HL Deb 03 February 1967 vol 279 cc1095-124

11.20 a.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he read a second time. It was as long ago as last June when I ventured to introduce a Bill, entitled the Registration and Control of Unlicensed Clubs Bill, to provide for the registration of premises used by clubs, organisations and other bodies for the purpose of entertainment, including music and dancing. It is always said, and rightly, that no lawyer can draft his own will in a satisfactory form, and certainly no mere Judge can draft his own Bill. Therefore, I should like at the outset to express my sincere thanks to the Government for having made the services of Parliamentary Counsel available. In the result, I have what I feel sure is a vastly improved Bill.

Before turning to the Bill itself, may I spend a few minutes dealing with what I am convinced makes legislation along these lines a matter of urgent necessity today. No doubt many have realised the dangers arising from these unlicensed clubs, but I think it was only in 1964, arising from the situation in Manchester, that the public really became alive to what was going on. It was in 1964 that entertainment clubs of a kind were introduced in Manchester. They go by different names—coffee and dance clubs, beat clubs, jazz clubs and the like. They are clubs at which refreshments of the coffee, snack and soft-drink variety are available, and they offer evening and often all-night entertainment in the form of "pop" music. If these so-called clubs were open to the public the proprietors would be subject to the existing legislation dealing with music and dancing licences, and it is no doubt to avoid this form of control that they form a club, whether real or sham, so as to avoid its being classed as public entertainment.

These clubs naturally attract the young, and those of a more disreputable nature, in particular those with no fixed abode, abscondees from approved schools and other institutions, as well as those who desire to escape supervision by their parents, and indeed supervision by any adult control. They wander about from so-called club to club. It was quite common to find a girl sleeping in a different club every night, and even during the day, when the clubs were supposed to be closed. Many clubs were, in fact, really nothing more than common lodging-houses. Often acts of violence took place on the premises and, to say the least, the moral conduct of those there was not above reproach. Even after closing hours, they congregated in the street, damaged property, and made a general nuisance of themselves to the neighbours.

Almost more important, it was found that dangerous drugs were being sold, distributed and taken on such premises. True, most of these were of the Indian hemp, "purple heart" and other drugs of the amphetamine class, but activities were certainly not confined to those and extended to heroin, cocaine and morphia. Often these so-called clubs were found to be owned and run by persons who exercised no control, or no effective control, over what went on on the premises; indeed, they were often themselves people with criminal records. Finally, the premises, chosen probably because they were the only ones available, were quite unsuitable, often comprising cellars, attics, or space in buildings which were about to be demolished. They were dirty, crudely decorated, with a minimum of furniture and little in the way of sanitary facilities.

I imagine—and indeed I hope—that few, if any, of your Lordships have had personal experience of these clubs. Therefore I feel constrained to give a few illustrations, albeit they disclose rather lurid details. One of these clubs in Manchester went by the name of the "Forty Thieves' Coffee Club". It was run by two men, both with criminal records, one with 30 convictions for dishonesty. The premises consisted of a basement room, dirty, poorly furnished, with poor lighting and inadequate toilet facilities. Only a blanket separated the ladies' toilet from the view of club members and there was no flushing mechanism whatever. Inside, there was conducted a flourishing drug traffic. Since opening, 24 girls frequenting the premises, of whom four were under 15, came to the notice of the police as missing from their homes; 14 were found there in the early hours of the morning, and when the police raided the premises nine persons were found in possession of drugs, seven of them girls under 17, one wanted for breach of probation and another missing from her home. Another club, appropriately, or inappropriately, named the "Heaven and Hell Club", was raided on one occasion by the police and, quite apart from finding persons in possession of drugs and offensive weapons, they took no fewer than 42 female and 13 male juveniles to the police station. All these were later collected by their parents, who were not aware of where their children had been and were horrified, to say the least, at the circumstances.

These are but a few of the examples of what was found to exist at Manchester, and I am afraid that these clubs are by no means confined to that city. Since then, they have sprung up in a number of places. I have heard of them in Liverpool, Birmingham, Brighton and Leicester, and it may be that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry may have illustrations from Coventry. It is like a disease which is spreading at the moment all over the country. Only recently, I understand, a survey was carried out in Greater London by the National Association on Drug Addiction. It was carried out in 50 "beat" clubs, and of 215 juveniles interviewed, 135 admitted experimenting with drugs, and 48 claimed to take them regularly.

I emphasise that this is not a Bill to deal with traffic in drugs—it must not be confused with that—but at the same time these clubs do afford a very convenient forum where the young can meet, take drugs, be supplied with drugs and peddle drugs. I believe that this Bill also may have some effect on the clubs which are springing up every day in Soho. It is true that it can be argued that they are affording public music and dancing, and therefore could be properly licensed under the existing legislation. But they do form so-called clubs, probably purely sham, where one arrives at the door, pays something to go in and is made a member automatically. Therefore at the moment they claim to be uncontrolled. If this Bill were passed, I think it would enable those clubs to be caught either as public places of entertainment or as private places of entertainment.

All this prompts one to ask why these activities have been allowed to continue for so long. The answer is that at the moment there is no effective method of control. It is true that the police can, and do, raid these premises from time to time; and after a raid there is no doubt some improvement. But the proprietors know only too well that there is little chance of their being prosecuted. They realise that the police may prose- cute those who resort to the clubs if found in possession of offensive weapons, drugs or the like; but the chances of having evidence to prosecute one of the proprietors for himself peddling drugs or being party to what is going on are very small. These people know only too well that there is no need for them, under the present legislation, to effect any control or supervision whatever.

