HL Deb 15 December 1975 vol 366 cc1254-81

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I have to open on an extremely sad note. My noble friend the late Lord Cowley had intended to speak from the Opposition Front Bench on this Second Reading, and I think everyone will recognise that his death at 29 years of age is nothing short of a tragedy.

Several Noble Lords: Hear, hear!


It will be a great loss to your Lordships' House. He would have been, and intended to be, a significant Member of the Front Bench and the loss which we shall suffer will, perhaps, be second only to that of his family.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time, and I do so with some confidence for I know that one of its most important aspects will have the full sympathy of all of your Lordships, even including the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I say that because as recently as last Wednesday, 10th December, as is recorded in Hansard, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said: …some of the current flow of legislation can be obtained from the number of pages added to the Statute Book in the three decades from 1943 to 1972. In the period 1943 to 1952, there were 15.600 pages; 1953 to 1962, 11,000; 1963 to 1972, 18,000. In 1973 alone the addition to the Statute Book was no less than 2,248 pages. He then went on to say: I have not immediately available the figure for 1974 I suspect it might well have exceeded that number."—[col. 955.] There were 46,848 pages added to the Statute Book in 30 years, and the implication of what he said, and of the way he said it, was that this figure ought to be reduced whenever possible. The noble and learned Lord then said: The fundamental question with which we must deal today is how best to improve the content, form and clarity of this large volume of legislation which Parliament produces." [Col. 958.] From all sides of the House we applauded those assessments, and I think it was right to do so. So I expect to have the unanimous support of your Lordships on that aspect because, whatever else this Bill may or may not do, it marginally reduces the volume of words on the pages of the Statute Book and improves the clarity of the legislation which remains. I do not think we should ignore the importance of that trend, however minuscule it may be.

As to the background, the Licensing Act 1964 was itself a consolidating Act arising from the previous Licensing Acts of 1949 and 1961, and subsection (5) of Section 76 of the 1964 Act, which I am now asking should be repealed, contains words which, apparently, were automatically carried forward from the 1961 Act. It is not unusual to have this automatic carrying forward which, with hindsight, we think ought to have had more detailed examination; such things often go through, and on that occasion it did go through.

Many of your Lordships know so much better than I that in these days of considerable legislation, when great calls are made on our Parliamentary draftsmen, sentences which seem innocuous in one Act are automatically carried forward into new legislation. As regards this small subsection which I am asking should be removed, I have checked the opening speeches made on Second Reading and the speeches made during the Committee and Report stages of the 1961 Act, and at no time was any reference made to it; at no time was it regarded as being of any importance whatsoever. This was clearly a case of an automatic carrying forward of a subsection which, as events turned out, has proved to have a somewhat unfair effect on certain sections of the community in a way which was clearly not envisaged.

Subsection (5) of Section 76 has to do with the operating of special licensing hours certificates for functions held on licensed and other premises. I myself have sat as a licensing magistrate for some 25 or 30 years, and this is the sort of matter with which one deals almost automatically within the terms of the Act. Apart from that, I should at this stage declare an interest as a director of companies which will be marginally affected declare this interest very eagerly, for that means that I am virtually in a position to testify from practical experience what will flow if we do nothing today. Certainly, I can show from practical contact how small concerns will be affected, for my concern is very small indeed. But the fact that one can approach with a little knowledge what would otherwise be looked upon as a very technical subsection means that one is speaking with rather more authority than one could do if one were speaking from the brief which is normally supplied from outside when matters of this sort are discussed in your Lordships' House.

However, by obtaining a special hours licence under the 1961 and 1964 Acts it is possible for patrons at functions designed for dancing and eating also to purchase intoxicating drinks, as well as soft drinks and coffee, within limits prescribed by magistrates but beyond normal licensing hours. Since 1961, people at such functions have utilised this right both by having their drink brought to them and by fetching it themselves from whoever was serving, according to which was most convenient to them. So we have a situation where for 14 years the licensees, the police and the public have accepted that as the correct interpretation of the Licensing Acts of 1961 and 1964.

If the point had been examined by the Parliaments of those years I truly believe that this is what they would have established, because to allow things to work in that way is both practical and makes sense. However, in December 1973 a Torquay licensee who was operating under a special hours certificate was found by the magistrates to have infringed the general licensing laws. He appealed against the magistrates' decision. As a consequence, and almost as a by-product, this case went to the Divisional Appeal Court and eventually to the Lords of Appeal in this House.

The case of Bradbeer v. Carter established for the first time in law the legal meaning of the words in Section 76(5) of the 1964 Act. They ruled that the legal meaning of the word, once attention had been drawn to it, was not the meaning that I maintain Parliament had in mind, if they had looked at the subsection when it was included. As I have said, there is no evidence that they did look at it. When the words of Section 76(5), which were automatically included without comment in the Act, were put under the powerful microscope of the Law Lords' inquiry the words were found to mean something quite different from what had been accepted for 14 years. I hasten to add that the noble and learned Lords who dealt with this appeal were not examining the principle. They were asked merely to adjudicate on the meaning of a word. They were confined to that very narrow and very proper legal task.

