§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, this Bill is a major legislative measure containing a number of significant proposals for revision of the licensing law. Before turning to these main proposals I should, I think, say a few words with regard to the general principles which have guided the Government in introducing this measure. This Bill is part of our general programme of revision of social legislation in the light of present-day conditions. Control by the justices over the retail sale of liquor dates back to 1552 and originates in a Statute of Edward VI. The present law (now consolidated in the Licensing Act of 1952) derives mostly from legislation enacted the last half of the nineteenth century and the earlier part of this. The last major Act was the Licensing Act, 1921, on which our present sytem of permitted hours is based.
1262 The principles underlying this legislation can be stated in two propositions: First, there must be some regulation of the sale of intoxicating liquor; secondly, drinking in moderation is a legitimate amenity of civilisation and the law should allow proper facilities for it. The licensing laws must not, therefore, be unduly repressive. Indeed, experience has shown that if they are they will defeat their own purpose. After 40 years the time has clearly come for us to consider whether these principles are being correctly applied in the light of modern social conditions. In this connection I recognise that certain bodies, including the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches, have expressed strong apprehension that the Bill, taken as a whole, may lead to an increase in drinking, particularly among young people.
The Government fully share the concern about young people, and this finds expression in the Bill. For the rest, it is, I hope, hardly necessary for me to say that, had the Government shared in any way these apprehensions about the general effect of our proposals. neither we as a whole, nor my right honourable friend, and I in particular, would have been parties to the introduction of this Bill. We do not believe that it will have these results.
This, I think, it is fair to add, seems also the view taken by public opinion, as well as by the great majority of Members of another place, irrespective of Party. I think I should add that, as your Lordships will no doubt be aware, the introduction of the Bill in another place was preceded by full consultations with a wide variety of bodies and interests. Arising from the discussions in another place, which produced many Amendments and improvements in the Bill, the Government will at the proper time invite your Lordships to consider some further Amendments to the Bill. I may make brief reference to one or two of these in the course of my present remarks. But your Lordships will appreciate, from what I have just said, that the Bill as it comes before you now is no hastily thought out measure, but the result of prolonged careful and critical consideration.
The Bill falls into three main parts. Part I makes special provision with regard to the sale and supply of liquor in restaurants and residential premises 1263 which provide board and lodging. The present law does not differentiate between an application for a licence for a restaurant or residential establishment which has no public bars and an application for a licence for an ordinary public house. We feel that in modern conditions it is right that a distinction should be made in this respect, and that, subject to the safeguards which I shall describe shortly, the law should make some special provision for the person with good character and suitable premises who wishes to be able to meet the demands of his customers for a drink with a meal, or the demand of residents in a hotel or other residential premises to enjoy the same facilities for refreshment that they would have in their own homes.
Clause 1 accordingly creates three new types of licences: a restaurant licence for the sale of drink with meals; a residential licence for the sale of drink to residents and their guests; and a combined residential and restaurant licence for residential establishments with a public restaurant. To qualify for a restaurant licence, the premises must be structurally adapted and bona fide used or intended to be used for the purpose of habitually providingthe customary main meal at midday or in the evening or both".Your Lordships will see that in Clause 1 (2) (a). In other words, the premises must be suitable for the purpose of a restaurant which provides luncheon and dinners or both. The mere snack bar will not qualify. To qualify for a residential licence the premises must be bona fide used or intended to be usedfor the purpose of habitually providing for reward board and lodging, including breakfast and one other at least of the customary main meals".Thus, a place which provides sleeping accommodation only, or bed and breakfast only, will be ruled out. There will be no sale to the general public.
In the case of a restaurant licence, drink may be sold or supplied only to persons taking a table meal—that is, a sit-down meal—there and for consumption as an ancillary to the meal. It will be a further condition of these licences that suitable soft drinks (including water) shall be available with the meal. 1264 It will be for the licensing justices to satisfy themselves that a restaurant, hotel, boarding house or the like meets the necessary qualifications for one of these new licences. Where it does, the licensing justices may not refuse the grant or renewal of a licence except on one or more of the grounds set out in Clause 2. This means that they will not be able to refuse a licence, as they can in the case of an ordinary public house, on the ground that, in their opinion, there is no need for the proposed facilities. But this does not mean that the functions of the justices are reduced to an automatic rubber stamping of every application made in respect of premises which satisfy the statutory tests in Clause 1.
Under Clause 2 the licensing justices may refuse to grant or renew a licence; first, on grounds connected with the character of the applicant and his fitness to hold a licence, or the way in which the premises have been conducted; secondly, on the ground that the premises are not suitable and convenient for a restaurant, hotel or the like at which drink is proposed to be sold, having regard to the conditions and restrictions that will apply to the sale; and thirdly, on the ground (and here is one of the instances where the Bill pays special attention to the problem of young persons) that the sale of liquor is undesirable because the premises, be they restaurant, hotel or the like, are largely patronised by young persons under 18 unaccompanied by either parents or other adults. A restaurant licence may also be refused where the trade does not habitually consist to a substantial extent in the provision of table meals—yet another safeguard against the mere snack bar obtaining one of these new licences.
Clause 3 has the effect that where the holder of one of these new licences is convicted of one of the offences mentioned in subsection (10) of that clause, such as permitting drunkenness or unlawful gaming, or allowing the premises to be the resort of prostitutes, he or the premises, or both, may be disqualified for up to five years from obtaining another restaurant or residential licence or from obtaining a licence for a late night cafe under the Refreshment Houses Act, 1860. Conversely, a holder of a refreshment-house licence who has been convicted of 1265 similar offences may similarly be disqualified from obtaining a restaurant or residential licence. Finally, the holder of a restaurant or residential licence who knowingly sells liquor or permits its consumption contrary to the statutory conditions obtaining and attaching to his licence will be liable to the fairly severe penalties provided by Clause 18 (2), which include the possibility of imprisonment for up to six months.
My Lords, I have, I hope, been able to make it clear that Part I of the Bill does not mean a free-for-all under which any kind of place that calls itself a restaurant or a hotel will be able henceforward to obtain a liquor licence for the asking. I pass now to Part II,—the amendments of the general licensing law. This Part of the Bill ranges over a wide field, and I should be trespassing too far on your Lordships' undulgence if I attempted, at this stage of the Bill, a detailed survey of the whole of it. I propose, therefore, to confine myself to the major proposals and those which may be of special interest.
Clause 5 deals with the aspect of licensing law which perhaps affects most directly the general public—namely, permitted hours for the sale or supply of liquor. As I mentioned earlier, the present permitted hours system was established 40 years ago by the Licensing Act, 1921. Broadly speaking it amounts to this. On weekdays the permitted hours outside London are 8 or 8½ a day, ending not later than 10 or 10.30 at night according to the decisions of the local licensing justices. The licensing justices may not fix an earlier opening hour than 9.0 in the morning and there must be a break of at least two hours in the afternoon. In the County of London the hours amount to 9 a day, beginning not earlier than 11.0 in the morning and ending not earlier than 10.30 p.m. or later than 11 p.m., with similar provision for the afternoon break.
The law lays down standard hours which will apply where the licensing justices do not fix the hours for their district. On Sundays in England (I will refer to Wales and Monmouthshire when we come to Clause 6) the hours amount to 5 in number, of which 2 must be taken between 12 noon and 3 in the afternoon, and the remaining 3 between 6 and 10 at night.
1266 Our general conclusion, after full consultation and discussion with all those concerned (not forgetting the interests of the consumer), and very full debate in another place, is that no radical change is called for in the general conception of permitted hours, and that present needs and circumstances will be sufficiently met by allowing a modest increase in the total number of weekday hours, with provision for a slightly later closing hour in those areas in the provinces which may want it for the whole or part of the year—for example holiday resorts and the like. Secondly, the licensing justices should retain a fairly wide discretion to make variations in the light of local circumstances.
In the light of these considerations, Clause 5 has the following effects as regards week-day permitted hours in licensed premises. Outside London the basic hours will be 9, ending at 10.30 at night (which is already the closing hour for the whole or part of the year in more than two-thirds of the provincial licensing districts). Unless the licensing justices otherwise determine the hours will be 11 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, and 5.30 in the evening to 10.30 at night. In London the number of hours will be 9½ with a latest hour of 11 at night, and unless the licensing justices otherwise determine the hours will be 11 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon and 5.30 in the evening to 11 at night.
The licensing justices may make the following variations in the light of local requirements, with an additional half an hour. These variations can be made for part of the year or for different days of the week. In London the total number of hours will be fixed at 9½ and closing time will be 11 at night, but subject to this the licensing justices may make similar variations in the other limes of opening or closing for the whole or part of the year or for different days of the week. Clause 5 (1) (b) provides for uniform Sunday hours of 12 noon to 2 in the afternoon, and 7 in the evening to 10.30 at night—a total of 5½, compared with the present 5; and the closing hour is half an hour later.
In order to meet the needs of travellers and others who have to take a late lunch, Clause 5 (8) makes provision for the sale of drink with meals up to 3 in the 1267 afternoon on both weekdays and Sundays. Clause 5 (7) has the effect that registered clubs will retain, in the context of the new hours, their present freedom to fix their own hours within the statutory limits.
We also make special provision for off-sales hours. The present law has the effect that a customer can take away a bottle from off-licensed premises only during the ordinary permitted hours applying to public-houses and the like. This is an irritating restriction, particularly at such times as the Christmas shopping season, and serves no useful purpose. If anything, it tends to bring the law into contempt. Accordingly, the proviso to Clause 5 (1) has the effect that on weekdays liquor can legally be purchased and taken away from off-licensed premises between 8.30 in the morning and closing time for licensed premises generally. I use the word "legally" because it does not at all follow that off-licensed shops will in fact be open for the whole of this period. After full consultation with the off-licence trade we are satisfied that this provision is unlikely to lead to any lengthening of the actual hours during which off-licensed premises remain open at present.
I now turn to Clause 6, which makes provision for local polls on the question of Sunday closing of licensed premises in Wales and Monmouthshire. As your Lordships are aware, public-houses in Wales and Monmouthshire are closed on Sundays. Sunday closing does not apply —I repeat, does not apply—to clubs, or the sale of drink to residents in hotels. This has obtained in Wales since 1881 and in Monmouthshire since the First World War. The question whether or not Sunday closing should still obtain is one on which opinions are deeply and sincerely divided. It was clear that it was not a question on which the Government, even if it wanted to, could remain completely silent in connection with a major licensing Bill. The matter would certainly have been raised in Parliament by way of Amendment or otherwise, and Parliament would rightly have insisted on a declaration of policy by the Government. We felt, therefore, that we must reach our own conclusions and incorporate them in the Bill.
We rejected the idea of outright repeal of Sunday closing. We considered that it 1268 would be quite wrong to take this course without giving the people of Wales and Monmouthshire some opportunity—wider even than that afforded by Parliamentary debate—to express their opinion. We also felt bound to rule out the setting up of a Committee to consider the matter; it would be unlikely to elicit any new facts. Moreover, the chances of a Commission or Committee reaching unanimous conclusions, or anything near unanimous conclusions, on this subject, would be, to say the least of it, remote. Accordingly we came to the conclusion that the right and only practical course was to allow the question of Sunday opening to be decided by local opinion expressed by means of polls held in counties and county boroughs in Wales and Monmouthshire. Requisitions by 500 local government electors will be needed before a poll is held in any county or county borough, and the decision (I put it generally) can be reversed by another poll held after seven years.
Now I come to the question of drinking-up time. That is the main interest of Clause 7: that it provides in subsection (2) (a) for ten minutes drinking-up time. Your Lordships will all appreciate, I am sure, that the present law has the curious effect that while it is legal to buy a pint of beer one second before closing time, it is illegal to consume that pint of beer one second after closing time. The other provision is that it allows a resident in a hotel to buy drinks for his guests as well as for himself after permitted hours.
I come to Clause 8. In the interests, among other things, of the tourist trade and holiday resorts, Clause 8 extends to the country generally a benefit at present allowed only in the West End of London, under which the sale or supply of liquor is permitted until 2 o'clock in the morning and its consumption till 2.30 in the morning, with music and dancing in hotels, restaurants and registered clubs which satisfy certain conditions, and this concession is also extended to cover the period from 12 midnight on Saturday till 2.30 a.m. on Sunday. As a result of debates in another place, we shall later be inviting your Lordships to consider a proposal under which suitable premises catering for people with more modest purses would be allowed a somewhat more limited extension of hours at the 1269 discretion of the licensing justices. In Clause 9, the Bill makes provision for the grant of seasonal licences, which will be particularly useful in the case of holiday resorts and the like.
Clause 11 makes important changes in the procedure for granting justices' licences. Under the law as it has stood since 1872 there is no appeal against refusal by the licensing justices to grant a new licence, and the grant, furthermore, is not valid until confirmed by the confirming authority (in counties a committee of quarter sessions, and in boroughs another committee of justices) against whose decision there is likewise no appeal. Although the licensing justices are not a court of law and although the Bill will not affect (except as regards licences under Part I) their present complete discretion to refuse the grant of a new licence, it does not seem altogether in accord with present day principles that there should be no provision for appeal against refusal to grant a licence. Conversely, we have to bear in mind that the present law gives a right to anyone who has unsuccessfully objected before the licensing justices to the grant of a licence to pursue his abjection before the confirming authority. In the light of these considerations, Clause 11 (1) (b) confers a right of appeal to quarter sessions against the grant or refusal of a new licence. These new provisions will entirely replace the present system of confirmation of licences by the confirming authority.
The second main change is that whereas at present applications for new licences may be made only at the general annual licensing meeting, popularly known as brewster sessions, it is now proposed that application may be made at any transfer sessions, of which not less than four nor more than eight must be held annually. These proposals for some modernisation of licensing procedure, while at the same time retaining in full the present discretion of the justices and the rights of objectors, received practically unanimous approval in another place, and I trust that they will also commend themselves to your Lordships.
I now come to that serious point which attracted the attention of The Times newspaper this morning, as your Lordships may have observed—liqueur 1270 chocolates. I leave aside a number of other provisions which are mainly technical and the penalty provisions in Clause 18. I refer very briefly to the provisions of Clause 20 dealing with this important matter of liqueur chocolates. The present law which requires a justices and excise licence for the sale of chocolates, but allows sale to children of 14 years and over is unrealistic. Accordingly Clause 20, on the one hand, frees the sale of liqueur chocolates from the requirements of a justices and excise licence and on the other prohibits the sale of liqueur chocolates to persons under 16. As your Lordships may be aware this also is the minimum age for the sale of tobacco. I understand that the people who will be directly concerned with these provisions—the retail confectioners—share our view that they are both desirable and practicable.
My Lords, Clause 19 deals with one of the relatively minor changes which we propose with a view to removing unnecessary restrictions on harmless social activities. It provides for freedom for public houses and the like to provide certain musical entertainments for their customers without the need to obtain a music and dancing licence, and freedom for the customers themselves to play billiards and bagatelle and the like on Sundays, thus removing the present arbitrary distinction 'between these games and others such as darts and dominoes.
So far, I have dealt mainly with what might be described as liberalising measures. We have also recognised, however, the need to stiffen the law in certain respects. Here again I come to the question of drinking among young persons and the unhappy fact of convictions for drunkenness in this field. Ever since 1923 it has been an offence for a licensee or his servant knowingly to sell drink to a person not 18 for consumption in a public house or for a young person to purchase, or attempt to purchase, liquor for his own consumption or for anyone else to do so on his behalf. The penalties are however derisory in the light of present-day conditions: a maximum of £1 for a first offence, and £2 for a subsequent offence.
Clause 18 (4) raises the maximum penalties for knowingly selling liquor to a person under 18, or for buying it for him, to £25 for a first offence and £50 1271 for a subsequent offence, and the maximum penalty on a young person himself buying or attempting to buy is raised to £20. We also make it for the first time a substantive offence for a young person to consume liquor in licensed premises, with a similar penalty of £20. Further we provide in subsection (5) that where a licensee is convicted of a second or subsequent offence the court may order the licence to be forfeited. Clause 18 also, in subsection (3), stiffens the penalties for selling without a justice's licence, and Clause 7 (5) increases the maximum penalty for infringement of the permitted hours provisions whether on the part of the licensee or others, including registered clubs and their members, from £50 to £100.
In addition to what is already contained in the Bill we shall at the appropriate time invite your Lordships to agree to two further restrictions following undertakings given in another place. First we have in mind to extend the prohibitions of sales to persons under 18 to cover sales for consumption off as well as on the premises. Secondly, on quite a different topic, we shall propose a statutory ban on the establishment of licensed premises on motorways.
I now come to the third and last part of the Bill namely that which deals with clubs. Part III proposes a completely new system for registration of clubs in which liquor is supplied to members or their guests. It will be within the recollection of many of your Lordships that this matter was fully debated in this House just over a year ago arising from a Motion introduced by the noble Lord, Load Stonham, on June 1, 1960. It was the unanimous view of all those who took part in that debate that the present law was, to put it mildly, inadequate to prevent the formation of bogus and ill-conducted clubs many of which give rise to social mischief. In speaking for the Government I did not dissent from that view, and while I could not at that time enter into any commitments about legislation I indicated that it was a matter about which the Government were seriously concerned and gave some hint about the line on which we were thinking.
I feel, therefore, that I need not take up further time to-day on making a case in principle for revision of the law about 1272 clubs. I will merely remind your Lordships that under the present law, which dates from 1902, anyone can register a club by sending in to the clerk of the justices certain particulars and paying a fee of 5s. There is no provision for anyone to object to the application, to inquire into the good faith of the club, or even to check the accuracy of the particulars. Clearly this is not good enough. On the other hand, we must bear in mind, as I said when we previously discussed the matter, that the bogus and undesirable clubs are only a small minority compared with the thousands of genuine and respectable clubs ranging from your Lordships' favourite mausolea to the working men's clubs or local social and sporting clubs.
Against this background we propose that the present law, with its automatic registration of clubs, should be completely repealed and replaced by provisions requiring a club in which liquor is to be supplied to apply to a magistrates' court for a certificate of registration. The certificate, with an exception which I shall mention later, will require annual renewal and will be granted or renewed only if the club satisfies the qualifications which are set out in detail in Clause 22. They amount, briefly, to this. First, the club must be established and conducted in good faith as a club and, secondly, the supply of liquor must be managed by its members under arrangements which do not provide for anyone else to derive a profit from that supply or to receive at the expense of the club any commission or similar payment from the club's purchase of liquor.
This brings me to the question of pro. prietary clubs. As I also indicated in the debate of last year, some of these clubs are as genuine and as socially valuable as the purely members' clubs. They have been carried on for years without the slightest grounds for complaint. Accordingly, Clause 22 will not exclude a person making a gain out of the general money or property of the club as distinct from the supply of liquor, but any such gain may be taken into consideration by the court in determining whether the club is conducted in Good faith as a club. Subsection (9) of Clause 22 has the effect that, where a club's rules comply with the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, which are designed to ensure that control 1273 is really in the hands of the members, the court is required, in the absence of objection, to make certain presumptions in the club's favour; and Clause 22 (13) contains similar provision for clubs which are registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies. With these provisions it should be possible in most cases for the genuine club to obtain a registration certificate almost, if I may use the Parliamentary expression, "on the nod", thus reducing the burden on these clubs and on the court itself.