It is in these circumstances that the object of this Bill is to provide machinery which can be adopted by local authorities to license the proprietors of any such clubs, and to impose such conditions as they think fit as terms of the licence. Those conditions would not only affect questions of opening and closing hours, structural arrangements, provisions to guard against fire risk, provision of proper sanitary facilities and the like, but could impose standards of behaviour, control the objectionable activities which are carried on in these clubs and, above all—and this is important—make it a condition that representatives of the local authority or the police shall be able at any time to go on those premises to see that the conditions of the licence are being fulfilled.

With that short introduction, I turn now to the Bill. The scheme which was the subject of the earlier Bill that I ventured to introduce was a scheme whereby control was effected through the registration of premises. This was, to a large extent, based on Section 18 of the Manchester Corporation Act 1965,which was a Private Bill. It seemed to me that that was at any rate a precedent, and might make it possible that a Bill modelled on those lines would be completely uncontentious. But I agree that that Act had this real defect: that it was impossible to provide for the registration of private houses. After all, we are dealing with private entertainment on private premises, and to register private houses seemed to be asking too much. The scheme of the present Bill is not to register penalties, but to license proprietors of premises where certain activities are conducted for private gain; and I emphasise that it is hitting only those who carry on activities of this sort for private gain. The scheme is to enable any local authority which has the power to control public entertainment, public music and dancing to be able to exercise similar control to license premises used for private entertainment.

Unfortunately, the Bill has to become a little complicated, because the powers of local authorities to control what I call public entertainments vary from place to place. They are powers which arise under different Statutes. If I may turn to Clause 1 of the Bill, your Lordships will see set out in subsection (1) a number of Acts of Parliament. It will be seen, for instance, that the area in which the Bill may be applied by adoption is the area covered by the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890. That is an Act for places outside London, Part IV of which enables a borough or urban district council to adopt the provisions of that Part IV and to control public entertainment. In the case of a rural district, it may be declared to be in force there by the Secretary of State.

Under paragraph (b) of the same subsection, the Home Counties (Music and Dancing) Licensing Act 1926 applies to the counties of Essex, Hertfordshire and so much of the counties of Buckinghamshire and Kent as lies within 20 miles of the City of London or the City of Westminster. That Act provides a measure of control which can be exercised by local authorities in the area in regard to public music and dancing. In Greater London, the licensing is regulated by the London Government Act 1963, which is referred to in paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause I.

Finally, there are, in addition, licensing provisions in a number of local Acts—for example, The Manchester Corporation Act, the Cheshire County Council Act and the Nottinghamshire County Council Act. These Acts enable the local authorities in those areas to license public music and dancing. It is true that there are some local authorities outside London which have not adopted the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890, and therefore they would not be able to adopt the powers under this Bill. But if I may go right ahead for a moment and refer to Clause 6(3) of the Bill, it will be seen that if in future a local authority adopts the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890, it will, in turn, be able to adopt the provisions of this Bill.

Clause 1(2) takes one to the Schedule to the Bill, which in Part I is providing in respect of each area the authority which may adopt the Bill and the relevant licensing authority. Thus, it will be seen, to take one example, that in a borough or county district which has adopted the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890 the council of the borough or county council is the authority which may adopt the Act, and the licensing authority is the licensing justices. Part II of the Schedule sets out the procedure whereby the provisions of this Bill may be adopted.

Clause 2(1) of the Bill, which is the vital provision here, lays down that premises used for dancing, music or other entertainment will require a licence if three conditions are complied with: first, that they are in an area to which the Bill is applied, in an area where the local authority has adopted the provisions of the Bill; secondly, that the entertainment is not private but takes the form of the so-called clubs; and, thirdly, that the entertainmer is promoted for private gain. Subsections (2) and (3) provide exceptions. Thus, in subsection (2) any premises which are already licensed for public music and dancing may be used for private music and dancing if within the hours of the public music and dancing licence. If the hours are to extend beyond that, then alicence will be required. Subsection (2)(b) excludes all licensed premises where there is already adequate control. Subsection (3) goes on to exempt cinema clubs, theatre clubs and public broadcasting studios.

Finally, subsections (4), (5) and (6) are designed to define what is intended by the words "private gain". They are modelled to a large extent, I think, if not wholly, on Section 54 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. Thus, subsection (4) provides that, provided that the proceeds are applied for what one might call the purposes of the society, then the fact that one member thereby gets a financial gain does not mean that the entertainment is run by that society for private gain. Subsection (5) goes on to refer to the sort of society being a Society which is established and conducted either— (a) wholly for purposes other than purposes of any commercial undertaking; or"— and I understand this is peculiar, really, to football supporters' clubs— (b) wholly or mainly for the purpose of participation in or support of athletic sports or athletic games. Clause 3 deals with the duration and transfer of licences. I think it speaks for itself. The licence may be granted on such terms and conditions (including conditions for securing entry to and inspection of the premises) and subject to such restrictions as may be specified in the licence. Those are, as I concede, very wide words. They would not only enable conditions to be made as to hours of opening and safety and sanitary precautions, provision for exits, emergency exits, lighting, fire risk and the like; but enable wide conditions to be imposed, as indeed are now imposed, in regard to the licensing of public music and dancing.

I have before me Patterson's Licensing Laws, and there will be found set out forms designed for use in areas where the Public Health Acts Amendment Act has been adopted. I take this only as illustration, but the recognised conditions are conditions such as: the licensee shall in all things conduct the premises decently, soberly and in an orderly manner, and so on; any performance of a kind commonly known as striptease and involving the removal of garments shall be conducted in a particular manner; no part of the premises should be used habitually by prostitutes; due precautions to be taken for the safety of the public, the performers and the employers; no posters or photographs of an indecent character and the like, to be displayed on or off the premises or sold thereon, and matters of that sort. I give that only as an illustration of the terms that could be imposed on the grant of a licence, and no doubt they could include terms and conditions dealing with the consumption of drugs and the peddling of drugs.