Just as the removal by me of this subsection from the Act in no way interferes with the general principle of the way in which the Act will continue to be applied, so the Law Lords' concentrated on the legal meaning of one word "Bar" and their decision interfered with something which had worked satisfactorily for so long. In law, the words mean that in operating a special hours certificate outside normal licensing hours nobody can purchase his beverage direct from the servery, only b y waiter service at his table. Previously if you had wanted your beverage to be served by a waiter at your table you could have that service, but if it was more convenient for you to collect it you did so. It made no difference to the amount which was drunk, nor to the amount served, nor to the running of the function. It was just a narrow point as to whether what you had to drink should be served to you by a waiter or should be collected over the counter.

In itself it is a very tiny point but I assure your Lordships that unless it is rectified hundreds of establishments, which provide proper and desirable out- lets for people's leisure, will be forced to close. That is the economic consequence which will flow from this decision. The tens of thousands of people who utilise these establishments as part of their leisure in a very satisfactory and pleasurable way will find that this service is no longer available. If we lose the opportunity of putting right this point it will benefit nobody but will frustrate and inconvenience many. As I have said, it will bring real hardship to some who, under the accepted situation of 14 years, have invested in hotels and halls, often with grants from the Government or Tourist Boards. I believe that our resorts in particular will suffer. At a time when we want to encourage people to use our home resorts instead of going abroad, I believe that the result of removing this facility will make it considerably more difficult to render our resorts attractive enough to keep our people at home. To insist on waiter service only is against the accepted fashion of today. Those of us who go to functions see this for ourselves. Once people have eaten they want to mix and move around, not to be pinned to a table. These are the kind of things which it is right for us properly to recognise in the age in which we live.

If waiter service only is insisted upon to supply people's needs the economic consequences are quite clear: many establishments will be unable, at present charges, to give the kind of service they have given for 14 years. Their charges to their patrons will have to go up very considerably, even if this service is allowed to continue. I believe that we must take that point into account when we are considering what appears to be a technical subsection which was automatically slipped into the 1964 Act without any discussion at any time and without it being properly understood, since for 14 years it was generally understood to mean that it was possible for this choice to be left to the patron. If we do not alter it the cost will make it completely uneconomic for many people to continue in business. I state that as a fact and I do so categorically from my knowledge of the economics of this trade as it affects small concerns. The risk to the continued employment of about 200,000 people, not to mention the musicians and artists, is real and disturbing, especially at a time when unemployment is a very real worry to everybody, particularly in the arts where the level of unemployment is extremely high.

I am not dragging in these points in order to make an emotive appeal regarding a sectional matter. These are the practical consequences which will flow if the legal meaning now given to one word upsets the operation of a previous understanding of an Act which had worked quite satisfactorily.

The scope of this Bill is truly minimal. None of the known susceptibilities normally related to licensing matters is involved in the repeal of this subsection. I know and respect the point of view of people who react in an emotional way to the purchase and consumption of intoxicating liquor. The repeal of this subsection has nothing whatever to do with that well-understood emotional reaction. There is no question of extending the licensing hours; there is to be no increase in the amount of licensing space; there is no possibility that as a consequence more drink will be served or consumed at similar functions than has been the case during the last 14 years. It has got nothing whatever to do with what I call the "gut" feeling of the normal "anti-licence man". However, unless we deal with it and it is carried through to the end there is the risk of adding another irritating chore to the tasks of our police force. They will have to face the unpopular task of reversing a situation that affects people's leisure which has operated satisfactorily for so many years. People will not understand the change and it will be one they will resent. I believe to the detriment of the police image.

At the beginning of this new week I do not hesitate to say we have just passed through one in which the assiduity and skill of the British police have reached new heights. We are all proud of the way in which they carry out their duties, and the strength that they will gain to carry out their future work will result from the new image which they earned last week. We must not weaken that public esteem by giving the police a task of applying unnecessary pin-pricking legislation which can only irritate. I believe this is important and I do not believe that in dealing with what I admit at once is a narrow technical point we ought to ignore what will flow from it. We know that in carrying out their tremendous tasks the police image is very important in being able to get the support and sympathy of the general public. We all know of the way little things connected with motor-car parking and other technical matters which we pass through in legislation upset people. This is something—interfering with people's leisure and with their way of life—which can do so much more damage than we realise unless we look below the surface.

For all these reasons I ask your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading. I must tell your Lordships that in anticipation of the Bill's going to another place I shall at Committee stage ask your Lordships to accept a minor amendment to the Long Title—again for purely technical reasons which have been pointed out to me. Apart from that, I submit the repeal of subsection (5) of Section 76 of the 1964 Act to your Lordships with confidence and hope, and I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Harmar-Nicholls.)

5.22 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, at the beginning of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, referred to the passing of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley. I understand that reference to this will be made later this evening, but nevertheless as the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has referred to it, may I say on behalf of this side of the House how much we share his feelings of profound shock at the death of Lord Cowley and we wish to convey our deep sympathy to his widow in what must be a most terrible 24 hours. If I may say so at the same time, I am quite sure that those officials at the Home Office who had dealings with Lord Cowley when the Party opposite was in Office would certainly wish to be associated with those words. I will say no more now because I know that this evening tribute will be paid to him.

It is my intention to intervene this evening only briefly, so far as this Bill is concerned, and I am glad to be able to tell the noble Lord who has just spoken that the Government do not intend to oppose it. The Bill itself is extremely short, as the noble Lord has pointed out. Its intention was explained to the House by the noble Lord in introducing this debate, and as the noble Lord said, it springs from the judgment of your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity in the case of Bradbeer v. Carter. In essence, the question for decision by the courts in that case was, "What constituted a bar?" Bars are defined in Section 201 of the Licensing Act 1964 as including: …any place exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor". It is sometimes a hazardous business to guess at the original intention of Parliament and the noble Lord touched on this point. It seems fairly clear that the definition of a bar was designed to ensure that, if a room or space was used primarily for drinking, it should not escape any statutory controls on bars simply because it did not contain a counter over which drinks were served. As your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity has already noted, the definition in Section 201 is not an all-embracing definition of the term "bar". It simply gives an indication of what this term includes.

