HL Deb 23 January 1962 vol 236 cc835-49

2.49 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 4:

Permitted hours in licensed premises, registered clubs and licensed canteens

4—(1)Subject to the provisions of the principal Act and this Act, the permitted hours in licensed premises (other than public houses) and in registered clubs and licensed canteens shall—

  1. (a)on weekdays, be the period between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon and the period between five and ten in the evening; and
  2. (b)on weekdays, be the period between half-past twelve and half-past two in the afternoon and the period between six and nine in the evening so, however, that for the purpose of the sale or supply of exciseable liquor for consumption off the premises there shall be no permitted hours in such licensed premises or clubs on Sundays.

(2) Subject to the provisions of the principal Act and this Act, the permitted hours in public houses shall on weekdays be the period between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon and the period between five and ten in the evening, and (except as provided in section six of this Act) there shall be no permitted hours in public houses on Sundays.

LORD HUGHESmoved, in subsection (1), to leave out "(other than public houses)". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I propose to speak to my Amendment C on Amendment 3A, because they are really two parts of the same proposal. Since the Committee stage of the Bill I have given long and careful consideration to the question of the opening of public houses on Sunday, and I regret that I cannot bring myself to believe that the provisions of the present Bill are an adequate solution. And when I say "regret", I mean that quite sincerely, because all my instincts and upbringing urge me to be against any proposal for extending facilities for drinking. This is a case where sentiment and logic do not in fact go together, and I shall try to be logical rather than sentimental.

It cannot be denied that there are a considerable number of people who wish to drink on Sunday. In the Guest Committee Report, paragraphs 15 and 16, it is stated: …It is alleged that the number of genuine travellers is probably very small; that the existing law tends to incite people to undertake journeys on Sunday merely for the purpose of obtaining liquor; that in particular there has of recent years been a considerable increase both in the number of organised coach-excursions on Sundays and in the number of people making journeys from the large centres of population into the countryside by car or public transport with that object in view; and that such persons frequently indulge in noisy and disorderly behaviour and cause considerable disturbance in country towns and villages. The Committee went on to say in paragraph 16: We think that this criticism is on the whole well-founded. One aspect of this is to be dealt with later in the Amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, and the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, are moving on the matter of carrying liquor in vehicles.

The Committee said something further in paragraphs 23 and 24. I must apologise for quoting so much of this Report, but I really feel that what I am proposing is something which could have been put forward just as appropriately by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, because it is what was in his Report. The Committee said: …In other words we accept in principle the view that some system of permitted hours is desirable. 24. A tempting proposition at first sight would be to suggest that such a system should apply only to hotels, the great majority of which are already open on Sundays for the sale of liquor under existing arrangements, and that public houses should remain closed. On closer examination, however, there seem to us to be several objections to that proposal. In the first place it must be borne in mind that hotels do not provide an adequate local coverage over the country as a whole; there are large industrial areas, for example, with very few hotels. It seems to us therefore that the introduction of a system of permitted hours for hotels alone would not help appreciably in reducing the amount of travelling that is carried out on Sundays for the primary purpose of obtaining liquor, while it might well tend to lead to such gross overcrowding in some premises as to alter the character of the hotels concerned in an undesirable way. Furthermore, a system of permitted hours for hotels only might be expected to encourage an increase in the type of hotel popularly known as the seven-day public house that is to say licensed premises which technically provide sleeping accommodation for travellers and which hold a hotel certificate from a licensing court, but which in practice exist mainly or entirely to cater for public house trade; and we think that subterfuge of that kind is undesirable. There is also the point that in some areas it is the practice for hotels and public houses to he frequented by different social groups, and the grant of permitted hours to one only of these two types of establishment might be felt to be a social injustice. For these reasons we do not consider that we would be justified in proposing that there should be permitted hours on Sundays for hotels only. Your Lordships will recollect that on November 21 the Minister of State, Scottish Office said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 235 (No. 11), col. 814]: There are about 2,000 licensed hotels in Scotland at the present time. In the Government's view, the foreseeable demand on Sunday does not require the opening of the 4,000-odd public houses as well". That statement completely ignores the Guest Committee's closely reasoned objections to the "hotels only" proposal; and I would remind your Lordships that one of the reasons given by the Committee was that of geographical distribution. I also recollect that the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, rejected my arguments, characterising them as being arithmetical ones. Now half of the population of Scotland live in the four large cities and in fifteen of the large burghs, and they have 183 licensed hotels; that is, one-tenth of the total. The other half of the population live in rural areas. in small centres of population, and particularly in those areas which are holiday resorts, and these areas have the other nine-tenths of the total of licensed hotels. So it could be said, quite reasonably, that, so far as half the population of Scotland are concerned, the Government's proposals are adequate. But that seems to me no reason to ignore the problems and the needs of the half who live in the mainly industrial areas.

