§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, this Bill deals with the obnoxious but limited nuisance arising from the operation of "clip-joints" or, as they are sometimes known, "near-beer" establishments. There are at present about 40 of these places in London, and the number has been increasing in recent years. It is not surprising, when one studies their method of operation, and the fantastic profits which must be made, that they have been on the increase. Your Lordships may recall that this question was last discussed during the passage of the London Government Act in May and July last year. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe undertook at that time to give further thought to the problem of controlling "clip-joints" and this Bill is the outcome. We believe that it is clearly better to legislate about this matter now, rather than allow the nuisance to grow to even more alarming proportions.
There are three fundamental reasons why legislation is necessary. The first is that these "clip-joints" operate on a basis of barefaced fraud, and yet that fraud does not, by itself, fall to be proceeded against under our criminal law. The second reason is that there is clear evidence of the harm done to the tourist trade. Admittedly it is only a small section of the tourist trade, but the harm is nevertheless there. One remembers, for example, the case—by no means an uncommon one—in which three foreign visitors were fleeced of £27 after spending little more than a quarter of an hour in one of these places and having consumed nothing but a few nonalcoholic fruit juices.
The third reason, and one to which I personally attach a great deal of importance, is that a disproportionate amount of police time and man-power is 64 taken up in dealing with these establishments and the complaints to which their method of operation gives rise.
I will not take up the time of the House with a detailed description of how these "clip-joints" operate. There has been a great deal of publicity in the Press in recent weeks, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, knows. No doubt he and other noble Lords will have made themselves conversant with how these places operate. The nuisance may be said to exhibit itself in two ways, and the Bill is designed to deal with each of them. The first nuisance is touting or soliciting in the doorway by girls who promise, or imply, various pleasures, which neither they nor the establishment have any intention of providing. This is the bait which lures the visitor in. The second nuisance is the fantastic overcharging for soft drinks. The speed of consumption of these drinks is entirely out of the control of the visitor, the hostess being remunerated on the number which she can force the consumer to take. There may also be charges for admission, for the table and for the so-called conversation which the hostess provides.
Clause 1 of the Bill, particularly subsections (1), (2) and (4) are designed to prevent the nuisances which I have just described. I should draw your Lordships' attention specifically to the wording of the latter part of subsection (3) of Clause 1 which reads:…a licensing authority may impose such a condition in any case where it appears to them desirable in order to ensure that persons frequenting the refreshment house are not misled as to the nature or cost of the entertainment provided".The intention behind this provision is to ensure that the stringent conditions mentioned in the rest of Clause 1 are applied only to those premises where the nuisance is taking place. There is no intention whatsoever of disturbing in any way the well-conducted café, restaurant or corner house which remains open after 10 p.m.
There are two other provisions in the Bill to which I should refer. The first is the requirement in Clause 2 for the holder of a licence to notify any changes in his address. At present the holder's address has to be notified when the licence is applied for; but should the address change during the currency of 65 the licence, the licensing authority and the police would not be aware of the change. This provision applies to all refreshment houses, but I think your Lordships will agree that it is a reasonable provision to ensure that there is a check on the whereabouts of licensees. The second provision is the increase in penalties, contained in Cause 3, which for the first time introduces imprisonment as an alternative or as an addition to a fine. These penalties are identical with those which the House considered appropriate to deal with unlicensed music and dancing premises under Schedule 12 to the London Government Act, 1963.
There is one general point which may be made about the Bill. It is a Bill within the framework of the Refreshment Houses Act, 1860, the only extant provisions of which require a place which is not licensed to sell intoxicating liquor, but which is nevertheless kept open for public refreshment, resort and entertainment any time between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., to take out an Excise licence, issued by the county or county borough council. On April 1, 1965, in the Greater London area the licensing authorities will be the new London borough councils. The licensing authority has at present no power to attach any conditions to the licence. The Bill enables the authority, in the few special cases I have referred to, to attach conditions regarding touting and overcharging. It is my honest belief that the Bill will in this way curb and prevent the nuisances created and the harm done by the "clip-joint". At present this nuisance is confined to London but, should it spread to the provinces, the local authorities there will have powers under this Bill to deal with it.