But if there was, until the judgment, doubt about the definition of a bar, the exclusion of bars from special hours' certificates under the 1964 Act is clear. Indeed, this exclusion goes back some time. It appeared in the Licensing Act of 1949, when a limited amount of late night drinking was permitted for the first time for a great many years. And the exclusion of bars remains in existing licensing law which was consolidated in the 1964 Act. The provisions of the Act concerning special hours' certificates are set out in Section 77. This provides for the issue of special hours' certificates on two conditions. First, a music and dancing licence must be in force, and second, the Justices must be satisfied that the premises are structurally adapted and bona fide used, intended to be used, for the purpose of providing music and dancing and substantial refreshment, to which the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary.

Section 76 of the Act—this is the point to which the noble Lord referred—deals with the permitted hours where special hours' certificates are in force. Its effect is that the consumption and sale of alcoholic liquor is allowed on premises covered by a special hours' certificate beyond the normal closing hours which apply to licensed premises. These permitted hours may be up to 2 a.m., or in certain parts of London until 3 a.m. The subsection of Section 76, to which the noble Lord referred, brings the two issues of bars and special hours' certificates together. It provides that nothing in the section applies in relation to any bar. Nevertheless, despite this the practice has grown up over the years in premises covered by special hours' certificates of serving drinks direct to customers over bar counters. The reasoning was, apparently, that in any premises to which a certificate applied the sale of drink would necessarily be an ancillary activity. These premises could not therefore be regarded as bars as defined in Section 201; that is in the sense of a place exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor.

Many people would agree that the practice of serving drinks direct to customers over bar counters is not unreasonable provided that the sale and consumption of the drink is as Section 77 requires truly ancillary to the provision of music and dancing and substantial refreshment. However the recent judgment in Bradbeer v. Carter has been widely interpreted as meaning that bar service to csutomers is definitely excluded and that the interpretation put on the Licensing Act by the entertainment industry for many years has been wrong. The judgment of the court arose of course from the case they had before them and its applicability to other premises is not something on which it is possible to comment authoritatively. But it is certainly clear that most owners of late night entertainment premises as well as many police forces regard the judgment as having widespread application and it is argued that the livelihood of many of those employed in the industry may consequently be at stake.

The argument runs that the judgment imposes what amounts to a new requirement to provide waitress service at a table rather than bar service direct to the customer. The Government, of course, take seriously the estimates which have been put to them of the numbers likely to be laid off as redundant because of the implications of the judgment, while recognising that inevitably it is difficult to quantify such estimates with precision. Nevertheless, we accept that the new situation has given rise to widespread inconvenience and resentment both to club proprietors and to their customers. We take the view, however, that Government legislation should be in the context of any legislation that is introduced following consideration of the Erroll Committee's Report. In any event, there would be no opportunity in the current Session for a Government Bill on this substantial issue.

We are, therefore, grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, for the opportunity he has given to your Lordships' House of expressing a view on the matter. If his Bill finds favour with your Lordships, I cannot, of course, predict with any confidence its prospects of making progress in another place. But I can say that the Government would not oppose its passage there if Private Members' time could be found. As I have indicated, the Government would have preferred to deal with liquor licensing in one major Bill, on the basis of our consideration of the Erroll Committee's Report. Nevertheless, the recommendations contained in that Report would not appear in any way to be prejudiced by immediate action to reverse the Bradbeer v. Carter judgment, if that is the course that commends itself to the House.

5.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, I would wish to add my voice to those of the two noble Lords who have just spoken in expressing our deep regret at the untimely death of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley. Perhaps noble Lords do not know that we on these Benches have a special reason for being grateful to the late Earl, because for the last two years or so he has been acting as one of the Secretaries of the International Affairs Committee of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of England. He has made a very considerable contribution to the thinking and the work of that Board, and we therefore see his passing with the greatest distress and regret. We wish to associate ourselves with the words of sympathy that have been expressed to his family.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has been speaking with great persuasiveness about the minimal effect he believes his Bill will have upon the situation regarding the consumption of alcohol, and the clubs involved in it. I am sorry to have to shake his optimism in the universal support that he may receive, both in reducing the size of the Statute Book and also in removing what appears to be an irritant, for indeed, if there are passages in the Statute Book which are exercising what some would think to be a valuable restraint, then it is desirable that they should be there.

As the noble Lord has pointed out, the purpose of this Bill is to remove words which have been recently interpreted by the Law Lords in a certain way so as to make legal a practice which has grown up, and apparently been accepted for the last 14 years, as regards special hours certificates. It is difficult to see how that practice can have arisen, since I would contend that the words of the Act are perfectly clear. As the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has reminded us, Section 76(5) of the current Licensing Act states quite categorically: Nothing in this section applies in relation to any bar in premises or a part of premises to which this section applies…". It is therefore very difficult to understand how anyone could have thought that the supply of drinks over bars in special hours certificate places could ever have been regarded as legal. We ought to appreciate that the powers granted by special hours certificates give a very considerable extension of drinking time at night; until 3 a.m. in central London, and until 2 a.m. elsewhere.