The Guest Committee then went on to say (paragraph 28) that: the present situation whereby some people, albeit a small minority of the population, are apparently encouraged by the form of the existing law to spend a large part of Sunday travelling about the country—often in organised parties—in search of liquor is certainly contrary to the feelings and wishes of the people of Scotland as a whole; and we think that it is at least a debatable matter whether a system which allowed limited facilities for the purchase of liquor in each local area might not be more acceptable than one which in effect gives unlimited scope for the purchase and consumption of liquor on Sundays by those who have the inclination and means to seek it. 29. We do not consider either that the opening of public houses (and licensed restaurants) in addition to hotels during a strictly limited period of hours would have any substantial effect on moral standards or on the incidence of drunkenness. … It has been represented to us also by the Chief Constables' (Scotland) Association among others that, whereas at present many of those who purchase liquor on Sundays return home by car, the opening of local public houses might be expected to reduce the practice of driving after consuming liquor and to that extent to decrease rather than increase the danger of accidents on the road. In our opinion a change in licensing hours would not materially affect the amount of money which the average person spends en liquor; at present public houses do most of their business on Fridays and Saturdays and, if our view is correct, the fact that public houses were open also on Sundays would merely mean in most cases that the same expenditure would be spread over an additional day and it might indeed be expected to lead to a decrease in drunkenness on Fridays and Saturdays.

I think that opinion of the Guest Committee is a perfectly sound one and in fact is the explanation of the reluctance of the Publicans' Associations to press for Sunday opening. It is a known fact that there are more proprietors of public houses who would be quite happy to have them remain closed on Sunday rather than those who would have them open, and this is because of the fact that, being Scots, they see no future in spending wages on seven days to attract the same amount of income which they get in six. But, after all, one of the reasons why they are licensed is because they are supposed to be providing a public service, and that sometimes involves people in having to do things not necessarily in the way that is most profitable to them.

Your Lordships know that the Committee headed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, consisted of distinguished Scots from all walks of life and that their recommendation for Sunday opening was unanimous. The Government have said that since the Committee reported the Secretary of State has heard the views of a wide range of public opinion. Of that I have no doubt; but obviously the Secretary of State did not again interview all those people who had given evidence before the Committee. One can only come to the conclusion, therefore, that a rejection at the present time was based on evidence less than that which was available to the Committee. Indeed, I suspect that what took place was that those who did not like the recommendations of the Guest Committee on Sunday opening made their views well-known to the Ministers, while those who agreed with the Committee's recommendations, thought, perhaps mistakenly, that the battle was won and rested happily in silence.

May I quote another point of view to your Lordships? The first of these is the existing law that makes you travel to drink and denies it to you in, your own area. At a time when Parliament and the public are rightly concerned about road safety, what can be said for a law which encourages the motorist to drive to get a drink and then to drive home again? The second is the annoyance and disturbance which is caused to the inhabitants of the surrounding country by the irruption into it of the wrong sort of Sunday drinkers in their cars and buses. The peace and quiet of the Scottish Sunday is quickly shattered if the hotel in the town becomes the resort of such people. These strong words condemning the present law are in columns 810 and 811 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of November 21 (Vol. 235, No. 11) and they were spoken by the Minister of State for Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Craigton. So far as the people of Scotland are concerned, those words will continue to be almost equally applicable if the Bill is passed in its present form.