On the other hand, we have to bear in mind that a club could satisfy the test of being a genuine members' club and still be undesirable in other respects. Accordingly, Clause 23 contains provisions for objection to the grant or renewal of a registration certificate. Objection may be made by the police, the local authority or neighbouring residents on one or more of the grounds set out in subsection (2). These include proof that any person who has, or is likely to have, any active part in the management of the club is not a fit person in view of his known character as proved to the court to be concerned in the management of a registered club; that the premises are not suitable or convenient for the purposes of a club; that the club does riot satisfy the necessary tests for registration; or that it is conducted in a disorderly manner, or for an unlawful purpose, or is habitually used for indecent displays, or as a resort of criminals and prostitutes. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and others who spoke on this subject last year will find that the clause meets many of the points which they then raised.
Further—I need not go into details—there are provisions for cancellation of the certificate and for disqualification of the premises. As I said previously, the general rule will be that a certificate requires annual renewal and will thus be subject to the possibility of annual objection.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but could the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor say whether this licensing of clubs applies solely to clubs selling or dealing with intoxicants? If that is so, could the Bill not provide for licensing by counties and county 1274 boroughs of clubs which do not sell intoxicants, because some of these are of a most questionable character?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is essentially a Licensing Bill, and its provisions deal with the requirements necessitated by the sale or supply of intoxicating liquor. I am sure the occasion will arise for the noble Lord to adumbrate his suggestion at slightly greater length, and then I should be quite prepared to consider it. At the moment, we are dealing with the provisions which really hang on to the provision of intoxicating liquor, and it is these that I am putting before your Lordships.
The point that I was coming to was that, looking again at the legitimate interests of the genuine and respectable club—we are here trying to be reasonable and to keep a proper balance in our outlook—we felt that it should be possible for a club which can show a clean bill of health under the new procedure to obtain a certificate for more than one year; and we accordingly provide in Clause 22 (3) that on a second or subsequent renewal (your Lordships will see the effect of that) the courts may, on application by the club, extend the certificate for any period up to ten years. Under Clause 26 a club has a right of appeal to quarter sessions against refusal to grant or renew a registration certificate, or against cancellation of the certificate.
Clause 27 gives the police and local authority certain rights of inspection of club premises—and I ask your Lordships to note this carefully because this is, as we all know, a delicate matter—first, in connection with a first application for a certificate or for renewal where this relates to different, additional or enlarged premises. Apart from this, that is either on the first application or when the premises are altered, there will be, as under the present law, no right of entry by the police except under a search warrant. In the light of the recent disastrous fire in a Bolton club, which your Lordships must have noted with such sorrow, we have looked again at the safety aspect, and Clause 28 gives fire authorities certain rights of inspection and of objection to the grant or renewal of a registration certificate on the ground of fire risk.
1275 My Lords, the provisions of Part III, which have been subject to close scrutiny and discussion will, we firmly believe, remedy the defects of the present law to which your Lordships have previously drawn attention, and will for the first time establish a proper system of control. The genuine and respectable clubs have nothing to fear from this. On the contrary, they, as well as the community at large, will gain from the resultant suppression of the minority of bogus and ill-conducted establishments which disgrace the name of club. I apologise for intruding so long on your Lordships' time, but, as I say, the provisions are important and they cover a number of fields. If I may sum up the general theme of the Bill, it is designed to revise the general licensing law in the light of present day conditions and to check the abuses which have arisen in connection with clubs. I commend it to your Lordships as a considered and constructive measure of social reform. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Move, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, we have had a long, clear and concise account of what this Bill contains. It may be that at the beginning I should inform your Lordships that I am closely associated with the Temperance movement, and I speak here as President in the North Wales area of the Temperance Council of Churches. To that extent, I am an interested person. I was thinking of what I should give as a title for the Lord Chancellor's speech. I decided on "The past, present and future of the drink traffic". It has a past, and we shall not make the best use of the present if we do not keep fully in mind the past. It has a long past, and, I would say, a patchy past—one could almost say a purple past.
That past must have taught us a few lessons. The Lord Chancellor was quite emphatic that it had taught the lesson that we dare not leave this industry without dealing with it by legislative measures; that it would be a real menace to the country were it not for legislation. I have felt, with Bills deal- 1276 ing with industry, whether it be a single industry or industry in general, that we in your Lordships' House examine those Bills from this angle: will the industry which is being dealt with in the proposed legislation be a greater asset to the country as a result of that proposed legislation? Or, at least, will it be less of a liability to the nation? If we were dealing to-day with the industry that I know best, the coal industry, I should ask myself a number of questions on the Bill before us. But my difficulty here is that there are those in your Lordships' House who do not think that this industry is an asset to the nation: and, if it is not an asset to begin with, it could not therefore become a greater asset as a result of any legislation. The best we could do in passing this Bill is to hope that the industry will not be as big a liability on the country as a result of the provisions of the measure now before us.
What do we expect to get from this? What can this Bill do for this country? I would say that it is a deplorable Bill. It is one of the worst licensing Bills ever introduced into your Lordships' House. It increases the hours by at least 20 per cent., and it will bring about an increase in the places where intoxicants will be available of more than 20 per cent. Who in the world can suggest that that is going to reduce fatal accidents and the ravages of the road? Who would suggest that that is going to improve the position regarding sexual offences? No; from my personal point of view I do not think this Bill will serve any good purpose, apart from certain Amendments which have been accepted in another place. Some of those Amendments were worthy Amendments.
As regards the industry, I shall be told later in the debate, perhaps, that £1,000 million is spent on drink. Let me say this, my Lords: this country cannot at the moment afford to spend £1,000 million on drink. I know it is not always easy to decide how to reduce the drink bills that are incurred by individuals. You cannot go to those individuals and expect them to respond immediately to a request to spend less on drink. But I noticed that in 1931, thirty years ago, the Amulree Committee looked at this question, too. They were in some difficulty how to approach it, and I find this reference in their Report. The question 1277 was whether spending could be reduced, and the Committee reported:It is a difficult matter to question the discretion of the individual to spend his money in the way which may seem to him best, but we are bound to record that the evidence which we have received has left upon us the definite impression that a substantial reduction in the present expenditure on intoxicants by all classes is strongly to be desired.They then added this paragraph:We have added our opinion that the general reduction in consumption which ought to be aimed at seems likely to carry with it some contribution to efficiency in industry and commerce.As regards the Bill itself, and its provisions, I am amazed that a Government who boast so much about the affluent society, as if they brought it about, should bring forward a Bill of this kind at this moment. The Lord Chancellor has argued that, since we have been so long without a Bill of this kind it is about time we brought one in. I am not impressed by an argument of that kind at all. In this Bill you have the question of youth; in this Bill you have the question of Sunday, which I shall deal with later; but what I want to refer to at the moment is very well expressed in a letter I received this morning from The Temperance Council of the Christian Churches. I will read just a few sentences of that letter, but before I do so let me say that in the debate in another place I found lots of references to the "Nonconformist tradition". In order to enlighten your Lordships, I think I had better read out who are the main officials of this Council: Presidents: His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster; and the Reverend A. R. Vine, B.Sc., M.A., D.D., on behalf of the Nonconformist Churches. There is quite a list of names in addition. I mention those only in order to indicate that this organisation is an organisation embracing all the Churches, and there are not many other organisations of that kind in this country. Usually, one of the religious bodies declines to join.
What they say is:The things which most distress the Temperance Council of the Christian Churches, and against which it protests most strongly, in the Licensing Bill, are these: (1) There is nothing in the Bill to make it possible for magistrates to refuse Restaurant Licences' to 'self-service' cafeterias.…1278In our view, to throw away (as the Government is doing) all power of curbing such a wholesale increase in the number of places with facilities for drinking, is to risk a grave change for the worse in national habits, particularly among the millions of young people who at present never think of taking intoxicants at lunchtime.…(2) The proposals in the Bill for the extension and variation of permitted hours seem to us to be open to grave criticism ֵ we are so completely unaware of any public demand for the extra Sunday evening half-hour inserted into the Bill by a hasty last-minute change in the Commons, that we would suggest that this should either be abolished or, at the very least, made subject to the magistrates' discretion, instead of being thrust, unasked, upon licensees and the public everywhere.There is one Amendment which was refused in another place, the reason for which refusal I am at a loss to understand, and in this letter reference is made to it. It says:We also deplore the Government's unwillingness, in the Commons, to accept Mrs. Harriet Slater's Amendment prohibiting young people from obtaining intoxicating drink in clubs. The readiness with which a fashion, good or bad, can spread among adolescents, and the difficulty young people find in exercising individual judgment if they are in danger of appearing to be odd, make it impossible for us to share Sir Jocelyn Simon's complacency about giving free permission for them to drink in clubs and restaurants.I hope in the Committee stage to repeat this Amendment, and I also hope that in the meantime Her Majesty's Government will look at it again and will be prepared to make what to me is an essential Amendment. I know that all the good clubs—and I am in contact with quite a number of them—do prohibit the sale of drinks to those under 18. But why the Government were unready to put that in the Bill I am at a loss to understand. The case made out was, to me, very unconvincing.
I thought the Lord Chancellor emphasised in his earlier remarks that in Wales the pubs were closed on a Sunday and the clubs were open. The Home Secretary made a similar reference in his speech on Second Reading in another place. As a result, some of my colleagues in the other place put an Amendment down at the Committee stage, having been urged to do so, if they felt that way, by both the Home Secretary and the Minister for Welsh Affairs in the debate in the other place. When they had done that they were accused of changing position.
1279 That brings me to Clause 6, which is the clause on which I feel strongest. This clause will live in Welsh history. It will live for one reason: that no one knows where it came from. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, a few weeks ago referred to the Colonial Secretary as being "too clever by half". There is somebody who has been too clever by half in getting this clause into this Bill. I asked the Secretary for the North Wales Area of the Christian Churches what had happened in September last when they met Mr. Vosper, the Minister of State for Home Affairs. I asked, "Was this question of Sunday opening raised?" They said, "Yes. The reply given was: 'since no mention was made of this in the January discussions, you can take for granted and rest assured that it will not be referred to in the Bill'." That was mid-September. In the early days of November, the Bill was put forward. I am not prepared to believe that that clause was thought of only after September 15. That could not possibly have happened, and, in my opinion, there is somebody guilty of misleading those who the Lord Chancellor tells us were fully consulted in Wales. I cannot find one individual of any organisation which is supposed to have been consulted who would admit that he was fully consulted.
The danger in Wales is that the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, along with Mr. Henry Brooke, have been trotting round that country, here, there and everywhere, having conversations with the wrong people, making sure that the people they talked to were sympathetic to what they had in mind. As I read the speech of Mr. Henry Brooke on Second Reading, I must say I have never read a more lame defence to an action. I could almost feel a sense of guilt running through it. I know what is said by the Government. The Government were united on this issue. They tell me that, and I accept it; but there is somebody somewhere who commenced this proceeding. It is very unfair to the Welsh people to say: "You should be singled out for different treatment from any other country associated with the United Kingdom." This would never have been suggested in Scotland—never; but they take advantage of Wales in this way.
When this was suggested, one would presume it would go its ordinary Parlia- 1280 mentary way through the Welsh Committee. But that could not be done; that would create difficulties, we were told. What I want to say is this: that if the political representation in the House of Commons had been 27 Tories and 9 non-Tories, I am certain that this Bill would have gone to the Grand Committee. But the position of the House of Commons is such that it was realised that it would be thrown out if it went there, and it did not go there. An Amendment was attempted, but refused. The Welsh people were demanding this. The demand for Tryweryn was ten times as strong in Wales as on this issue. Did anybody suggest that Tryweryn should be dealt with in the way that the Government have dealt with this? The clamour for Home Rule in Wales is a hundred times stronger than on this issue; but there is no suggestion of that.
Those of us in close touch with Wales feel that this has been engineered because the Government have come to the conclusion that they can permit opening on Sundays as a result of the poll. On the question of the poll itself, I shall submit Amendments on the Committee stage, and I will not spend any time here on those. But I am concerned, as was the Lord Chancellor, not only with the past and the present, but also with the future. We are living in a disturbed and divided world. I am not so sure that we are pursuing a social policy in this type of legislation which will make us strong at the end. The issue should be determined on a moral plane between the nations sooner or later. It can be determined only there, and we have adopted a very low moral plane now. We have our betting shops scattered all over Wales. We are taking action which will eliminate all distinction between a Sunday and a weekday. Voltaire once said that if you were going to kill Christianity you must first kill the Christian Sunday. We have taken a step in that direction.
Personally, I should be inclined to divide the House on this Bill, but, as was said yesterday, it is usually not done on Second Reading. However, as an individual, I feel so strongly on this Bill that I should be quite prepared to divide the House. In the course of the proceedings to-day the rest of the Bill will be dealt with by my noble friends behind me. All I have to say at the moment is this: I shall use the Committee stage as 1281 an opportunity to improve this Bill in the direction in which I think it should go, and make it a less objectionable Bill. To make it a good Bill is, to my mind, utterly impossible.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for a very clear exposition of the Bill. I do not think any of us are left in any doubt whatsoever as to its meaning or purpose. So far as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, is concerned, I am afraid I cannot go with him all the way. I do not think that this is a very bad Bill. In fact, I believe quite a lot of it is a very good Bill. Many of the things done in this Bill have needed doing for a long time. If one has a society, as we have, in which intoxicating liquor is made and sold—in fact, a good deal of our taxation comes from that source—then one must try to ensure that the trade is run in the best possible way, so far as the public is concerned. I am not an absolute teetotaller, but I am most abstemious, I think I can say, and personally it would not matter to me if no drink were made or purveyed in this country. But that is not the point. The fact is that it is a big industry and that it is our duty, as Members of Parliament, to see that it is properly run in the interests of the public.
I must declare an interest. Perhaps it may be regarded as a technical one. I am a director of a private hotel company in London. I have no shares in it, but I am a trustee for infant beneficiaries under a trust, and by reason of that I am on the board to protect their interests. But I do not think that this has in any way affected my judgment of this Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said, we can deal with many details on Committee stage and need not pursue them to-day, but there are a few main questions which I think we should consider.
First, there are the facilities for restaurants and guest houses. In principle, I support what is in the Bill, subject to the objection made by the noble Lord about the sort of cafés one finds on M.1 and other highways. As I read it, Clause 2 (2) would cover this point, and I gather from what the noble and learned Viscount said that it is not 1282 intended that highway cafés, which are merely snack bars, or "pull-ups" for lorry drivers, should have these facilities. I should think it is undesirable, in view of the need for these drivers to have clear heads. On the other hand, I think that restaurants and guest houses might well have the facilities proposed in the Bill. This is important for the tourist trade. Unfortunately, as a general rule people do not regard the tourist trade as an industry and I am afraid that the Government do not regard it as an industry, but, in fact, it is becoming an important industry and I think we should give visitors who come here the facilities that they are entitled to expect.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, do I gather that the noble Lord would be in favour—I am not quite sure from what he said—of the Statute making no objection to, or giving no powers to magistrates with regard to, self-service cafeterias, in which full meals can be collected, selling intoxicating liquors by self-ervice? Who would then be in a position to decide whether those helping themselves were in a fit state to take it?
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, that is the sort of detail which I think we could discuss in Committee. Broadly speaking, I do not think that a lorry drivers' café needs to have such a facility, but whether a self-service café should have it I am not at the present moment prepared to say. I should like to hear the arguments on this point, and no doubt I shall have an opportunity of doing so when the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition moves his Amendment on Committee stage. I do not think it right to shoot questions at this stage on what is to my mind, a minor matter.
The second main question is that of clubs. Here I entirely support the Government, and I hope that nothing will be done in the course of the proceedings to whittle away the provisions of the Bill. I was very much surprised at the leading article in The Times to-day. The noble and learned Viscount referred to liqueur chocolates, but a much more dangerous matter was mentioned by The Times, when it urged us to whittle away the provisions of this Bill in regard to clubs. It is not "The 1283 Thunderer" but "The Pipsqueak" when it makes an appalling suggestion of this kind. We all know that there are good clubs and bad clubs, clubs in which young people may be led astray, and clubs which are founded not for a social purpose at all, but for an anti-social purpose. To find The Times making a suggestion of this kind in its leading article to-day was, I must say, most surprising to me.
I had a good deal of sympathy with the interjection of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, because I, too, have been wondering about these striptease clubs. There are these clubs in London where indecent acts are performed. This is very difficult to control. How any man could join a club for the purpose of seeing striptease entirely beats me, but it is a fact that they do. So far as I can see, these clubs do not come under this Bill. Apparently all that people have to do is to register and pay five shillings, and they can put on this sort of show. It is almost impossible for the police to do anything about it. They have to get policemen to go into clubs in disguise and take note of the proceedings, and that is not at all easy to do. In spite of the fact, as the noble and learned Viscount said, that strictly speaking, this does not come under the purpose of this Bill, I hope that the noble Lord will put down an Amendment to deal with this menace because it may be possible to get it in.
The third main point is the question of Sundays. Here again I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said. The present position is one which we cannot tolerate any longer. Up to 1881, there was no Sunday closing. In that year, in the House of Commons, the father of the noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, who is here to-day, introduced the Bill and the grandfather of the present Lord Aberdare took it through its stages in your Lordships' House. At that time, the Bill was not passed so much for the purpose of restricting drinking as to be a sort of strategic move to disestablish the Church. It was not seen in that light for some time, but afterwards it was. If we could have laws of a special type for licensing, later we could have separate laws for the Church. That was 1284 one of the reasons for the passing of the Bill.
Another reason was that in those days, strange as it may seem to-day, people really enjoyed and looked forward to a Sunday which was different from other days. In my young days in Wales, that was the case. An odd thing about it is that in those days business men, who used to work much harder than they do now and certainly for much longer hours, used to go to service twice on a Sunday and three times, if they were Sunday school teachers, and went to business on Monday far more refreshed than their descendants do after spending their whole day in the golf club or some other club. I regret the passing of those days. With my Welsh radical, Free Church background, I could wish that they were present to-day, if it were possible to resuscitate the past; but of course it is not possible. The Wales of to-day bears no resemblance in that respect to the Wales of my boyhood. And it is no good trying to put the clock back: we must just do the best we can to ensure that the clock works properly in the present day.
