§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord WindleshamWitllesham.)
§ House in Committee accordingly.88
§ [THE LORD ROYLE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Abolition of restrictions on sale and supply of intoxicating or exciseable liquor in certain districts]:
LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 19, leave out (" are hereby ") and insert (" shall be ")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1 standing in the names of my noble friends and myself. I hope it will be convenient to the Committee if with this Amendment I discuss also No. 31. The purpose of the Amendment to line 19 is to give the Government much-needed time in respect of the declaratory part of Clause 1. The words"are hereby repealed"mean that the Secretary of State will relinquish his powers immediately the Bill receives the Royal Assent. This may have most unfortunate consequences. On the other hand, if this Amendment is accepted, the words will be"shall be repealed ", and this will provide an opportunity to put in a date with relation to the timing of the Bill, which we propose to do by means of Amendment No. 31. That provides that the Act shall come into force one year from the date when it is passed.
§ The Amendment does not mean that the Home Secretary's monopoly cannot be broken; it can be broken by administrative action, if the Home Secretary agrees that licences approved by the justices should be allowed and not vetoed—but that has been possible all the time. But it is expedient to the public interest, if I may coin a phrase, if this matter is to be decently and properly concluded, that the Home Secretary should have discussions with the employees, through their trade unions, and also with the justices and with many other people concerned with, and interested in, the break-up of the State scheme. They have the right to be consulted; and it is necessary. The opportunity for these consultations will vanish if the Bill operates immediately the Royal Assent has been given, because Clause 1 flatly states that the Home Secretary's powers and rights"are hereby repealed"immediately, although, of course, other 89 sections of Part V of the Bill must remain to allow the administration to continue, because increasing the grant of licences, which must occur if the Home Secretary's powers are taken away, will reduce the value of the licensed properties in the scheme. That is inevitable. I think that in Scotland, where the scheme is very small, the licensee board has already approved the grant of 19 new licences. It would be no good, unless this Amendment is accepted, for the Secretary of State for Scotland to say that he did not want them to become operative, because his powers to say,"Yea ", or"Nay ", will go. He will not be able to say anything—a nice change.
§ It may be that the Government will regard our Amendment as insufficient in point of time; they may want longer. I think that this may be so in the public interest, rather than the full year that we propose. I certainly do not mind altering the Amendment' accordingly; but as we have it now it allows a full year and creates a definite date: the chopper will not come down immediately we finish with the Bill. If the Government are adamant over this Amendment, they may find themselves with empty unsold properties on their hands, because no one will be interested in them. The valuation and the negotiations for sale will take time, and the negotiators will do much better business to the public interest if they are not working all the time desperately with this pressure on them. There are 1,500 employees to consider who are working in areas which already have high rates of unemployment, and the unions surely have the right to discuss with the Home Secretary arrangements for the redeployment of their members. This, too, must take time.
§ For all these reasons I hope the Government will accept that this is a helpful Amendment. As the Bill stands, the monopoly powers under Section 103 of the 1964 Act will cease on the day the Bill receives the Royal Assent, which may be next month. By accepting the Amendment the Government will gain a whole year extra in which to close down the management scheme and sell the assets to private enterprise while they still retain their value. Indeed, the Home Secretary has the duty placed on him by the Bill to conduct the sale in a manner which 90 is expedient in the public interest. That interest inevitably demands sufficient time, and this will be afforded by the Amendment which I invite the noble Lord to accept. I beg to move.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
The Government have announced their decision to abolish State management of the liquor trade, and we do not think there is any advantage to be gained from continuing the system for any substantial period after the appropriate legislation has been passed. The effect of these two Amendments (Amendment No. 1, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, explained, is really a paving Amendment to Amendment No. 31, the Amendment of substance) would be to delay the process of sale by a year. We believe that during such a period it is highly probable that members of the staff would begin to leave and could not be replaced because it would be known that the scheme was coming to an end; that the condition of the properties would deteriorate because it would be difficult to justify spending capital on improvements; and that turnover would diminish. If this were so, the ultimate sale value of the properties would decline as well as the service provided by the State Management districts. This would not be in the interests either of the taxpayer, who will benefit from the sale, or of the local population making use of the public houses and other facilities offered by the scheme.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has argued in the same way as was argued by the Opposition in Committee in another place: that there might be some advantage in delaying the repeal of the Secretary of State's monopoly powers. He claimed that if the immediate repeal of these powers were announced the effect might be to reduce the value of the properties to a buyer. We believe that this argument must not be put too strongly. The danger of a fall in values can be exaggerated. The fact is that at the moment a buyer knows that the monopoly will come to an end: that is the basis of this Bill and it has been stated by Ministers. He is aware of that. If he were bidding for the scheme on the basis that the monopoly was to continue, then that monopoly would be a property right, something of value in its own right. But in the present case he knows that not to be so; the fact that there used 91 to be a monopoly situation will be discounted by the buyer because that situation will not continue. We think therefore that it would be inconsistent for Ministers to have to enforce such a prohibition on private persons trading in the districts in the light of our announced intention of abolishing State Management. If any private person should seek in the meantime to provide new facilities in the area after the monopoly powers have ended we think the licensing justices are the proper people to decide the matter.
The noble Lord said, quite correctly, that there were a number of licences which had been granted but not implemented—that is,"frozen ". Now it is true that after Royal Assent those licences which have been granted, either by the licensing justices or the courts in Scotland, will be unfrozen and it will be possible for the applicants concerned to proceed. There are a number of other applications which have not yet been decided and in these cases the normal practice would be followed. The applicant would go before the licensing justices and make out his case and if the Secretary of State, before the Scheme was wound up, saw reason to object the applicant would have the opportunity to enter an objection in the normal way.
These are the main reasons why, having studied with some care this argument which was put forward in Committee in another place, we do not feel that an Amendment on these lines would be desirable and that is why it is necessary to ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ LORD HOY
Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words on the Scottish issue. I do not think that this is a very momentous Bill. Indeed, in Scotland there is great regret that the Government should have introduced this Bill at all, and when it follows a Bill about fee-paying schools we think that the Government are simply tampering with the situation in Scotland and this makes no contribution to our economy. It is true that, as my noble friend said, the Scottish part may be small, but it is extremely important; and we think that the Secretary of State for Scotland has considerable power, residual if you like, by which he never grants licences in these par- 92 ticular areas. If we are going to repeal these provisions immediately on the passing of this Bill, I do not think that the noble Lord could deny that we should be reducing the present value of the licensed premises in these areas. For that reason, we thought that if the taxpayer is to get money out of this it might be a good thing if the power was retained by the Secretary of State until such times as these properties were disposed of. If the Government are determined that they should be disposed of, I think the noble Lord will agree that that is bound to have the effect, whatever else happens, that the present-day value of the properties will decline. But I am extremely sorry to think that, after all the argument in another place, the noble Lord should find it impossible to accept it this very modest Amendment that my noble friend has put down.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am very disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, cannot accept my Amendment, but I am astonished at the arguments he has used for rejecting it. After all, he sees no advantage in delay because the properties themselves will deteriorate and lose some of their value; the staff, knowing what is to happen, will melt away. But this is precisely what will happen in any case. Some of them have already"melted ". This is a straight proposition. The greatest deterioration in value of these licensed properties will occur because more licences are granted. In fact, those which have already been granted in Scotland outnumber those that are in the scheme. The increase in licences must inevitably considerably reduce the value of the existing ones. Nothing will diminish the value of this national asset more than throwing open the whole field immediately the Bill receives the Royal Assent. The noble Lord said that the value of the monopoly was overstated. Is that why successive Governments have clung to it for 55 years?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
No; I did not say that it was overstated, and the noble Lord would not want to misrepresent me on this. What I said was that he must not overstate the argument he is seeking to use. The potential buyers know that there will no longer be a monopoly situation. If they buy some of the properties 93 they will be in a free market situation, just as they would be if they were in another part of the country.
§ LORD STONHAM
Yes; and I also know that if the distinguished agents whom the Government have appointed to do this business carry out negotiations for sale they will negotiate on current figures. They will not say,"The monopoly position is going anyway, so we will halve the takings and negotiate on that." Of course they will not. The noble Lord said that the licensing justices are the best people to decide. I agree with him. But it has always been the view of the Home Office—it is not a question of politics—and successive Home Secretaries have always taken the view that if they said Yes, to licences recommended by the licensing justices, the value of the property would be affected; consequently they said, No. Suddenly to jettison this whole argument and say, as soon as we have finished with the Bill and lost monopoly powers, Yes, it is every man for himself ", is nonsense to me. It certainly does not allow the Home Secretary to dispose of the property in a manner which is expedient in the public interest. It is expedient in the public interest to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD BURTON
Before the noble Lord sits down: he referred to the Scottish part as small. I should have thought that it was pretty extensive. I admit that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said it was an important part but I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Stonham is talking about a small part. Secondly, I could not appreciate why he referred to the trade unions. That seems to be a complete red herring. It seems to me that the Opposition are trying to rake up any dispute, because they dislike the immediate denationalisation of this part of the industry.
§ LORD STRATHCLYDE
May I intervene for a moment to try to dispel an impression which I believe to be entirely wrong'? I know from my own experience that both at Invergordon and at Gretna the people have wanted to get rid of the State interference, this monopoly. I know very well the Invergordon area, with which I was connected so closely during the First World War, and the great munitions factory at Gretna. The reasons for introducing this monopoly 94 disappeared many years ago. The people in these areas of Scotland have wanted to get rid of it for years, and to my knowledge it has been held up time and again, not by Scottish Ministers but by the Home Office in England. We should have got rid of it years ago, but for the wish of the Home Office to maintain it, and I am glad that Scotland is now to get what it has longed for for many a long day.
§ LORD STONHAM
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Burton, may I say, first, that I appreciate that nothing in Scotland is small. I was referring to the relative sizes and values of the schemes in Scotland and in England. It is the case, unfortunately, that the relative values are very much different. I do not doubt that the hostelries run by the scheme are highly valued in Scotland. With regard to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, which seemed to me more appropriate to a Second Reading speech, all I say is that I would not enter into any dispute between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Office. Certainly I was not aware of it during the five years I was at the Home Office. Whatever the popularity or otherwise of the scheme in Gretna, successive Secretaries of State, including, the noble Lord himself, have continued the scheme until now.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
Before the noble Lord concludes, I should say that there have been discussions with the unions and with the staff associations concerned. I think that we should be clear about this. These discussions are going on now and will continue after the Royal Assent, so it should not be thought as a result of our discussion to-night that there has not been sufficient time for proper consultation. We have taken great care in consultations of this kind. Despite the way in which the noble Lord has argued his case, this Amendment goes a great deal wider than he has suggested. The Amendment would not simply have the effect of preserving the Secretary of State's monopoly power but would provide that the Act shall not come into force for twelve months. In other words, the process of sale could not be begun at all; and the whole purpose of Parliament would be held up for twelve months.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am very grateful for what the noble Lord has said 95 about consultation and the discussions now taking place. There are several unions concerned, and they have acted very responsibly for many years. My only point in this Amendment was to create more time. I believe that it would not alter the effect, because eventually the property is going to be sold, but it would
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 19, at end insert—
(" (2) For the purposes of this Act"intoxicating liquor"means, in the case of beer, that the original gravity of the beer shall not be less than 1038 degrees.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2. During previous dis-96
§ give more time to do the whole thing decently.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 77.95
|Ardwick, L.||Henderson, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Birk, Bs.||Hilton of Upton, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Blyton, L.||Hoy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Jacques, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Janner, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Collison, L.||Leatherland, L.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Milner of Leeds, L. [Teller.]||Stow Hill, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Peddie, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.]||Popplewell, L.||White, Bs.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Royle, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Falkland, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrers, E.||Oakshott, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Geddes, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Penrhyn, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Gowrie, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Gray, L.||Reay, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Greenway, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hacking, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Helens, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Burton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hatherton, L.||Selsdon, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Kemsley, V.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Killearn, L.||Somers, L.|
|Courtown, E.||Latymer, L.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Craigavon, V.||McFadzean, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Macleod of Borve, Bs.||Sudeley, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Milverton, L.||Teynham, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Monck, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Denham, L.||Monsell, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Windlesham, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Napier and Ettrick, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ cussions on this Bill it has frequently been stated that the Carlisle State Scheme brews the best beer in Britain. This statement has not been challenged, and I assume that it is accepted as a fact. This Amendment is directed, so far as one can do so, to preserving the quality, strength and reputation of the Carlisle beer. Customers know by now that they will have to pay more, but they will not have to pay more for inferior stuff if we can help it. I am not a judge of these matters. So far as I am concerned,97
§ the beer is good if the customers like it. Apparently they like the taste, and that liking has to have a foundation, such as, what is in the beer. The test of strength and quality is the original gravity which this Amendment seeks to establish.
§ I understand that the original gravity is recognised as the yardstick for determining the quality and strength of different beers. That is the view of the Consumers Association, which published a report on the subject in 1960. The brewers do not accept this view. They said recently that it matters hardly at all when the Britisher comes to choose his pint. He wants the beer he likes and which suits his palate. Having achieved this, he will stick to it through thick and thin—" thick and thin"sounds a little ominous. But we must regard this judgment as partial, especially having regard to the brewers' habit of selling their very thin beer as powerful stuff.
§ The original gravity is the measure of the ratio of the raw materials to the water that goes into the beer. That ratio determines the body, flavour, condition and the stimulating characteristics of the beer. The original gravity is measured at the work stage of production, that is, the stage of brewing when all the ingredients except the yeast have been added, and before anything has been lost through fermentation. Brewing of course starts with the barley, which is turned into malt. Hot water is then added to the malt, which is thereby turned into mash, and the enzymes in the malt become reactivated by the hot water and release a sweet extract which is filtered out of the beer mash. This is the wort; and the original gravity of the beer is that of the wort before the hops are added.
§ Your Lordships will appreciate the importance of the original gravity: it depends upon what is put into the beer. And they do the job properly in Carlisle! The specific gravity of water is 1,000 degrees, and the extent by which the gravity of unfermented wort exceeds 1,000 degrees indicates the combined quantity of malt and sugar which has been added. So the gravity of the wort is the original gravity of the beer. For example, if the"o.g."of the wort is stated to be 1,040, it means that 100 gallons of it would weigh 1,040 lb, and 98 the extra 40 lb. would represent the sugar, malt and proteins which have been put into it.
§ Clearly the"o.g."is an important measure of strength, and it is understandable that it is a measure which determines the excise duty. The duty is now £10.35 per barrel of 36 gallons of beer with an"o.g."of 1,030, and it increases by 8s. per barrel for every single degree above 1,030. The Which? report, published in 1960, gave particulars of draught beers sold in the North. They stated that the"o.g."of Carlisle bitter was then 1,038.2, and that is the reason for the figure"1,038"in the Amendment: it has not been selected haphazardly.
§ Of course, the average original gravity of other brewers' brews is much lower. One London firm has a widely advertised product the gravity of which is only 1030, only just qualifying as beer at all. In fact, some of the highest priced beers are those with the lowest original gravity. It is a large-scale swindle practised on the British public which certain brewers perform. Some beers, I am astonished to find, are so weak that if they were 1 or 2 per cent. less they could be sold as non-alcoholic, just like Coca Cola. This particularly applies to certain keg beers, which the brewers have the effrontery to advertise as strong or powerful. Your Lordships may have seen an advertisement on television with a charming barmaid being asked to taste a particular keg beer. She sips it and says,"It is too powerful for me ". For obvious reasons it would be unfair to name this particular beer. But your Lordships may have noticed yourselves that it is the weak ones, keg beers or not, which are advertised extensively as powerful. One advertisement I saw coming along to-day was,"Are you man enough to take it?" It should be,"Are you fool enough "-that would be more sensible. Indeed, that particular one is only a trifle over 1,030, and of course the brewer pays on that the minimum excise duty. It is scarcely surprising that The Times on April 26 this year quoted a brewer as saying:"The public will drink what we so-and-so tell them to drink ". Well, perhaps they will, but we ought not to allow them to get away with it. These keg beers are high in price and high in gas and water content. We do not want them 99 foisted on to the people of Carlisle, who are accustomed to a good quality wholesome brew, and we can ensure this by this Amendment, which I invite the Government to accept. I beg to move.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
The intention of this Amendment, similar again to one put down in another place, is presumably to provide that any beer sold in the Carlisle district, whether before or after the sale of the scheme, shall be of a stated minimum gravity. There are a number of objections; some of them I will come on to in a moment. Let me start by saying that the Amendment would not be acceptable as a matter of principle. There are no national regulations governing the strength of beer at all. The Licensing Act 1964 itself, taken with the Customs and Excise Act 1952, merely excludes from the definition of intoxicating liquor beer with an original gravity not exceeding 1016 degrees or a strength not exceeding two degrees of proof. The strength of beer is a matter left to the laws of supply and demand, and it would be anomalous to prescribe a minimum strength for a particular geographical area.