Having said and quoted all these things against the Bill as it stands, may I say, further, that I believe that the real reason why there is no provision for the Sunday opening of public-houses is not that stated by the Ministers but the reluctance of the Scottish Ministers to take this bold and difficult step, which is so much against Scottish tradition, without proof that it is absolutely essential. Obviously, a good way of providing that proof is to open the hotels only, and if proof is in fact forthcoming, then the Ministers will be in a strong position to take the next step, and say that they are now going to bring in a law to permit public-houses to be open on Sunday because it has been clearly demonstrated that the "hotels only" proposal is inadequate.

I am prepared to go a long way with the Government in that reluctance, because it is the sort of reluctance in which I instinctively share. I agree that public-houses should be opened on Sunday only if it is clearly in the public interest to do so, but if these Amendments which I am proposing are rejected and it becomes clear that the opening of hotels alone will not solve this Sunday problem, then another Licensing Bill will have to be introduced, probably after much delay, during which time the demonstrated evils will continue to operate.

I would also draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 22 (3) of the Bill. To save your Lordships looking it up, I will quote it. This Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may appoint by order made by statutory instrument, and different days may be appointed for different provisions of this Act or for different purposes of the same provision. What I ask your Lordships to do is to accept my Amendments on the basis that, in the first instance, the Secretary of State should fix an appointed day for premises other than public-houses. If, as I regret it probably will be, that step is not in itself sufficient, it will soon be evident, in which case the Secretary of State can then, and only then, proceed to fix an appointed day for the Sunday opening of public-houses. I suggest that this is a way in which the Government can accomplish by one Bill the purposes which they would otherwise require two Bills to bring about. No one in Scotland will object to the Secretary of State's refraining from exercising power which he has taken by law, if it is clear that the exercise of that power is not necessary. On the other hand, the population of Scotland will commend the Ministers if they have armed themselves with the power which I suggest, in case it should be necessary.

My Lords, I said that I had given long and careful consideration to this matter. I went further than that. I tried to get assistance from other people, to try to find out what the opinion was in Scotland, and I found myself, at the beginning of last week, no further forward. I wrote to the Lord Provosts and Provosts of the four cities and fifteen large burghs, to whom I referred earlier, and at the end of the day I found that some of them were unanimously against the opening of public-houses on Sunday, some were unanimously in favour of public-houses being opened on Sunday and in one burgh they were equally divided. So, as all of us have to do at the end of the day, I had to fall back on what I myself thought was the right thing to do.

It seems to me that this is something which either the Minister of State should accept to-day or, if this is too difficult, on which he should at least give a serious undertaking, that an Amendment along these lines will be considered when the measure proceeds to another place. I do not think that the Government are satisfied that the hotels proposal is a guaranteed solution. I believe that they are perhaps justified in not wishing to take two steps at the present time, if the second step is not necessary; but having regard to the real difficulties of getting even essential legislation for the whole country fitted into the Parliamentary programme, I should think that the Government would welcome the opportunity of getting two Bills for the price of one. That certainly is the sort of thing which commends itself to the average Scot. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 22, leave out ("(other than public houses)").—(Lord Hughes.)

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to apologise for my late intervention in the proceedings relating to this Bill. My absences on previous occasions have been due to circumstances beyond my control. I should also like to take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on the expedition with which they have carried into effect some of the proposals of the Committee over which I had the honour to preside. Certainly, an overhaul of the licensing laws of Scotland was long overdue. But I am afraid that my congratulations to the Government cannot be wholehearted. In particular, I regret that they have not seen fit to carry into effect the recommendations of the Committee regarding the Sunday opening of public-houses.