Subsection (2) of Clause 3 provides for an annual licence, and also provides that licences can be of a shorter term so that the licence may be renewable from a common date. Subsection (4)—this is really a matter of detail—provides for a fee being paid of £5. In fact, the corresponding fee for public music and dancing is only £1. There is power to raise it and, in any event, it is thought that in an application of this sort dealing with private premises it would be right to fix a higher fee having regard to the work involved.

Clause 4 deals with enforcement. I do not think there is anything very much I need refer to in that clause. It is intended to be wide to cover not only any person concerned in the organisation or management of the undertaking, but also any other person who knew or had reasonable grounds to suspect that an unlicensed entertainment would be provided. Subsection (2) deals with breach of terms, conditions and restrictions. Finally, subsection (3) lays down the offence and the penalty, the fine not to exceed £200. I am told that that penalty is in line with revised and increased penalties which are one of the subject matters of the Criminal Justice Bill now before Parliament.

Clause 5 shows one of the difficulties thrown up. Clause 5 deals in the first place with appeals from the refusal of a licence or refusal to renew a licence, or against the terms and conditions. But having, regard to the fact that, as I pointed out, the legislation in respect of public music and dancing varies from place to place, it so happens that the only appeals provided are to those local authorities the subject matter of the London Government Act 1963 and of any local Act which happens to provide an appeal; in other words, for all those local authorities who adopt the Public Health Acts Amendment Act there is at the moment no appeal. Bearing in mind that we are making, as it were, an inroad into private rights, that we are dealing with private premises, it seems quite wrong that there should be an appeal in one area and no appeal in another. Therefore, if we get that far (if I may put it that way), I hope at the Committee stage to introduce an Amendment which will give a uniform right of appeal against the refusal to grant or to renew a licence; against the terms and conditions of the licence, or against the revocation of the licence—a common method of appeal in whatever area the so-called club is situated.

A similar point arises on subsection (3) of Clause 5, because under the Public Health Act 1936 any proceedings for enforcing the control exercised over public music and dancing must have the consent of the Attorney General. Here again, it seems quite illogical that in some cases local authorities have to go to the Attorney General and in other cases they do not. I understand that the Attorney General does not think that there is any reason why his consent should be required in matters of this sort, and so again I shall at a later stage seek to introduce an Amendment to delete the provision which requires consent by Her Majesty's Attorney General.

Clause 6, the title and the definition clause, is formal: and, as I have said, subsection (3) of the clause will enable a local authority which has not yet adopted the Public Health Acts Amendment Act to do so, and thereafter it will be able to adopt the provisions of this Bill when it becomes an Act. Finally, I would point out that there is no equivalent in Scotland relating to the control of public music and dancing, and any control in regard to Northern Ireland would be a matter for the Government of Northern Ireland. Accordingly, subsection (4) states that This Act shall not extend to Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Parker of Waddington.)

11.55 a.m.


My Lords, I hope that I may be allowed to express my respectful appreciation of the cogent and lucid way in which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, has introduced his Bill. The House will perhaps forgive me if I pay him the compliment of repeating some of his observations, although he has explained the Bill so clearly that there will be no need for me to cover all the ground again. As many of us are aware, considerable concern has been expressed in the last year or so about the growing dangers, moral as well as physical, to which young people in particular are exposed as a result of the activities of a relatively small number of private clubs. The Government therefore welcome the Lord Chief Justice's Bill which, as he has said, replaces his Registration and Control of Unlicensed Clubs Bill, and the Government acknowledge this and have provided him with assistance in drafting its provisions. These have been drawn as carefully as possible so as to deal with the mischief aimed at without catching premises or people whose activities are already adequately controlled or which need no control.

As I have indicated, there has been a growing weight of evidence (from questions asked in another place, from letters to the Press and to Ministers and Members of Parliament and from the authorities responsible for public order) that private places of entertainment do in certain cases require some degree of control. At present the legal position, as the noble and learned Lord has explained, is that many places of entertainment which basically rely on an appeal to the general public are able to evade control by the simple expedient of forming a private, so-called club. No licence is required by them under the Licensing Act 1964, since no intoxicating liquor is sold; and no public music and dancing licence is required since, technically at least, the music and dancing they provide is private. The result is that the police have no power of entry (without a search warrant) and there are no proper safeguards as far as public safety or hygiene is concerned. The fire risk is often considerable. Moreover there is the danger, which is certainly a fact in some cases, that some of these clubs may become a refuge for the drug pedlar. Many young people who become members of a jazz club in all innocence because of a love of music or dancing may find themselves enticed in the intimacy of a private club into trying drugs in the form of one or other of the so-called "pep-pills" which, though not addictive, can be habit-forming and can be obtained lawfully only on doctor's prescription. That introduction can, as our society is beginning to learn with sorrow, be the first simple step towards addictive drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, which can, and frequently do, ruin life, family and career.

The Lord Chief Justice has said that he hoped and believed not many of your Lordships would have first-hand experience of these clubs. There are relatively few Members of this House who are young enough to be much tempted, or whose custom, I suppose, would be ardently sought. I have, however, in the company of police officers, been to some of these clubs (where the managers were kind enough to let us in; because we could not have gone in without their good will) and I certainly came away from my visits and discussions with an even stronger conviction than before that a Bill of this kind was necessary. I do not want to rest too much on a personal investigation of that sort; the main evidence, of course, is vastly more solid than any impressions of mine.

An additional problem that such unlicensed private clubs sometimes bring in their wake is that their hours of closing may be long after midnight, by which time local bus and train services have closed down. Young people in many of the big cities have had, as a result, to resort to sleeping on the pavement or in bus stations, waiting for early morning transport to appear. Alternatively, they have had to accept lifts home, not always from the most reliable or most respectable members of the community—which is perhaps an understatement. Always, in our complicated society we have to try to strike a fair balance between the right of the individual to do exactly as he pleases and the duty of the community as a whole to ensure that neither it nor its members come to irreparable harm. In some cases it is necessary to prevent individuals from harming themselves, although one is always anxious to interfere as little as possible.