It may be argued that the Bill does not go far enough in dealing with other nuisances which may stem from the operation of cafés at night. This may or may not be so, but in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government it goes as far as we can reasonably go within the concepts laid down in the 1860 Act. There may well be planning and other considerations which might be taken into account in this problem of other nuisances in all-night cafés, but the House will no doubt agree that this is not a 66 matter for Excise licence legislation of this nature.
The House is indebted to the noble Lords, Lord Morrison of Lambeth and Lord Shepherd (I am sorry that neither noble Lord is in his place when I say this), for the support which they expressed during the passage of the London Government Bill last year for measures to deal with this type of nuisance; and I am confident that the same measure of support will now be forthcoming from the House as a whole. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, we have been diverted during the last few weeks by a description of the Home Secretary's adventures in Soho. It appears that it was following one of these excursions that he decided to introduce this Bill, although, according to his speech on Second Reading, his own investigations were not very fruitful, because he decided, if I remember rightly, that he had gone there too early. He quoted a case of three foreigners who were grossly overcharged in a so-called refreshment house. I have always held the opinion—and I hope for the support of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack in this—that hard cases make bad laws. I can understand an elderly foreigner expressing annoyance to the police because, after paying for drink, he has been denied full knowledge of a young woman. Things are probably arranged differently in his country. Those of us who have travelled will know that in certain foreign countries very often in the corner of cafés are certain women and it is accepted that they are for hire at some time.
That may be so in other countries. But I do not believe that a tired businessman from, let me say, Todwhistle is hoodwinked. He does not come down to London to risk contracting venereal disease. But he wants to see life for an hour or so as it is portrayed on his television. He wants to be wanted and to have an exotic young woman assure him that his mirror lies. He does not go to the police, but on his next visit, we are told, goes back for more. Indeed, I read the Home Secretary's speech very carefully, and 67 he said he was surprised to find how many of these men went back for more. They pay for the atmosphere. Just as they pay a large sum of money to go, let us say, to the Savoy Grill after a show, whereas they might go to Lyons', so here they pay for the atmosphere. Your businessman from Todwhistle pays for the atmosphere, and the Home Secretary is surprised that he goes back for more. It is remarkable that this Government introduced legislation to prevent a prostitute from plying for hire on the streets, and now they are protesting that these girls are responsible for a fraudulent prospectus. Should we legislate to protect a man who complains that a prostitute has refused to have sexual relations with him, whatever the prepayment has been?
I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, very carefully, and he talked about the fraud that was perpetrated, or words to that effect, on these men. I would again remind the House that we are not dealing with children, but with mature men. We are told that the man's resistance is undermined by the tout outside. So Clause 1(2) makes it unlawful to obtain customby means of personal solicitation outside",which means touting. I think the noble Lord on the Committee stage will have to define "solicitation". If somebody leans out of the window and encourages someone to come in, is that touting? If somebody is standing in the doorway, is that touting? If somebody is standing along the pavement somewhere near one of these places, is that touting? We shall want answers to all these questions. How the noble Lord can say this will help the police, I do not know. I will prove in a moment that, far from helping the police, they will have more and more work in order to administer the law. If there is an obvious tout somewhere along the pavement (this is another question which we shall want answered) and the policeman goes up to him and says: "You are not supposed to do this", can he demand to know from the tout who his employer is? This I believe is of the utmost importance.
Now that the Home Secretary has embarked on this life of dissipation, why does he not go in broad daylight one 68 morning to Soho to see the male touts outside the strip-tease establishments inviting young men to see young girls strip? Are these touts to be included? When is the Home Secretary going to legislate against this touting and these displays? Is he taking no action because there are no complaints from the customers of these establishments? These men have not complained because the girls are prepared to take off their clothes but because in the "clip joints" they refuse to do so. Therefore, the Government are taking action in response to the complaints. That is the very crux of this Bill.
