HL Deb 09 July 1964 vol 259 cc1170-82

7.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a Private Member's Bill introduced in another place by my honourable friend the Member for Plymouth (Devonport). Its primary object is to prevent the employment of young men and young women under the age of 18 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at licensed premises and clubs that normally remain open after 11 p.m. I am sure your Lordships agree that in certain centres of entertainment it is only reasonable that there should be licensed premises open after 11 p.m. This is recognised in the Licensing Act by means of a supper hour certificate, an extended hours order or a special hours certificate. The places normally open after 11 p.m. are what we generally think of as night clubs, and perhaps hereafter I may refer to them as such.

It is clearly undesirable that young people should be employed in these night clubs late at night. Those of your Lordships who may not have had personal experience of such places, especially those which were referred to recently by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary as "sleazy", will at least certainly have read some reports about them, and in particular about undesirable cases involving young women under 18, some 16 or 17, employed as dance hostesses, or in worse cases even leading. to purposes of prostitution. Even though the main case applies to young women of 16 or 17, it is also obviously equally undesirable that young men should be employed in these night clubs at these late hours.

The simplest way of dealing with the problem, and the way this Bill operates, is by an amendment to the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of the provisions of that Act. Young people up to the age of 16 may not be employed for more than 44 hours a week, and up to the age of 18 for not more than 48 hours a week. They are entitled to half an hour interval for rest in every five hours, or a three-quarter of an hour break for lunch where it is appropriate. They must have one half-day off from 1 p.m. each week and in every 24-hour period an interval of at least eleven consecutive hours, to include the hours 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. They may be used for Sunday work only if given a whole week-day off instead. These conditions are clearly reasonable, and the Bill I am proposing to your Lordships would apply then to night clubs that remain open after 11 p.m. The main advantage would be that young people under the age of 18 could not be employed in such places after 10 p.m.

Section 7 of the 1938 Act lists the various types of employment to which the Act applies in sub-paragraphs (a) to (h), and the present Bill would add a new sub-paragraph (i) to cover these night clubs. This is the essence of Clause 1, but the reason it looks a little more complicated than that is that it incorporates certain exceptions designed to prevent the Bill from acting unfairly in certain cases. Perhaps I may quickly run through the various exceptions listed.

Section 63 of the Licensing Act, 1964, covers a reasonable "drinking-up" time when the familiar permitted hours come to an end, and also the consumption of alcoholic liquor by residents and their bona fide guests. Section 74(4) of the Licensing Act, 1964, covers sales on special occasions where a special order exemption is granted—for example, on particular holidays and festivals. Section 151 of the Customs and Excise Act, 1952, covers the sale of alcoholic liquor by an on-licence holder at premises other than his own—in other words on special occasions. Section 87(1) of the Licensing Act exempts licensed premises within the examination station of an international airport, where the sale of alcohol is regulated by the Customs and Excise Act. The Bill also makes an exception of canteens and messes.

The net effect of this clause, therefore, is that while it does not interfere in any way with the normal operations of a public house or club, or other special case, it does apply the conditions of the Act to persons employed in nightclubs that normally remain open after 11 p.m.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? When he refers to night clubs, does he include those clubs which are strictly clubs, with membership, but which provide entertainment and meals? Is that the type of club which he has in mind?


Yes, my Lords. I am referring to all those clubs which remain open after 11 p.m. and which are registered clubs, or are licensed premises with a licence.

Clause 2 increases the maximum penalty for an offence under the 1938 Act, bringing it into line with those provided in the Children and Young Persons Acts, 1933 to 1963. Clause 3 is a financial provision. The local authorities will have to put this Act into effect, and this clause is designed to see that they do not suffer additional cost thereby. Clause 4 is self-explanatory. The reason why the Bill, if it is passed, will not come into operation until January 3, 1965, is that this is the first day after the coming into force of the Licensing Act, 1964. I hope that your Lordships will agree that this is a useful measure, and I beg to move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Aberdare.)

7.22 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to say that on this side of the House we will give this Bill a warm welcome. Let us say that we will give it a rather mild "Hello!", because, frankly, it is a grey little clockwork mouse of a Bill which has the best of intentions and will do a little good, but really only nibbles round the edge of the problem. In fact, to reverse the time-honoured phrase, I think what has happened here is that somebody has taken a nut to crack a sledgehammer.