It is true that under this Bill many premises at which private entertainment is provided and which are at present conducted in a most proper way may be required to be licensed. These clubs, however, will have nothing to fear from the provisions of the Bill, since the licensing authority will require only the high standards to which they already aspire. Nor should any condition as to inspection of the premises by the police or local authority be objectionable to them.

I should point out, as indeed the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, did, that the decision upon what particular conditions should be imposed in each individual case is, under the Bill, left to the licensing authorities, who best know about local requirements. Furthermore, as he again explained, the Bill provides to a large number of premises exemptions from its effect. These premises include places licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, premises already licensed for public music and dancing (to the extent of that licence), cinema clubs and theatre clubs, as well as sporting and recreational clubs. So the exclusions have been carefully worked out and are quite wide. In addition to these exemptions, there is the point that the provisions of the Bill, if enacted, will be adoptive and then only in the areas where public music and dancing legislation applies. This will mean that it will be applicable only in those areas where the local authority considers that private places of entertainment present a real problem. The adoption of the provisions of this Bill will obviate the need for these local authorities to promote legislation of their own on this subject, which Manchester, Brighton and Hove, among others, have already done.

There is, I think, no need for me to say more at this stage, except that if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading, as I hope it will, the services of Parliamentary draftsmen will continue to be made available to the Lord Chief Justice—that is, if drafting help is needed—either before Committee stage or between Committee and Report. In particular, the Lord Chief Justice has indicated that lie would wish to move Amendments to Clause 5 in Committee, and he has explained what he has in mind. The Government have no objection to raise to either of the two Amendments suggested. If the Bill receives a swift and successful passage in this House, it is to be hoped that time may be found for it in another place. I can enter into no commitment now, as old Parliamentary hands will understand, but I am sure that the sympathy, the very genuine sympathy which the Government have with the aims of this Bill will by now be apparent. I ask the House to support the Bill and I hope that when the time comes we shall give it a Second Reading.

12.4 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, for bringing in this Bill; to offer him my warm support and to express the hope that the Bill will quickly become law. There surely can be no doubt at all of the need for such legislation. I am glad that the noble Earl the Leader of the House has been making his own personal investigation recently into these problems. I expect he had much the same experience as I had, some three years ago, when I was Home Secretary, when I got an admirable chief superintendent of the Metropolitan Police to take me round for several hours one night to show me some of the police problems in Soho. I certainly ended up with a clear conviction that the moral damage that could be done by the "near-beers", the strip-tease places and the nude-posing establishments (incidentally, entrance to a nude-posing place is slightly less expensive than to a strip-tease) is small compared with the drug peddling combined with opportunities for vice of many kinds in the so-called clubs catering for teenagers.

I had time to introduce and take through Parliament two Bills, one aimed at the "near-beers" and one to tighten up the law relating to "purple hearts". The latter has had some good effect, though I do not think it has been entirely successful. What is more relevant is that before I left the Home Office I called a conference of Home Office officials and senior officers of the Metropolitan Police to discuss the particular subject that we are debating today. I knew there would not be time to legislate on it in that Parliament, because obviously it was a more difficult and far-reaching matter and would have required a longer Bill than could have been put through in the time. But we had that conference to consider what further controls were necessary over such clubs, to which, as the noble and learned Lord said, the police have no right of access unless they have reasonable suspicion that an offence is being committed, on the basis of which they can get a search warrant. I had in mind, had the Election turned out differently, to introduce Government legislation. But then the Government changed and now, in default of Government legislation, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, has decided to act; and I am very glad to know that the Home Office has in fact helped with the drafting of this, his second Bill.

My feelings in 1964 about the crying need for further powers of control over these so-called clubs were richly confirmed by the evidence that was given in May, 1965, before a Commons Committee on a clause in a Private Bill promoted by the Manchester Corporation. If any noble Lord has not been wholly convinced by the speech of the noble and learned Lord this morning, in moving the Second Reading, I will gladly lend him a copy of this evidence, which I would say would persuade even the most cynical that legislative action was necessary.

In that Private Bill the particular clause, which was an unprecedented clause, was allowed with Amendments, and I believe that this had good effect in the City of Manchester; and other authorities—Brighton, for one—subsequently became interested in seeking similar powers. As the noble and learned Lord has said, quite rightly, this evil is not confined to London and Manchester: it is liable to spring up in all sorts of places where it is possible to attract groups of teenagers, and unless Parliament legislates I have no doubt that the evil will spread more widely.

Meanwhile, following Manchester's Private Act in 1965, the honourable Member for Twickenham in another place, Mr. Gresham Cooke, who had been the Chairman of the Commons Committee on the Manchester Bill, was so deeply impressed by the evidence given, particularly by the Chief Constable of Manchester, that he himself introduced in another place a Private Member's Bill to extend the Manchester powers to the whole of England; and I was one of the backers of his Bill. That, as I say, was in 1965. That Bill, of course, approached more closely the noble and learned Lord's earlier Bill, for the registration and control of unlicensed clubs, and as national legislation might not, for the reasons he stated, have been so effective, if I remember rightly, Home Office Ministers, in the last Session of the last Parliament, discouraged Mr. Gresham Cooke from pressing on with that particular Bill, explaining that the Government were engaged on further studies with a view to finding the most effective form that national legislation could take. Then we had the 1966 Election, which in any case cut the last Session of Parliament short; and now we have the noble and learned Lord's Bill, which, I fancy, embodies the results of this further Home Office work as well as his own thinking.