Again, the noble Lord talks about "cleaning up these joints". Are girls under eighteen to be permitted to work in these places and to be denied protection? We should like an answer to that. If the noble Lord decides that some protection should be afforded to people who use these places, then let us say that the young girl under eighteen is not permitted to go in. I might remind the noble Lord of a notorious case last year in which the whole world was interested. A young girl under eighteen was found in one of these clubs, and we followed the course of her career after the individual who had been looking for somebody with her qualifications had taken her away.
It seems to me that in this Bill the Home Secretary is straining at a gnat and letting pass an elephant. He has been playing around on the fringe of a vice ring for a long time, and now it is time that he took the plunge. I hold the view also—and having been in the Ministry of Food for four years I learned this very well—that if an Act is not enforceable, it brings the law into disrepute. This Bill deals with refreshment houses supplying refreshment between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and not licensed for the sale of alcohol. May I say here to the noble Lord that I am informed that some of the places he has been talking about are open in the afternoon. Therefore, should not the times in the Bill be amended?
As the noble Lord has said, the refreshment house includes Lyons' and coffee stalls. It will be quite absurd to suggest that the Lyons' establishments and all the coffee stalls are going to be conducted improperly. So the Government, in framing this Bill, have quite rightly had to say: "We cannot take 69 action against them all." But apparently the power of the local authority to insist that charges shall be displayed will be restricted, by the words in Clause 1(3), toany case where it appears to them desirable in order to ensure that persons frequenting the refreshment house are not misled…What will make it desirable to take action?—one complaint, two complaints or, if there are no complaints, is a policeman to sit through the night in these places to ensure that a fool and his money are not easily parted?
I am very sorry for the police. I feel that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, many of them are going to spend valuable time enforcing it which should be used elsewhere. After this has been passed, it seems possible that if an undesirable establishment is conducted circumspectly it can have a long run before being warned. I would remind noble Lords that the tariff is not to be put up until it is considered desirable. So if there are no complaints, and the policeman sees nothing when he goes in, then it is going to have a very long run. When it is decided to take action, the proprietor is told to put the tariff outside the premises, suitably decorated no doubt. It is surely not imagination that one of these men will put up a cardboard notice with a beautiful female holding the tariff. This will invest the place with an aura of naughtiness—a sign to indicate that there are certain amenities to be offered inside.
The noble Lord will say, "But it will say outside that only lemonade will be sold there at 2s. or half-a-crown." I have never been to one of these places, but I know my Soho. These places can be in a room at the end of the passage, and not in a big establishment in Regent Street. Therefore, if there is a notice up in one of these rather suspicious looking places, saying that at the end of this passage you can get lemonade for half-a-crown, am I wrong in my simple mind in thinking that people who see this notice will say, "This is very curious. Surely there is something else at the end of the passage"? I say that the noble Lord, by telling these people to put up the tariff, is indeed telling them to put up a sign which will attract all kinds of people. If I may use the inelegant 70 word "suckers", the "suckers" will be handled expertly. Of course, people who are very simple and go down the passage and only ask for lemonade will soon be shown the door—politely, but nevertheless they will be thrown out. But the others, the "suckers", will be handled expertly. The ladies inside will extract lavish tips and make lasting and profitable contacts.
Then what happens? What happens if a customer asks for a tomato juice, and it is not on the tariff? This, apparently, will be an offence and there may be a conviction. Is the proprietor to be struck off for that? If the noble Lord examines what I have said, he will find that it is far from being irresponsible. These things can happen if legislation of this kind, without very careful amendment, is put on the Statute Book. We would all wholeheartedly approve this Bill if it did anything to clean up the life of the Metropolis. But does it? Or does it simply encourage the sharp-witted rascal to outwit the authorities, at a colossal cost in policemen's time? That is what I suspect. The Home Secretary has been guilty of repeated blunders, but I do not think he is going to redeem himself by introducing a Bill to protect lascivious morons.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, when we discussed the Young Persons Employment Bill on Thursday, I said that I could not give it a warm welcome but would give it a mild and rather cool, "Hello!". I feel rather the same way about this Bill. I agree with a great deal of what my noble friend Lady Summerskill has said, although I cannot follow her into the realms where she said that people come to London to find life as they see it on television—I think she must have been watching the wrong television programme. But I agree with her that it is, in fact, a tiny and minor Bill: it may do a little good, but it will not, I think, substantially alter the situation in London.