The problem of the night clubs in London and other provincial centres is going to be touched on in another debate, and I shall not take up the time of your Lordships' House with it. But the sole result of this measure will be to keep out of employment in these clubs girls and boys under the age of 18. We may say that that is a good thing, but we cannot deny at the same time that it is going to save only a very tiny proportion. Also, I am informed by the police and other people that it is going to be a very difficult measure to operate. As it is designed at the moment, the Bill makes no distinction whatsoever between reputable clubs and disreputable clubs, but it makes a distinct difference between clubs where hard liquor is sold and clubs where hard liquor is not sold.

We know that a whole number of clubs have sprung up which in fact do not sell hard liquor, but where a good many vices and other things which would be frowned upon go on. This Bill at the moment takes no steps at all to protect young people under 18 in those particular clubs; at least, that is my reading of it. The fact is that no disreputable clubs whatsoever will stagger for one second from the impact of this Bill. They will find a great number of young girls of just over 18, and will continue with their seedy and sleazy operations. The clubs where hard liquor is not sold will not be affected in any way whatsoever.

So I say of this Bill, to reinforce the point I made at the very beginning, that this is really a very tiny measure which hits at only a very tiny point of the problem; whereas I believe, because these clubs are growing at such a scale and because their reputation is so bad. that it is time a full-scale inquiry was made into the activities of the racketeers who run these clubs, who use young people for their own ends—and I am speaking now particularly, of course, of the disreputable clubs. The reputable club owners and, club operators in London and elsewhere would, I am sure, welcome such an inquiry. It really is time for sledgehammer methods to stop these people, whenever their premises are closed down, from opening up under some other guise. A measure which just cuts off their supply—and I am not sure it will do even this—of young hostesses and waitresses under the age of 18 will, frankly, just make them laugh.

The other aspect of the Bill which I want to touch on, and which was touched on in the debate in the other place, is the question of young entertainers. I believe that the operation of this Bill will, in fact, bear hardly on some young entertainers. They are getting younger all the time, as we know, and who can say whether, if this Bill had been in operation a few years ago, the world might have lost for ever such intrepid and gallant performers as Freddie and the Dreamers and these other groups which have sprung to such success in the last few years? It is a fact that there are young entertainers who can find their way to reputable clubs and can learn their profession, can learn to sing, to put over their music and so on, and I think this Bill would prevent that. One could have, for example, a perfectly reputable nightclub which wanted to employ a young singer, like Helen Shapiro, who started singing professionally, and very well, too, at the age of 15. She would not be allowed under this Bill to be booked into a reputable nightclub to perform.

I think there is a case for some amendment in the Bill in this respect. I understand that in the discussion in the other place the Government gave some assurance in this respect, and said they would consider the idea of getting the local authorities to license some of these young performers. I think that this would probably be the best way of operating the Bill, because those local authorities would know which nightclubs were reputable. They would also know where these young entertainers were genuinely being given an opportunity, and where they were being unfairly exploited. Again, it might be said that very few young entertainers and musicians would be affected in this way, and this is perfectly true. But, then, this is also true of the whole Bill: very few young people are going to be affected by its operation.

If it is true to say that the Bill is worth while if it makes it possible to save one young girl under the age of 18 from a fate worse than death, then it is also true to say that if you can find one young entertainer who has got talent and give him an opportunity to succeed, it is worth while putting in an Amendment to that effect. I hope, therefore, that the Government will have some news about their investigations into this matter. I would also ask whether they can give us some information about the possibility of putting down an Amendment to the Bill that would cover this sort of question. With those words I should like to give a warm welcome to the good intentions behind this Bill, while adding that I feel that it really is a very tiny and rather pale measure—rather like "dishing out" aspirins to ward off an attack of yellow fever.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his few words on this Bill. I hope the Government will be able to give us some information in regard to the employment of stars, singers and the like. These performers play a very legitimate part in club life, and I should have thought one could find ways of protecting them from the undoubted dangers that lie in these clubs. I think we should congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for bringing this Bill forward. My own feeling, however, is that this is not legislation suitable for a Private Member's Bill. There have been a number of such attempts by means of Private Members' Bills. Next week we are to have a Bill proposed by the Government to deal with another problem of London life. I cannot help but feel that the Government, and the Home Office in particular, should be giving very careful consideration to comprehensive legislation to deal with night clubs and other places of entertainment where the protection of persons, particularly young persons, is involved.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, stressed that part of the Bill dealing with late hours, as though it was only after 11 o'clock at night that any young person employed in these places was likely to be endangered. The noble Lord may not know it, but the police can say, and will say, that there has been a considerable increase in vice in London during the last few years and that this is not confined to late at night. Many of these clubs are open in the afternoon; and I should have thought that if a young girl of 16 or 18 was in a position of moral danger at 11 o'clock at night, she was equally in danger at 2 o'clock in the afternoon if these clubs are then operating in the same way as they are later in the evening. I appreciate, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, is in some difficulty in dealing with this matter. He has had to make use of previous legislation, which is not always appropriate; but the Government, and particularly the Home Office, should be looking at this matter, in view of the present situation. We know these places exist, and we know the times at which they are operating. We should therefore try to devise some system by which we can give this protection.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in his introduction, drew attention to the provisions of the Bill, and here the question I should like to put to the Minister is this: how is this measure going to be enforced? I ask that question specifically about the clubs that the noble Lord had in mind—the clubs the police cannot enter unless they have a warrant, a restriction which I presume will apply equally to the local authority officers. If it is a fact that young people are being employed quite contrary to the Bill in those clubs, how will the authorities be aware that they are being so employed? I hope that the Minister will he able to tell us how the provisions of this Bill can be enforced; because unless they can be enforced properly and rigorously, if it is necessary, then the Bill is hardly worth the paper upon which it is printed. My noble friend drew attention to the fact that these operators will find all sorts of different ways to get round the regulations. This we know. If this Bill is to be of any use, obviously we must be able to enforce it, and enforce it quickly, drastically and thoroughly, perhaps by fairly regular visits either by the police or by the local authorities concerned. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance in that matter.