If any noble Lord is still uncertain whether this is a matter in which Parliament should interest itself, he may care to repeat the experience of the noble Earl and myself, and go round Soho with an experienced police officer, preferably in the early hours of a Saturday or Sunday morning, and see some of the youngsters who have been found outside some of these clubs, very often affected by drugs, and then taken along to the police station. And he will be able to hear the shock of horror of many of the parents when they are rung up and asked to come and collect their young girls or boys. So often the parents have suspected nothing at all. A favourite device is to ring up one's parents and say "So sorry! I have missed the last train home. But it is all right, because a friend of mine says I can stay at his house for the night." The story is not true, but the way is open then for a night out in the clubs.

The noble and learned Lord said, quite rightly, that these clubs attract some of the more disreputable young people. But they also attract many perfectly clean-minded young people who go there for the first time when they are taken by somebody, or go on their own for "kicks", and then discover that it is rather exciting, and get caught up in the atmosphere, and may gradually slide into the evils which these clubs purvey.

I have just two questions on the Bill. First of all, is there any loophole in the wording of Clause 2(1) of which the owners or the managers of some of these unscrupulous clubs can take advantage? Will this Bill possibly lead to the development of a new type of club which is so designed as just to escape this definition: dancing, music or any other entertainment of the like kind but yet will have the undesirable features of these clubs? It is not so much the actual attraction a club offers as the reputation it creates for itself which will attract the teenagers. It has to become an "in" place, a place where it is the thing to do to be seen; because although so many of these boys and girls declare themselves in revolt against all forms of authority, they are sheepishly orthodox in frequenting what are the "in" places of the moment and keeping out of the others.

My second question is about fire risk. Are the Government as entirely convinced as is the noble and learned Lord that the terms and conditions referred to in Clause 3(1) will include everything that may be necessary to insist upon proper precautions against fire? Work was going on at the Home Office three years ago, I know, on a new and up-to-date legislative code against fire risk in all sorts of places to which people resort, including clubs like these where the fire risk is sometimes very high indeed. This was another piece of urgently needed legislation which I hoped the Government would bring in as soon as it was ready. It must surely be ready and drafted by now.

The whole country was stunned by the tip horror at Aberfan, in October, and now everybody is asking why there were no proper safety regulations for tips. I dread that one day there will be a fire horror in one of these overcrowded basements, and scores of young people will lose their lives, and it will be discovered that, though the danger was known and proper fire precaution rules had been drafted, they had not yet been brought into effect.

Can the Government assure us that there is no risk of that? What power has the local authority, or will it have, to insist that the owners or managers of such premises must not allow people to crowd into them for entertainment of any sort without providing completely effective fire precautions and safe means of escape in case of fire? Even the news this morning of a fire in Soho, though it was not in a basement, brings home to us how acute the danger is. Many of the places against which this Bill is aimed, whether or not they are a peril to morals, are an undoubted peril to health and to life. I hope that your Lordships' House will help the noble and learned Lord to make this Bill as comprehensively effective as possible, and to bring it into operation quickly.

12.15 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long, but I am glad that a voice from the Bench of Bishops should be heard in this debate, because it gives me a chance to say, not only on behalf of the Church of England, but, I think, on behalf of the wider Church, how grateful we all are to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, for sponsoring this most important Bill. Before making a few comments about it, I should like to make it quite clear (it is hardly necessary; nevertheless, I think it is important that I should) that the Christian faith is not, as some foolish people think, a negative faith which spends its time denouncing pleasures and restricting opportunities for enjoyment. On the contrary, the Christian Church believes wholeheartedly in the value of young people getting together, if I may so put it, to make a joyful noise, singing and dancing.

I cannot claim, as the two previous speakers have claimed, to have been round the kind of places depicted in this Bill. Nevertheless, when I was Bishop to the three Armed Services, I did have an opportunity of going round places somewhat similar, in the City of Hamburg, and therefore I know of the dangers that exist in places of this kind.

I support this Bill wholeheartedly, because I believe that, if it becomes law, some local authorities will use the powers it confers to take positive steps to improve the quality of the local recreational facilities attractive to the young.

Clause 3 of the Bill enables the local authority to grant licences which include conditions for securing entry to and inspection of the premises. This may well have, as I hope, the happy result of inducing local authorities to appoint inspectors who are knowledgeable about youth work, and who would be able to advise, as well as to enforce minimum standards. As a result, who knows! some private coffee-dance clubs might be encouraged to develop along lines that would result in the best of them becoming as socially acceptable and useful as the best of the pubs. In future years we may well see in this country coffee and dancing becoming the youthful counterpart of beer and darts. If these clubs for young people develop, as we hope they may, along the lines of the very best public-houses in this country, then some private coffee-dance, beat and jazz clubs may well emerge as a positively good influence in community life. There is no evidence whatsoever that the great majority of young people today like to congregate in the dark places for their dancing and music. As I have said, it may well be that as soon as legislative provision has enabled the elimination of the bad examples which attract condemnation of the lot, then the whole level of this kind of entertainment for young people may improve almost beyond recognition.

In passing, may say that the Church has not been totally inactive in seeking to provide this quality of club. The Times on January 24 publicised a club precisely of this sort, the current name being discotheque, a somewhat odd name for an ordinary, though high-quality club, which now takes place in the crypt of a church of which many years ago I had the honour to be Rector, namely, at Woolwich. To-day this club is run by a curate of the church, not for private gain and avowedly not specifically for religious motives, but because, in the words of The Times …it was better that local teenagers had in reach a discotheque where they would not be approached by drug peddlers or ensnared by the perils of a big city life. There is no reason why private enterprise should not fulfil that objective more generally and adequately than can be done out of church funds and in church buildings, always provided that control by licensing will wipe out the bad places at present causing all who offer this form of recreation to be condemned.