An appropriate sub-title for this Bill might well be, "Henry's Night Out", because it seems to emerge from Henry's escapades in the Metropolis. It seems that, after his labours on the Police Bill—a magnificent Bill—in need of some spiritual succour and refreshment, he went out and has now come forward with this particular Bill and one or two 71 others. All of which lead me to the reflection that, "After the Lord's Mayor Show comes the dustcart." To me this is taking a flyswat to deal with a nest of rattlesnakes. It really is a tiny little Bill.
I also have been out "on the town" once or twice and frankly I am rather shocked at the defeatism in this Bill, at the attitude that we can do so little to handle this problem. We are, in effect, saying that here are crooks, criminals, pimps, ponces and prostitutes, operating in London in night clubs, robbing people under false pretences; and all we can do is to ask them to put up a little bit of card, and put one or two other restrictions upon them. But we can do very little else, and they can carry on any business.
To get some measure of what this problem is like, I should like to describe for the benefit of your Lordships a visit to a night club called the "Discothéque".
§ LORD WILLIS
This particular refreshment house, if I may call it that, is described as the "Discotheque". May I describe a visit to the "Discothéque"? First of all, outside on the pavement there are a number of hefty, well-built young men, who jostle you and tell you that you cannot get in there; that you should not go in there, and various other things. There are also other people trying to invite you inside. Eventually, after a suitable bribe you enter, and you descend into what I can only describe as something like Dante's Inferno. There is a broken juke box which plays off-key, with a couple of "toughs" standing on each side of it, who give it kicks from time to time so that it keeps playing. Then you get down into this particular cellar, and in the dim light you can discern one or two couples sitting around doing nothing but a little harmless "necking". After a while your eyes become accustomed to the gloom, and you see further up the 72 end of the room another cellar-like place that leads off the first. This is where the really serious note of what I am going to say begins, because I have never seen anything like this.
Further up the room there were boys and girls lying on the floor in a state of absolute—well, the only thing I can think of is that they were doped. It was not exhaustion, in what your Lordships would regard as the normal sense of the word. It was simply as if they had been doped, so that if you bent and lifted a hand it would drop. Here, spread out on the dirty floor among cigarette ends, were twenty or thirty couples lying like that in this particular club, and all the time this strange, fantastic juke box playing. I am aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said, that this is a club. But is it not rather scandalous that we can have a measure which goes a tiny way to deal with these so-called refreshment houses, yet the kind of place that I have just described can still continue in operation? And, of course, there are many more like it, run by these criminals.
To return to the refreshment houses, we are saying that "clip-joints" of this nature exist in London in increasing numbers—the earlier estimate was that there were 30 or 40. We are saying that they are run solely for the purpose of fleecing customers; that soft drinks are passed off as alcohol and are charged at fantastic prices; that customers are being lured into these places by false promises; and that many of these places are a cloak for prostitution, are near-brothels, and so on. Yet, if these charges are put on one side of the balance sheet and the measures proposed to stop them on the other, this Bill really looks very feeble. It is, as I said earlier, a case of extraordinary defeatism. Is not this carrying the defence of private enterprise just a little too far? Could we not, instead of this tiny little Bill, have a savage and all-out attack on these places so that we can really close them down?
My Lords, when you demand that they show their price list, have you any conception of what these villains who run these places can do in order to get round this sort of thing? Have noble Lords never heard of the idea of keeping false books, or of the idea 73 of giving phoney bills? And who will bother to read these cards showing the prices of the various refreshments outside the places? Very few people. In fact, I think that that particular requirement will hardly stop the operation of these clubs at all. As far as enticement of customers is concerned, I think that what is proposed is a welcome move; but here again I believe that these villains, as I have called them, will find other ways round this particular provision. Vice, of course, is never at a loss to advertise itself.
