept under periodic review. I may say that I am not wedded to five years, and if the noble Earl thinks that it should be rather more or less, I have no objection. I have given some thought to the matter—I personal responsibility for this Amendment—and I have come to the conclusion that five years would be about right. Somebody suggested ten years, but I felt that that was far too long. I hope that we can finish these proceedings harmoniously by the noble Earl accepting this very innocent Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 44, after ("such period") insert ("not exceeding five years").—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
We have had impassioned appeals to-day on the subject of elasticity. Whilst I find myself in agreement with almost everything which the noble Lord has said, his Amendment raises just that precise difficulty. I should like to set the noble Lord's mind at rest in this respect. It is doubtful whether this clause is necessary at all, or whether it will be used. If the noble Lord reads it carefully, he will see that not only are there safeguards, but that the matters it refers to are extremely narrow. I should like to direct the noble Lord's attention to the top of page 8, where he will see how narrow the circumstances are in which this clause can come into play at all. It there says that the justices shall not refuse to grant a licence in respect of premises asnot being structurally adapted to the class of licence which is required"—and this is the important part—by reason only of the materials of which the premises are constructed or to be constructed."—I do not know quite what that means. I presume that the magistrates have rules, and that it means that they may relax their rules a little in regard to materials. The other point is that the clause goes on to say:or of the fact that the premises were constructed or have been used for other purposes.…I am merely making the point that the extension there is extremely narrow.
Over and above that, paragraph (a) says:Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as requiring justices to grant an application for the grant of a licence for, or for a removal to, premises situated at the said place if in the opinion of the justices the premises are not proper to be used for the purpose.So the point is an extremely narrow one. Frankly, we have some doubt as to whether the power will be used at all. I would add this. I am quite certain that no development corporation is going to welcome ungainly and objectionable temporary premises. In the last few years we have had a pretty harsh experience of what temporary premises may look like. In each case a period is set. The noble Lord talked about extending that period. I would say that, so far as I know, that period has to be extended 988 by new proposals, although I may be wrong in my reading of that. It is quite a big thing and will not be lightly undertaken. In any case, these proposals in the original period have to be confirmed by the Minister. So that the extension of facility is very small, and there are considerable forces to see that it is not extended too long.
Finally, I would say this. Is five years too long? I do not know. Would it be regarded as a normal period if it were put in the Statute? I would ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing this Amendment, because I believe that it gives a rigidity where rigidity is undesirable. If we thought there was a period where it could be done, we should put it in. But when we think of the many different circumstances arising under the New Towns Act, we are forced to the conclusion that they are too varied to fix a period. I would impress on the noble Lord that we regard what he has said as important, and I believe that everybody will regard it as important, but, in the circumstances, I ask him to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
I will accede to the noble Earl's request, but before I do so I should like to ask him something. Will he reconsider this matter in the light of what I have said, and the few words I want to say now? If he will do that, I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment. There is no disagreement on principle. It is a difficult choice which has to be made, either to have nothing at all in many cases—which would be inconvenient to the inhabitants, and is not desirable, because it only encourages licensed premises on the borders of the new towns—or to have something temporary. Public opinion will not stand for the putting up of permanent premises at present, at the expense of housing and other more necessary things. Therefore, we have to accept the possibility of temporary licensed premises. They may be of timber—I hope they will not be Nissen huts—or they could conceivably be some building which nobody would deliberately choose as a public-house, but which, at a pinch, could be made suitable, and which the inhabitants would be willing to put up with for a time. That is provided for in Clause 5 of the Bill.
989 The question is: Should we have an unlimited period, or should we restrict it? Restricting it to five years is better than not restricting it at all. The noble Earl says that five years may be too long, but it is better than not having any period. The suggestion made in another place was ten years, but I am sure that that is too long. I am willing to do a deal with the noble Earl and say three years, if he feels that five years is too long. I suggest that the noble Earl considers five years which, on the whole, is going half-way between nothing and ten years. I hope the noble Earl will agree to that. I am sure, from what he has said himself, and from what was said in another place, there can be no dogmatic view about it, and no real reason for not having a time limit. I believe that there should be a time limit so that the matter can come under review from time to time. If the noble Earl will give the assurance that the point will be considered again, and that we can look at it on the Report stage, I am perfectly prepared to withdraw my Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I should be only too glad to "do a deal" with the noble Lord, though I am sure I should come off second best if I did. I should like him to consider this. There is a time limit which will be set in every case. It will be set by the corporation, and it will be confirmed by the Minister. If that is to be extended—and I have reinforced myself since I last spoke—new proposals will be necessary. That is no formality. The proposals have to be advertised; there can be objections to them, and they have to go to the Minister for confirmation. That is quite a step. What I am objecting to is the inelasticity of five years in all cases.
§ LORD SILKIN
The words are "not exceeding five years." The licensing justices will still have discretion to permit a shorter period than five years, but it must not exceed five years.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
But would not the noble Lord he in precisely the same position? I do not know what the corporation will do, but what would the 990 noble Lord do? Would he say five or six years? Suppose that he puts in five years, and that every five years these applications arise. The situation is exactly the same as with the interim period—it will depend on the circumstances. One has to remember that many of these houses may be slightly below the standard. In fact, in some cases it may be that some old houses are better. I am afraid that I cannot accept the inelasticity of a fixed statutory period, and I feel that if the noble Lord thinks it over he will find there are plenty of safeguards for seeing that this thing is not allowed to drag on. I ask him again to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
I will withdraw, on the understanding that I will look at it again myself, since the noble Earl is so inelastic as to refuse to do so. If I feel that, in the light of what has been said, I have to bring it up again, I hope he will not think I am discourteous in having another go.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed.