HL Deb 20 July 1978 vol 395 cc428-30

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made on how the proceeds of the Licensing Compensation Fund should be distributed, in view of the Answer given on 1st December last year.


My Lords, I regret that the consultations within Government to which my noble friend referred last December have taken longer than expected. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I are aware of the concern which the noble Earl and other noble Lords feel about this matter, and we hope that it will be possible to reach a decision on it in the fairly near future.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that rather unsatisfactory Answer, may I ask him whether he is aware that this Question has been going on for nearly as long as Lady Burton's Question about airline overbookings? It started in September 1975 when the Government said, "In the near future". They then said, "As soon as possible". Then that they were "taking thoughts about it". Could the noble Lord say since December 1975 what the £4.2 million has now accrued to? Secondly, can he tell your Lordships' House why this matter has taken so long when this has been going on for two and a half years and the Brewers' Society has agreed that 50 per cent. of the proceeds of this sum should go to charity?


My Lords, I can well understand how the noble Earl feels. I am not going to attempt to deny that this has taken a long time, and I can understand his impatience on this matter. Having said that, I think I am right in saying that the amount of money is £3.8 million and not £4.2 million, but that is perhaps only a detail. As I understand it, the situation is that when this amount of money became available the suggestion was that it should be paid to those who contributed over the years to that sum. It was found impossible to do so because many of them had gone out of business, and subsequently there was an agreement between the Brewers' Society and the licensed trade that perhaps it could be split 50 per cent. to those holding pre-1904 licences with the other 50 per cent. being put on trust to be spent in some agreed way.

The Erroll Committee suggested that expenditure of the money should be upon licensed trade charities and dealing with alcohol abuse, and so on; and then the House of Commons Expenditure Committee in April of last year felt that it ought to go to help education purposes. The real difficulty, as I understand the situation—and I am sorry to be so long over this—is that if this money is divided in the way that has been agreed upon by the two trade associations it will be necessary for a Government Department to be responsible for administering the 50 per cent. which will be put on trust. All sorts of problems are raised when a Government Department does this, as to whether it is going to be done with the Home Office or the Department of Health and Social Security, and there are Treasury interests. At the present moment consideration is being given to who should administer the money, which is a healthy stage, and we are awaiting the outcome of the decision of the two Departments concerned and the Treasury. This is the up-to-date situation, and I cannot take it any further than that.


My Lords, may I thank the Minister for that very thorough and complete answer. I hope that he will be able to continue pushing as hard as possible.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the fact that it is almost exactly 100 years, if my memory serves, since a similar decision was made on the so-called whisky money, which was derived in a very similar way to that which is now under discussion? It was ultimately decided to devote this to technical education, and this was the very beginning of the first decent attempt to produce technical education in this country. So let us hope that that precedent will be followed on this occasion.

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