The measures proposed in this Bill will make it slightly more difficult for these places to operate, but only slightly. I want to know whether it really is impossible for us to go further. My noble friend Lady Summerskill and my honourable friend in the other place, Miss Alice Bacon, raised the question: why protect stupid men? Not all the men are stupid, I must tell them. It is only later that they find they have been stupid. In any case, there is ample precedent in our laws for defending people against their own stupidity. Simple things like the 30 m.p.h. speed limit and pedestrian crossings are indications of how we protect people from their own stupidity. I think that any measure which protects people against this sort of thing is worth while, and that is why I give this Bill, as I say, a qualified welcome.
What is needed, as I said earlier, is not this kind of messing about with the problem on such a small scale, but an all-out attack, not only on these refreshment houses but on these clubs; and none of the reputable clubs and refreshment houses would object. We need more powers for the police; more powers of entry, even into clubs. We need a "black register" of club owners. We need a situation in which, when a club or refreshment house is found guilty of a breach of this kind, not only is the owner dealt with, but the use of the premises as a club or refreshment house is prohibited for a long period. One of the problems is that you close the "Black Peacock" one night and it opens as the "White Peacock" a week later. This sort of thing has to be stopped, and I think that we need strong measures in order to do that. That is all I want to say. I was hoping when I heard that some measure was going to be intro- 74 duced to deal with this problem that we should have something with "teeth", but I am afraid that this is a rather gummy and feeble Bill. However, I welcome it in those terms.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ EARL COWLEY
My Lords, I listened with great interest to the description of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, of a certain club called La Discothéque. His was not, of course, a visit to a "near-beer joint", and perhaps I might assist the House by describing a visit to one of those places. A "near-beer joint", a believe, is called such because they serve their customers near-beer. If you put more than a certain amount of alcohol in a drink you must have a licence. I believe the percentage is something like 2 per cent. So if you put just under 2 per cent. in the beer or refreshment you do not need to have a licence.
Men walking past certain shop doorways in Soho will be asked by young ladies whether they would like to enter a club and meet and talk to a pretty girl. I echo what the noble Baroness said, that of course these places operate from late afternoon to before 10 p.m., when this Bill has no effect whatsoever. When you go upstairs you are asked what you would like to drink, and you buy a glass of beer. This, I think, is where the Home Secretary is wrong, because you are not yourself charged an exorbitant price for a soft drink—if you call near-beer a soft drink, and in accordance with the Bill it is. You are charged 1s. 6d., and the young lady who comes up and talks to you will ask you if you would like to buy her a cocktail. The cocktail, in fact, consists of cherry water with a stick and a cherry in it. It contains no alcohol whatsoever, and the charge is 10s. How much you finally spend depends on how she enjoys the conversation with you, on how fast she "knocks back" those little cocktails and how much or how many she thinks she can get out of you. But I do not think that anybody is defrauding, because if you go into one of our major hotels you will be charged something like 12s. 6d. for a glass of champagne. Whereas the person you take into the hotel might like champagne and does not like a cherry cocktail consisting of no alcohol whatsoever, the young lady in the "near-beer joint" might not like champagne but enjoys 75 drinking cherry water. And there is no obligation to go on buying after you have paid for the first and found out how much it costs.
The only question I should like to ask my noble friend is why the Bill applies only from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.—because, as I said, these places are open during most of the day. I think that the answer I will be given is that it is hinged on the Refreshment Houses and Wine Licences Act, 1860, in which, of course, the hours are from 10 o'clock at night until 5 o'clock in the morning, and there might be some drafting difficulties if the hours were changed. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, said, we are only nibbling at this problem. We ought to go into it wholeheartedly. This Bill is intended to defeat "clip joints". On the Second Reading of the Refreshment Houses and Wine Licences Bill of 1860 the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day pointed out [Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 157, col. 1302]:I can assure the House that the Bill has been framed in the spirit that I have described. Now, Sir, this is a Bill of very great practical importance, and one into which no considerations of Party spirit or purely political motives ought to enter. It is a measure of importance as a fiscal measure, and takes its rise immediately from a fiscal proposal…".That is the point. Why hinge this Bill on an earlier Bill which was intended purely as a measure to raise revenue for the Government?