I would contend that Section 77 of the Act is quite clear in placing certain restrictions upon the supply of liquor in order to exert some control upon a situation which might otherwise get badly out of control. Section 77 of the Act states that places which get special hours certificates are to be used for the purpose of providing music and dancing and substantial refreshment, to which the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary. It seems that if the sale of drinks over the bar is allowed for its own sake, then there will be a very extended amount of drinking. Indeed, as one of the noble and learned Lords giving judgement in the House of Lords remarked: The bar counter would be a magnet to those people whom the Act meant to discourage, those who come to drink and only to drink". There is a further complication in this matter, since the granting of a special hours certificate is so uncontrolled so far as magistrates are concerned. In the 1964 Act it is laid down in Sections 77 and 78 that where licensed premises or registered clubs have suitable premises and possess a music and dancing licence, and are intended to be used for providing music dancing and substantial refreshment to which the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary, the licensing justices shall grant a special hours certificate if it is applied for. It appears that they have no discretion in the matter; if the conditions are met, then they must give the licence. Moreover, the licence is not always to be granted by those who may have the best knowledge of the situation. In some places the licensing justices give the authority, but in others authority is not given by those who know the situation as regards liquor and therefore there is an area where the licence may be given by those who are not aware of the full and overall situation.

Moreover, it is very difficult indeed for proper inspection of these places. As the law stands the police may enter a club only when they suspect that the law has been broken. Therefore, it is very difficult for anybody either to refuse a licence, or to control the situation when a licence has been granted. If therefore this subsection is removed from the Act it may very well open the door to unlimited drinking up to 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., which was not the object of the Act as originally passed. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that this is unlikely to have any far-reaching effect. There are a number of public houses which have already introduced regular striptease entertainment of a rather unsavoury nature. It would seem very likely that owners of these places, as soon as this amendment to the law has been made—if, indeed, it is made—will be queueing up to get a special hours certificate. The magistrates would not be able to refuse them, and therefore there would be a great extension of drinking in the late night, at a time when there is growing alcoholism and a growing difficulty in getting transport during the early hours of the morning.

I think your Lordships ought to examine this Bill with the greatest possible care. It is probable that some of us would wish that it could be very considerably amended and if we are not able to amend it then we may find it necessary to oppose the Bill at Third Reading.


My Lords, will the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London allow me to ask him one simple question? If he suspects that as soon as the Bill reaches the Statute Book—assuming it does—there will be a queue of people wanting to start a striptease programme in their clubs, could he explain to the House why they did not do it before the Law Lords gave a decision? For 14 years they could have done so, without starting a queue to do it.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, I am afraid I cannot enter into the minds of people who run establishments of this kind. All I can presume would be that when they know there is no doubt about the law, then they would find a certain amount of encouragement to go forward.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am sad at the passing of the noble Earl, Lord Cowley; I knew him little, but I admired him much and I am sorry at his passing. I am at the same time happy once again to engage in a combined operation with my noble and ecclesiastical friend in some effort towards the Church militant, and in this case I hope the Church triumphant, because I am implacably hostile to this deletion from the law and will deploy what arguments seem to me to be necessary, in addition to the admirable statement of the case which my noble and ecclesiastical friend has just made.

I find myself in total disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, even in his anticipation that we would all agree with him in the attempt to reduce the amount of legislation. I remember it was Sarah Bernhardt who was once asked her opinion about the Ten Commandments and she said there were too many of them and the number ought to be reduced. Only reduce legislation if indeed that legislation is either ambiguous or is unnecessary. I believe that this piece of legislation rests upon a very necessary distinction between two forms of drinking which have not, as yet, been sufficiently identified; one is bar drinking and the other is mealtime drinking. It almost blisters my teetotal tongue to say this, but I think there is a reasonable case for the intake of alcohol—I would not accept this, but I think it is reasonable to deploy this argument—when it is part of a civilised accompaniment to eating and to pleasure seeking; indeed if I were pressed I think I might say that when the earthly paradise does arrive light wines might ecclesiastically be permitted.

But that is no argument for the present situation, in which I believe that the great majority of those who are intemperate find that intemperance aided and abetted by what is described quite accurately as bar drinking as opposed to the more civilised form of drinking which takes place to the accompaniment of a meal. It is on this ground that it seems to me that the Act which it is the intention of the noble Lord should be amended is perfectly clear and perfectly sound. Where drink is associated, even at late hours and early hours in the morning, with the other methods of pleasure and happiness, enjoyment, if you like, associated with meals taken and shows seen and participation in dancing—though I would not want to include striptease—this is a matter upon which it would be, to a very large extent, a repudiation of elementary rights, privileges and liberties that I think ought not to be infringed. But where this habit of bar drinking is recognised for what it does and what it constitutes, then I am implacably opposed to it.

I believe that this kind of drinking is far in excess of what is required, even by those who cannot subscribe to a temperance platform. I believe it is a prime cause of the kind of alcoholism with which I am in regular touch and which I know about. Moreover, I think it is a very sinister element in accident-prone situations. For at two and three in the morning there are very few taxis about and there is practically no public transport available; I believe it would be highly likely that those who had been drinking earlier on, as I suppose they would have been, and who continue drinking to that hour, particularly bar drinking, are likely to produce irresponsibility on their way home and are more likely to use their own cars in the absence of public transport. I think this is a real menace and ought to be included in any conceptual view of this whole situation.