It is for this reason that I am in general support of the Bill, but there is a second reason why I support it. It is that the present situation is undoubtedly making a mockery of the law which regulates the conduct of public places of entertainment. The proprietors of these "low dive" places, by running them technically as clubs, are defying the community's decision to regulate by licence places where people congregate for music and dancing. It is high time, and consonant with good social morality, that the law should be amended so that the spirit of what was intended by the early legislation can be enforced.

Of course the people of this country must not be deluded into imagining that by means of legislation vice will be removed. It could well be that the kind of young people who continue to frequent unsalubrious and rowdy dance clubs, might after this legislation find even more degrading ways of passing their time. A tighter control over undesirable premises must be accompanied by two or three other important factors. First, change of ownership. In the past it has been found that it is a change of ownership which produces a change for the worse in atmosphere. This Bill might well include the requirement to notify change of ownership. Secondly, police supervision, which I believe to be most important, might well be linked strongly with Youth Service officials. While most people see the necessity for police action, they realise only too clearly that police action by itself does not always produce the desired results.

For example, in one city recently where dope peddling among young people became known to the police, the youngsters were approached and charged and the peddlers simply warned-off, with the result that they were able to sell their wares in another area. In other words, the disease had not been cured but simply transferred from one set of people to another. But in another city, where police liaise regularly with the Youth Service officials and depute four C.I.D. plain clothes detectives to maintain contact with clubs, they are able by these means to know in advance of possible undesirable developments and often, therefore, can prevent them happening at all. Possibly an extension of this kind of liaison would help to ensure inspection which is effective against the undesirable, and not disruptive to the good clubs.

Thirdly, if this draft Bill is to become more than a first-aid operation, some means need to be found for encouraging and making possible the kind of social provision, particularly in city centres, which offers an alternative to those undesirable clubs which most people agree need eliminating. This means, among other things, both a change of emphasis in provision and the money to make this possible. In short, the powers of the law must be complemented by considerable social work among the young people themselves.

On two or three occasions in your Lordships' House I have drawn attention to the country of Sweden, and I do this once again to-day. It has been brought to my notice that for the past 11 years Stockholm has utilised a service known as the Night Patrol which employs full-time workers, has a residential hostel with 25 beds and day facilities for washing and eating, and where young people who are for the most part the hard core of the unattached, are helped sympathetically and professionally at moments of crisis. This important work helps those in need to be related once again to adult society, to regain their self-respect, and to have better chances of finding useful employment.

Such a large-scale venture can only be undertaken if Government funds are available to foster such an important but neglected part of the Youth Service. Furthermore, in addition to these social provisions, there is urgent need for people capable of dealing spiritually with this urgent and growing problem. A book I read recently, entitled The Cross and the Switch Blade, which was written in America and which depicts what is happening there among people suffering from this tragic vice is worth reading, and gives some hope for the future of this country.

I would make only two further small comments. A number of people express alarm at the behaviour outside the kind of premises referred to in this Bill. Small and badly equipped premises often lead to complaints by local residents about rowdy behaviour and the fouling of the pavements and the streets. To take but one example, the provision of adequate toilet facilities could reduce this nuisance, and supervision of these should be within the powers of the local authority and the police. My final comment relates to employment of children. The Press has recently reported the case of a fourteen year old girl employed in a club. She had run away from school and home. This suggests the need for supervision of those employed in clubs, unless—and here I am ignorant of the facts—this is already covered by other legislation.

I apologise for taking up your Lordships' time, but I felt that it was right to express, on behalf of the Church, our gratitude to the noble and learned Lord for this valuable piece of machinery which will, in effect, empower local authorities to require the licensing of any places used for entertainment like music and dancing, even if they are not technically public places because entrance is restricted to club members. This tightening up of machinery will prevent places that would not otherwise be controlled from escaping by assuming the nominal status of a club. For this tightening up one cannot but be grateful, and I hope that the few attempts at constructive additions to this Bill may be borne in mind in this and in future legislation.

12.27 p.m.


My Lords, I join all other noble Lords who have spoken in welcoming this Bill, not only for what it expressly sets out to do, but especially as a very important contribution to controlling the spread of drug addiction; though I recognise that this is by no means the only good purpose which it will serve. Last Tuesday I had occasion to visit Spelthorne St. Mary's, an establishment which has been run for nearly 90 years by the Sisters of St. Mary's, Wantage, treating and rehabilitating women and girls who are alcoholics or addicted to drugs. Bearing this debate in mind, I asked the Sister Superior what significant trends she was experiencing to-day. This year has been significant in three ways. For the first time more drug addicts than alcoholics are being admitted: the average age of the new admissions has gone right down into the 20s; and all the new, young drug addicts who have been admitted have come to Spelthorne St. Mary's on account of the things which they have been doing resulting from their drug addiction, from contact with the courts or the police or the probation officers.

Thinking more particularly of this debate, I asked Sister Patricia about these new addicts and whether all of them started on the road towards addiction in the kind of clubs about which we have been talking to-day. Not at all to my surprise, she confirmed that a great number of them did begin in clubs like those, not at first aware of what they were doing; starting on reefers or amphetamines and then, when the kick which they got from them seemed not to last long enough, going on to heroine and cocaine. But, incidentally, she also said that a number of her patients started in art schools, technical colleges and colleges of further education. So on that evidence—and I think it is about as good evidence as there is available at the moment—we can welcome this Bill as tackling some part of the problem of drug addiction and one of its sources.

It has been good to hear in the course of this debate of the number of local authorities which have already taken action to obtain powers to control the clubs about which we are talking, and, not least, powers to apprehend the people who are pushing drugs on to the young people who congregate there. I hope that when they have the new powers to be provided under this Bill they will make good use of them, too. But, in the meantime, and in view of what I have just said, it would perhaps be as well for local authorities, when they are dealing with the most considerable mote which is in the eyes of some club proprietors, not to overlook any little beams which there may be in the eyes of teachers, headmasters and principals of colleges where drug trafficking is undoubtedly also going on.