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I find it, as was the case with one or two earlier speakers, impossible not to welcome this Bill. I am ready to fall in with the phrase of my noble friend Lord Willis and give it a qualified welcome, and I hope that I am not departing from the views of the noble Baroness if I use that language. So far as I could make out, the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, while he did not think there was any fraud, gave it a qualified welcome for reasons not altogether clear to me. But like the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, I have done a little research on the spot and visited a number of these places; and I myself have come away with an impression that I do not think has been fully voiced in either House of Parliament, and yet I think it is really the view of the police most concerned.
76 There is something very mysterious about these places. They are still a minor evil. My information is that there are only 17 of them. I think the Home Secretary talked of 40 such places, but I believe that there are only 17 "clip-joints", though the number may be increasing. But even though it is as yet a small evil, that does not mean we ought not to stop it. What is mysterious about them (and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, will correct me if he found things different) is that the custom is very thin. I found only one of these places in which there were as many as three gentlemen; and, as the noble Baroness says, the places tend to be rather small. The police officers most concerned say they can visit them at all hours of the night, and sometimes find no one; so there is a peculiar element yet to be explored. If it were quite as simple as I have said; if there is hardly anybody there, and nothing fraudulent, it is impossible to see how these places can keep going. Yet one can find half a dozen young women waiting about; and somebody has to provide them with a living. One must, on the face of it, conclude—and I think this is the Home Secretary's conclusion—that there is fraud on a very large scale in relation to the business. Otherwise it is literally impossible to see how they keep open. The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, implied, and it is rather my own feeling, that it would be very difficult to make them pay on that basis. I was told that a glass of near-beer cost 2s. 6d. The noble Earl, Lord Cowley, being more enterprising in business matters, got it for 1s. 6d.
§ EARL COWLEY
That is a very nice compliment. No, I was not eighteen last week; it was about twenty years ago.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
That again is interesting. Perhaps when we come to the Committee stage we can compare "clip-joints" as they were in the noble Earl's time and as they seem to have become. When I was eighteen, which was many more years ago than in the case of the noble Earl, I had never heard of these places.
77 The other explanation which, of course, leaps to mind is that there is some kind of organised immorality going on. The noble Baroness talked about contacts. The police assure me that there is not some inner room or upper room; otherwise, they would discover it. Immorality does not take place there. The whole business is so peculiar that one is bound to think there is some other source of income, beyond what we see, which assists the place to finance these young women. However, I agree with what I think is the thought of my colleagues on this side, that it is a minor, little evil compared with the very gross evils to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has referred; and it is rather extraordinary that the Government should be coming forward to cope with these unpleasant little places in this relatively small way when there are much more ghastly haunts to be explored. I side with everything that has been said about the need for a much more savage and all-out attack on the really horrible night clubs of the kind described by the noble Lord, Lord Willis.
As regards this Bill, there are several points of difficulty which will need investigation in Committee. There is the question of what is "the vicinity", when we talk about touting in the vicinity. And, of course, the police are uncertain, or some of them are, whether they will have difficulties in apprehending touts who refuse to disclose their identity. There is also the very pertinent point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, as to whether we can tolerate the idea of girls under eighteen being employed in these places. My general feeling is similar to that expressed on this side. These are nasty little businesses; there is certainly some fraud, possibly more immorality than we know of; and they ought to be stamped on heavily. I hope that very soon something much more serious will be done about the whole night club racket in Soho.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I never suggested for one moment that this was a major measure. In spite of what the noble Baroness says—and I notice that throughout her speech she posed as an expert on these establishments, and then said she had never been to one—this is a minor measure. The business carried on in "clip-joints" is fraudulent, and the police are anxious that we should 78 take action because of the additional work they are being caused. I might also say that I think the noble Lord, Lord Willis, as I shall explain in a moment, is getting a little muddled. I gave him a word of warning about clubs, but he insisted on talking about them.