But, principally I would say this—and if the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, regards this as emotive, I make no apology for it; it is certainly emotional, but I have never believed that rationality is the exclusive right of those who would proceed to legislate and that emotion is a suspect element in legislation. I have an emotional concept of the situation which I would venture to offer to your Lordships. We are at this moment intolerably accepting a level of alcoholic drinking among young people, stimulated by advertisements of the most rancid and, in my judgment, morally dubious kind; I believe that we are progressively moving to a situation in which more and more young people are liable to become alcoholics. I make no apology for making this claim; that is, that this legislative suggestion is highly likely to increase the probabilities of intemperance and over-drinking. To switch the emphasis away from the bar to the more civilised form of drinking with meals is not, so far as I am concerned, the summum bonum, but it is a very necessary and requisite part of intelligent legislation. It is represented by the Act as it stands, and I hope very much the Act will not be changed.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, would your Lordships be so very good as to extend to me the indulgence of allowing me to add a few observations, although I am afraid I neglected to put my name on the list of speakers. If your Lordships would allow me to do that, I promise to keep my observations very short. I must preface them by asking to be associated with the sad expressions with which the debate began. It really is a very unhappy moment in which to rise to one's feet in the presence of the loss that we all have sustained.

My Lords, the point that I wanted to raise was this. It is common ground that the object of Parliament in enacting subsection (5) of Section 76 of the Licensing Act 1964 was to ensure that when a special hours certificate was granted drinking should only take place as an incident to other activities, dancing, eating, listening to a performance or whatever it might be. That, I think, everybody accepts, and, if I am right in understanding his very forceful presentation of his case, that would be accepted by the noble Lord who has introduced this Bill. The point that I wanted to raise—I think with the noble Lord more than with any other Member of your Lordships' House—is this. What his Bill seeks to do is to strike out of Section 76 of the 1964 Act any reference to "bars"; in other words, if the noble Lord's Bill is passed un-amended, there is no exclusion whatsoever of bars in relation to these special licences.

What the noble and learned Lords did, when sitting in a judicial capacity, which produced the judgment that we have in mind, was to construe the word "bar" as used in subsection (5), and they construed it as they thought the language required it should be construed in the context in which it was used. If the noble Lord's Bill is passed, there is no exclusion whatsoever in relation to bars, whatever the word means, and one accepts of course, at once, that it means what the noble and learned Lords expressed as their opinion in the decision they were considering. But that goes by the board if the noble Lord's Bill is introduced and passed; there is no exclusion whatever in relation to bars.

I should like to put my argument in the form of this question. Supposing you had, in a club in relation to which there was a special hours certificate granted, something which incontestably everybody would recognise as a bar, a room separately set apart for people to lean against a bar and drink and do nothing else. Then, as I understand the noble Lord's Bill—I may have got it wrong and if so I apologise—drinking could take place there. It would be contrary to the intention of the Act, but nevertheless there would be. I should have thought, a bar. I should have thought the noble Lords' Bill perhaps should require amendment, at least in this sense; if he strikes out subsection (5), he should substitute for subsection (5) some definition of a bar, or some definition of a place in which drinking was not to take place, in relation to premises of the sort we are discussing, to take the place of the wording which at present appears in subsection (5).


My Lords, I intervene only because it might help to deal now with this very pertinent and significant point. The whole point of having to remove this is because these functions will take place in rooms where there is a bar. If you have to build new premises without a bar, those are the economic consequences of which I spoke that would mean that the whole place would not be there to offer to patrons at all. There is no question that, in removing this, that you are removing the need for it to be primarily music and eating. That will still be there under the rest of the 1964 Act; this merely removes the section which says, now that we have had this ruling, if it happens to take place in a room where there is a bar it is illegal. I intervene only to make that point, because I thought it was right that the misapprehension that the noble and learned Lord is under should be dealt with at once.


My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. I cannot have made my point clearly. May I put it again. Assuming that you permit dancing, eating, and so on, to take place in a room in which there is a bar, and assuming that you proceed from the premise that the definition, or interpretation, laid down by noble and learned Lords in the decision we are considering is too wide—in other words, assuming that in the case which their Lordships were considering the noble Lord would have wished there to have been an acquittal—then I would ask this. Supposing you accept a much narrower definition of the expression "bar", supposing you assume premises in which there is a restaurant, tables, a dance floor, and all the rest of it, in which there is a bar at one side, a bar at the other side, but in which also there is a separate room which is devoted entirely to drinking, and in relation to which nobody could conceivably say that that was not a bar—in other words, it is a bar in a very much narrowed sense—as I understand the noble Lord's Bill that bar would have to be entirely disregarded. If a number of persons went into that bar for the sole purpose of drinking and for doing nothing else whatever—not dancing, not eating, just drinking, leaning up against the bar there and having drinks brought to them —then, as I understand the Bill, that would be perfectly permissible.

What I respectfully suggest is not that we should vote against the Bill tonight, but that at some time or other an Amendment to the Bill needs to be considered to see whether one does not necessarily have to incorporate some exceptions in relation to what obviously, and beyond any controversy, would be understood by ordinary people to be a bar and nothing but a bar. That is the only contribution that I should like to make. Speaking for myself, I would not oppose the Second Reading, but would ask the noble Lord to accept that nevertheless perhaps his Bill goes rather far, and that it may be necessary in due course to amend it by excluding some parts of premises of this sort, parts which undoubtedly, and beyond any controversy, are a bar set aside for drinking.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would forgive me for intervening. I too did not put my name down because I was not certain what exactly the Bill involved until the noble Lord introduced it. First, I should like to be associated with the deep feeling of sympathy for the noble Earl's family in this very sad time. His death was a terrible shock for all of us.