Let me just look at the present position. Legally, public-houses are not open for the sale of intoxicating liquor on a Sunday. That is the legal situation, although it does not always mean that it is the actual situation, because it is sometimes possible to get drink on a Sunday in the back parlour of a public-house instead of in the bar at the front. Apart from that, the great evil, to my mind, is that this system has evolved the drinking club. There were in January of this year 1,400 registered clubs in Wales; that is to say, clubs licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, which had, as the noble and learned Viscount said, paid their 5s. and secured a licence. This means, theoretically again, that the whole of the adult male population belongs to a club. It does not actually, of course, because obviously the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, does not; but statistically that is the fact. It means one dub to 647 male adults in Wales. That is the absurd position that we have, as compared with one club for 2,143 male adults in England. Ten per cent. of the liquor consumed in Wales is consumed on a Sunday where, theoretically, 1285 not a single licensed premises is supposed to be open. The result of this is that the law is brought into complete disrepute.
Only last year I went to stay in Cardiganshire, the most Welsh of Welsh Wales. The Cardiganshire people have always told me how different they were from the loose-living rest of us. In this little town where I stayed there was a flourishing club—and it really flourished on Sunday. I made it my business to go into this club, quite properly, with a member, and I found that it was actually part of the public-house. It was not even a separate establishment, or separate curtilage; it was actually under the roof of the public-house and was entered by a separate stairway to the bar. On Sunday the manageress of the public-house for six days became the stewardess of the club; and the barman, who for six days was in the bar, became on the seventh day the waiter in the club. The only difference was that there was far more business on Sunday than on any other day of the week.
My Lords, when you get to that position it is a complete and utter farce. I am rather surprised at the Conservative Government proposing this change, not for the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, but because on Sundays there is a vast increase in the number of Conservatives in Wales. No one has ever calculated what the percentage increase is on Sunday over every other day, but it is great, as no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who knows the situation well, will be telling us. If they can drink in a public house it will be interesting to see how many of the drinking Conservatives in Wales retain their political affiliation in the future when the public houses are available.
I should like to say a word or two on the question of Sunday observance, because this is the basis of the whole thing. One must realise, however we may joke about it, that the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, has very properly and sincerely given the opinion of quite a large number of people in Wales on this point—let there be no doubt about that. I also agree with the noble Lord when he says that this is not merely a Free Church matter, because other Churches feel strongly about it, as well.
1286 Furthermore, I would say that, although we of the Free Churches are always regarded as spoilsports and puritans, and as being responsible for most of the difficulties in the social sphere, in this country, in fact, Sunday observance cannot be ascribed to the Victorian Nonconformist; and I would call in aid not a Victorian Radical Nonconformist, but an eighteenth-century High Church Tory—none other than Dr. Samuel Johnson. This is Dr. Johnson's view of Sunday observance. In the Island of Skye, while walking with Mr. Boswell, he said:It should be different from another day. People may walk, but not throw stones at birds. There may be relaxation, but there should be no levity.That, I think—apart from the throwing stones at birds, which is rather odd for modern ears—is not a bad description of what we should want Sunday to be: relaxation, but no levity. Are we going to get that under this Bill? Wilt Sunday observance be better or worse when we have this Bill on the Statute Book—if, indeed, it ever gets there? I confess that I am doubtful; and that for the reason which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, dismissed and said was a minor matter which he would deal with on the Committee stage—namely, the polls.
Under this Bill there are to be seventeen separate polling districts. Every county borough and every county is to have its own poll—and this in a small country like Wales. No one knows—the Government do not know; nor does anyone else—what will happen in those seventeen polling districts. Some may decide to have Sunday licensing, and others may not. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Merthyr, with a population of 59,000, decides to have licensing, and Glamorgan, with a population of 1,200,000, does not. There will be some very wild scenes in Merthyr on a Sunday. There will not be much of Dr. Johnson's view about "relaxation, but no levity" and there may be "Wild West" scenes.
It may be said that that is an extreme example, but there may well be others which are not so extreme. Therefore the very thing that I am sure none of us wants—namely, drunken motorists, or motorists who, though not drunk, are under the influence of drink—will come 1287 into being, because they will in all probability motor quite long distances to get the facility of Sunday drinking in a public house. I would say, therefore, that that is one reason why this poll business is a bad one.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, when he says that Parliament should have decided this issue. I agree with him that this is a matter for Parliament to decide. After all, Parliament decided that public houses should not be opened for the sale of intoxicating liquor on a Sunday, so why should not Parliament decide that they should be? Why is this particular issue of such a kind and magnitude as to call into being not one referendum but seventeen referenda? Why dogs this differ from all the other questions that Parliament has to decide? We have to decide important things every day of our lives. Why should this be so different? If the Government say, as well they might, that this has been decided by the other place; that we cannot go back to them, and we must have a poll and a referendum, then I say: "Very well; let us have one referendum for the whole of Wales". That will do away with this danger of people travelling long distances to go to public houses on Sunday. It would also, I think, in all probability, avoid splitting the country. I think Welshmen of all political Parties are anxious, so far as possible, to get unity in Wales. I feel that once more this idea will tend to make Wales disunited, and that would be a bad thing.
And why the haste? These polls, on a subject of this kind, have all to take place within three and a half months. They have to be completed within three and a half months of the passing of tile Bill, and that in the summer and early autumn when many people are away. What is the point of it? Why has the whole of this procedure to take place in three and a half months? I know of no reason why it should be rushed through in this way. Why do not the Government give time for the people of Wales to understand the issue? Those who are for or against the opening of licensed premises on Sunday could put their point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, could 1288 put his view; the Sunday Observance Society could put their view, and those who wish for the opening could put the opposite view. But why rush it?
The fact is, my Lords, that there is only two months in which to lodge the demand for a poll, and then within six weeks—that is, three and a half months in all—of the lodging of the demand for a poll, a poll has to take place. That seems to be cutting it very fine. In conclusion, therefore, I would ask the Government to think again on this matter; to have one poll, if they wish to have a poll, for the whole of Wales, and to give the Welsh people a little more time to consider the matter, which is of considerable importance and will have great social consequences upon them and their lives.
§ 4.22 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
My Lords, I should like, first of all, to join with others in expressing to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack appreciation of the very clear way in which he has introduced this Bill. Part of the intention of the Bill, as I understand it, is to discourage the further development of premises which exist only for the sale of alcohol, and to encourage people who are in the habit of taking alcoholic refreshment to have it with meals in restaurants instead of in public houses. If I am right and those two purposes are embodied in the Bill, then I can express real sympathy for what the Bill contains and for the efforts the Government are making to deal with the difficult problem of regulating a trade and a habit, both of which are difficult to control.
Whatever the motives behind the Bill, the question should closely be considered whether, in the pursuit of this laudable intention, it is necessary, wise or, indeed, right that all or even the majority of restaurants should be licensed. I find it difficult to get a picture of the proportion of restaurants or cafés that are likely to be licensed under this Bill. Sometimes it looks as if almost all of them will be, and then at other times it looks as if only a very small proportion will be. I do not know whether it is possible to estimate, but I dread the thought of too many places being licensed. We are dealing with something here—and I am glad the noble 1289 Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, referred to it—that has real dangers for our own age. We sometimes think that the battle for temperance has been won, but in truth the battle is always only won temporarily, and the danger inherent in intoxicating drink remains. I think that the conditions we hear of and know exist in France to-day are clear reminders of that. France is a country which a few years ago was thought to be a fine example of people who were free to drink as much as they liked and without much control, and yet remain temperate. To-day the dangers from alcoholic drink in France are rightly regarded as very great, and we in this country should not allow ourselves to think that those dangers do not exist.
There has never been a generation such as the present younger generation which has had so much time and money to spend on pleasurable pursuits, and none of us can estimate what effect the increase in money and time available for young people will be. In my view, one of the most important factors leading to the improvement in sobriety of this nation over the last 50 years has been the existence of numbers of increasingly attractive refreshment houses where there is no special inducement to consume alcohol. I should be afraid that a great many of those decent, clean, respectable restaurants may, under this Bill, be turned into licensed premises. I hope that there will be some strong controlling power yet devised that will secure that only a proportion of these restaurants are given licences.
Under the provisions of this Bill as it now stands, the great majority of restaurants might be completely changed without any disinterested body having the power to check the process in any way. All those which are structurally suitable, and capable of providing a "customary main meal at midday or in the evening," could claim a restaurant licence as of right, unless it so happened that it could be shown that a large proportion of those resorting to the premises were unaccompanied young persons. It is a grave defect in the Bill that it allows the question of how many licensed restaurants and boarding houses are established in any area to be decided mainly by financial considerations.
The Bill would be greatly improved, in my view, if the justices' power to 1290 control the number and distribution of licensed restaurants and boarding houses in their divisions were restored to them. I cannot quite understand why the justices have been deprived of any effective power in deciding what proportion of houses shall be licensed. But even if this could not be restored, there is a special class of restaurant, able often to supply a main midday meal, which should surely not be eligible to receive a licence automatically. I refer to the self-service cafeteria, the kind of place where you take a tray, walk along in front of a counter, take a plate, glass or cup as you feel inclined, pay the cashier, and then take what you have bought to a table where you sit and consume it. The ease with which the man who is just beginning to take too much can add another bottle or glass, the difficulty of adequate supervision, the danger of young people finding drinking in these places especially easy and attractive, makes it in the highest degree undesirable that they should all be allowed to serve intoxicants. I hope that an Amendment may be introduced into the Bill which will make it impossible for many of these restaurants to claim licences at all, or, in default of that, to give again to the justices the power to refuse such licences to premises where the content plated provision of intoxicants is to be by self-service methods.
I wish to mention one or two special points in the Bill. First, uniform closing hours. I am sorry that there has been a change in the Bill, and that it is impossible to determine a national hour for closing. I can see that there may be great diversity throughout the country, and I can foresee what I used to see in East London: vast crowds of people rushing by car, and even by bus, from one licensed area to another so that they could get from in early closing area to a later closing one and have further drink. If that kind of thing is employed throughout the country then I fear there will be greatly increased danger on the roads between the closing hours in one area and in another. If we cannot have a national closing hour I would plead that at any rate we ought to secure large uniform areas so that we shall not have so many of these spotted areas, one differing from another in closing time.
1291 The second thing I should like to say concerns motorways. I think I am right in saying that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack indicated that there would be no licensed public houses on a motorway—or am I wrong in that assumption?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I said that that was one of the matters on which we were going to consider putting suggestions to your Lordships in view of what has been said in another place.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount for that assurance, and in view of that I will not say anything more than that I sincerely hope that the motorways will be regarded as very special roads and that on them there will be no temptation of any kind for people in charge of cars to stop and refresh themselves with drink; otherwise I fear they will become very dangerous roads indeed.
A word about young people and the off-licence. I believe that for people under 18 years of age the same law should apply to off-licence purchases of intoxicants as for on-licence. At present I understand that anyone over five years of age can go into an off-licence and be supplied with sealed packages of alcoholic beverage. Because that is possible there is growing up a very undesirable habit among many young people of purchasing alcohol at off-licence premises, then forming a party and going to a rendezvous where they consume it without any supervision of any kind. I should have thought that the same law, so far as young people are concerned, as relates to the purchase of intoxicants in on-licences should apply to off-licences, so that that gap might be closed through which they can obtain sealed packages of alcoholic drink.
A word now about the general extension of hours. I have no strong feelings about this, but I do not think that there is anything like so big a demand for an increase of hours as the Bill presupposes. The demand may vary in different parts of the country, but my own judgment is that it is only in a few very special places that the demand 1292 for increased hours exists. There is however one extention of hours on which I should be grateful for information. It is Part II, Clause 8, "Special extensions on Saturday night". I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount whether or not under this clause public halls licenced for music and dances, on occasions when meals are served, will be able to get a licence to remain open till 3 a.m. on Sunday morning.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think it would be convenient if the right reverend Prelate would wait for a reply from my noble friend, Lord Bathurst, who will deal with this point but I shall see that he gets a reply, if we want to elaborate it, as I have done before in other circumstances, by writing to him about it.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
I thank the noble and learned Viscount. I need not delay on that point, except to say this: that I am very specially concerned as to whether public halls can get a licence to remain open until three o'clock on a Sunday morning. I have gone through this very carefully and my only fear is that some learned and clever lawyer will discover a hole through which he can go and secure for these halls that kind of licence which will attract people for dancing, eating and drinking until three o'clock on a Sunday morning.
My concern over that point is explained by what I know is developing in many rural areas. Village halls are being built all over the country—and rightly so. They are being built for the benefit of the villagers so that they may have a place where they can experience their community life. Many of these halls are somewhat expensive to maintain, and groups of people get together to run dances on Saturday nights with the view to making gain. The halls were for villagers but these organised dances are mostly attended by large groups of young people who come twenty, thirty or forty miles. They are often very boisterous, very riotous, and very often intemperate, so that the whole life of the village community is upset. If there were any chance that licences could be granted that would be available up to three o'clock on a Sunday morning then I am quite sure that not only would the 1293 whole village be upset but the life of the village would be degraded. So I hope that in mentioning this point I am drawing attention to something which will be securely guarded against.
To finish, I come to something which is only incidental in the Bill, but is there. I come from Carlisle and everyone has heard of the Carlisle scheme. Some have heard a great deal of good about it and others differently, but in my judgment the Carlisle scheme has worked well and is working well. I have no criticism of it or of those who are engaged in it. I think they are doing their work conscientiously and doing it well. I know there are those who complain that the beer lacks variety and flavour. Well, I cannot distinguish one kind of beer from another; it is all good or bad according to the taste. But there is this criticism; there is one strange thing about the scheme. That is, the position of the local magistrates. If I might put it this way and ask the question, "When is a magistrate not a magistrate?" the answer is, "When he is in Carlisle." The State scheme is a complete monopoly. Although local magistrates can recommend a licence, the Home Secretary has the right of veto and can refuse to confirm it; and he does refuse, and has refused, to confirm it in order to protect a State monopoly.
In order to protect the State monopoly the State scheme can open or close houses, change managers without consulting the local magistrates, and they do not do so. If private persons or private companies were to build a new hotel in Carlisle they could not get a licence for it without the consent of the Home Secretary, and he would refuse it on the grounds that it was breaking his monopoly. Many people believe this is wrong, and whereas they do not advocate at present the abolition of the State-management scheme, they believe that the monopoly part of it should be ended and that the Home Secretary should have to satisfy the local magistrates for the need of new public houses and for the closing of old ones. This is being felt strongly at the present time.
Carlisle is a gateway to the Lake District. It is only half an hour's run to the Lakes in an area which could develop as a tourist centre. It is short of hotels and there is very real need for hotel development, and consequently those who have 1294 the interest of the city at heart, as we all have, are really anxious that something should be done quickly to determine whether or not the Carlisle scheme is to be extended or whether it is to be so modified that there can be reasonable private development of hotels and restaurants in this gateway to the Lake District.
As your Lordships know, the background to the whole scheme is that after the first war it was maintained as an experiment in disinterested management. It has been an experiment for over 40 years. Many of us feel the lime has come when that experiment should be able to speak, and speak either of success or of failure, and consequently there is strong local feeling that in a Bill such as this, which is dealing with the licensing of public houses, and so on, something concerning this should have been brought in. If the experiment is a success, let it be extended. That would be fair enough, If it has not proved to be an outstanding success, let it continue but let it have a competitor alongside it. If it has failed, let it be ended. The people of Carlisle would like something done in one of these ways. We have a feeling up there that some people in Westminster and Whitehall are not very good at geography and that somehow or other Carlisle may perhaps be regarded as being over the border. We have recollections of the people over the Border in times past. We have great affection and admiration for them to-day. But, in spite of that, the people of Carlisle would like to be sure that the laws which prevail elsewhere in England will also prevail in Carlisle.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD BOSTON
My Lords, even if one is an experienced public speaker, which I am not, it is for many something of an ordeal to address your Lordships' House for the first time, as many people have said before. I therefore ask your Lordships to extend your customary patience and understanding on this occasion, especially those of your Lordships who claim Welsh nationality or have the welfare of that ancient Principality always in your minds. Whilst I can promise brevity, it is difficult when dealing with this subject, with special reference to Wales, not to sail pretty close to controversy. For that reason I was in two minds whether or not to address your Lordships on this occasion, 1295 especially as I am an Englishman living in an area of North Wales known as Gwynedd, the collective name for the counties of Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire, one of the strongholds of Welsh nationalism and Nonconformity.
To the majority of your Lordships this Bill probably appears to be a straightforward attempt to tidy up existing legislation, some of which is out of date, but in Wales this Bill has aroused a far deeper difference of opinion than any other Bill in recent years. That has been said already this afternoon, and I can confirm that it is a very important matter for them. It is well known in Wales, and probably to many of your Lordships, that there is a divided view on this matter within all political Parties and there is certainly no unanimity within any religious body. My Lords, what are we up against in Wales? We are not up against any international or political problem; nor are we up against any recognised principle of religion, so far as I know. The problem, to my mind, can be solved only by the conscience of the individual. Should we drink on Sunday in a public place or even in private? I suggest that to do the latter and not the former would be hypocritical. Should the Government allow the sale of drink on a Sunday? Those are the questions so far as we are concerned.
Many Welsh speakers here, in another place and in public have expounded their personal views with great eloquence and clarity, so I shall not weary your Lordships with lengthy repetition. But let me assure you that their views are very deep and sincere and have no doubt been taken fully into consideration by the Minister. I hope, therefore, that I am not treading on too dangerous ground if I express my personal opinion that it is up to all leaders of religion to exercise discipline over their own followers rather than to expect the Government of the day to enforce any restriction which is against the wish of the majority. I would remind them also that the decision to be arrived at in Wales will affect thousands of visitors who, in this case, will have no opportunity of expressing their views.
So far as I know, there is nothing in the Bible or elsewhere which suggests 1296 that drink in moderation is a sin; nor so far as I know is there any indication that wine should be restricted to six days a week. To my mind, the poll provided for in Clause 6 of the Bill is, in principle, the only way by which the majority can by the ballot box express their true feelings without any danger of outside interference and influence. So far as I am aware, this type of poll, covering such a wide area, is without precedent, so let us hope that even those who disapprove of it will at least acknowledge the undoubted wish of Her Majesty's Government to ascertain the wishes and belief of the majority.
The people of Wales have had months in which to hear or read all the arguments for and against Sunday opening. They are now afforded an opportunity to indicate their wishes with the aid of the ballot box. Whilst I agree in principle with the method proposed, I have considerable doubt whether a poll on a county and county borough basis is the best method of sub-division, and we have already had doubts expressed upon that in your Lordships' House this afternoon. In the event of different results the short distance between many adjoining areas could only encourage a heavy flow of traffic from "dry" to "wet" areas twice daily on Sundays. In my own county of Anglesey we are surrounded by water, but the area extends for only twenty miles one way and fifteen the other, so from the centre to the small county of Denbighshire is half an hour's run.