§ LORD WILLIS
I was trying to draw attention to this simple problem: the Government are dealing with nasty little businesses, as the noble Earl has just said, while I believe that attention should be focused on this much greater evil.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
Surely it is understood that on the Second Reading of a Bill noble Lords can raise the question of important omissions; therefore the noble Lord was quite in order.
§ LORD DERWENT
Of course it was not dealing with an omission in that sense, when we are talking about refreshment houses, for the noble Lord to deal with clubs, as I am sure he fully realises. His argument, if I understood it, is that if you have a major evil and a small one, you must not deal with the small one. I cannot accept that, and we are dealing with a small one here.
§ EARL COWLEY
My Lords, on this small point may I say that these "near-beer joints" in fact purport to be clubs, and when you go to them they give you a tiny membership card for which they charge 5s. In fact, La Discotheque is not a club. It is also a refreshment house and does not sell alcoholic refreshment.
§ LORD DERWENT
The noble Earl is not quite accurate, though he may have been twenty years ago. The reason this comes under the Refreshment Houses Act is that it has not been found possible so far to define one of these "joints," or whatever you like to call them, except as a refreshment house. Parliamentary draftsmen and various lawyers have tried to find another definition, and they have so far failed to find one that will bite. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, realises, we are dealing here with places that do not sell alcohol—that come under quite different legislation—and it is for that reason we have brought the matter within the terms of the 1860 Act. The 1860 Act lays down opening hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. It is within that frame-work that this Bill has been drafted.
79 I have obtained a report from the police about afternoon opening—which is a point mentioned by the noble Baroness and by the noble Lord, Lord Willis—which discloses that there are forty "clip-joints" of this kind at present in London. About ten open before 4 p.m. and have been doing some trade, though not very much, in the afternoon and early evening. There have been no complaints either from customers or management in respect of this afternoon trade. The great bulk of the business goes on being done not merely after 10 but later than that; namely, after the public houses and other places of entertainment have closed, when those who feel that the night is still young look about for some means of rounding off the evening's entertainment. It is just because business is at its best (I do not know what time the noble Earl, Lord Longford, went to inspect these places) from eleven o'clock or so until the early hours of the morning, that the "clip-joints" are open so late; and it is only because they are open so late that they require a refreshment house licence. I hope I have made that position clear.
The attachment in the minority of bad cases of stringent conditions to refreshment house licences has as its purpose, and will, we hope, have as its effect, that it will cease to be worth the establishment's while, because of the conditions attached to the licence, to carry on after ten o'clock. At this stage it seems hardly likely that they will remain open for business solely for what trade can be picked up in the afternoon, and so we think that they will close down altogether.
If this expectation is not fulfilled, the Bill will not have failed altogether in its purpose, since it will presumably have stopped the late-night trade and the scandals arising there from. That is when they usually occur. If places of this kind open only in the afternoon I do not see how they will pay. But if these places do remain open, then of course we shall be faced with a new problem; but I think that is unlikely to arise. So long as these places are licensed refreshment houses, and carry on their business late at night on the strength of refreshment house licences, it seems to me only sensible to deal with 80 them by way of an adaptation of refreshment house legislation. One of the essential points in this, I agree, comparatively small Bill is that we should not penalise any place that is properly run, and we think that this Bill will have the effect of differentiating between the two.
The noble Baroness raised the question of strip-tease. Again she has not been doing her "homework". That is quite a different matter. Strip-tease clubs and entertainments are a matter for the various Statutes dealing with music and dancing licences, and they have nothing to do with refreshment houses.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I must really interrupt. The noble Lord should know by now that on the Second Reading of a Bill one can range widely. In what both I and my noble friend have said regarding these places we have been completely in order. I am most surprised that the noble Lord should adopt this rather high and mighty manner and tell the House that anything outside this Bill ought not to be mentioned
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, one gets tired of being lectured by the noble Baroness. What I said was that she had not done her "homework". I was not complaining of her ranging widely, because it would be useless to do so. I was merely saying that she had not done her "homework" and that strip-tease is covered by music and dancing licences. That is all I said. I did not say she should not have talked about it; but she should not talk about it in connection with refreshment houses. Girls under 18, as I should have thought she might also have known, may not be employed in a refreshment house "in the reception of or attendance on persons resorting thereto", or as waitresses. Refreshment houses are not clubs. So they are all right.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord simply to ascertain this fact? Is it the case that no one under 18 may be employed in these establishments at all?