Next, the Amendment is irrelevant to the Bill and would not achieve its purpose. It proceeds by way of defining"intoxicating liquor"for the purposes of the Bill, but the noble Lord will find that those words are used only in Clause 1(a) as part of a factual description of the effect of Section 103 of the Act of 1964, and in Clause 2(7) in a way which would make the Amendment of no effect. The Amendment, therefore, would not have the result intended. Nor would it apply to Scotland, because these words are not used in the part of the Bill which applies to Scotland.
There is another point. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that the figure of 1038 had not been selected haphazardly. Maybe not haphazardly, but very carelessly. He did say the figure dated back to 1960, and things have changed since then. If he had consulted the source of information quoted to us with such vitality by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, the Sunday Mirror report in March of this year—incidentally, this concerned a series of tests carried out by an independent analyst—he would have found that 100 the original gravities of the Carlisle beers were all below 1038. If we take the results of that table as being the most favourable to the noble Lord's case, the figures were as follows: bitter 1036.3—below 1038; keg, 1036.6—below 1038; and mild 1033. So all the beers in Carlisle are already under the figure of 1038. This Amendment would not have the effect the noble Lord wishes and for these reasons among others I must ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I thought I would give the figures quoted in it because they may carry more weight than any assertion from me. But the information I have in front of me is that the average original gravity of beer sold in this country is between 1037 and 1038. That of the present Carlisle beer is less than the minimum of 1038 sought by the Amendment. The report of the Monopolies Commission on Beer contains a table on page 10 giving the national average original gravity over the years, and since March, 1957, this figure has been under 1038 across the whole country.
The good people of Carlisle surely could put the results in their stomach right by taking a"chaser ", as we do in Scotland.
§ LORD BALERNO
As a whisky-drinking Scot, I venture with some trepidation to embark on this particular subject. But I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that while he was right in saying that the gravity was a quality of the beer, it is only one of the qualities of a beer. Therefore you cannot measure the total quality of a beer by the gravity alone, and many beers of lower gravity are, to the drinker, of high quality. One of the things that astonishes the Scot beer drinker is the liking of the English for what we regard as a rather thin beer, and it always upsets the Scot who emigrates to England. So it is not only the gravity that comes into the question of the quality of the beer.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I was aware that original gravity is only one part of the 101 total quality of the brew; there are the alcoholic content, and other things. But I felt that original gravity not only was the determining factor of the other things, but technically was quite enough for me to manage without enlarging the field.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said that there are only two references in the Bill to intoxicating liquor, and he specified particularly subsection (7) of Clause 2, which reads:In this section premises ' means premises used for the sale of intoxicating liquor by retail.If we fixed the original gravity it would mean that those premises would have to sell beer of this quality, otherwise they would not continue to be"premises"within the meaning of this Bill. I am not the least perturbed by the fact that the original gravity of Carlisle beer has been slipping to some extent, to a minor extent—1038.2 to 1036.6. If they had been slipping, they could pull their socks up, and it shows that this would apply not only to Carlisle but to all of them. As to there being no national standard, I am suggesting that we should seize this present opportunity to make a beginning. The noble Lord is perfectly right to enjoy himself as a Scot and to talk about the weak English beer—and indeed it is quite disgraceful. I think it is disgraceful not only to have a weak thin stuff but actually to advertise it in such a way that the fools who drink it take the gas in which has been previously taken off during an earlier process and pumped hack into the beer under the impression that it is strong and powerful and they are"he-men"if they drink it.
