HL Deb 14 April 1988 vol 495 cc1177-97

5.38 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Modification of permitted hours]:

Lord Kaberry of Adel moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 4, leave out ("five") and insert ("six").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is similar to one I moved at Report stage. After a reasonably lengthy discussion during which many views were expressed, I withdrew the amendment so that there might be further consideration of it. The amendment is to give private registered members' clubs the same hours on a Sunday to supply liquor to their members as licensed premises to which the public at large have access enjoy under the Bill.

I hope your Lordships will allow me a little while, especially in view of the discussions which took place on the previous Bill, to inquire what is to happen in the latter stages of the Bill. The Lord Chairman of Committees has recently sent to us all a short memorandum reviewing the findings of the Committee on the Procedure of your Lordships' House. It is stressed that in the closing stages of a Bill we must concentrate on what is provided in the Bill and not what the Ministers would have liked to see. We should not consider what they hoped it might be, nor what they hope may happen when the amendment to Clause 1, already passed by your Lordships, goes to another place for consideration.

With regard to Clause 1, in Committee your Lordships saw fit to pass an amendment giving licensed premises to which the public have access permission to open on Sundays from 12 noon to 3 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. It gave the clubs an extra hour's opening time in the afternoon. Instead of opening from 12 noon to 2 p.m. they have permission under the Bill to open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. That is a total of six and a half hours.

In the latter part of Clause 1 private registered members' clubs may have permitted hours of opening within certain specified rules. One of the rules is that on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday they may open within hours which fit in with rules set out in the clause. It provides that they open for a total of five and a half hours. However, if the members so decide and register the time with the clerk to the magistrates, the clubs may open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. Therefore, there is no question of permitting an extra hour within that period because they have the option of deciding to do so. However, if one takes three hours from five and a half hours, one is left with two and a half hours in the evening. Therefore, they can open at 7 p.m. as do the public houses. It often happens that the pub next door opens at 7 p.m. and closes at 10.30 p.m. but that the club must close at 9.30 a.m. Alternatively, the club may open at 8 p.m. and close at 10.30 p.m.

I am sure that the Government have not provided for that deliberately. I am sure that they would not wish to condemn the many thousands of members of highly respectable clubs. They would not wish to condemn them as second-class citizens who cannot be trusted with an extra hour provided by the the Bill to public licensed premises.

There is a large variety of clubs. There is the country club which specialises in providing food. There are political clubs; Labour, Liberal and Conservative. On the last occasion I did not declare my interest, but for the past 28 years I have been chairman of an association of some 1,400 Conservative clubs round the country. Ill-spent time has given me a good knowledge of a variety of clubs. I know that the clubs are an association of law-abiding people. Throughout all their rules they have one thing in common. It is that no one under 18 is admitted as a member and therefore there is no question of underage drinking.

Many clubs provide meals. I can give many instances of clubs round the country which have excellent kitchens and dining rooms. For example, I know of a club in North-West Wales which existed for 100 years in the same premises. Last year it purchased a hotel which had ceased to be used as such by its proprietors. It now has excellent kitchens and dining rooms. Bar snacks are served and there is a range of facilities which are not specified in the earlier part of the clause.

I hope that the noble Earl will not tell me that the extra hour for public licensed premises was granted in order that people may take their midday Sunday meal at greater leisure. The clause does not provide for that. It gives blanket permission to every licensed premises in the country to open for six and a half hours. In respect of clubs there is a special provision in the principal Licensing Act 1964, which is referred to in the Bill. Provision is made there for similarly grouped clubs to have an inter-affiliation card, or a pass card in the case of the members of the club and institute union. That enables the holder to visit, and be treated as a member, any similarly grouped club in any part of the country. It is well patronised.

As regards the association of which I am chairman, I know that each year over 500,000 people use inter-affiliation tickets to visit clubs around the coast during their holiday. They visit clubs nearby in the same county to mix socially with people with like-minded pursuits.

We are now providing that those self-respecting, decent folk are to be denied the extra hour which your Lordships have granted to the public at large. When a club stops supplying drink at 9.30 p.m. the club steward can say, "It is now Conservative Government club-closing time. They believe in equality and freedom and each one of you is free to leave the club to go to the pub next door for further liquid refereshment". That is what will happen and that is what we are being driven to. The whole issue is grossly unfair and most inequitable. I hope that your Lordships will support the amendment.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry. For some 22 years I was the secretary of a club in Manchester. Although it carried a political name and was politically active it was owned by each individual member. The noble Lord is correct in saying that under the old licensing law, within the global figure of opening hours, there was a variation in the hours of Sunday opening. Clubs were able to make application dependent on the local licensing magistrate in their area. For instance, my club did not open from 12 noon until 2 p.m. on Sunday, as did most of the other working men's clubs in Manchester; it varied the hours from 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. Therefore, there was a certain amount of relaxation and the hours were applied differently.