§ LORD DERWENT
Yes. My noble friend Lord Cowley said that the 1860 Act was a fiscal measure. It was originally, if one goes back further than 81 20 years; but latterly it has been used to deal with places that are licensed under the 1860 Act only. It is not a fiscal matter now. The Act is used now for the issuing of licences.
Then there was a question, raised, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Longford—and I know that it was raised by the noble Baroness—about touting in doorways. I am advised that the wording in Clause 1(2),personal solicitation outside and in the vicinity of a refreshment house,covers touting from a doorway. It is not necessary that the tout should be outside the premises. Almost exactly the same point arose in the case of Smith v. Hughes, in relation to Section 1 of the Street Offences Act, 1959. In that case my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice said this;—he was referring to that particular Act, but I am told that the position is the same under this Bill:The words of Section 1(1) of the Act of 1959 are in this form"—and then he quoted the section as follows:It shall be an offence for a common prostitute to loiter or solicit in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.He went on:Observe that it does not say there specifically that the person who is doing the soliciting must be in the street. Equally, it does not say that it is enough if the person who receives the solicitation or to whom it is addressed is in the street. For my part I approach the matter by considering what is the mischief aimed at by this Act. Everybody knows that this was an Act intended to clean up the streets, to enable people to walk along the streets without being molested or solicited by common prostitutes".He went on to say:Viewed in that way, it can matter little whether the prostitute is soliciting while in the street or is standing in a doorway or on a balcony or at a window, or whether the window is shut or open, or half open; in each case her solicitation is projected to and addressed to somebody walking in the street. For my part, I am content to base my decision on that ground and that ground alone.That is the position under the Street Offences Act, and I am advised by my legal advisers that the same thing will apply under this Bill if it becomes an Act: in other words, soliciting in that sense is covered whether it is from the doorway or just outside it. I hope that that meets the case.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sure it will be an important part of our discussion on the Committee stage, but in view of the disquiet felt among some members of the police this is something we shall have to go into later.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I have just had a note to say that what I said might have been misunderstood in connection with a previous point made by the noble Earl, when he was talking about young persons. I was talking about employment between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. This would apply as, for example, in hotels, where the page boy, if he is under a certain age, may not work between those hours. When I said that young people under 18 could not be employed, I meant that they cannot be employed between those hours.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite wrong. He said dogmatically that girls under 18 were not employed in these places. They can be employed until 10 o'clock at night. They can be employed under 18, and nothing is being done about it.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am told that what I said might have been misunderstood. Unlike the noble Baroness, in my own mind I was quite clear.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I think I have answered all the points that have been raised at this stage. I only again regret that the noble Baroness does not object to fraud when it is on a minor scale.
§ EARL COWLEY
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down I should like again to bring up this matter of the fiscal element of the 1860 Act. I realise, of course, that that Act has been amended many times since then; but the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. element in it came in in 1860; and the reason why it was only from 10 o'clock to 5 o'clock the following 83 morning is because the Government did not want to tax the refreshment houses that were open before that time. That is why I am saying that the 10 to 5 element does not apply to this present Bill. Would my noble friend consider this possible Amendment at the next stage?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am afraid I have not quite got the point. It is quite correct that the 1860 Act was originally brought in for fiscal reasons, but the 10 o'clock to 5 o'clock provisions have since then been used for licensing purposes and not for fiscal purposes. That is all I meant. If the noble Earl would like to put down an Amendment on a further point, I should be willing to look at it.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.