I am rather fascinated by the fact that the noble Lord who preceded me, who has a very fine legal mind, appears not to know what is common practice in public houses. Many of us go to these places, and I always feel when we debate these matters that we are slightly hypocritical, because we debate them in relation to licensing in a place where, at any time we wish during the sitting of the House, or even afterwards, we can partake of alcoholic liquor without eating, dancing, or even a striptease performance. We must bear this in mind when we consider what people outside like to do.

I have every sympathy with this Bill. I hope that we shall debate the whole of the Erroll Report and bring into effect some of its very far reaching recommendations. I am sorry to disagree with the right reverend Prelate, and indeed both of my noble friends on this side. This Bill will hardly increase the drinking of alcohol because of the characters who are going to materialise. There seems to be something doubtful in the suggestion about them "leaning on the bar". I do not know why you should drink more because you lean on the bar, but if they come in they will still have to buy a ticket and partake of the food and witness the performance before they can have alcohol. To suggest that people would come in to get some more drink at 2 a.m. in the morning is really suggesting a rather long-term way of obtaining extra drinks.

We already have all sorts of changes taking place in our public houses. I think that I am right in saying that striptease is not dancing. I believe that we have laws which say that you can move if you have a certain amount of clothing removed, but if you take all of it off you have to stand still. Of course, this rule may have been modified. I think that music and dancing is interpreted in a slightly different way. What we all want to see is what I call the civilising process of the public house. We do not want to have a place where people go to drink as much as possible in as short a time as possible because they do not have with them their wives, or some other friends, and therefore it is not as sociable or indeed as attractive a place as it should be.

I feel that this Bill will go some way to putting right another point. We have not very many enforcement officers for these different laws, and if we take up the time of the enforcement officers in finding out whether People are being served with drinks, or whether in this "do it yourself" age they are obtaining drinks for themselves, it seems that we shall again waste time which should be utilised in much more important spheres. I should like to support the noble Lord in his Bill. Also I say to the Minister that I hope that we shall have the opportunity in this Session of making some change in the licensing laws by taking up some of the recommendations of the Erroll Report.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, may I apologise to the House for not putting my name down, but I did not think that tonight I should have to listen to three speeches that I have listened to which were more than flesh and blood can stand—at least so far as my flesh and blood is concerned. Before saying what I want to say, and so that my temperature can go down a few more degrees, may I join previous speakers and express the sense of sadness shared by all at the passing on of Lord Cowley. I did not know him very well, but we did have occasion to meet on the Lotteries Bill, and he was a most agreeable and considerate colleague. I am sure all of us join in expressing our deepest sympathy with his family in the irreparable loss they have sustained.

Turning now to this debate, can we get this Bill into focus. It does not introduce striptease, either in warm weather or cold weather; it does not induce people to drive home recklessly; it will not encourage any streakers; it will not encourage people even to have an extra cup of tea, because until very recently, for at least fourteen years, everyone, including the police and the Judiciary, thought that the law was in fact what Lord Harmer-Nicholls' Bill now seeks to make it. In other words, some £200 million has been invested in constructing premises to do what apparently the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, does not believe in fact they have done. The premises have been erected, and some 300,000 people are employed in this connection, because they thought the law was as it was thought to be.

Then two or three of your Lordships took off and interpreted the English language in a way which I never thought was possible. They obviously do not know what a bar is. A bar is a place not at which people lean but where they go to buy a drink; and it is perfectly clear—indeed, it is part of the explanation for the decline of religion in this country—that the two spokesmen for religion tonight are completely out of touch with the habits and practices of ordinary people. For example, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London showed not only that he is out of touch with people but is out of touch even with simple logic, because he wanted us to believe that there would be a queue, presumably of alcoholic drivers, to do that which they could have done for the last 14years but have in fact not done.

The overwhelming majority of people who are affected by this are ordinary, decent, working-class folk and they will not be at the bar. They will not be having a bun, a sausage roll or a drink unless they have gone to an establishment where singing or dancing is taking place. That is the condition; there must be dancing and music for this to happen. This is an age in which there is a short-tage of waitresses and waiters; but, according to the Law Lords, the customers can sit down and die of starvation and thirst, yet they cannot buy a drink, or perhaps even obtain a glass of water, until a waiter comes on the scene.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, particularly when he is arguing on my side, and I do so simply to make it clear that, as the Bill stands in my name, I am in no way critical of the Law Lords' decision. That decision was one which they, in their wisdom, thought was correct, and it very likely is. The fault here could be that of Parliament, because of the looseness of the words used.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has a veneration of the Law Lords which I do not share. They arc ordinary mortals like me, they can make mistakes like I do; but they are able to read English in a way which no other person living has so far read it, and I think that is barmy. Their decision will cause loss of livelihood for hundreds and thousands of innocent people, and it will sterilise a very large capital investment which this simple measure seeks to put right. That is the beginning and end of the story.