§ LORD STONHAM
That is exactly right; they have been told on television that they have got to like it that way; that they are manly and powerful if they like it that way. It may be absolutely horrible stuff, but this is what the brewers say. It is good beer if the customers like it; all we have got to do is to educate them—or uneducate them, if you like—to swallow the stuff and think it good. I think it is wrong to practise that kind of deception and that it is much better to sell a good honest drink. That is why we have tabled this Amendment. I am 102 sorry that the noble Lord does not feel able to accept it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Disposal of property in England held by Secretary of State for purposes of State management]:
LORD STONHAM moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 1, leave out (" The Secretary of State ") and insert (" There shall be constituted a body to be called the State Liquor Trade Management Agency (hereinafter referred to as the Management Agency) which ")
§ The noble Lord said: I hope that with this Amendment it will be possible for us to discuss the remaining Amendments, Nos. 4 to 16, that I have put down for Clause 2. They are all either consequential or related to this particular Amendment. On Second Reading, considerable concern was expressed that the Bill, as drafted, saddled the Home Secretary with the onerous and unsuitable job of haggling over the sale of properties comprising the State scheme, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, by implication, in effect agreed with this because he said that the Government had decided to seek the highest professional advice in the appointment of valuers and estate agents who would conduct the sales on the Home Secretary's behalf. He also told us that it had been decided to sell 40 of the smallest public houses as individual units and to offer them, in the first instance, to the present managers; and in response to a question that I put to him he told us that it might well be done with the remaining public houses.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I have not got Handsard in front of me, but I do not think I quite gave that impression. I said that we should want to hear the recommendations from the agents as regards the other properties.
§ LORD STONHAM
I said that it might be done with the others, and I think that is implied in the noble Lord's remarks. My Amendments are designed to create the framework to make all this possible. Clause 2(1) gives to the Home Secretary two powers. The first is to,dispose of property held by him for the purposes of…the Act ".103 That is the power to dispose. The second power is indicated in the words:or shall use such property for other purposes ".That is the power not to dispose of the properties. In short, under the Bill the Home Secretary does not need to dispose of them and he is not compelled to use them as licensed premises: he can use them for something else.
I am proposing in the Amendments that both these powers should be handed over to a State Liquor Trade Management Agency which would consist of three persons, qualified and experienced in the valuation of land and property, to be appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This impersonal, impartial agency would completely free the Home Secretary of what I regard as the odium of dealing in this matter. It would carry out expertly the transactions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and satisfactorily perform the essence of the function of the local trust which was originally imposed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, but the Home Secretary would remain in the business the whole time until he decided, under Clause 5, to get out of it.
What we are proposing is exactly what the Government want. They decided to abolish State management because they considered it inappropriate for the Home Secretary to be running a brewery and managing pubs. Very well. But it must be equally inappropriate for the Home Secretary to have to haggle about the disposal prices. The management agency would relieve him of all this in a manner satisfactory to the public. This proposal follows the pattern which was followed with iron and steel when there was set up a realisation and disposal agency; it follows the pattern followed in 1963 with transport when a holding company was set up, as we suggest here, with power to dispose of the undertakings. The fact that it did not dispose of them showed that the holding company had a better set of values than the Government had. Of course this might happen again with the Trade Management Agency. That would not matter at all. What does matter is that we should have an expert body which would act objectively and impartially in a manner expedient in the public interest. I am naïve enough to 104 believe that everybody wants an impartial public body to do this job. That can be accomplished in the manner in which we have proposed to amend the Bill. I think that is what the Home Secretary wants, and what we want. I commend the Amendment to your Lordships for acceptance. I beg to move.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
As it is now 8 o'clock, ought not someone to call,"Time gentlemen, please!"so that the other debate can be continued?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I am in the hands of the Committee. It is 8 o'clock. Some time has been earmarked, through the usual channels, on Wednesday next at 8 o'clock, and since the noble Lord moved his group of Amendments to Clause 2 only, I think we would, in any event, have to carry on with our proceedings to consider the Amendments to Clause 3. Therefore, perhaps I may delay my reply until Wednesday, if that is convenient to members of the Committee, and move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.