The disadvantage of a single poll to cover all the Principality is, I am told, the probability that the more heavily populated areas in the south might impose a result contrary to that of the rural areas of north Wales and mid-Wales, which are more likely to vote in favour of Sunday closing as at present. I suggest, therefore, either a grouping on the lines of the amalgamation into five counties suggested recently by the Boundary Commission for Wales, which would at least discourage Sunday drink traffic to a greater degree owing to the longer distances. Alternatively, I suggest grouping into the existing police force areas, which would at least assist the police to enforce the law uniformly throughout their areas. For instance, the Gwynedd Police area includes Anglesey, Caernarvonshire and 1297 Merionethshire. Mid-Wales includes Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery; Carmarthen and Cardigan are another.
Now I return briefly to two other points. The first has not been mentioned very much this afternoon and relates to the publican. I have not made extensive inquiries, but in my own district all four of the smaller inns run by the husband and wife alone are, in spite of their being situated in an area full of visitors in the summer season, strongly against Sunday opening, for the very good reason that Sunday is the only day off. Staff is difficult to obtain locally for this type of work in the rural areas of Wales, especially on a Sunday; and, in any case, the publican cannot leave the premises with any confidence, even if he is lucky enough to employ a barman or barmaid from outside his area. To my mind their position needs to be examined closely. If they are a "free house" they can apply at their own discretion for a six-day licence—it is not clear if they can or not, but it may be they can. But if they are tied to a brewery they may have to work not only the longer hours allowed under the Bill but every day of the week. I am not in any way their representative, but I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government will acknowledge that there may well he a case for further consideration.
Secondly, my Lords, I must mention the word "clubs". This subject has already been pretty well covered, but I rather support the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, on this point and I can only describe the present state of affairs as hypocritical. I am told on good authority that the sale of liquor to persons who prefer to purchase it from the back door of the public house rather than over the counter is surprisingly high. I can only leave it at that. In conclusion, while I respect the views of others who are against the extension of Sunday opening to Wales, I realise that there is an increasing influx of visitors from across the Border whose customs and way of life are different from theirs. It would have been quite easy for the Government to enforce uniformity, but they have gone out of their way to allow an opportunity for the residents of Wales to indicate whether or not the present restrictions on hospitality on a Sunday 1298 are to continue. I suggest it is now up to the people of Wales to demonstrate their broadmindedness in such matters.
§ 5.55 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, it falls to my lot, in following the noble Lord, Lord Boston, to convey the congratulations of myself and your Lordships' House to him on his maiden speech. I think we have been all impressed with the sincerity with which he has attacked this difficult subject, and in giving us the evidence of an English Peer residing in North Wales it has come with a good deal of force. I am sure we shall all look forward to hearing him again.
The Bill we are considering to-day has been attacked very firmly by my noble friend, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor. He feels very strongly about it. I should describe him correctly as a life abstainer from alcohol and he has never seemed to me to have suffered in any way in his physical or moral life from having been a total abstainer. To all of us here he represents a section who would be most entitled to offer their moral and Christian protests in respect of any items contained in the Bill, and some not contained in the Bill, to which he wished to draw attention.
Personally, I am not a rigid total abstainer, but I know something of the value of temperance. I look at this Bill with a pretty critical eye, admitting, as I am sure the right reverand Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle would have said, that there are passages in the Scriptures where you can perhaps get different advice from time to time. It is recorded that the Apostle Paul advised Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake. Therefore, there is something to be said for the point of view of alcohol as a medicine. But the passage remembered most as a lad is the one which says:Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.I have always discovered, in my pretty long life now, that the truth of that piece of scripture is being proved almost every day in our associations and in our courts.
I am bound to say that I feel that the people who decided on the necessity of a Government measure of this kind should have had something perhaps more 1299 up to date in front of them—something which had been properly inquired into, prepared and submitted to Parliament to study in due course. But I cannot find any widespread inquiry of this kind in recent years. If I am in the wrong, no doubt the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, or whoever is going to reply for the Government, will tell me. It seems to me that we have not had any very recent Royal Commission on the general question. We get a very good view of the situation from the report of the chief constables of England and Wales, and if we look at the section dealing with drink offences—the report covering the years 1955 to 1960—we find that they say:We find it impossible to justify this increase in drunkenness, which is once again a social problem of considerable magnitude, as illustrated by the 20 per cent. increase per annum in offences since 1957.That is in the last three years of the period covered by the report. Therefore it seems to some of us, in the light of that, rather extraordinary that the Government should be lending themselves in an official Bill to make it easier for this state of things to continue—an increase in drinking and presumably an increase in drunkenness.
Another respect in which I have not been able to reconcile myself with the Government's attitude in this matter is that we are getting all these anxious consultations and debates about what we are going to do with regard to reducing the loss of life on the roads. We have had the facts gathered and stated to us many times, both as to the number of deaths which are due to people who are either intoxicated when driving a car or under the influence of drink. I know, of course, that there are punishments established in the law for dealing with such people as those. On the other hand, it seems to be extraordinary to look at the other side of the report showing the time of the day, even the days of the week, when deaths are more frequent—Sunday night especially. Why it should be found necessary to extend the hours of licensing for drinking on a Sunday I do not know. I think that is a very great menace in itself.
I am never able to look at television on any of the four days of the week I am in Parliament, but when I am at home I look in a lot. There is hardly 1300 a programme in which, even when they are supposed to be fairly serious interviews, there is not a display of jollity, the good practice, the common requirement of social intercourse for drink to be present over and over again. I think that one factor which has been prevalent in the growth of drinking and in the increase in drunkenness has been the extent of publicity which is given to strong drink. The question was always raised with the old Royal Commissions as to how far greater advertising of the liquor traffic than of other forms of food would lend itself to over-indulgence in alcohol. I think the Amulree Commission reported in 1932 that they were not in favour of interfering with the amount of advertising then. But I am bound to say that it is a great pity that there is, not so much the bare advertisement of alcohol on television, as this common practice on both types of channel, the B.B.C. and the other, of constantly displaying the glass in the hand and the reserves there on the table.
I interrupted the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when he spoke earlier, to see whether I could get his view upon one particular matter. I did not want to interrupt him for any wrong purpose; I did not want to spoil the flow of his eloquence on the point that he was pursuing. But it is of great importance to observe that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle has taken up exactly the same point that I have mentioned, which has been put to Parliament by the Churches' Temperance Council, with regard to the fact that, so far as we can see, there is nothing in this Bill which will make it possible for magistrates to prevent licences from being granted to regular self-service restaurants. I listened most carefully to the Lord Chancellor on this point. I thought he was very good in his exposition of Part I of the Bill; but I noticed that he came to put the opposite side, and he said that of course nothing of this kind can be allowed in the case of a snack bar. I took particular note of that.
But, of course, a self-service restaurant is not a snack bar. The modern and developing type of restaurant is one in which self-service is used and it is bound to be considerably on the increase, especially in the day of the development of supermarkets. Before 1301 we know where we are, in a decade this will become a matter of common practice. Then to have a system, which apparently cannot be prevented, by reason of the special authority given to licensing magistrates, seems to me to be a great pity. The licensing justices can take effective action in the case of the smallest inn or public house where the proprietor, the manager or manageress is found to have served those who have already had such a quantity of drink that they ought not to take any more. But how you are going to arrange for that kind of thing to be properly observed if a licence can be granted readily to a self-service establishment, I do not know. At any rate I have not heard an answer, either in another place or yet in this debate here, as to what is the situation on that.
But I can say that the Churches' Temperance Council are most insistent that this matter ought to be made perfectly plain, and they ask for no more than that the question of the licensing of such places should be within the power of the magistrates to grant or to refuse. I think that must be the basis of the Amendment which will come before the Committee for their consideration in the future. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor will agree with me. I am most anxious that the noble and learned Lord Chancellor should know what it is that we are really after.
I do not propose to butt in (if I may so put it) in regard to the Principality of Wales. We have heard one Englishman speak already quite firmly about the situation there. He bad modulated and carefully balanced views, although he did speak about the man and wife conductors of a licensed house who want to be free on Sundays. I think that is a good idea, if they want to be free. But I am anxious to say to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that I feel inclined to support what my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor said in regard to how this comes about in Wales. Why not have proceedings in the same fashion as would operate in Scotland? The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor himself is a Scot, and a very good Scot. In Scotland there is no general Sunday opening. Can he possibly imagine what 1302 would have happened if the same proposal as this had been brought before the House in regard to Scotland and it had not first been examined by the Scottish Grand Committee? The Principality of Wales has no such privilege.
I wonder about what Lord Ogmore said with regard to a vote on this matter. I expect he will remember that in the early days it was often a sort of last refuge for those of us in the Free Churches who argued for temperance, that if you could get nothing better you should take local option. Local option was a sort of second string. What you have in this proposal is local votes, which is really a second-best, anyway from the point of view of those people who think that perhaps in their district they will be able to retain what they have always wanted on Sundays. It is a poor second to the present situation that exists in Wales or in Scotland.
With regard to the club situation, of course that is not a question only for Sundays, although from the reports of Welshmen it seems to have been much abused on Sundays. I do not know about that; I know nothing about them. On the other hand, there are clubs and clubs. I do not know what would be said in all the fine West End clubs to which members of your Lordships' House belong if they had placed upon them all the restrictions that from time to time have been placed on other places, with regard either to the daily or Sunday absorption of alcoholic drink which members might want to take.
The ordinary workmen in the country have a certain amount of protection of their own, under their local club management and because of the fact that they are registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act; and if they are of a certain size, their accounts have to be audited and they have to attend to other regulations under the direction of the Registrar. From my reading of the debate in the other place, I believe that some of the points that were raised have been met. These clubs have expressed gratitude to me for that, but they still feel that they have not yet been fully met in all their requirements. Nevertheless, I would say, even to my great many friends in the Clubs' and Institutes' Union, which is a very well-conducted organisation, that if, in the 1303 general interest of the whole community—for life on the road; for better use of the social opportunities for the young than I think is being made to-day; and for something, at least in part, to try and form a deterrent to the growing number of acts of violence in the country—there were more regulation of the liquor trade, then I think it would be a good thing.
I am concerned myself to see how things are going on. Some people say that the liquor trade is going into a bad spot. But is it? There seems at any rate as mad a rush in takeover bids in the liquor traffic trade as you can find in almost any other kind of stockholding concern, in businesses and industries other than the liquor traffic trade. But as to whether they can afford to carry the amount of taxation which is imposed upon them, while the people still take it I do not think we need consider the liquor trade from the financial point of view at all. We ought only to think how wrong it is to encourage the expansion of what many of us feel to be not a help to the moral development of the country. I want to make it quite clear, as it was made clear in another place, that on this matter we on these Benches each speak for ourselves, as individuals; and I would repeat what my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor said for himself. If, because of the lack of meeting the points that were put in another place, and the Bill appearing in the form it has, any of my friends should feel as I do, and should want, on a free vote—no compulsion or Party Whip employed—to divide the House on it, I should be inclined to agree with them and support them.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I should like to offer a few words of welcome to this Bill, which has been introduced to your Lordships in such a careful and comprehensive way by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. Before I do so, however, I think I am in duty bound to declare an interest, albeit a slight one. The firm of which I am a director supplies wines and spirits through its mail-order business. Although I think that this is a fairly remote link with the Bill, I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who is so punctilious in these matters, is in 1304 his place, and I think it better to err on the side of safety.
One of the most distressing features of our post-war life has been the decline in respect for law and order. Resulting from that has been a decline in good relations between the public and police. The two are linked together. As the public refuse to obey laws which they regard as trivial, silly or unnecessary, so their annoyance is vented upon the police, who are in duty bound to try to enforce those laws—laws which the police themselves probably also regard as trivial and unnecessary. Now Her Majesty's Government, as the Lord Chancellor has pointed out, as part of their programme of social advancement (this, of course, is quite apart from improving the pay and conditions of the police forces) are seeking to rid the Statute Book of many of the laws which have been the cause of so much friction and unpleasantness during the years since the war. What they are trying to do, if I understand the Government's programme aright, is to try and knock some sense into the social laws which the police have to enforce.
We had the Betting and Gaming Act. which was a marked improvement and did away with a lot of the causes of friction; we had the Road Traffic Bill, which, alas!, has fallen by the wayside, but which again sought to remove a great deal of the causes of friction between the public and police through unenforceable or stupid laws; and now we have this Licensing Bill. Licensing, I think, provides the greatest stumbling block of the lot. It is over the stupidity, the music-hall knockabout, of our licensing laws, that the greatest cause of friction between police and public is to be found. The public has, quite frankly, stopped paying any attention to many of the existing provisions. The present law is frankly ridiculous, and this Bill, I think, is to be welcomed as a marked improvement on the existing law.
I share with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, his horror of drunkenness. Who does not? But it is a relief to find in this Bill that the draftsman has for once sought to draft a Bill based on the fact that most of us are a law-abiding and sober people who occasionally go wrong, and not, as so often in the past, on the assumption that we are all a lot of drunken sots who only 1305 occasionally behave. The time is past when the Lord Guildford of the day could say to his manservant, "Place two bottles of port wine by my bedside and call me the day after to-morrow". The habits of the country have changed, and the legislation should change with it.
I think there is room for improvement in this Bill—work which we shall carry out on Committee stage—but the Government are to be congratulated on having eradicated a lot of the trivial absurdities from the existing law. I hope that we shall eradicate more during the further stages of this Bill. For instance, I cannot believe that it is in the real interests of law and order that policemen should spend the taxpayers' money playing "footy" with policewomen in third-rate night clubs. These and other absurdities constantly come to light in considering this subject. Every day you find some new absurdity in our licensing law which has not been covered in the Bill.
If you go to Glyndebourne, you have to go early because you have dinner in between the two acts in order to catch the last train home. The curtain goes up at 6 o'clock. Can you have a drink before the curtain goes up? No; because the licensing laws do not enable you to do so until after 6 o'clock in the evening. At 6 o'clock in the evening the curtain goes up and the bar opens, and so does the village pub. That is absurd, and everybody in the Glyndebourne audience knows it is absurd. If you go to the Savoy after the theatre, you cannot get a drink in the bar because it closes at 11, so you go into the restaurant, or the grill; and there you have your drink. That also is absurd. And there are many other absurdities which your Lordships will doubtless find before Committee stage.
People, then, will not obey and respect laws which they think to be footling or unnecessary. I would far rather have a Bill drafted too widely and risk an occasional abuse than I would have it drafted too narrowly and invite persistent evasion. When dealing with this Bill, we must not be afraid of vocal minorities. Of course we respect the views of minorities. We have had them put forward to-day, and their views should be given the most careful and considerate hearing.
1306 But, my Lords, I am beginning to think that in this country we have too much government by pressure and not enough government by consent. When you consider all the social questions which are troubling us at the moment—gambling and betting, blood sports, capital punishment, corporal punishment. Sunday observance and now the licensing laws—all these, my Lords, have vocal, vigorous and effective minorities championing their causes. They make propaganda; they make speeches; they hold meetings and they lobby. They do everything in their power—and rightly so—to get their views accepted. So efficiently do they do it that the views of these vocal minorities tend, in my opinion, to carry a disproportionate amount of weight. The view of the poor dumb man-in-the-street, who has no pressure group and no lobby, tends to go by the board. The reasonable man has no pressure group. The man in the street has no P.R.O.
Therefore, my Lords, I should like, when considering this Bill and amending it, while respecting the views of those militant minorities, to amend it from the point of view of the man who likes an occasional pint but does not get drunk, and not only from the point of view of the General Purposes Committee of the Lord's Day Observance Society or the more militant members of the Swansea Band of Hope. Nothing kills respect for the law more quickly than ridicule. We want this law to be obeyed. We want the police to have no difficulty in enforcing it. It has got to be a reasonable law, and a law which we all respect. Therefore, let us see, as this Bill is going through our House, that we leave nothing ridiculous in it.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and and the noble Lord, Lord Boston, who made a very interesting maiden speech, referred to the situation in Wales. There is a perfect example of absurdity. I speak with some knowledge of this matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore indicated, for I was connected with Conservative clubs in Wales for many years. I must say that I shall watch with interest the progress of Clause 6 of this Bill. I want to see whether my friends who went to those clubs on a Sunday went for the pure draught of Conservative thought or for the pure draught of Mr. Hancock's best bitter!
1307 My Lords, we had once, as you well remember, a Shops Bill before us. That Bill died an unnatural death. I believe that one of the reasons why that Bill was killed was ridicule. It was suddenly discovered that in 37 lines of the draftsman's deathless prose we sought to establish the principle that only a practising Jew could operate as a barber in Scotland on a Sunday. That helped to kill the Bill. So will this Bill be killed if we do not take great care to see that it contains no absurdities. This must be a Bill which can leave this House with the full respect of Peers and public behind it. I am very suspicious, I must confess, of Clause 1 (6), which tries to make it compulsory to supply a glass of water with a meal in a hotel. if the Lord Chancellor thinks he is ever going to get away with that one, I assure him that by the time it arrives it will be tepid. I think it is a good Bill. I think there is room for improvement upon the lines I have ventured to suggest to your Lordships' House. But, my Lords, as the self-appointed P.R.O. of the man in the four-ale bar, I wish it well.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD GUEST
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships' House this evening, I have to crave a double indulgence. In the first place, this is my initial venture into debate, and I hope I may receive the customary consideration. Secondly, it may seem presumptuous for a Scots lawyer to intervene on a debate upon an English Bill, but my justification is that the characteristics of the two races are not so dissimilar. Drink is very much the same. In fact, some people say the best of it comes from Scotland.
Lastly, I do claim to have a little acquaintance with this subject, because a Committee over which I have the honour to preside has recently been investigating the subject of licensing in Scotland. That Committee, at the special request of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, has presented an Interim Report dealing with the first two subjects of reference—namely, Sunday opening, and permitted hours. I may say, in passing, that they have recommended that there should be a degree of opening on Sundays, and they have come to certain conclusions upon permitted hours. It would be inappropriate that I should speak upon the two 1308 remaining topics which are still under consideration, one of which, at any rate, is covered by the present Bill; but I should like to say something upon the topics which are common to this Committee's recommendations and to the Bill.
I think it is desirable, so far as possible, that the laws of the two countries upon this subject, where the problems are so similar, should also be similar. It may be that each country has different problems which will have to be dealt with in a different way; but, generally speaking, I would plead for uniformity between Scotland, at any rate, and England. The first clause in the Bill makes the innovation of introducing three new types of licences—the restaurant licence, the residential licence and the combined residential-restaurant licence. The Scottish Committee received a great deal of evidence upon this matter, and they have thought fit to recommend that there should be a new type of certificate in Scotland—namely, a restaurant licence. That will certainly he of great benefit to the public in enabling them to get some form of liquid refreshment with meals. At the same time, we view with some alarm, at any rate in Scotland, the proposal that there should be a type of licence which should be available to boarding houses.