However, as the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, has said, if extended hours are granted to public houses in a particular area and not to the clubs one could have a situation where, if clubs were closing earlier, there would be an overspill into some of the public houses, and that is not too desirable. Most of the thousands of working men's and political clubs are, in some areas, the social centres for the residents. When people become club-minded they often have little regard for the pubs in the area because often the club is the social centre for them and their families.

In most of the clubs in Leeds—an area which I was privileged to represent and which has a variety of working men's and political clubs—one finds that clubs give the least trouble. That is because the committees are very strict in dealing with members who are foolish enough to try to misbehave. Under the licensing laws every member of a management committee of a club is liable to prosecution if the rules of that club are broken, there is conflict with the law and a prosecution is launched by the police. The clubs are strictly disciplined. They look after themselves. It is very rare indeed in such clubs for the police to be called to enforce any sort of discipline.

There are clubs where, as with landlords, the licensing laws are contravened, and they have to pay the penalty. However, in the main clubs are part of the fabric of this country as it stands under the licensing laws. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, has made his case. I believe it would be grossly unfair and biased if clubs were seen to operate at this slight disadvantage. Therefore, I support the noble Lord.

Lord Monson

My Lords, not only do I warmly support this amendment but I added my name to it, although due to some failure of communication my name does not appear on the Marshalled List. When replying to an identical amendment at Report, the habitual, impeccable logic of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, deserted him for a moment. He argued that there was nothing to prevent clubs opening between the hours of 12 noon and 3 p.m. on a Sunday, as the clause stands. That is perfectly true. However, if they were to do so they would have to close at half-past nine at night on Sundays, as has already been mentioned; namely, one hour before the pubs close. Members and their guests who are not ready for bed at nine-thirty, and most people are not, would inevitably repair to a pub, or even to two or three pubs, so as to be able to continue drinking. I believe it is generally accepted that people who go on pub crawls end up drinking a good deal more than those who remain in the same establishment all evening. Is that what the Government want? Surely not.

If, as one trusts they will, the other place agrees to the extra hour at Sunday lunchtime which your Lordships inserted into the Bill in Committee, it is reasonable to suppose that following the present pattern the other place is likely to want an extra hour for clubs as well so as to maintain the present parity. It is not 100 per cent. certain but I believe it is extremely likely. However, unless your Lordships support this amendment the other place will have no opportunity even to consider the matter. It is possible of course that it may reject it: if that is the case, so be it. However, it is surely right that the other place should at least be given the chance to consider the idea. I hope that if the Government do not agree, the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, will insist upon this amendment.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, during the passage of this Bill I have on some occasions argued against making further outlets for alcohol and I have been concerned at some points that the greater accessibility was perhaps going too far. However, in this case I feel that the logic of having the same hours for pubs and clubs seems to be absolutely irrefutable.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kaberry, who, as we remember, received support from all sides of the House at Report, has made a very strong case. We should prefer to see the more controlled environment of a club used by families on a Sunday than a public house. We know that there are strong safeguards against under-age drinking in the club environment. We also know that meals are served. Therefore, we do not see why families taking their Sunday meal at a club should not have that extra concession that those taking their meal at a public house will have.