We shall have a debate next week on the Bill concerning refreshment houses, which deals with the same problem, but, here again, although it is a Government Bill, it deals with the matter only—I will not say in a lukewarm way, but it does not get to the heart of the problem. Obviously there is no time between now and the end of this Session, but I hope that the Home Office is in fact carrying out an inquiry (although I am quite sure that by now they have a good deal of information on which they could act) and are preparing comprehensive legislation. I understand the view of some noble Lords—it has been expressed here many times—that clubs which serve rather as the homes of their members should be free from interference by the police and local authorities. But here we have the difficulty. While we want to respect the sanctity, shall I say, of these clubs—because many of them are conducted very well indeed—there are many that are not and are able to exist only because of the protection that we wish to give to the better clubs. I should have thought there was some way round this difficulty.

If it were to be achieved by registration, I should not have thought the good clubs would have anything to fear. I never could understand why the manager of a club should have a lesser responsibility within the law than the manager of a public-house. Basically, they are the same premises. They are providing the same sort of entertainment and relaxation; and both, I suppose, have within their walls the same form of temptation. I should have thought it not unreasonable to expect that both would have had the same sort of responsibility within the law, and that the good publican and the good club owner would never have anything to fear. I hope the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will be able to give us some assurances on the point my noble friend made, and also on the question of enforcement of the Bill when it becomes an Act.


My Lords, I think that many of us on this side of the House will agree with most of what has been said on the other side. Of course, by hanging this Bill, as it is hung, on the liquor Acts, it is naturally made very narrow in its scope. I should have thought it impossible to amend this Bill, but quite clearly some system whereby a club has to get a licence in order to employ any juvenile would be the right method of approach, because it is impossible in law to distinguish between a reputable and a disreputable club. On the other hand, the police or the local authorities know perfectly well which is which; and when application is made for an annual licence to employ Miss Smith, or whoever it is, if it is a disreputable club the application will be objected to, whereas if she is a waitress in the Carlton Club then no doubt it will not.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to say that I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Aberdare for the manner in which he introduced this Bill; and I am grateful, too, for the comments that noble Lords have so far made on it. I confess that I was a trifle disappointed at the samewhat lukewarm reception given to the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, because I had hoped he might have been a little more enthusiastic about it.

Although a number of the remarks and suggestions which noble Lords have made are extremely pertinent, and, of course, important, one must bear in mind that the Bill has one specific purpose in view: to stop the employment of young persons in night clubs. There may be a great many arguments for saying that other facets of night club life should he curtailed, or that other types of employment should be curtailed; but the particular purpose of this Bill is to prevent the employment of young persons in night clubs. Its object is to bring under its canopy young people who are below the age of 18, and, of course, to prevent their being employed after ten o'clock at night.

It is, of course, difficult to describe exactly what a night club is because "night club" is not a legal term. Therefore, the way it has to be done is to define a "night club" coming within the framework of the Licensing Act as: those premises in which there is a regular sale or supply of intoxicating liquor after eleven o'clock at night". Such a definition should catch all night clubs. The Bill itself amends, and is to be construed with, the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, which regulates the hours of employment in a variety of occupations set out in Section 7(1) of that Act. And this Bill adds another type of employment to those already covered by the Act. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to revise the penalties for offences under the 1938 Act so as to bring them into line with those contained in the Children and Young Persons Acts, 1933 to 1963.