I do not know whether your Lordships view with equanimity the fact that thousands of boarding houses throughout the country are entitled under the Bill to be given a licence as of right from the licensing justices—because the justices have only a limited power of refusal; and the boarding houses can obtain an automatic grant of licence, without regard to the need, and without regard to the numbers of licensed premises in the district. That is a matter which, I hope, this House would like to consider at a later stage. In Scotland, at any rate, we see no evidence at all that there is any demand from boarding houses for licences of this character, although for restaurants, not of the snack bar type, or the café type, we felt that it would be of advantage that they should have a licence.
The second matter on which I should like to say a few words is the question of permitted hours. In this I include permitted hours for clubs and licensed 1309 premises, on weekdays and on Sundays. On the latter topic, as your Lordships might expect, the evidence before the Committee was by no means unanimous; but upon this topic the evidence was totally unanimous, and it was that there should be standardised hours for the whole of Scotland. The Committee recommended that there should be standardised hours from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m., and from 5 o'clock to 10 o'clock at night.
Your Lordships are familiar with the expression "staggered drinking". Nothing has been more harmful to the good name of Scotland than this staggered drinking, whereby bodies of people, in buses or in cars, go from district to district in order to obtain the benefit of the later closing hours of licensed premises. I do not, of course, claim that there should be uniformity between Scotland and England; but I do note that the Bill, as originally presented in another place, contained general permitted hours for the whole of the country, but that by reason of Government Amendments introduced in Committee, that standardisation has been reduced. The licensing justices now have discretion to vary hours within certain limits, and to fix different hours for different days of the week. This, of course, destroys the whole principle of uniformity: and if this Bill goes through in its present form, I feel that we shall be back to the bad old days.
Variation in hours causes, in the first place, unnecessary travelling, often by motorists who have consumed drink at a rate which is not good for them, in order to get to the next district, where they can consume further drink before closing hours; and it also causes bewilderment to tourists. Moreover, as the chief constables told us when they gave evidence before the Committee, it makes the law extremely difficult to enforce. Your Lordships may like to consider at a later stage of this Bill whether the degree of standardisation which was originally proposed by the Government should not be restored to the Bill. The other matter concerns clubs. Here again the question of uniformity arises, The Scottish Committee recommended that clubs should have the same hours as licensed premises on Sundays. The Bill proposes that clubs should have a complete discretion within their rules to fix hours 1310 within the limits of the licensed hours. This indicates again the same lack of uniformity, and the effect that it has, as it has had in Scotland on Sundays, is simply to lengthen the permitted hours, because undesirable clubs want to open during the time when licensed premises are closed. If you want to have longer permitted hours, by all means have them, but do not have permitted hours for licensed premises and then give clubs complete discretion to open outwith these permitted hours. It makes the law difficult to enforce and tends, I suggest, to increase drunkenness on the road. I suggest that here again, in regard to clubs, the principle of uniformity should be adopted.
I think that the Government ought to be congratulated on introducing this Bill and on their perseverance with it. The people of Scotland will take it as an earnest of the Government's intention at an early date to introduce a Bill to reform the licensing laws of Scotland, which are so badly in need of reform, and to implement the recommendations of the Committee to which I have referred.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD DENNING
My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords would wish to congratulate my noble and learned friend Lord Guest on his valuable contribution to-day. Sitting judicially with him, we have found his clarity and expression of principle most useful in our deliberations, as indeed we always do from Scotland, where they keep to principle and not so much to narrow precedents as we often do in England.
In the particular matter of licensing, may I suggest that what my noble and learned friend says about the standardisation of hours, and thereby the avoidance of this trick of people going from one establishment to another, from one pub to another, is a matter of principle which we may well consider putting right on a later stage of the Bill? As to the three main Parts of the Bill, I would not pause on Part I, dealing with restaurants and guest houses, except to say that, as I read the Bill, the apprehension that self-service restaurants would come within its provisions is correct, because a person in a cafeteria who takes his own meal and goes with it to a table is having a table meal. 1311 And if it is possible under the Bill for self-service restaurants to obtain licences as a right, with only the very limited field of opposition before a magistrate, that would be a serious matter to consider.
I turn to Part II. As a chairman of quarter sessions, I welcome the great relief which will come by reason of there being no need to go to quarter sessions for the confirmation of a new licence. Quarter sessions may have 50 applications for confirmation in a morning, entirely unopposed, going through as a matter of form, "on the nod", with licensees, publicans and lawyers there, taking up a long time in a morning, and all to be treated as a formality. If all this is done away with, and if only opposed cases are brought before the quarter sessions, as will happen under this Bill, that will be a great relief and benefit.
I want, however, to deal more particularly with Part III, dealing with clubs. Your Lordships may remember that only a year ago in this House the evils of clubs and of drinking clubs were exposed, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I have seen it in the courts. We know that up till now anyone has been able to register a club. One gets a lawyer to settle the form of rules and then no one has any power to refuse registration. The office of clerk to the justices is merely administrative, and he has to pass it through. Then the club can set up and provide drink. And after that, if the club should be struck off, all that is necessary for the people who run the club is to put on another hat or open next door, as the case may be. There is hardly control of drinking in these clubs. It is that evil, and all the evils that go with it, such as the cases we have of young girls being taken into the drinking part and then to a flat upstairs, where all kinds of immorality may go on, that I am glad to see this Bill will remedy.
But I would make one query about this. In the anxiety to safeguard the innumerable well-run social clubs—British Legion clubs, staff clubs, working men's clubs and others—no distinction is drawn in the Bill between what I might call members' clubs and proprietary clubs. The Bill contains no 1312 definition whatsoever of what is a "club". There is a great distinction between the well-run members' club, in which the members own the property and, if they have a drink, are not paying the club for it but are really distributing between themselves their own property, and, on the other hand, the proprietary club, which is owned by a proprietor, who takes the profits for himself, and which is so often the haunt of iniquities such as I have described. The Bill contains no definition distinguishing between the two. The sheep and the goats are all herded together.
But, even now, in the Bill as it stands there are many devious ways by which proprietary clubs can avoid the provisions of the Bill. For instance, take the two days which have to pass between the time a man applies to be a member and becomes a member. How easy for the unscrupulous to put in a fictitious date, two days forward on an application! Or take the provision that the club must be established and conducted in good faith as a club. Although the provisions say that intoxicating liquor must not be used as a source of profit for any individual, there can still be profit for the club as a whole. What does "club as a whole" mean in this Bill in the case of a proprietary club?
My Lords, I suggest that unless this Bill is tightened up even more in the course of its progress, proprietary clubs may still be able to carry on some of their nefarious practices. I would go further. At the moment there is power for a police officer to enter licensed houses to see that the law is being observed. I do not suggest that that should be extended to all social clubs, but I do suggest that without difficulty a proprietary club could be placed on the same footing as licensed premises, and a constable might be given the power to enter to see whether the law is being fulfilled. There should be no distinction between them. Furthermore, in licensed premises there is protection for young people under 18, and the first Part of this Bill also provides protection as regards restaurants and guest houses. But so far as clubs are concerned there is nothing in the Bill. This is a great measure for bringing clubs under control. The application for registration of a club has to be brought before a 1313 magistrate and now people can make objection to registration and in certain circumstances a police officer can come and make objection. But it may not succeed wholly in its purpose unless provisions are inserted in your Lordships' House to strengthen it in the respects I have indicated. Speaking generally, however, the Bill is wholly to be welcomed.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, the emphasis in the discussion on this Bill to-day has been on licensing, but I think we should be foolish if we did not recognise at once that this Bill is a brewers' charter. Whoever else may get anything out of the passing of this Bill, the one certainty is that the brewing community of this country will. I am rather worried. We have seen take-over bids and amalgamations; the industry have almost nationalised themselves; in fact, if we ever have the idea of nationalising the brewing industry, the brewers have made it much easier for us by their amalgamations of the last few months. There is a tremendous concentration of power and finance within the brewers of this country, and that concentration of power and finance has political force as well. I am a little disturbed as to the manner in which that power and finance is likely to be used in connection with the trade.
Within this Bill there is no protection at all for the consumer. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, appointed himself P.R.O. of the four-ale-bar, but I notice that he seemed much more at home when he was talking about the bar at the Savoy. I do not know how many of your Lordships have been in four-ale-bars or even saloon bars recently. In recent weeks, even in your Lordships' bar, the prices have risen 1d. and 2d. a pint on beer. At the same time, the profits of this industry have never been higher than they are to-day; and the basis of their shareholdings has never been higher than it is to-day. Is not the consumer entitled to some protection from an industry which is concentrating itself more and more into fewer hands? While it might be outside the scope of licensing, if we are ensuring that the brewing industry of this country is going to have much better opportunities for the extension of its sales, then I think we ought to have some thought for the consumer 1314 and give the consumer some protection against the monopoly which is arising. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has said, this Bill is more liberal in its approach to licensing, and it gives a greater degree of latitude to licensing magistrates to meet a local need. Therefore, rather grudgingly, I would welcome the Bill; and if it came to a Division, as has been hinted that it might, I should support it in the Division Lobby, although with some reservation.
Reference has been made by a number of noble Lords to the question of the restaurant and the guest house. I think it is reasonable that a person staying in a guest house or having lunch at a restaurant should be able to have a drink with his meal. But as I react this Bill, in both the restaurant and the guest house there is the possibility of the setting up of a drinking bar. If there is going to be a bar in which people can congregate and have drinks before going in for a meal, or perhaps go into the bar and not have a meal at all, then I see no reason why the proprietor of the restaurant or guest house should not apply to the licensing magistrates for a normal justices' licence in the same way as anyone else. I do not think we should allow table licences to be the excuse for having a drinking bar within premises which are not suitable. It might lead to all sorts of confusion.
I now turn to the question of Sunday hours. I was very pleased indeed that in the other place the proposal for opening until 3 o'clock was withdrawn, because, while it is true that the Sunday morning drink before dinner is quite an institution in working-class districts, it is equally true that, because of work and the distribution of the family during the week in working-class life, Sunday dinner is a family occasion, and anything that is likely to disturb it may well cause family discord. Here there may be some case for a 10.30 opening at seaside places and the like, but there is no general case for an extension of opening time on Sundays all the year round until 10.30. I feel that the Bill ought to be amended to give the licensing justices the power to deal with whether or not they should have an extension to 10.30, and for what period that should be, in the light of local circumstances.
1315 When we are discussing licensing in this House I do not think we ought to have in mind all the time the Savoy bar. It is a fact that most of the drinking goes on in the ordinary public houses and clubs of this country. While those who go to the Savoy bar may not worry about Monday morning, the average worker has to clock-on on Monday morning, and Sunday night sometimes has an effect on Monday morning; the "Monday morning feeling" does not always arise from a lazy day on Sunday. Some noble Lords have declared an interest, and I do not know whether I should, because I am going to refer to registered clubs. I am a member of a club—not the Athenæum or the Reform, or anything like that, but an ordinary working man's club, and anything I say about clubs can be taken in the light of one who is a member and who approves the Club and Institutes Union and its general organisation.
Under this Bill there is a slight tightening up of the law for clubs, but it is still very loose. While a coach-and-horses could be driven through the old law, it will not be long before at least a motor bus can be taken through the present law. I would go further than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and say, as a member of an ordinary working man's club, that there is no earthly reason why the police should not have a right of inspection of any club in this country, whether it be a working man's club, the "Pig and Whistle", the Athenæum or any club that is a proprietary club. As has been said by many noble Lords, 999 out of 1,000 clubs are well run and never worry about inspection; and they did not worry when during the war we had Regulation 55C. I represented in another place a constituency in which no village was without its working man's club, and most of the urban areas had four, five or six working men's clubs. They were all well run and a social asset to the area. There was no objection by the stewards or management committees during the war to inspection by the police.
I ask your Lordships to remember that we have a duty to protect people who are placed in a difficult position. A steward in an ordinary club (and I will keep it to the working men's clubs that 1316 I know so well) usually has a flat at the top of the premises. As I have said, 999 out of 1,000 are well run. But suddenly there may be a change of chairman and a change of secretary. The steward in the club has not just one boss, but a dozen, in the chairman, the secretary and ten members of the committee. Suddenly the chairman comes in with a couple of pals and wants a drink at 3.30 o'clock in the afternoon. The steward has to think twice, not because he is afraid of not being able to get another job, but because, if he loses this job before he has found another one, he has no home for his wife and family in the—I was going to say tied cottage—tied service tenancy of the flat above the club. Therefore, the right of police inspection gives those who have the responsibility of running the club the right to be able to turn round and say, "My living is dependent on running this club properly. The police may come in at any time, and I am not going to risk getting into trouble for you."
Reference has been made to the under-eighteens. We have a right and a duty to protect the young. If they are going to have a drink, then the home is the proper place for them to get it. We ought not to make it easy for youngsters under 18 either to work within the trade or to be able to procure drinks. That is the rule in the normal licensed house No publican would run the risk, and, my goodness! it is a bit of a teaser for some publicans. A young woman comes in, and who is to say whether she is 18 or 25? Actually she may have just left school the year before. It is very difficult, but we do our best, and generally the licensed trade does its best to maintain the law. No one is employed in a public house under 18, and nobody is served with the landlord's knowledge who is under 18. Yet in the working men's club I belong to, if we want to we can employ anybody under 18 years of age, including the steward's family. We can serve anybody under 18 years of age, and he can be a member of the club. It is not right, and I think there ought to be general treatment of everyone right the way through in the right way. It is a temptation. I am not one of those who think that the youth of to-day is going to the dogs. They may not be much better, but certainly they are no worse than 1317 our generation was. They have forgotten some of the things we thought of, and thought of some others we did not; in the main, however, it is generally the same. But at least we ought not to encourage that section of teenagers who are anxious to get hold of drink against the law and who are refused in a pub, to go and join clubs.
I am glad my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor has come back, because I want to talk about Wales and Monmouthshire. In spite of the sincerity of his speech, I know he will not take my remarks amiss when I say that Sunday closing in Wales has been a joke for years. The Welsh conscience in regard to Sunday opening, so far as the average Welshman is concerned, is a little hypocritical, and let me say that so far as the brewers are concerned it is hypocritical too, because two-thirds of the clubs to which I am going to refer have been financed by the brewers on the basis of what quantity the club buys. The increase in the number of clubs in Wales in tremendous, and the membership is very large. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made a slight mistake. He said that according to statistics every adult male in Wales was a member of a club, and he hastily excluded my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor. The fact is. of course, that half the adult male population are already members of clubs within Wales.
As has been said by many other noble Lords, the clubs in Wales are crowded on Sunday to an extent that the average publican in England would like to see and to an extent in which there is an encouragement to drink, because you cannot get up to the bar if you once get away from it. Reference has been made to the law coming into disrepute. I do not like deliberately "fiddling" the law, but I must admit that, in so far as Wales is concerned, I have done so. About four times a year I go to take week-end trade union schools in Wales. These weekend schools are generally held somewhere on the outskirts of a town or in the countryside, either in North or South Wales. We are all strangers to the district. The lecturers and many students have come from North Wales or Cheshire, and what happens?
The practice between North and South Wales varies. On Sunday morning the 1318 first business is not the introduction of the lecturer but taking a roll as to who wants a ticket to go up to the club for a drink during lunch-time. The names are taken, and they are sent to the club. These students go up to the club at the lunch break, pay a penny, get a slip and have their drink. They are a bit more mercenary in North Wales. There we have to go down on Saturday night and pay one shilling. That is North Wales, as compared with South Wales; the cost of living is higher! We pay one shilling and then, of course, we have a drink on the Saturday night, if we want it; but what we really do it for is the drink on Sunday morning at lunch time. This is encouraging normal law-abiding citizens, even like myself, the average trade unionist, to break the law. And however much we swear about the brewers, we do a lot towards advancing their profits—too much perhaps. But we ought not to allow this sort of thing to go on.
There is a worse feature. I am very fond of the Forest of Dean and I like walking round Lydney and Cinderford. Those areas are disturbed on a Sunday evening. Those who are associated with the motor coach industry in Monmouthshire and South Wales organise coach trips into Gloucestershire on a Sunday evening. They even advertise the two pubs they are going to stop at en route. So what happens? The coach goes out with fellows who want to get out of Wales to have a drink in free England. They stop at the first pub at about 7.30 o'clock and they all rush in. They stop about thirty minutes, so they all have two or three drinks in that time, and off they go to another pub. Then there is another mad rush. The population of the villages in which they stop are disturbed in their normal habits and so are the normal facilities of the pub they call at. I do not blame the publican for the fact that one sometimes sees a notice outside a pub, "No coaches served." But if a pub is open in a Gloucestershire village and a coach draws up, and the publican can see the possibility of £4 or £5 going into his till, of course he takes it. Who would not? But the disturbance of the amenities of the village and of the normal custom of the folk in the area is all wrong. If we had local option, and had some areas of Wales going "wet" and others remaining "dry", exactly the same sort of system would be exploited within 1319 Wales as is now exploited from Wales into England.
I know that a lot has been said about freedom, but I do not think that freedom ought to be curtailed unless its curtailment is to protect the rights of others. That is my conception of freedom. Here it is a minority of people saying that the ordinary citizen who wants to go to the ordinary pub on a Sunday for a drink, whether he be a local resident or whether he be a visitor from outside, should be denied that opportunity of going and "having one", if he wants to. I hope that the Government, in the interests of good government and of freedom, will have second thoughts and bring Wales and Monmouthshire in with England, and allow both the opening of the pub and the opening of the club so that people can have their own choice, rather than this hypocritical attitude that we have at the present time of club open, pub closed, excessive drinking within the club on Sunday and the brewers financing it, which I think is all wrong. I hope the Government will have second thoughts.
§ 6.1 p.m
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in the first part of his speech, because I am a resident in this case of South Wales as opposed to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who is a resident of North Wales. I want to confine my remarks to the opening of public houses in Wales on a Sunday. The question of restaurant licences, and so on, I am prepared to leave to other noble Lords who are more better qualified to deal with it. I would start by saying that I have the greatest respect for the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor. They are held by a considerable number of people in Wales. I say in all seriousness that there are still a large number of people to whom the liquor question is almost an affront to the Christian faith. These are views which are very genuinely held and must be recognised by any one of us who is making any contribution to this debate. I could almost feel that Rebecca was riding again when the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, was speaking. For those who do not know who Rebecca 1320 was, he was a man dressed as a woman who flew down the valleys of South Wales in about 1840.
In spite of the eloquent plea made by the teetotal and temperance advocates in the House, I still cannot find myself in agreement with them. I think the question that we must all ask ourselves in debating this very important subject—and I think the House will agree the debate has been a very thoughtful one and on a very high level—is this. Shall we, in the light of to-day's circumstances, hurt or damage Wales by allowing Sunday opening after 79 years? I submit, my Lords, that the circumstances have entirely changed since 1881 when the Act, which in fact is still operating, forbade the selling of liquor on Sundays in Wales. Somehow or other the club has crept in since then and liquor has been legally sold for many years in Wales in spite of the 1881 Act, which prohibited the sale of it. I think it is plain what is happening—it has been referred to by other noble Lords. It is the extremely rapid growth of clubs. I am sure we have all been immensely entertained and interested by the experiences related to us by the noble Lord who has just spoken. He has turned the veil aside and shown us what goes on in large measure, particularly on Sundays. I am absolutely sure that a very large body of modern opinion in Wales would like to see recognition given in this connection.