The proposals which the Committee made in regard to Sunday opening were designed to deal with two problems and two evils. One was the out-of-date provisions regarding the "bona-fide traveller," and the other evil was what has been conveniently called in your Lordships' House the "bus-boozing parties". So far as the first evil is concerned, that will, of course, be corrected by the proposals of the Bill. So far as the second evil is concerned, I cannot see that the Bill will go any way in dealing with it.

I had understood from the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, in introducing this Bill on Second Reading, that this was to be a liberalising measure, so far as Scotland was concerned in regard to permitted hours. I do not think it can be taken out of account that actually the proposals of this Bill will considerably restrict the hours during which drink can be consumed in Scotland on Sunday. At present the "bona-fide traveller"—and that really means practically anybody—can drink round 24 hours of the clock. It may be that that is not a good thing and that he should be restricted. But under the Bill the drinking on Sunday will be restricted in regard to time and also in regard to place, because there are permitted hours and these permitted hours will operate in hotels and restaurants only.

I think there is a great deal of force in what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said on the Committee stage and in his speech to-day: that it is very doubtful whether in Scotland to-day the facilities exist for coping with the demand which will certainly arise in view of the abolition of the "bona-fide traveller". This is particularly so in the large cities, where it is plain from the figures given by the noble Lord that there are not sufficient hotels to deal with the demand which will arise. I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that what has primarily to be considered is the public interest. It is not any sectional interest which has to be appealed to, but what is in the interests of the public as a whole.

There may be a possible alleviation in the position if licensing authorities are generous in their grant of the two new types of certificate—namely, the restaurant certificate and the hotel and restaurant certificate, because that would allow drink to be consumed with meals in these establishments. But unless there is a generous interpretation of the new granting of certificates by licensing authorities I fear the Government will be storing up trouble in the large cities, in that there will not be sufficient drinking facilities for the people who want them. It will also, of course, produce to a worse extent the problem of the motorist who drives to obtain drink and who drives after he has obtained drink, because he will find that in his own city there are not the facilities and he will go to the county where there are more facilities.

Time will show, of course, but unless this Amendment is adopted I fear that considerable trouble will be caused in the big cities. It seems to me that the compromise which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has suggested is very reasonable: this Amendment should be accepted and it should be left to the Secretary of State to say at what time Scotland has become a fit place in which Sunday opening of public-houses can be permitted. For these reasons I wish to support the Amendment.

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, before opposing this Amendment, as I rise to do, I should like to welcome the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken and to say how much we on the Back Benches have missed him during the previous discussions on this Bill. Nevertheless, with due respect to his views and to those clearly and sensibly stated by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, as I have said, I oppose the Amendment. I will not repeat the views I expressed on previous stages of the Bill, but I should like briefly to say that I regard the decision of the Government as a bold and proper one. I admit that most of us hope (certainly I do) that the day will come—though I believe that it is far off—when conditions in Scotland will make it possible for all public-houses to be open on Sunday. But there are too many areas where there are poor housing conditions, poor living conditions and numerous public-houses of a very unsavoury type. I think there is no question that the public-house in Scotland, particularly in the busy dockside and industrial districts, is little more than a drinking booth; and conditions still prevail in those areas such as led to the excessive drinking of the days which have been immortalised by such songs as, "Glasgow belongs to me".

Despite all that the noble and learned Lord has just said, I feel the danger of the Sunday "bus boozing party" is so great that if public-houses were to be opened throughout Scotland at this day those "bus boozing parties" would not be discouraged but rather would be encouraged. However, that is an expression of opinion. Admittedly, country areas and areas where living conditions and public-house conditions are better will have to suffer through the general overall situation. And the time is also coming—and it may come soon—when the condition of the Scottish public-houses will be such that all will be places like those in England where a man can take his wife and sit down to a pleasant and possibly convivial evening without excess.