Noble Lords may remember that during the passage of the London Government Act last year, some noble Lords expressed concern—indeed, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—about the employment of young girls of 16 in certain clubs, and my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who was then in charge of the Bill, undertook to look into the matter. That is why it has been possible for the Government to be so much associated with this Bill now that some of the investigations have taken place. Therefore, I hope that the reception which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd will give to the Bill will be fairly warm, because we have, after all, taken into account one of the points with which he was concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, said specifically that "clip joints" are not included. Up to a point that is true, in so far as "clip joints" do not normally sell intoxicating liquor. But if the noble Lord will look at Section 7 of the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, he will note that young people are not allowed to take employment at a place of public entertainment … or in the reception of or attendance upon persons resorting thereto. So if these young persons are at the moment employed in places such as "clip joints" and are in "attendance upon persons resorting thereto", they are in contravention of the 1938 Act. This, of course, does not apply to clubs, because a club, by the nature of things, is not a place of entertainment.


My Lords, would the noble Earl describe a "clip joint" as a place of entertainment?


My Lords, I suppose that "entertainment" is the operative word with which the noble Lord is concerned. But it is a place where the public has access; whereas a club may be a place of a more restricted nature.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, were concerned about the fact that as the Bill stands at the moment young entertainers may be excluded from these clubs. Of course, that is so. I do not myself feel that the whole case has been made out for allowing a young entertainer into premises such as these in order to further their artistic abilities. I should have thought that if one was a young person and was creating music, or singing, there were other forms of outlet that might be more suitable for practice, and for getting on with one's profession.

However, I agree that there is another side to this problem, and I can give the noble Lord the assurance for which he has asked: that is, to repeat the assurance of my honourable friend in another place that he would look into this matter and consult with the local authorities: because if an alteration has to be made, then clearly the people who will be allowed to entertain will have to be in some way licensed by the local authority. Those consultations are going on at the moment with some considerable urgency, but, as the noble Lord will appreciate, the Committee stage in the other place took place less than two weeks ago and the discussions have not yet been concluded. If we do alter this in some way we must be very careful to make sure that the alteration does not affect the genuine club owner and the genuine club user. That is the difficulty with all Bills which curtail the rights of people to entertain in clubs. One may be aiming at one particular target, but may be hitting a number which one does not intend to do.


Surely, my Lords, the Bill deals with, and puts restrictions on, both good and bad clubs. All are being deal with in the same way.


But, my Lords, the purpose is to prevent young people from being employed. I think that on the whole there is justification for saying that no one under a certain age shall be employed. I think you would have to produce some fairly solid argument to show why a particular class of person of the age of 16 ought to be employed in this type of establishment. I appreciate that there is an argument on the other side. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked how the Bill is going to be enforced. There is, in fact, power in the Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1938, for the local authorities to provide inspectors, and those inspectors will have the same rights as are conferred upon inspectors of factories. Indeed, it is up to the local authorities to see that this Bill, if it becomes law, is carried out with the powers they already have


My Lords, may I pursue this point? Does this mean that the inspectors of the local authority will have the power to enter a club at any time while it is operating, by day and by night? Will they have power to inspect and to ensure that young people are pot employed on those premises?


My Lords, speaking relatively "off the cuff" I think the answer would be, Yes. But the noble Lord will appreciate that I should prefer to make absolutely certain and to write and let him know the answer. I feel, myself, that this is a very useful Bill. It is, by its nature, small, and it tends to go for one type of person and one type of employment. If it reaches the Statute Book—and I hope it will—I am sure it will effect a great improvement.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have expressed a welcome to this Bill. Even Lord Willis's cool "Hallo!" was better than "No". I think we can achieve something with it. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said the subject was not a suitable one for a Private Member's Bill; but I think perhaps it is. The Bill presents quite a modest way—the only way a Private Member could act in this matter—by linking the Licensing Act and the Young Persons (Employ- ment) Act, of at least making some progress. I appreciate that there are some things which fall outside the scope of the Bill, such as the unpleasant things that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned that go on sometimes before 11 o'clock, and equally the "clip joints" which do not sell alcohol. But I think these are things which must be tackled in a much larger measure than the present one.

I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, about young entertainers. I have something to do with the recording industry and I am familiar with the point he was making. I hope it may be possible by the next stage to have some form of Amendment to the Bill which would overcome that difficulty. I am grateful also to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for giving me his assistance and Government support.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.