It is frequently argued that Wales is an old and adult nation. I even know some who would demand recognition of Welsh sovereignty, or Dominion status and Home Rule. Although I myself do not go all that way with them, I do go with them in the idea that Wales is an old and adult nation. If we think that and if we believe that such is the case, I am quite unable to see why Wales should not be given a chance of coming to a choice. My personal choice is in favour of opening. I think the steel worker, the miner and the docker are responsible men. They know what they want. If one goes to the Rhondda on Sunday one sees they know very well what they want. They take the buses which go in the direction of England. There should no longer be the need where the Holyhead Road crosses the border for the sign which states, "This is the last inn in England"—with its special invitation to drinking. I think Wales should 1321 encourage its tourist trade, which is growing very fast. Indeed I know of many visitors to Wales who have not been aware that we live under this archaic Act of 79 years ago.
My first reaction to this Bill, which I warmly welcome in principle, was that Parliament should take this decision. Parliament took the decision to pass the 1881 Act, and I was unable to see why Parliament, which is a sovereign, democratic body, should not take the decision, in effect, to repeal it. Her Majesty's Government, however, have taken a different view. They rejected even a national referendum and have come down in favour of seventeen local polls throughout the country.
My first impression was, and I must admit still is, the possibility of different areas voting differently and of getting a "wet" and a "dry" area next door to each other, with all the rather unseemly rush across the county border which would undoubtedly ensue if that happened. Llandrindod Wells might be deserted on Sunday for Llanwrtyd Wells, which are very close together and both tourist resorts, which happen to be in different counties.
I take it from the debate, which I read, of the Second Reading in another place that the Government do not want a national referendum, because they might suddenly get a demand from Scotland for one on some other question, or on the same question. But if the Government feel they must stick to the proposals in the Bill for seventeen local polls I am prepared to accept it. There is a precedent in the case of Sunday films, where the question was decided by local polls, and I should imagine that one of the factors which has really influenced the Government in their decision is that no less than 63 per cent. of the population of Wales live in the Counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire and the northern counties such as Merioneth and Montgomery, which might wish to remain dry, would be heavily swamped by the industrial vote in the south.
The other day I happened to see on "Panorama", the well-known B.B.C. feature, a film of this subject, prepared with their usual skill, taking a rural area which is supposed to be one which would wish to remain dry and an industrial area which is supposed to want 1322 to have a change. It was a good film, but it rather tended to imply that no one in the rural area would want to change and that the industrial area would be almost unanimously in favour. Now this small and ancient town taken for the rural area was the town of Llandovery, in Carmarthenshire, which I know very well as it is only twelve miles from where I live. It is a very pleasant little town. I do not think this has anything to do with the Bill, but some years ago on a Sunday afternoon I was motoring through the town and about a mile and a half on the London side there was a farmhouse blazing merrily. A man jumped out into the road waving his coat and said he was one of the firemen—would I take him into town? We put him in with the luggage in the back, with him saying that he hoped it was all right because he had a dozen eggs in his pocket. We got to the town and waited to see how long, at 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, the fire engine would take to get away. In fact it was extremely good: it got away in four minutes, from a town where the streets were completely deserted on a quiet Sunday afternoon. That is Llandovery, quite up to date.
What the people are a little afraid of—and I think we have to take this chance, to a certain extent—is the very point made by the noble Lord who has just spoken. That is what is called the mystery tour; not the advertised tour stating specific public houses to which they are going but the mystery tour on Sunday afternoon, where the people get in without knowing where they are being taken. They do come to Llandovery now, but up to the moment they cannot get a drink. People are afraid that the peace of the town may be disturbed.
We are being told all the time about the Welsh way of life. I am not quite sure what the Welsh way of life still is. It used to be very much the small isolated community, either village or farm, very much in the hills, possibly only monoglot Welsh-speaking; but that is being killed very fast by radio and television and (I say this not in any antisocial sense) by the raising of the school age. The more the school age is raised the faster will the old Welsh way of life disappear. The children are brought more into contact with the world. It 1323 may be sad that it is so, but it is undoubtedly the fact. I would make this plea, that the radio and television and schools are the very agents which can be used to raise the standards of general behaviour; and the fact that some people misbehave or have bad manners at the present time is not necessarily an argument for saying that nobody may open a public house on Sunday. Thirty or forty years ago, when baths were being put into houses—what are council houses now—it was always the joke that they found them very useful for keeping the coals in; and undoubtedly quite a number did have coals in them. But the next generation used them as baths, and that is the point I want to emphasise; that many educative factors can be used to improve manners, and thus obviate the fears of those who fear that the Sunday peace is going to be shattered.
By and large, I am quite sure that individual liberty—not licence, but liberty—must be the hallmark of an educated democracy. I would almost say that it has come. The country town in Wales to-day on market day is a very different place from the market town of my boyhood of 50 years ago. I have not seen a drunk man in the streets for a long time. I believe that occasionally on a Saturday night, when I may not be about, there are the odd one or two, but it is nothing to what it used to be in the old days; a very vast change has come over the scene. I do hope that we can reconcile these interests and that the temperance and teetotal movement will accept the change, if Parliament approves it, in a kindly and tolerant spirit.
I live in West Wales, and perhaps I might end on a personal note. My own mother was a very ardent teetotaller. I think that in all the 82 years she lived no drop of wine ever passed her lips. She died held in a revered affection in that part of the world (I think I may say so with a humble pride) that is unlikely ever to be reached again in this material age. She taught us, or tried to teach us, the value of teetotalism. I draw a distinction between temperance and teetotalism. But when her family decided they would not be teetotallers she accepted the situation; she had done the great work in teaching us, I hope, not 1324 to get drunk. I do not think I have ever exceeded more than once in my life; and that was when I was very young and a soldier. She was a very good churchwoman. I do not think there is anything in the Christian faith which argues against the drinking of wine. What I think the Christian faith teaches is moderation and toleration and kindness, and I very much hope that should this Bill pass, as I hope it will, it will be received in a kind spirit and everybody will try to make it work in the best possible way and consistent with a nation of grown-up people.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, who has just addressed your Lordships in a warm, wise and kindly speech, I warmly welcome this Bill. I congratulate the Home Secretary on the extent to which he has resisted pressures brought on him to change important parts of the Bill: notably Part III, dealing with the registration of clubs, and the part, which was the major subject of Lord Dynevor's discourse, dealing with the question of holding local polls to determine whether there should be Sunday opening of public houses in Wales. I have the greatest respect for advocates of temperance and even for total abstainers—though I must confess I am somewhat puzzled by their acute dislike for something they have never tasted. cannot understand how you can get passionate in that way about something you have never experienced. But I do indeed very genuinely respect their views. I do so to such an extent that I think it would be impertinent of me to venture a view on a question which should, in my submission, quite properly be decided locally.
It may well be, as the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, said, that out of the seventeen local options eight may opt for a "wet" Sunday and nine may opt for a "dry". If that is so, then I would say that it would finally and for ever destroy any kind of case there may be against the Government's coming along and saying, "We must be sensible about this thing and have opening of public houses all over Wales". I must say that I should be very much more impressed by the opponents of Sunday opening if in the years gone by they had been equally passionate against the evils of 1325 Sunday drink in Wales's 1,400 clubs. I understand that, although less than half the population of Wales are members of these clubs, one tenth of all the alcohol consumed in Wales is consumed on Sundays, which is not bad going for a drinkless day. I think I will leave it at that.
The provisions for restaurants and residential licences are, in my view, wholly admirable and the safeguards appear adequate to guard against abuse. We shall he free at last, I hope, of the stupid frustrations and anomalies which respectable people find so humiliating and our foreign visitors so bewildering. The changes and simplifications of the licensing hours are also most welcome, though I think that in one respect the Bill does go too far. That is in making the permitted hours for off-licences from 8.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.—11 o'clock in London. That is a 14 or 14½-hour day, and if you add another hour for dealing with straightening up the shop accounts and all that, it could mean a 16-hour day.
The noble and learned Viscount was careful to point out that these are permitted hours; that the trade has been consulted, and they do not think it is going to lead to an extension of hours, but I am very anxious about that. We are all familiar with the kind of off-licence in a small town or suburb run by a man and his wife with, say, a boy for deliveries—that is the entire staff. I should be grateful if the noble Earl who is to reply would tell me whether the Government are satisfied that there will be no infringement of the Catering Wages Act—whether there will not, in fact, he sweated labour of the worst kind? There are no figures in the Bill, but unless there is a satisfactory reply on this point we may have to introduce Amendments in Committee to deal with it.
I would say to the noble and learned Viscount it is all very well to say there will not be some very thirsty soul at half-past-eight in the morning rapping at the door of the licensee and saying, "I have a legal right to be served with liquor off the premises". What does the poor licence-holder do in these circumstances. He will, in fact, be legally on call, legally liable to sell for 14½ hours a day; and while I agree that it is a good thing to be free of this sort of stupidity 1326 I am, none the less, extremely anxious about the working conditions which may be imposed on these people. I shall be grateful if the noble Earl will try to tell us something about these safeguards.
I should also be glad of clarification regarding the right of entry of a constable to premises which have a restaurant or residential licence under this Bill. If a police officer suspects any infringement of the conditions of the licence, can he enter these premises on production of his warrant card? I hope so, because if any more elaborate procedure is necessary (and I would emphasise that I am only talking about guest houses and restaurants that have a licence), if anything else has to be drawn up, it will make it extremely difficult to weed out the minority which by abusing the conditions of the licence will foster the very excesses which we hope this Bill will prevent.
For these reasons, my Lords, I deplore the Government's decision to insist on a search warrant based on information on oath before the police can enter a club. Except for Parliamentary privilege I am against privilege of any kind, and this Bill in relation to clubs does continue privilege. Unfortunately, from my point of view, the greatest privilege in the courts is given to working men's clubs. I was glad to hear my noble friend deplore the kind of things which go on in working men's clubs with youngsters there—quite young—drinking, and I much regret that in another place the Home Secretary did to some extent give way to my right honourable and honourable friends who made submissions to him on these matters. I think the law regarding clubs should apply to all clubs. There should be no privilege, whether it be for the most expensive club in the country or a working men's club. I deeply deplore this half-heartedness about letting the police go in.
The noble and learned Viscount referred to the debate of June 1 last year and I want to say how extremely grateful I am to the Government for so fully meeting the case we made with regard to the need for registration and the rights of objection to renewal or granting of club licences. The Home Secretary has indeed wholly met the case we made in that debate, and I believe that he has made a courageous and very successful attempt to discriminate between 1327 genuinely, honestly conducted clubs and drinking dens, which are a hotbed of vice and crime.
But then, it seems, his courage failed him for he has still placed handicaps on the police. Unless in Committee we get rid of these handicaps we shall have a continuance of the kind of expensive farce reported last week in respect of the Casanova Club, in Grosvenor Street, where two police officers spent two nights and nearly £115 in collecting evidence to the effect that drinks were sold after 2.30 p.m. or up to 3 a.m. Incidentally that would be quite legal under the Bill—but they will serve drinks up to 4 o'clock or 5 in the morning and that will be illegal. The magistrate said, and I agree, that this expense of nearly £115 had to be incurred to get evidence of drinks served after hours, but he imposed a fine of only £30. We, as taxpayers, were out of pocket as a result of that deal. What possible justification can there be for continuing that kind of nonsense?
No one suggests that if the police were given wider powers they would abuse them to the detriment of genuine clubs. Indeed, now that we are, with general approval, liberalising the licensing laws there is more need to deal stringently with those who still insist on breaking a generous law. I should have thought that that was self-evident to most, and that this view would not be opposed. I wish to give notice that I intend—I hope with support of other Lords—to move an Amendment in the hope of giving the police wider rights of entry into suspect clubs.
§ LORD WILLIAMS OF BARNBURGH
My Lords, does the noble Lord mean merely suspect clubs? For the police have no measure of easy entry into a normal working men's club registered under the Friendly Society's Act.
§ LORD STONHAM
I adhere strictly to what I said: that there should be no privilege in these matters. But I do not want to deal with this very point in detail. Perhaps I could put it in the other way. The police should have the right of entry into a club where they suspect that there is infringement of the licence. Perhaps in Committee I can deal with the point in much greater detail.
1328 I am not quite clear, however, on one or two points about the rights of police officers in this matter. The Lord Chancellor pointed to the fact that subsection (9) of Clause 22 lays down that in the absence of objections the courts can make certain presumptions in the club's favour; that, in Parliamentary language, means that most of them will be registered "on the nod". If, broadly speaking, their rules are in accord with the Fifth Schedule, they will have no trouble at all. And then he referred to the provisions for objections by the police or the local authority. But Clause 27 appears to give the police and the officer of the local authority power to inspect premises in respect of which a club has made application for registration. That means, as I see it, any club, existing or new.
On the third reading in another place, however, Mr. Vosper said [OFFICIAL REPORT. Commons, Vol. 642 (No. 131), col. 1561]:Police inspection, always limited to the first inspection before registration, is now to be limited to new clubs where special need arises.I should like clarification of that statement, because I cannot see it in the Bill and I cannot understand where that limitation arises.
I should like to know: is it intended that that limitation shall apply to the officer of a local authority or to the officer of a fire authority? In any case it is a deplorable restriction; because, leaving aside the vicious purposes for which they are used, the premises of many of these clubs I instanced last year are entirely unsuitable—and, indeed, dangerous. Are they to be given automatic registration simply because they have adopted a set of rules—just a printed piece of paper which, in relation to these clubs, may be absolutely meaningless and entirely bogus? If that is so, then we shall be risking a great many Boltons.
I am sorry to ask so many questions, but if these points can be clarified to-day it may avoid at least the necessity of raising them later. If the noble Earl cannot answer me this evening perhaps he will write to me. I had hoped that when the Home Secretary accepted our views there would be an inspection on first registration, and that, as the noble Earl nods his head, that has not been 1329 altered, and that there would have been in any case inspection of any new clubs. I hope also that there will be a right of entry.
I naturally regret, as did my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that in dealing with undesirable drinking clubs we are not dealing with the equally vicious non-alcoholic clubs and cafés which abound in London and in other large towns, and I hope we shall have an opportunity of dealing with them in other legislation. Meanwhile, I would submit that special consideration should be given administratively to the night life of London. I say "administratively", because it is wholly desirable that we should not try to overload the Statutes if it can be done in that way. I want to make one or two suggestions in regard to things that could be done —I hope at a later stage of the Bill we shall be told whether they can be done—which would stop up the many loopholes which exist, because these people are so wealthy and are making so much money that they can quite cheerfully afford to pay the fines and other expenses which they incur because of their misdemeanours.
I do not want to discourage the night life of London or of any other city, but to improve conditions so that a fair standard may be set for both owner and user of night clubs and restaurants, and so that the night life is not directed further underground and swept under the carpet. At the moment, I think the standard in the West End is low and is deteriorating. In fact, it is a disgrace compared with what it was twenty years ago. Much more thought should be given to the important difference between the proprietary club and a members' club. The law here, and this Bill here, is all right, if you obey it; but if not, the law is worthless. If the lawbreaking clubs are raided and fined, the club continues next day perhaps under a nominal new proprietor or a new name. It seems that some of them are members' clubs when it suits the proprietor; otherwise, when it does not, they are not.
I submit that it should be possible to ensure that all night clubs are genuine members' clubs. One important way to deal with this is through the wine committee. I know that there are provisions 1330 in the Bill in regard to this particular committee, but I do not think those provisions are strong enough in their actual application. I think we should have a proviso that there should be a minimum quorum of the members of a wine committee who had to attend a monthly meeting and in fact had to sign that they had so attended; that the names of the wine committee should be sent to the licensing authority, and that they should certify that takings had been deposited in a separate bank account each month; otherwise, I do not, for the life of me, see how you are going to be really sure, as the Bill demands that you should be sure, that the outside person, the proprietor, has no interest or no profit from the sale of drink, as the Bill requires.
There are several well-known so-called night clubs which are not clubs at all; they merely allow their customers to assume that they are clubs, but in fact they are public restaurants. For example, the Stork Club in Swallow Street and Churchill's in Bond Street are both proprietary establishments. The so-called members pay £1 a piece immediately they go in, and they assume that they are paying for the privileges of membership. All they are paying for is for some literature to be sent to them. For this they have paid£1. Many more of these so-called clubs will be following that course of action when this Bill becomes law, because it will suit them much better to become night restaurants.
This type of night restaurant often remains open until 4 o'clock in the morning. They flourish principally in the West End, because they have a large number of hostesses. Some places have as many as 50 hostesses; they are blatant and obvious bordels. If the girls are not co-operative—that is, willing to go home with the customers—they are not employed. I would suggest two administrative steps which would deal with this. If the girls are hostesses, they are employees. I should like to know from the noble Earl whether the Ministry of National Insurance has checked up to see whether they have insurance cards. Many of these hostesses are foreign girls. I should like to know whether the Ministry of Labour checks up to see whether they have labour permits, which they must have on entry into this 1331 country, or at least which they must have if they are going to be employed in a factory or such employment as that. I see no reason why both steps should not be taken to ensure that this type of night establishment runs a legitimate business; and I suggest that the number of hostesses employed on its premises should be limited not to 50 but to half a dozen.
I think that all those points should be looked into if the Government really intend that the conditions of the licence should be observed. There are clubs which genuinely employ hostesses, and they are strictly run and controlled. I ask the question, why not all of them? I think, too, that the landlord could be the Achilles heel in these rackets. If he knew that his premises would be disqualified and that he would be regarded as equally guilty, he would see that they were properly conducted. I remember the old Silver Slipper premises. After many offences they were completely disqualified, and now they are a shoe warehouse with a glass dance floor.
Some of the landlords, particularly ground landlords, are eminently respectable people and organisations. Even the Crown has an interest in property which is used for dubious purposes. In many cases the owners of the buildings which house the night clubs, the near-beer and strip clubs, are eminently respectable people; but when one of their tenants is raided and fined I feel that the onus of responsibility should in some measure thereafter fall on them. There are clubs which have been raided over and over again, and those concerned found guilty, but they have reopened under the same management, but with a different name. Rarely does one hear of the landlord taking action. I think this is perhaps because, in many cases, the rent raised is considerably higher than it would be if the premises were properly conducted. I feel that the obligation of the landlord should not be shelved simply by the excuse that he does not know what is going on. He does, or ought to know.