One must admit, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said, that the figures show that in the urban areas, where so few licensed houses will be available on a Sunday, numerous mushroom clubs will spring up—and I shall be referring to that again in connection with another Amendment. But I would, in opposing the Amendment, say that I also look forward to hearing what the noble Lord the Minister has to say about the interesting suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in regard to Clause 22 and the possible use by the Government of the dates. The noble Lord and I are at one in saying that the time will come when public houses in Scotland will be open on Sunday. Nevertheless, I believe the time when conditions will justify such a state of affairs is so far away that new legislation for it will have to be laid before Parliament. That being my view, I personally oppose the Amendment.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, in opposing the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend and myself, congratulated the Government on taking a bold and proper decision, that decision being, apparently, to close public houses in Scotland on Sunday; and he looked forward to the day, which he said was far distant, when they would be able to reverse that decision and open public houses in Scotland on Sunday, which presumably would be not bold and proper but timid and improper. He also referred to the fact that in some way he regretted the kind of atmosphere in which people could say, "Glasgow belongs to me". Well, if he and the Government have their way, certainly on Sundays the people of Glasgow will not be able to say in any true sense that Glasgow belongs to them.

It seems to me extraordinary that the Government should have taken this decision in the face of the recommendation made by the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, who, after all, naturally considered this matter not only objectively, but very carefully, and having full regard to all the many and in some cases impassioned representations which were made to them. We are, indeed, indebted to the noble and learned Lord in that he has so quietly and cogently and with the facts supported this Amendment. It appears to me that the Government's attitude in this whole Bill is redolent of complete inconsistency, and that for their main decisions—at least, those to which we object—there is no kind of actual basis. It is manifest that they have given way—in so far as the Scottish Bill differs from the English Bill—to particular pressures, whichever pressure happened at the time to appear to be the heaviest. For example, in connection with the entry of the police into clubs, they have taken what I regard as the right and sensible decision, and one which will stop vicious practices. In this respect they have taken a decision which may well be, as my noble friend Lord Hughes said, in line with the best Scottish tradition. But it certainly cannot be regarded as the bold and difficult step for which he asked.

I heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, say that it was doubtful if facilities existed in Scotland in view of what he described as the abolition of the "bona-fide traveller". I suppose I speak as a representative of the "bona-fide travellers". My limited knowledge, both of Glasgow and of the less populated parts of Scotland, convinces me that under this Bill, if it goes forward unamended, most of the facilities on Sundays will be in the places which are less populated, and that in the most populous places there will be no facilities at all. I submit to the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, that that really is the point which he has to answer.

It may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, said, that a lot of these places are drinking dens, bothies. But they are such every day of the week, and the answer to that is not to preclude their use on Sundays but to preclude their use on any day of the week if they are unsatisfactory in those ways. They should be cleaned up in some other way, and I am sure everyone in this House would support any move in that direction. But as the Bill now stands it is absolute hypocrisy—it is humbug. It is giving way to prejudice and, what is more, as the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, so clearly pointed out, it is going to say that it is not respectable to drink on Sundays in the bothies of Glasgow because the kind of people who go to them cannot be trusted to behave themselves, but it is respectable to go 50 or 100 miles outside Glasgow to drink as much as you like, get thoroughly drunk and then come back and run somebody over. That is what this Bill says.

My noble friend Lord Hughes, in extremely temperate language, has invited the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, to say: "We are impressed with the arguments. We are not in a position to accept the Amendment at this stage, but we should like to have it argued further in another place and fully considered". To my mind, my noble friend has gone to the extreme limit of conciliation, and I hope that his offer will be accepted as such by the noble Lord. I hope my noble friend will press this Amendment to a Division, and that noble Lords in all parts of the House will support him.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say that I hope the Government will either accept this Amendment or promise, after consideration, a similar Amendment. I think that when people whose first aim is normally to seek popularity—and I think that to some extent that is true of everybody who engages in politics—advocate, in the light of their experience, a measure which is bound to be very unpopular in certain quarters, their arguments should be received with special attention, because they are probably dictated by wisdom.