I particularly welcome the Bill for the opportunity which it provides, in Clause 3 in particular, for licensing with the right kind of discrimination and scope and discretion. As the right reverend Prelate has just said, the last thing we want to do, in dealing particularly with drug addiction but also with other abuses, is to have a general clamp down on all private clubs. When the Bill to which my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor referred just now was going through Parliament, the Northern correspondent of The Times, in an article on May 12, 1965, made an analysis of clubs, I think in Manchester, which bears repetition now. He was classifying the clubs which he had visited. He said: Club No. 1 would satisfy anyone. It is well decorated and even looks clean when the main lighting is switched on. It has fire exits, closes before midnight, and is run by a manager who insists on reasonable dress and cleanliness and who has often helped parents to trace missing children. There are several beat clubs of this standard in the city and most people will be happy if legislation brings them all near to it. He went on to describe Club No. 2 and Club No. 3, and at the bottom of the list he described Club No. 4. It …consists of a dilapidated detached house which looks something like a Tennessee Williams set with Manchester rain added. It is surrounded by a rubble and litter-strewn yard labelled 'Car Park'. Juveniles are supposed to leave at 11 p.m., but the house is open all night, every night, until 6 a.m. Recently a girl of 17 was arrested there after she had stabbed a boy of 16 in the back. We do not need to close down Club No. 1 in order to eliminate Clubs Nos. 2, 3 and 4, and it is good to see that this Bill is drafted in such a way as to enable local authorities to have discretion.

It has been said, and I think with good reason, that in dealing with drug addiction we are now dealing with a rapidly spreading social epidemic. I am sure it is not yet serious in total numbers, but it is extremely serious judged in terms of the rate at which it is spreading, and it is catastrophic for the people among whom it is spreading. I should just like to mention some of the figures which were mentioned on Monday in the debate in another place. In 1959 there were 454 known addicts, three-quarters of whom were what I believe are called "stabilised addicts", under doctors' orders. Only a quarter, just under 100, were addicts who had reached their condition for no good medical reason. In 1965 there were 927 addicts, of whom 500—more than half—had become addicted for no good medical reason and not as a result of medical treatment: a fivefold increase in this kind of addiction. Also, although in 1959 there was nobody in that category under 20, in 1965 there were 145 young people.

This Bill is extremely welcome as one very important step towards containing the spread of this social epidemic of drug addiction, and for that reason alone it deserves support from all sides of the House. But, in itself, it will not be enough to cope with this problem, and even coupled with the steps outlined by Her Majesty's Government in another place on Monday it will not be enough. More measures, more soundly based on better research and evidence and extending over a far wider field, will be required. I hope very much, with other noble Lords who have spoken, that Her Majesty's Government will not be long in bringing them forward. Meanwhile, this important Bill is all the more welcome.

12.38 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments. This Bill will, I am sure, be very warmly welcomed by the local authorities, whose views I am sometimes able to express in your Lordships' House. The local authorities, in their capacity as education authorities and as child welfare authorities, are very familiar with the conditions which were described in such a graphic manner by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice. They are very much concerned by the increase in the numbers of these so-called clubs, and by the evil which these clubs do among the young persons who frequent them. The local authorities have been very conscious of the inadequacy of their powers to prevent this evil. Some of them, notably the City of Manchester, have endeavoured to remedy that defect by legislation in Parliament. But I am quite sure that this Bill will be warmly welcomed among them.

I have only one or two comments which I desire to make on the Bill. First of all, I am told that there are clubs at which no music, no dancing and no entertainment are provided. They are known as "coffee clubs" and sometimes by other names. Those clubs have just as evil an effect upon those who frequent them, as clubs at which dancing or music or entertainment are provided. It would, I am sure, be desirable to bring clubs of that sort within the licensing provisions of this Bill. It may not be easy to find a form of words that would achieve that result without unduly interfering with the conduct of an ordinary café business, but if it is possible to do that I am sure that the value of this Bill will be substantially enhanced.

The other matter to which I should like to draw attention for a moment is the question of inspection. Here again, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice pointed out, we are dealing with private premises, and therefore, perhaps, cannot carry the powers of inspection too far. But I am sure that this Bill would be strengthened and made more useful, and that no legitimate private interests or rights would be interfered with, if the powers of inspection given to local authorities—and in particular, the inspection of premises before a licence is granted—could be carried a little further.

My Lords, those are the only comments I desire to make at this stage of the Bill. Perhaps I may respectfully associate myself with those noble Lords who have expressed their appreciation to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice for his action in bringing this Bill forward.

12.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to make a speech, but before the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice replies I should like to point out that, of course, this Bill does not affect Scotland. I can only hope that another similar Bill will be produced to cover Scotland. One can seldom open a paper without finding some ghastly story, usually emanating from Glasgow, about knifings, murders or attempted murders in these so-called clubs. I fear that a Bill on similar lines is equally required for Scotland.

12.43 p.m.


My Lords, we know from experience of this type of Bill that, at this very moment, this one is being watched by some very astute lawyers to try to see what loopholes they can find in it. I think the lesson to be learnt is that we have to pay a great deal of attention to the drafting rather than to the main purpose of the Bill, which is our usual exercise in these matters. Perhaps I may just call the attention of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice to Clause 2, subsection (4). I am not a lawyer, but that would be the loophole that I should try to exploit if I were wishing to set up one of these clubs. I may be quite wrong in that, but I hope he will give it some attention before the Committee stage.