I have no interest in this matter. I cannot at the moment call myself a strict teetotaller, although it is true that years ago—about 50 years ago when I was a private in the Army—I joined the Army Temperance Association because by so doing I got "char and wads" buckshee. For the benefit of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, it meant that I got tea and cakes free. I have had half a pint of bitter at various times since then, but generally I do not drink and I do not condemn the habits of others. The pattern of social behaviour involved in what this measure seeks to do is one which I wholeheartedly commend. It is arrant nonsense to suggest, Law Lords or no Law Lords, that this measure, if it reaches the Statute Book, will open the gateway to striptease, increased drinking, alcoholism and streaking when people are going home at night. In fact, what it will do, as the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said, is relieve the police of the onerous and unpopular task of invoking the law to interfere with what are the social habits and practices of ordinary people.

Normally I do not find much time to share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, but I share this with him: we both come from the Midlands, and we both have the habit of plain speaking. The only difference between us is that he is polite to the Law Lords and I am not. Apart from that, I give his Bill every support; I hope it will get a Second Reading and will go back to another place, where it has already had a trial run; without opposition it got the unanimous support of the House of Commons under the Ten Minute Rule. The noble Lord is performing an important social duty which I hope will receive wide recognition because his Bill restores the position to what everyone has thought it to be for the last 14 years.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I intend to be brief and I am speaking on this issue because of the tragic death of my noble friend Lord Cowley, to whom noble Lords have paid tribute, and I join in the tributes which have been paid to him. It is sad that so much promise should have been lost. We shall miss him in many ways, as I know very well, having had the good fortune during the past year to be occupied on this Bench with some of the same subjects in overseas affairs. I associate myself with the message to his family that has gone out from your Lordships' House.

I have come to this debate at very short notice, having been asked to do so this afternoon. I started flying from Inverness at eight o'clock this morning and my plane was diverted to Birmingham owing to fog. I wish, first, to congratulate my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls on taking this initiative. He is clearly aiming to rectify a weakness in existing legislation where an interpretation has recently been made by the highest court in the land, your Lordships' House sitting in its judicial capacity—an interpretation which is different from that previously accepted by those most concerned. That is to say, a "bar" has been defined for certain purposes and a waiter service is required instead of a bar service in the circumstances which have been described during the debate. This difference is likely to affect the livelihood and business prospects of a number of people in this country. There is need for clarity in legislation. We feel that it is also a good thing to avoid new and arbitrary restrictions arising, unless they are necessary for social or other reasons. On this Bench we favour clarity in the law and simplification of it if possible, as was made clear in the debate in this House recently on the Renton Committee's Report.

My noble friend's Bill accordingly starts by commending itself under these headings to somebody on this Bench. Decisions, however, on licensing matters constitute a subject which is usually left by both Front Benches to individual Members of this House and another place; in other words, this is usually a free vote subject. I note that the Government do not intend to oppose this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, confirmed that it is thought by those who are affected by this recent judgment that it will have wide application to other cases, and he mentioned that this was causing disquiet, even resentment, because of the probable effects on the entertainment industry, which in turn is related to the tourist industry. I thought it was relevant and of interest to this House that he stated that the change proposed by my noble friend, if it were made, would not be inconsistent with anything the Government would be bringing forward as legislation on the Erroll Committee Report.

During the debate, though, we have also heard speeches from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble Lord, Lord Soper. The right reverend Prelate warned that if this Bill went through it would lead to people coming to functions of the kind we have been discussing with the principal purpose of drinking at a bar and they would get round the requirement that there should be music, dancing and food and the requirement that drinking should be an ancillary activity. In this he was joined by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who took a similar view. Their concern means that we must look very carefully into this. Their argument is that, though a certain interpretation was generally accepted for 14 years, the passage of the Bill establishing that situation definitely would lead to a substantial increase in late night drinking. That is a matter which we can only go into at a later stage, having in the meantime tried to find out the facts so far as we can.

The Bill applies only to England and Wales, and I hope it means that there are not similar problems in Scotland. However, I am well aware that the licensing legislation is separate and that the Scottish legislation is in need of reform because it was I who set up the Clays on Committee to review the Scottish licensing legislation. This was the equivalent of the Errol Committee. I made a symbolic gesture at the same time, one of my main concerns being the reduction of drunkenness in Scotland. My symbolic gesture was, as Minister of Road for Scotland, to straighten out the Devil's Elbow. The Clayson Committee reported shortly before the change of Government last year and I was glad to note that the Queen's Speech told us that the Government intend to put forward a Scottish Licensing Bill in this Session. It seems, therefore, that the Clayson Committee Report will be acted on before the Errol Committee Report. The subject we have been discussing today will come up in a much wider context when that Bill comes before us.

I mention in passing that there is a great need for a change of attitude in Scotland. I was particularly struck by what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, because there there is a need for more social activities to be associated with drinking in public places, so that men do not simply go to a bar to drink and do nothing else and to try to drink as much as they can before closing time. In the meantime, where England and Wales are concerned, I hope that the initiative taken by my noble friend will lead to a satisfactory solution of the problem which has been raised by this recent legal interpretation.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, may I rise for a moment to support what my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has said about the urgent need for a revision of the licensing laws in Scotland. I can go back one step further than he, in that I was a member of the Guest Committee for the revision of the licensing laws, which sat 10 or 15 years ago and of which the Clayson Committee which my noble friend set up was supposed to forward and bring up to date the recommendations. I sincerely hope that the Government will implement what I understand to be their intention to make a proper revision of the licensing laws in Scotland.