I owe my first allegiance to another of Scotland's great cities, and not primarily to the one over which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, so ably presided. It happens that I have had to visit Dundee and the outlying parts of that city very frequently in the immediate past, and I should like now to pay my tribute to the authorities of Dundee for the magnificent work they have done in rehousing the population and clearing away unsuitable houses. I think, too, that the authorities of Glasgow deserve exactly the same credit, and that the conditions which lead to heavy drinking are rapidly passing away. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, frankly said as much in his speech, because he talked about the bad old days which have disappeared and which he is afraid may be revived by the opening of public houses on Sunday. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, accurately said, if they are not revived by what goes on on Fridays and Saturdays, it is not likely that their opening on Sunday will promote a debacle. I think, therefore, that the time has come when definite steps should be taken in the direction advocated by Lord Hughes. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has put forward his case with great moderation and has left the matter in the hands of the Government. I very much hope that the Government will see their way to accept either his Amendment or something similar.


My Lords, may I say a few words in support of this Amendment? I think I am right in saying that further on in the Bill there is a provision which enables licensed premises not to remain open the whole time that they may remain open. I feel that if the public-houses are open on Sunday, the worst ones, which to a certain extent are concentrated in the dock areas of Glasgow, may find that it does not pay them to open on Sundays, because, with the movement of the main centres of population more and more to the outskirts, the people will find it more convenient to drink near their homes than to come in near their place of work and drink there. I think that in two or three years' time the problem may largely resolve itself. For these reasons I hope that the Government will give the noble Lord the promise he wants. If they do not, I am afraid that I shall have to support him.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, the most important task in this Bill is to get rid of the "traveller" provision which required people to travel on Sunday in order to get a drink at all. We have done this, and we have stopped the nonsense of hotels serving drinks at all hours on Sundays. And in spite of what my noble and learned friend Lord Guest said, I am sure he will agree that that was a nonsense which ought to have been stopped. Now those same hotels and licensed restaurants will be able to give service in an orderly way to their local people as well as to tourists. I agree with my noble and learned friend that the licensing courts can give us some help by being fairly free with granting restricted hotel and restaurant certificates. In the last 100 years, while the "bona-fide traveller" provision has been becoming steadily more ridiculous, Scottish pubs have been closed on Sundays. It is not that we are closing them now as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said: they have been closed for a hundred years. Now no one objects to regulated drinking and having permitted hours in hotels, restaurants and clubs; but does this regulation justify the Sunday opening for the first time of similarly regulated pubs?

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, read in detail the recommendations of the Guest Committee; and we have, of course, studied them very carefully. I must thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Guest, for his congratulations, and I understand why he cannot congratulate us in this case. Both noble Lords are concerned particularly with the maldistribution of hotels and with social injustice. But those who live in the badly served areas have made no serious representations to my right honourable friend since the Bill was published, and they have known since the Bill was published that the battle, to use the noble Lord's own words, "was not won." The pubs in those areas are not open on Sundays now. The way of life of the people in those areas seems to be such that they have no burning desire for the pub on the corner" to be open on Sundays—indeed, the reverse is true. Nearly all those organisations concerned with the way of life of the people, and many more besides, have expressed to my right honourable friend in no uncertain terms that they do not want, and that the majority of Scottish people do not want, the pubs open on Sundays.

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that the Government were reluctant to take this bold and difficult step. He knows that Governments cannot govern unless they take such steps, especially where the national interest is concerned; and that we are prepared to do. But this is not such a case. What is at stake is the way of life of our people and the extent to which they wish their Sunday to be a day apart; and for that reason I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment. The noble Lord has suggested a way out by using Clause 22 (3). As the noble Lord would expect, I have not had a great deal of time to look at this suggestion. But to adopt his Amendment would seem to me