12.44 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to make a speech, but I should like to join in the warm welcome that has been given to this Bill, which must be very gratifying to the noble and learned Lord. He must feel it as some reward for the labours he has put into it that his Bill has received such great support. With other noble Lords, I happen to be a Vice-President of the Association of Municipal Corporations, of which the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, is President. The A.M.C. welcomes the Bill, as I am sure, too, do the local authorities. I think a word should be said for the local authorities in this debate, because, after all, they will be the people who will have to carryout the provisions of the Bill when it becomes law—and I know that the local authorities are looking forward to its becoming law. They are very much aware of the problems arising in their respective areas. There may be one or two minor Amendments which they will submit at the Committee stage, but that is by the way. Speaking personally, I should like, with respect, to join in the congratulations which have been expressed to the Lord Chief Justice on all sides of this House, and in the warm welcome which has been extended to the Bill.

12.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like just to add my word of welcome to the Bill. The only doubt I have about it is whether it is strong enough. There are many people in this country at the moment who are battening on young people and who are after what they can get out of leading them into crime. As a magistrate and as a chairman of quarter sessions, the more I see of the administration of criminal justice the more I become convinced that a great deal of the crime with which we are confronted, and which constitutes such a very serious aspect of our national life, is due more to bad associations than to anything else. The young people get into a milieu in which this sort of thing is approved; and the people who run these clubs are, of course, the very people who build up that atmosphere. It is a very serious business indeed.

My court is situated, one could say, on the high road between Scotland and Manchester. What the noble Earl opposite said about Glasgow I appreciate only too well, because we have the young Scotsmen and girls coming down from the North and others coming up from South Lancashire. After spending some time in these clubs, it is easy for them to find some unattended motor car which they can pick up and in which they can go off on a spree. Then, when they are off in that sort of way, they can just as easily find some house which they can break into. In these clubs they associate with people who have been in approved schools or at Borstal, and the whole atmosphere is a really evil one. It is a very serious state of affairs from the point of view of the national morale.

I think we must hit hard at the people who are providing the facilities for this sort of thing. I doubt whether a fine of £200 is enough. A great deal of profit is made by many of these people, and they could afford to pay a great deal more. Indeed, they could, with profit to the community, be sent to prison. I regard this type of activity as very much more serious than the activity of the man who is out of work and frustrated and who breaks in and steals, perhaps, only a few shillings. The type of activity going on in these clubs is very serious indeed, and I would much rather a man who is encouraging young people in these bad habits were sent to prison for two or three years than the ordinary, rather feckless housebreaker, who is one of the principal types of client at my quarter sessions. I hope, therefore, that it may be possible for this Bill to be tightened up from the point of view of the punishment which can be meted out to these people.

12.48 p.m.


My Lords, may I say at once how gratified I am at the general reception given to this Bill? Indeed, I count myself fortunate in having the support of the Government, of representatives on all sides of the House, of the Church, of the Association of Municipal Corporations, of the County Councils Association, of the police and, I gather, of Scotland. I am most grateful to those who have taken part in the debate for raising the various matters that have been discussed. Perhaps I may deal with them in reverse order. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, felt that the penalty should be more severe. In fact, if he reads subsection (3) of Clause 4 he will see that such a proprietor or promoter can not only be fined £200 but be sent to prison for three months as well.


I do not think that is sufficient. I should like to see it put up from three months.


My Lords, I think the important question in the debate which has been raised by both the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, is whether the words in subsection (1) of Clause 2 are wide enough—in other words, whether there is a loophole. This is a matter which has concerned me very much, and I can assure your Lordships that it will be considered again. On the one hand it may well be said that cases must be rare when teenagers, the young, resort to what is merely a coffee bar as a club (not a public coffee bar), where there is not even a juke box, where there is no form whatsoever of music and dancing entertainment. It may be that there are the occasional coffee bars run on a private basis which are resorted to by the young; I know not. But what we are considering here is an invasion of private rights; and it is really for consideration whether, by widening the scope of Clause 2 (1), we are making an undue inroad into those private rights. May I leave it that this point will be carefully considered before the Committee stage?

The noble Lord, Lord Ilford, also referred to the matter of inspection by the police. As the Bill is worded, it is always open to the licensing authority to make that a condition; and I observe also that it is a common condition, it would be almost a standard condition, in regard to public music and dancing that police constables for the county and members of the fire service shall at all times have free ingress. That can always be provided for. I should have thought that there was something to be said for not making that a compulsory condition; because genuine clubs that are above suspicion may require a licence and the licensing authority would think it quite wrong to make it a condition that the police should at any time come upon the premises. That, again, will be considered.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, referred to the question of fire risk. I think he was really directing his remarks more to the Government than to me, as, needless to say, I cannot speak in respect to their intentions regarding a national compulsory code for all premises. But I venture to think that it is clear under Clause 3(1) that the licensing authority have ample power—as they have in regard to public music and dancinglicences—to impose very stringent conditions dealing with the fire risk.

May I finally thank the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Coventry for his support? Like him, I am the last person to wish to deprive the young of what I might call wholesome entertainment. In the course of the Bill I have received a number of letters from people accusing me of depriving the young of their enjoyment. Like the right reverend Prelate, I have no intention of doing that, but rather hope that this will not only eliminate the bad entertainment but promote better entertainment of a more wholesome kind. I think the right reverend Prelate referred also to the fact that it might be a condition that there should be notification of a change of ownership. Of course, it is the owner who is licensed; and if there were a change of ownership the new owner would himself require a licence. But the same danger might lurk in a change of manager. There it would be possible for the licensing authority to make it a condition that any change of management, as opposed to ownership, should be covered. The same would apply, I concede, in regard to the employment of very young persons on the premises, and how they are treated. That, in turn, could be made a condition.

May I say again how grateful I am to those who have taken part in the debate. I think this Bill, if it becomes law, will serve a very useful purpose. The Manchester Bill has really worked wonders; indeed, it began to work wonders before it ever became law. It was the introduction of the Bill which helped to clean up Manchester.

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