Then, in regard to the strip clubs, so far there have been few prosecutions of the performers who give indecent performances. Prostitutes were cleared from the streets by the Street Offences 1332 Act. They were cleared overnight by the threat of imprisonment on a second conviction. If that was considered right by the Government, I see no reason why similar action should not be taken with regard to the performers in, and the producers and proprietors of, these horrible shows. So long as the owners can get away with heavy fines and no other penalties, such performances will continue.
I notice that the near-beer establishments are outside the scope of the Bill, but they are not beyond the scope of immediate action. The police are doing their best in the matter. They have actually stationed policemen outside these places telling people not to go in; but they still go in. I think it should be compulsory that there should be notices outside these places stating the prices of the drinks and all the particulars. I think it should be enacted, also, that the girls who work in them should register with the police; and that, if they are under 21, they should have written permission from their parents to work in those establishments. I think it can be said that the only thing of which the owners of these night clubs, night restaurants and strip clubs are afraid is a term of imprisonment. They will always pay the fines, but when once a well-known owner has been sent to prison there will be a much greater respect for the law as it applies to these places. When these people are in trouble they employ good legal advice and invariably good counsel, but the cost to them, in their own language, is "only money". But when the penalty of conviction is imprisonment, it is no longer "only money": it is something which really hits them, because, although they make their money in the dirty way, they are otherwise frequently ultra-respectable.
I hope, my Lords, that these points will be considered by the noble Earl, and that he will take such advice as he can and give them further consideration, because this Bill is, I think, one of the best measures of its kind that we have had for a very long time. I think it is going to do a very great deal of good; but it will do far more if it is administered with determination and if the administrative loopholes are tightened up in the manner that I have suggested.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, whatever views may be held for or against this Bill, one thing is quite certain: that is, that it cuts right across Party lines. I feel certain in my own mind that if one were to hold a referendum of twenty persons in the bar of the Ritz and twenty persons on the shop floor of the Ford Motor Works at Dagenham, one would probably get approximately the same views regarding the Bill, and certainly regarding the question whether one should drink or not. The noble and learned Viscount has given a most lucid exposition of the Bill. It is complicated, but it has a great many good points. There are certain reservations which I think we must all have, but the subject of licensing is necessarily one which will cause a great deal of varied opinion.
I should like to say just one or two words about young persons as mentioned in this Bill. I think it is true to say that, on the whole, there is less drunkenness among young people to-day than there was perhaps fifty years ago. When I started my National Service only 16 years ago there were very few teetotallers in my regiment. I am informed by young friends of mine who have done or who are doing their National Service that to-day the staple drink is milk, and sometimes Coca-Cola or orangeade, and that, in fact, very little or comparatively little alcoholic liquor is consumed. Therefore, I wonder whether this proposal to make it an offence for children of 16 and under to visa an off-licence and obtain alcoholic refreshment is quite feasible.
As I see it, it will be extremely difficult to administer. To-day, children grow up and mature a great deal more quickly than they used to; and if a strapping lad of five feet ten, who may be only 15, goes into an off-licence and gets a bottle of beer, a bottle of wine or a bottle of whisky, the salesman behind the counter, whoever it is, is going to be in a difficult position even though, in the clause, the word "knowingly" is incorporated. But, as has already been pointed out, these selfsame young people can be supplied with a drink in a club. I am not contesting the ethics of banning children under 16 from off-licences, and I am extremely glad to see the increased penalties, both to the consumer and to the landlord of 1334 a public house who supplies young children knowingly with alcoholic drink. That, I think, is a very good proposal.
That brings me on to Clause 20, the clause dealing with liqueur chocolates. To my mind—this is only a personal opinion — this particular kind of chocolate is most unappetising anyhow, and I do not really think that many children "go" for these chocolates to any extent. Under the Bill, as I understand it, these chocolates will no longer be liable for Excise duty provided that the terms of the Bill are complied with. But if the object of this proposal is to prevent young children from consuming more alcohol than is good for them, what about other types of confectionery, like rum toffee or brandy balls or, in a restaurant, a trifle with sherry in it? After all, it could be argued—it may be a facetious argument at this late hour, but it could be argued—that these, too, could have adverse effects on children. I should have thought that a child who ate half a dozen liqueur chocolates containing cherry brandy, or créme-dementhe or whatever it was would be so violently sick after consuming them that he would not have the opportunity of becoming drunk. So, personally, I cannot see any real merit in this clause.
Now I come to the question of the 10.30 p.m. closing time on a Sunday. I am well acquainted with one well-known South Coast resort, Eastbourne, which has quite a busy trade in both summer and winter. It is perhaps fair to say that Eastbourne would benefit by a 10.30 p.m. closing time on a Sunday, because the population there is growing: factories are being set up, and there is quite a lot of trade other than seasonal trade. But I do not think the same could be said of, perhaps, Littlehampton, or even Bognor, which have not such an active winter trade. I feel that the local justices should be given more discretion there; that it should not be made obligatory that, on a cold, raw, December night, a publican has to remain open. After all, as has been pointed out, publicans are family men. There may be a man and his wife running the pub. I am all for the consumer to receive service, and for demand to be supplied wherever possible, but I hope that the Government will look into this matter between now and the next stage of the Bill.
1335 The proposed new legislation regarding the motorways will, I think, be very welcome. I do not adhere to the view that drinking necessarily makes a driver incapable. Indeed, I am very glad to see that bona fide restaurants who supply a bona fide meal are to be given more licence under this Bill. If it were possible to administer, which I am sure it is not, I think it would be a good thing for anyone going to a pub and having a glass of beer or spirits to have food with it, because more accidents are caused through people having consumed perhaps three or four gins or whiskies and having no food in their stomachs, than where someone has had a four-course dinner and then perhaps taken two whiskies or four glasses of claret. So in so far as the eating houses are being, as it were, liberalised, these proposals are very welcome. My Lords, the hour is late and the Committee stage of this Bill is, I think, bound to be quite long, so I will close my remarks by saying that I think this is a welcome Bill. It has been drawn up with imagination and courage, and I think it thoroughly deserves a Second Reading.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I think that those of your Lordships who are still here will agree that this has been a most valuable debate and a comprehensive one. I would say that every single aspect of this Bill has been fully discussed, though not necessarily with complete agreement. At any rate, I doubt whether anything has been overlooked. Indeed, it has been discussed in some respects in such detail as almost to have made the debate look like the Committee stage of the Bill. I propose, in, I hope, a short speech, to try to review the position which has been put forward by noble Lords, and to see how far we are in general agreement and how far we are in disagreement.
I think that the Government were justified in introducing this Bill on the grounds which the noble and learned Viscount gave: first of all, that a revision of social legislation was desirable, and it was part of the Government's programme to carry that through; that, in particular, we were virtually operating under an out-of-date Act, the Licensing Act of 1921; and 1336 that a great many trivial absurdities (as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, described them) had grown up under the 1921 Act. However, I would doubt whether, in the order of priorities, it was right to have introduced this Bill at this time. When we find that we have so many measures which are not able to be brought to fruition through lack of time, I wonder whether this Bill would rank high in the order of priorities. If we are to throw over the Road Traffic Bill, would your Lordships say that this Bill is more important than the Road Traffic Bill? I should have thought that no one could seriously suggest that we ought to pass this measure in preference to the Road Traffic Bill, in which so many lives may be involved. However, we have this Bill before us, and having said that I should like to put forward first my own approach to the question of restriction.
Everybody to-day accepts the fact that some restriction is necessary. I would say that prima facie it is wrong to restrict anybody in what is, after all, a personal matter—the amount of alcohol that one consumes. It is justified only on the same grounds as one justifies town planning: that is, that it is necessary to control development in the interests of the community, in the case of town planning, and it has been found necessary to control the consumption of drink, in the case of alcohol. We have to hold a balance between too much restriction, which would be an interference with the liberty of the person, and too much licence, where considerable injury might be done to the community through excess of drinking.
The first question one would like to ask oneself is this. What is to be the effect of this Bill on that question? Are we maintaining the right balance? There is no doubt that the effect of this Bill will be to increase the consumption of alcohol; there can be no doubt about that. There would be no point in the various alleviations which are taking place unless the net result of it all was to increase the consumption of alcohol throughout the country. The new licence for the sale of alcohol in restaurants and residential establishments will provide alcohol for people who, in the ordinary way, would not be able to get it with their meals. The licensing of restaurants in roadhouses, or in places 1337 where lorry drivers have their meals, will undoubtedly mean that a number of lorry drivers who at present go without alcohol at midday will be in a position to consume it. I am not going into the question of the self-service restaurants, but at any rate a number of these will be securing licences, and again drinking will take place at midday during working time when otherwise it would not.
We are extending the daily hours for drinking. Surely the effect of that—and the intentional effect of it—is to increase the consumption of alcohol. We are extending, or are proposing to by undertakings which have been given in the other place on Report stage, the special hours certificates so that they may apply throughout the country, and so that the obligation to provide dancing as well as music will no longer be necessary. That again is an extension of the facilities for drinking which will no doubt be taken up. We are providing the extra "drinking up" time of ten minutes, which again I suggest will increase the consumption. I can find many other instances where this Bill will tend to increase the consumption of alcohol.
The question one asks onself—and I have asked myself this question from time to time in considering this measure—is this: Is it a desirable thing at this time? There is always this conflict between the desire not to interfere unduly with the freedom of the individual, and the necessity, in these days of fast motor cars and increasing road casualties, of ensuring that nothing is done which is likely to increase this danger.
In connection with this, I have looked up the accident rates and in particular the number of convictions for drunkenness in the last few years. I find that in 1913, before the substantial restrictions imposed by the 1921 Act, the number of convictions for drunkenness amounted to something approaching 200,000. In 1938, the number was of the order of 52,000. After the war, it was roughly the same number. But since 1947–48, the number has been steadily increasing. Last year, it was something like 65,000. I have the exact figures but I have mislaid them—I am sure that the noble Earl will take it from me that it is roughly so. That is to say, year after year, and particularly since the advent of the Conservative 1338 Government, convictions for drunkenness have steadily increased. I am not suggesting any relation between the two, but it is a fact that last year the convictions for drunkenness were something like 25 per cent. higher than they were in 1948–49. I would submit that that is a significant fact in considering whether this is the appropriate time to increase the facilities for drinking and, ipso facto, the amount of drunkenness.
I do not propose to weary your Lordships with figures, but it is also the fact that the number of road accidents has been steadily increasing. I do not suggest for a moment that all these are the result of increased drinking, but I do suggest that a good many of them are, and I do not accept in their entirety the figures that are given by the police of the number of accidents caused by drunkenness. I think that the police figures very seriously underrate the influence of drink on accidents. I think we all have had the experience of what I call "mad" people on the road, driving at a colossal speed or trying to get past when there is no fair opportunity to get through, who are obviously driving under the influence of drink, even if they are not necessarily drunk. I think that that is increasing.
So I ask myself: is this the time to increase these facilities? And I think that the Government ought to ask themselves the same question. I do not pretend that there is a complete answer. We can all give our own answers, according to how we value the liberty of the subject, the desire not to interfere unduly with this freedom and the desire to give people legitimate satisfaction about getting drinks with their meals. I see nothing wrong with it. Like almost every noble Lord who has spoken, I regard myself as fairly temperate. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, I have never been drunk, but I think that there has never been a time in my life when I have not had drink. It is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, and here I must disagree fundamentally with the point of view of some noble Lords and of a good many temperance people, who not only abstain from drink themselves but also want to make it difficult, if not impossible, for others to drink. That, I think, is completely wrong. People who want to abstain are perfectly free to abstain
1339 So, as I see it, it is a question of balance. The Times, in the leading article to which reference has already been made, thinks that the Bill goes too far in the direction of restriction. Others take the view that it does not go far enough. So I suppose that the Government could legitimately claim that, on balance, they are about right. If I accept the Bill in principle, I am bound to say that I do so with some apprehension that we may be opening the door a little wider than we should and thereby shall be increasing the amount of intemperance.
I do not want to go into any details of the Bill. We shall have ample opportunity on Committee. But I should like to say one word about the position of Wales, because nearly every speaker has done so, and, unlike some of them, I know Wales very well. I agree with those noble Lords who take the view that the position in Wales has fundamentally changed since the days when clubs were first introduced. I knew Wales many years ago, when the general occupation on a Sunday was for a number of working men to get together in the station waiting room and sing hymns and songs. I remember, particularly, the little town of Pontardulais, Neath, that I used to visit regularly, where this was the normal Sunday after-lunch occupation. Well, we do not get that to-day. The working men go to the club. As has been pointed out by the noble Lords, Lord Dynevor and Lord Ogmore, 10 per cent. of the total consumption of alcohol in Wales takes place in these clubs on that day. Therefore, some action must be taken in the interests of betting some kind of sense under the law as it is.
The question is: what is to be done? Should we permit complete freedom to open public-houses in Wales? I would have said, Yes. I would have said that this is a matter which Parliament should decide, but the present law has been the law for so many generations that I think it would be a mistake for the Government to decide this without some form of consultation with the Welsh people. So the question arises: what is the right form of consultation? The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, suggested that the Welsh people as a whole should be consulted and that sounds very attractive, but the difficulty of that—and I think we must 1340 face it—is that if the Welsh people as a whole decide, we shall probably get industrial areas, which constitute a limited part of Wales—Swansea, Cardiff, Merthyr, and Newport—deciding the fate of the rest of Wales. I believe that that would be undesirable.
§ LORD OGMORE
Is that not the case in everything, and not only in licensing? In a democracy the majority has the say. Why should licensing be different from everything else?
§ LORD OGMORE
On a question of fact, this is exactly what happened before. They did not have a local option to decide whether part of Wales should have no licensing on Sunday, but Parliament decided for the whole of Wales as one entity.
§ LORD SILKIN
Nevertheless, on a matter of this kind, which affects the way of life of large areas of Wales, I still think it is wrong that Cardiff, which is perfectly entitled to settle what way it is going to have for itself, should also settle the way of life of Llandrindod Wells or Llandovery. It is a matter of how one feels about these things, but I should feel resentful if I were a citizen of Llandovery and the kind of life I was going to lead was settled for me by Cardiff. But let me concede at once that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has a good deal of logic on his side. I find it difficult to resist the logic of what he says, and yet somehow I think it would be more decent to allow each of these areas, if we are to have a poll at all, to decide its own way of life.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
In every one of the seventeen areas there are large blocks of population which will decide for those areas.
§ LORD SILKIN
My noble friend is saying merely that in all these things there is a balance. You have to have something. If my noble friend had his way, he would prevent everybody from having a drink on a Sunday.
§ LORD MACDONALD of GWAENYSGOR
That is entirely wrong. My criticism of the position is this. I think the present facilities for drink in this country are adequate to meet the need, and I am against increasing them. I am not against sufficient facilities to meet the demand, but I am against increasing the present facilities, because I think they do meet the demand.
§ LORD SILKIN
I was not speaking of the general position. I do not think we are in disagreement about the general situation throughout the country. I thought we were discussing Wales. I still say that if my noble friend had his way there would be no drinking at all on Sunday in Wales. That, I think, is as much an interference with the freedom of the individual as the other way round, and perhaps even more so. After all, nobody is compelled to go into a public house to drink. So long as the public houses are conducted in an orderly way, there is no reason why there should be undue interference with the peace and quiet of other people. Of course, a good deal of difficulty arises from the anomalies in Sunday opening.
That brings me to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, who made such a masterly maiden speech: that we ought seriously to consider this question of uniformity, at any rate over a wide area. The fact of having closing hours at 10.30 in some places and 11 o'clock in others undoubtedly creates problems. It would create problems in Wales, of course, as well as everywhere else if there were either different hours of closing, or areas of complete closure and other areas where the licensed premises were open. There is no perfect solution to all this. All I can say again is that we have to find some kind of reasonable balance and do the best that we can in the circumstances.
I want to conclude by discussing the future progress of this Bill. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading, but my noble friends will decide for themselves what course they take. On the assumption that the Bill does get a Second Reading, I want to make a strong plea for the fullest possible consideration of the Bill in Committee. Noble Lords on both 1342 sides have raised vital questions which require full consideration. I would strongly urge upon the Government that in their desire to get this Bill through before the end of the Session they should not skimp it. Noble Lords in all parts of the House should have full opportunity not only of putting down Amendments, but of debating them and getting proper consideration for them.
In another place a number of my friends paid tribute to the Government on this Bill for the way in which they had handled it throughout: for the full consideration which has been given to Amendments from all parts of the Committee in the other place; for the way in which those Amendments had been met in many cases, and generally for the satisfactory Committee stage that they had had. I hope that before this Bill leaves this House we shall be able to say the same thing here. But I fear that the timetable is very tight, and I doubt very much whether, if we are to pass all the other measures which are coming before us, and which have already reached this House but have not yet been considered, it will be possible to get this Bill through satisfactorily before the time when we hope that this House may adjourn for the Summer Recess. In that case, let me say that I should not be distressed if the Bill met with the same fate for this Session as the Road Traffic Bill, the Weights and Measures Bill and even the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, which he hoped was going to live to fight another day.
§ LORD SILKIN
As I said in that case, it would be in good company. The time that will have been given to this measure will not have been wasted. It will give the Government further time for consideration and time to make quite sure that they are justified in extending these facilities for drink. We can then start this Bill afresh in a new Session, prepared to give it all the time that may be necessary. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to this suggestion of not trying to rush this Bill through, and of not stampeding all Amendments, as sometimes happens, because, as they say, of the desire to get a Bill through before the end of a Session. It is far better to postpone it 1343 than to have an unsatisfactory Bill. Subject to that, I think the House might well give the Bill a Second Reading, and I am sure the Government have every reason to feel that this debate has been most helpful from all quarters of the House.
§ 7.20 p.m.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for the statesmanlike and charming way in which he always winds up a long debate in your Lordships' House and ties all the ends together. I am particularly grateful to him, in speaking on behalf of many noble Lords on his side of the House, for the friendly way in which he received the Bill, and for the kind comments that he made about my right honourable friends in another place where this Bill received so much discussion by the Members there.
I have no set speech to put before your Lordships this evening. I have listened to every word that has been said. I know that the way in which my right honourable friend set about the initiation of this Bill in another place was that we wanted to receive the views and ideas of Members of both Houses. I especially took note of what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said with regard to the Committee stage. My right honourable friend himself has a number of Amendments which my noble and learned friend who sits upon the Woolsack will be moving. Many of those Amendments will go a long way towards meeting views that have already been expressed, both in your Lordships' House and by Members in another place. Nevertheless, we must remember, as the noble Lord opposite has said, that your Lordships should have a fair and reasonable say in how such a Bill as this, which affects so many people throughout the country, should be amended.
My Lords, may I ask one very important question for those of us who are going to put Amendments down? Will the Government look at our Amendments from an objective point of view on their merits, or shall we be told, as we usually are at this stage of the Session, that, good though our Amendments are, if they are accepted the Government will lose the Bill?