There is one other point in relation to Scotland which I feel might be of interest in this discussion. It is that during the Edinburgh Festival last year a quite astonishing thing happened, in that any publican, any person who served drink and almost anybody who applied for a late licence could get one up to about 3 o'clock in the morning. Licences were granted with great freedom and very little objection was made. We all expected there to be some bad effects, but none was reported. Whether it was that the many visitors to the Festival who came from outside Scotland were trained to enjoy late night drinking and knew how not to abuse it I do not know, but even we native Scots did not abuse it and there was no increase in the number of convictions for drinking and driving or any other such offence. So I commend this to your Lordships and I advise the House that a little audacity in this matter would not be out of place.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to wish the best of luck to Scotland. The only reason I am confined to England and Wales is because the 1964 Act is so confined. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, so effectively, for filling in the decision which came from the Law Lords. I feel that it is very important that that explanation should be on the record in such detail but I did not think it right that I should take up your Lordships' time in giving it. The noble Lord, without any sort of collaboration with me, filled in something which is vital and, I felt, did so most effectively.

To the right reverend Prelate I should like to say that I do not feel that he is looking at the matter in a practical way. He does not need me to tell him that anybody who intends to go to a function just to drink and to do nothing else will not be stopped because there is waiter service. Those sort of people are the ones who corner the waiter. This ruling will not stop those who are a nuisance to everybody and who are not welcomed by anybody who is running a function. It will make no difference if the bar is removed. The point which the right reverend Prelate makes about people who do not eat or listen to the music but who merely drink will not be affected. Those people will always be there. I am a member of the right reverend Prelate's church and I read the Lesson regularly. He and I know that we have people who are intolerant in their religion. We know that they are a nuisance too, but that does not alter the fact that they turn up, that they are always the first ones to be there and that they are a nuisance. This is one of the disadvantages which we have to try to overcome when we are putting forward the real purpose of our interest in our Church. I was rather sorry that the right reverend Prelate introduced the question of striptease. I do not feel that it was necessary and it does not come into any argument relating to the removal of subsection 76/5.

I felt the same about the noble Lord, Lord Soper. The only reason I am using my right to reply is to say to him that it is quite clear that he and I will be on different sides when matters such as this come up. I know a lot about him because he is famous. He knows nothing about me, but let me tell him this: my father and grandfathers on both sides were miners and my two grandfathers and my father, having been in the mines at something like 11 or 12, left mining at the age of about 30 to become local publicans. That is the sort of thing that happens having done that dangerous and awful job. I was born in a pub in the Black Country of England and I cannot accept from the noble Lord that the only people who are civilised are those who drink their wine at a table being served by a waiter. I have seen that civilised people come to bars, and that there is nothing wrong in coming to bars. I have seen throughout my life that bars are well-run and that the sort of people the noble Lord objects to are those to whom the publican objects. I believe that perhaps the best policeman for moderation and good sense and I for seeing that young people do not over-drink and that the road safety element is remembered are the people who run bars. I wanted to say that because it is quite clear from the noble Lord's reaction that it differs from my life's experience and puts me on the side of finding that things are not so black as the noble Lord has satisfied himself they are. That is a debate which I have no doubt we shall have on many occasions.

I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, raised a point which it is essential to make clear. This was the question of a separate room with a bar. He again used the right reverend Prelate's argument that, with a separate room, only people who wanted to have a drink would come. However, the practical considerations are these: in hundreds of places where these very desirable functions take place, the one room is not big enough for both the eating and the dancing. It is quite usual for there to be a separate room and for people to leave the dance floor and the music in order to go to the other room to have a drink and food. If, by being legalistic, we make it impossible for these functions to take place, we shall come back to the point which I made originally that this really means that they will not be able to happen at all because, on the economics of the argument, they will not be able to take place with resultant unemployment. I have looked at this and I truly believe that the most effective and shortest way of dealing with this is by removing the subsection. It in no way interferes with the necessity for music, dancing and eating before one can have a special licence. I have great sympathy with the noble Baroness. Like myself, she understands the way in which good, decent people enjoy themselves, without having to be associated with striptease or with deliberate dangerous driving and such matters. However, the points which the noble Baroness had in mind about the general relaxation have nothing whatever to do with this Bill. Mine is a very tiny section, merely putting into law what has in fact been the case for about 14 years.

I have the confidence that when we get to Third Reading those points may perhaps be better understood. It may be that the right reverend Prelate will not repeat his suggestion that they might seek to divide the House on Third Reading. I am convinced that if this matter is looked at in a detailed and proper way, it will be seen that it in no way interferes with the general view which noble Lords are entitled to have regarding the overall matter of having intoxicating drinks at all. What I propose is intended to provide a cleaner, better law which will lead to good living. It is with the confidence that this is also the view of your Lordships that I submit this Bill for a Second Reading.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he would accept that the situation regarding the granting of special hours certificates is unsatisfactory in that the magistrates have no discretion? Would he consider it possible to introduce some discretionary power for magistrates in the granting of these certificates?


My Lords, that matter is quite outside and beyond the particular point I wish to argue today. If I went into those fields I think that the right reverend Prelate and I would be on different sides. But I should not like to injure the good opinion which I hope I have earned for my point of view on this narrow issue, by going into the wider issue today, although, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I have no doubt that we shall find that we shall be protagonists when these matters—such as those which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, referred to—are dealt with in this House at a later stage.

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