That is exactly the point I was about to come to. The noble Lord obviously cannot expect me to say that every single Amendment which is brought forward will be looked at and put into operation. But I assure noble Lords that everything that has been said to-day, and everything that is put down in Amendments, will be considered. Nevertheless, it would be wrong if I did not mention the state of affairs which exists at this time of the Session, when legislation is so crowded. We have already had debates about this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Viscount had some very certain comments to make upon the position. But I assure your Lordships that every thing that has been said to-night will be looked into.
I find that there are definite subjects, in the scope of this Bill, which have occupied noble Lords this evening. The first was the question of clubs, which almost every one of your Lordships has mentioned. On the one side there is the genuine social club and on the other side the completely different, bogus, drinking club. There is the question of young people in clubs, the "strip" clubs and the near-beer clubs. In the course of my remarks, I hope that I shall show how I believe the Bill will "bite" on all those forms of club. With regard to the very technical points which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, raised, I will certainly write to him at a later date.
There is the school of thought which would like to ban drinking altogether. Here I must pay tribute to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, put forward his views—as always, fearlessly, and with great charm and ability, which we know is always his whenever he addresses your Lordships' House. I, too, go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and my noble friend Lord Dynevor, in respecting the views which the noble Lord has put forward. I congratulate him and his friends in another place on the way in which they have put forward their views. That is on the one side. On the other side, there are those who say that there should be no drinking laws at all; that we should let it go the way that the Continent has managed its drinking affairs. It has been of great interest, in spite of the articles in the Press this morning, that not one of your Lordships 1345 has put forward that view—in fact very much the opposite. It seems that most of your Lordships would rather meet the reasonable people's needs, and that means there must be some form of restriction. I was particularly struck by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when he said that most of us in this country have to "clock on" on Monday morning. I think that is probably the underlying reason for the licensing laws of this country as they have existed for the last 50 years. There are doubts about the Part I restaurants, and I shall come to that.
We also have the question of uniformity of hours: whether Wales should have opening hours at all on Sunday and whether there should be uniformity of the closing hours in the evenings in England and Wales. We have heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, who has had to leave us, in his really remarkable maiden speech, that in Scotland they have decided that they wish to have uniformity of hours. Those are the findings of the Committee that the noble and learned Lord has reported only recently. My right honourable friend, and my noble friend the Minister of State for Scotland (who is not with us just now) will be examining those proposals. In the Scottish Office they will be finding out how much of the English Bill can be used in Scotland and how much will be needed to be taken from outside the English Bill—in other words, from the noble and learned Lord's Committee.
My noble friend Lord Boston—again in a most welcome maiden speech, of the type your Lordships hope that we shall have repeated many times in the future—also spoke about the uniformity of hours, and I shall be dealing in a moment or two with the particular points that he raised. I want to congratulate both noble Lords, and I hope that we shall hear them many times in the future.
The point which occupied a lot of the time this afternoon was the question of drinking in clubs on Sundays in Wales, drinking in the public houses on Sundays in Wales, or no drink at all in Wales—which would be the wishes and the views of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who most courteously told me that he was sorry he had to leave to catch a train. The question is: how far can we go to one side or the other of the 1346 extremes which I have just mentioned? This Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, is quite obviously endeavouring to do its best to find a balance—to find what the reasonable man wants. We believe that this Bill embodies what is right for the reasonable man for his drinking. It does not go too far to one side, and yet it does not go too far to the other.
At the same time, we must take note—and we do—of the minority view of such bodies of opinion as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, has described to us. We must, however, make quite certain that we are not "bossed about" by those minorities, and I do not believe that the reasonable man in this country wishes to be "bossed about" by the minorities as, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, as a self-appointed public relations officer of the man in the public bar, has said. I have no doubt it is exactly the same in the Savoy bar. The noble Lord will find that in the very near future it may not be quite so difficult to get a drink, whether it be sitting down or whether it be standing up, provided that it is at a reputable establishment, and provided that it is within the hours specified. I think in fact, most obviously, the main object of the Bill is to give this small latitude for extra drinking time.
Much has been made, by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin in particular, of extending this amount of drinking time and of the amount of extra drink that will be taken. I wonder if this is really so. It is a very modest extension: half an hour in the provinces, and the possibility of another half hour should the licensing magistrates consider that conditions and the trade in the public houses concerned warrant it; half an hour extra in the London area, but no later closing time. I do not think so very much extra drink will get taken in the course of that modest extension of another half hour on Sunday.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I do not think the noble Earl should be quite so confident of that when we consider the figures of casualties on the road on those particular nights when the hours are extended, and which I specifically referred to. I cannot see the basis of the noble Earl's confidence.
I thoroughly agree that the road casualties—and I was coming to that point just at that moment—are most disquieting. I personally do not believe, and do not think it can be satisfactorily proved with certainty, that it is, in fact, alcoholic consumption that is increasing those road casualties. Noble Lords do have their points of view, and all points of view should be respected. But when one thinks of the increasing number of cars on the roads every day, I fear that we have to accept a mounting volume of road accidents with the tragic casualties that occur. But I think we get the road casualties a bit out of proportion. Though hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of drivers and people are on the roads at the week-ends we hear only about the casualties. I do not think—with respect to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who particularly mentioned the road aspect—that the increase in road casualties could be used as an argument to stop the bringing in of this liberalising measure for the reasonable person to obtain his drink.
With regard to the lorry driver and his pint of beer, I think it is for us to beware to say if, how, when or where a lorry driver is going to take a pint of beer. He is at perfect liberty, unless he has orders from his employers to the contrary, to stop at a public house as and when he cares to in the course of the licensing hours. I do not think the Part I relaxation, whereby cafés or restaurants which serve bona fide customary main meals are given a licence to sell drink while that meal is being taken, will increase the amount of drink which is consumed by drivers on the road. Nor with regard to other sorts of restaurants and boarding houses, do I think the relaxation will increase greatly the amount which is drunk in those neighbourhoods.
That brings me particularly to the point which the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor raised, with regard to self-service restaurants or cafeterias. It is true that a bona fide restaurant which is serving main customary table meals will be able to receive a licence, but we doubt very much whether it will be in the interests of the owner to allow alcoholic 1348 refreshments, in other words, bottles of beer or gin and tonics, to be on a self-service counter. I doubt whether it will be practicable. There are also very severe restrictions and penalties upon the looking after and the keeping of alcohol upon such premises, and I doubt whether such premises, if they were self-service, would be able to fulfil the requirements which the justices would lay down. There is another point, too: if it is a self-service restaurant the alcohol could be served only to those taking the meal; it would not be open for the restaurant to serve it to the general public, to anybody who chose to call in to buy a bun.
Equally, in the Part I guest houses and residential hotels, they could sell alcohol only to those who are residing in that establishment. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren asked about bars in such establishments. That provision is very carefully looked after, and a bar is defined, as noble Lords will have seen. The provision there is to allow guest houses or residential establishments to sell a glass of sherry or any other drink—gin for instance. But I must make it quite clear that they can sell these drinks only to those living in the hotels at the time, or to their bona fide private guests, and I think all these technical terms are satisfactory for the purposes of the law. I want to make only one more point with regard to Part I hotels, and I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Stonham who spoke about it; that is, that police have, of course, complete and free entry of access as and when they wish in exactly the same manner that they already have in a public house.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I interrupt the noble Earl before he turns from Part I? As he knows, in ordinary public houses the licensee is presumed to be guilty of serving drink to a person who is already intoxicated unless he proves himself innocent. Does that rule, which is a rather harsh rule, apply also to restaurants, boarding houses, self-service cafés and so on?
I was not aware that it was an offence to be intoxicated, but if the noble Lords says so I am sure it is so. I should have thought that you would have to do a certain amount of damage and so forth before an offence was committed. If that is 1349 so, I imagine it is exactly the same with regard to Part I licences. I think that such a situation will very seldom arise, and I doubt that it arises very often in public houses unless there is some very good reason that the landlord or one of his assistants has had to telephone for the police for a particularly recalcitrant customer. I cannot believe it happens very often.
§ Lord OGMORE
I do not think the noble Earl has quite understood the point, which is that if there is a man in the establishment who is intoxicated and the police come in and find him there the landlord or tenant of the house is responsible and has to prove that neither he nor any of his servants has served that man with liquor; and that is almost an impossibility.
I see the point which the noble Lord has made. I thought he meant when a landlord or his servant summoned the police, which of course he has a right to do. I will look into the point he raised and will let him know.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I think compared this Bill somewhat to the curate's egg: he implied that it was not bad, and that parts of it were good. He mentioned the big industry that the drink trade is, as indeed did the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgar, and the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. Of course that is quite true, but that is true throughout the world, as anybody who goes touring will see from the advertisements and from the shops where one can buy alcoholic refreshment. The fact that the figures are so large, as quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaeriysgor—something in the region of £1,000 million I think he said—must surely be partly due to the increase in the amount of money that there is available, partly due to the increase in the population and also due in part, I am sure, to the increased good health which the population enjoys. But we have to remember that a very large sum of that money goes to the Inland Revenue in taxation or in excise licences of one sort or another.
The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaeriysgor, particularly asked whether 1350 the drink trade was of good repute or was a liability to the nation. Possibly one of the reasons why Parliament has seen fit to impose such tremendous taxation upon drink is that Parliament considers that drink is not to the best benefit of the people as a whole. But where is one going to draw the line? Is one going to forbid drink by having the drink trade subjected to extreme taxation? If so all the ills that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, mentioned will appear. On the films almost every night, on the television or at the cinema one can see the results of prohibition in the United States and the banditry and gangsterism which they had there.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said that the land of his fathers was not what it was; I think those are exactly his words. What he is recognising—and I congratulate him for it—as were my noble friend Lord Boston and my noble friend Lord Dynevor, is that the position in Wales is changing; and, whether we like it or not, as has been drawn to our attention this afternoon, more and more drinking is in fact taking place in Wales. The club is a vehicle whereby the Sunday licensing laws in Wales can be evaded. This Bill seeks to give the people of Wales, through the medium of their votes in county districts and in county borough districts, the right of freedom of choice. We do not believe that if one had further committees, as has been suggested this afternoon, any further advice could be obtained from our friends in Wales. On the one side it is "No", and on the other side it is "Yes", and I do not believe that we should get any firm advice or help from such consultations. I am quite certain that all those people in Wales know these issues only too well and when the time comes, in three to three and a half months after the passing of this Bill, for them to vote, I am quite sure that everybody who will be taking the trouble to vote will know the issues that are involved.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle asked why my right honourable friend has jurisdiction over clubs or any new public houses or hotels, or so forth, in Carlisle. I want to point out to him that there is a provision in the Bill that my right honourable friend relinquishes any control over clubs which may be started in Carlisle and also over 1351 the starting of Part I restaurants or residential licences. All those powers go to the magistrates. I want to draw his attention and your Lordships' attention to the fact that any of these establishments which start—and I must agree they start as of right; it is not with the discretion of the magistrates, as a public house licence is—must comply with very stringent rules and regulations. As I have already indicated, the police have free inspection as and when it may be necessary, and if the establishments do not come up to those rules and regulations then they can be closed down, and closed down no doubt they will be.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? I do not think he means they could be closed down. I think he means they could lose their licence.
My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Lord; they could lose their licence and no more alcohol could be served there. If it is a refreshment house it is a very different matter indeed. The licence of the refreshment house may be revoked; not only will its licence to serve alcohol be removed, but also its trade would probably be removed and it would in fact have closed down. I should also like to congratulate the right reverend Prelate because, as I understand, the beer which my right honourable friend brews in his district has the highest specific gravity in the country. It is a very long time since I have had the pleasure of tasting it, but I understand all the members of his flock are pleased with it, although there are certain complaints.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for the information he has given me and I accept it; I have no means of proving it. I suppose I could test it. I would not say that all my flock have tested it. There is a good deal of divergence of opinion about it, but I accept his statement. I am rather surprised that the State scheme should have been so generous in the amount of alcohol it puts in its beer.
My Lords, I do not know how the price compares in the public houses up there, I must admit, 1352 but I think all your Lordships will appreciate the great interest and the great help the right reverend Prelate has given us this afternoon in coming down to your Lordships' House. I suspect that the right reverend Prelate is a great deal more of an expert on such matters than he would himself "let on" to us this afternoon, and I am quite sure we do appreciate the advice which he has given.
He mentioned the uniform closing hours, as did so many noble Lords this afternoon. This was discussed at very great length in another place, and it was the immediate idea of Her Majesty's Government when this Bill was introduced that there should be a uniform closing hour, and opening hour for all, too, for that matter. I would say that it makes a nice tidy Home Office plan. You can administer it well and it looks well for tourists and everybody knows where he is. But it did not work. People did not want that. People in Billingsgate, people down in Sussex, people on the borders of London, people in Kensington did not want to have exactly the same opening hour, and that depended upon their trade, upon their occupation, and also upon the amount of drinking they are accustomed to, and, of course, also the tourist trade. So we have had to come to the best arrangement we could find. I mean by that that Sunday opening is uniform—we have managed to get 5½ hours, opening time and closing time the same throughout the country. We have added only half-an-hour, and in many of the areas and districts the full 5½ hours, as London has, will probably be served, certainly for most of the time during the year.
My Lords, I want to make it quite clear to Lord Stonham and Lord Auckland, and my noble friend Lord Boston, who particularly raised this point, that publicans need not stay open if they do not wish to do so. Not one of your Lordships made that point. Your Lordships asked about it, but I draw your attention to Clause 7, subsection (7), page 17, lines 20–24. I assure your Lordships that they need not stay open.
Lord Stonham agreed on that matter with me, but then said it was the question of what the brewers would do with their tenants—what would be the effect of the brewer's agreement. I can only repeat, as my right honourable friend 1353 did in another place, the assurance that the Chairman of the Brewers' Society gave in a letter dated March 24 in the Morning Advertiser. It has to be taken in conjunction with a lot of other matters, but these are the relevant lines.Brewers, however, will not refuse consent to tenants to close at times when there is no public requirement.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. He has spoken of the effect in regard to tenants, but more and more the brewers are tending to put in managers. Does the same thing apply for the managers?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, may I ask about my particular point concerning off-licences which are not mainly owned by brewing firms but by ordinary commercial firms? The hours are from 8.30 to 10.30 or 11. These are the people with whom I am particularly concerned.
I will come to that point. With regard to the managers and staff, of course this has been a point of consideration all the way through this Bill: how many hours should publicans be worked?—and we have had a graphic description from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, of the work of a publican. I know a little of it myself. So far as the staff is concerned, there is the Catering Wages Act and the provisions thereof, and, of course, the Ministry of Labour are at liberty to send round inspectors at any time they care to do so. No doubt they have a very strict system of inspecting, with the full co-operation of the trade unions concerned. With regard to the publicans themselves, they, too, have their own licensees' associations and I am certain they work with and keep in touch with the breweries and the brewery managements and, I hope, with the chairman of such an eminent society as the Brewers' Society. The Morning Advertiser, as I understand it, is a publication of the publicans. I think, my Lords, that that undertaking will be honoured in the future, especially as it has been mentioned twice—once in each House of Parliament.
With regard to the off-licences, what is to be allowed is for licensed premises to work the shop hours, but I doubt whether it would be worth while for an 1354 off-licence to stay open the full licensed hours. If they did I think they would very quickly need two sets of staffs or to make some specific arrangement. The point is that they can be open at any time to suit their public who may be coming home from work, going out to work, or going on a perfectly ordinary shopping trip—especially the housewives. I hope that will put Lord Stonham's mind at rest.
Now we come to the clubs, a subject which practically all your Lordships have brought up, in particular Lord Stonham and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, with, as always, his clear and cutting statements which your Lordships have come to know so well. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, also mentioned them. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough, recognised that there are clubs and clubs; and I say, my Lords, there are two types of clubs. There is the respectable club, the bona fide club carrying on under its rules and under its proper management; these clubs have nothing to fear whatsoever, and. I understand, although I will take the matter up again, that all the essential points of the British Working Men's Club Association, the British Legion, and all those clubs registered under the Registrar of Friendly Societies, have been met or will be met in the course of Amendments which will be moved. However, if there are any points which have not been met, I will certainly consider them.
Now, my Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, made clear to us, there are two sorts of clubs. As well as the bogus club and the respectable club I have already mentioned, there are the members' clubs, where the members have full control of what goes on—their elected representatives carrying on the business of the club; and then there is the proprietary club where, without doubt, profit is made by the owner. These two types of clubs I want to assure Lord Denning—alas! he is not in his seat—will be considered under the relevant clauses in the Bill.
If a club finds that it does not want to apply, as a proprietary club, to undertake the necessary changes to its constitution, to be able to become a members' club with a complete representation at 1355 various stages according to a constitution, it need not seek to be registered. The proprietary club can apply for registration and for this it has to fulfil the pretty strict conditions which are listed in the Bill. Once the club is a going concern the police cannot enter its premises unless they have a search warrant. On the other hand, these proprietary clubs—and most of the clubs of the sort the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, were considering are proprietary clubs—may prefer to obtain an ordinary justices' licence in order to sell alcohol, and they will then be submitted to exactly the same inspection by the police as ordinary licensed premises have to undergo.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, which is most important, may I ask him this question? Does he mean that clubs of the kind which was the subject of the court case last week are to be regarded in that way? Are proprietary clubs to have a justices' licence? Can the police walk into them as into a public house? Will there be an end to the unfortunate rigmarole of last week?
That is quite right. If that club is not a registered club, and unless the club can conform to all the regulations and the protections that exist, it will have to submit itself to the ordinary application for a licence. The difference will be that the club can decide who shall go into the club and who shall not. It will still have members, but it will not be a public place.
I come to the under eighteens. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said how serious it is that young people are using clubs to such an extent and that they can obtain drink in them. We appreciate that. We appreciate that young people can use, and are using, clubs. But where can one draw the line between an intolerable interference with the private individual in his home and private life and what is 1356 right and proper; and, above all, how can this be legislated for? If it were a tennis club or a responsible members' club there would be no reason why a member should not give his son a drink. That is one thing. On the other side, there is the proprietary club selling drink to a young person. In that case, the police will have access should they be suspicious that young people are obtaining alcohol. As my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack said, this Bill brings in tight regulations with regard to young people and much higher fines.
I think I have covered most of the matters that are contained in the five main points which I brought out at the beginning of this speech. I know there are some technical points, many of which will be Committee points. I will certainly look into those and will write to noble Lords who have brought them forward. I can only thank your Lordships for taking part in this debate and for providing this most useful discussion. Particularly do I wish to remember the words of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, at the beginning of his speech with regard to the Committee stage in your Lordships' House. I end by reminding your Lordships of all that the noble and learned Viscount has said, and of the difficulties with which we are faced at this stage in the Session. My Lords, I commend this Bill to your Lordships for Second Reading.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I apologise to him on behalf of my noble friend Lord Silkin, who has a social engagement which he ought to have attended at 7 o'clock and for which he had to leave.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.