One of the points of this Bill is to remove anomalies. In my view, this amendment removes an anomaly which is at present in the Bill. Therefore, that is one of the reasons why the Minister should accept the very strong logic behind the arguments of the noble Lord.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I am bound to say, "Oh dear, oh dear", because this is what happens, if I may say so, when your Lordships decide to tinker around with Sundays. My noble friend Lord Kaberry described this proposal in the Bill as "grossly unfair and inequitable", as did the noble Lord, Lord Dean. What is unfair and inequitable is the fact that your Lordships, with your Lordships' generosity and wisdom, decided to refute the Government's advice and table an amendment about Sundays in Committee. You decided to permit pubs to stay open on Sundays until three o'clock.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is that not what democracy is about, that a group of people who know something about a subject may know more about it than the Government? Are they not entitled to express their contrary opinion? If the Government are right all the time, what is the point in having general elections?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. Your Lordships can take any decision and the Government can only advise your Lordships. I was bold enough to advise your Lordships in Committee that the purpose behind this Bill was to get rid of some anomalies, to make life easier during the week and not to interefere with Sundays. The purpose of that was that we knew we would be in a very difficult position, which is what we are now in because in Committee your Lordships decided to allow pubs to be open for an extra hour at lunchtime on Sundays as a social convenience. Now my noble friend Lord Kaberry comes along and argues that because pubs can now open for six-and-a-half hours, clubs should also be allowed to.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, said that when we had a similar amendment at Report at that time my impeccable logic left me. I do not know whether my logic was impeccable, but it did not leave me. I shall try to explain to your Lordships why I believe that the logic is as good now as it was then. Of course I understand my noble friend's amendment and he has, as one would expect, expressed the matter very clearly, forthrightly and fairly. However, the fact is that when the Government tried to bring in this Bill, they did not want to interfere with Sundays.

The whole purpose of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls was, as I understood it, as a convenience to enable people to enjoy their social gathering on a Sunday when they would like to take the opportunity of a midday meal. I think that my noble friend Lord Kaberry said that he hoped that we were not going to use that argument. However, that is precisely the argument I use, not because I think that that is the right thing, because I advised your Lordships not to do it, but that is what my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls said; namely, that he wanted people to enjoy their Sunday lunch in the pub until two o'clock.

The fact is that the rules which regulate the licensing hours of pubs are different from those of clubs. Pub licensing hours are fixed and club licensing hours are flexible. Clubs can choose, within limits, when they open. When the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, says that she cannot understand why people in clubs cannot have a drink with their Sunday lunch, of course they can. Clubs can now serve drinks between two and three o'clock.

My noble friend Lord Kaberry said that clubs are self-respecting places full of respectable people who are controlled and decent. I have no doubt that the ones that he frequents are. Whether or not they all are is a matter for your Lordship's opinion. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Monson, says that all the people who go to clubs will leave them as soon as they shut and go on to pubs—and he even said that they would go on to a pub crawl—I hardly feel that that equates with my noble friend's more salubrious description of the clubs which he attends.

Some of your Lordships believe that clubs provide a more controlled drinking environment than do pubs, and that the loss of parity between the hours permitted to them on Sundays will send more people into the pubs, which will be to the detriment of society. I am bound to say that I find that argument somewhat spurious. Clubs have the flexibility to open until 3 p.m. on a Sunday lunchtime if they wish. Presumably, if all their members head for the pubs at 2 p.m. and thereby demonstrate the demand for an additional hour at lunchtime the clubs will so arrange their hours to stay open until 3 p.m. If that happens they will lose an hour's drinking time in the evening.

What my noble friend's amendment really seeks to do is to permit clubs to have an extra hour's drinking in the evening. That is making a very different inroad into the Bill. The argument that without an extra hour club members will move to a pub, if that is the only place where they can drink, is not a very strong one, if I may say so. Of course, it can happen now because there is nothing to prevent a club from serving drinks from 5 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. if that is what members want. For example, bars at golf clubs may well want to open for drink earlier than 7 p.m. in order to cater for members leaving the greens. They are entitled to do that. However, if they do so those members who wish to continue to drink in the evening must move, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has described so graphically to us, from pub to pub and have a very good pub crawl until 10.30 p.m. That is what they will be obliged to do.

The simple fact is that clubs now enjoy a greater degree of flexibility to choose their Sunday hours than do licensed premises. If they wish to serve drinks until 3 p.m., they can do so under the present arrangements. Conversely, pubs cannot and that was the purpose of the amendment which was accepted by your Lordships at Committee stage. A number of your Lordships spoke against a similar amendment to that of my noble friend Lord Kaberry at Report stage. They saw it as another attempt to chip away at the character of Sunday. I am bound to say that I have a sneaking sympathy because the whole philosophy behind this Bill is that it should not interfere with Sundays.

Your Lordships decided—but perhaps I may remind the House that the decision was against the advice of the Government—to allow pubs to stay open for an extra hour for social purposes in the middle of the day. That is at a time at which clubs can also be open if they wish. I do not believe that it is reasonable for my noble friend Lord Kaberry, even in the excellent and persuasive manner in which he did so, to propose that clubs should be open and be permitted to open for an extra hour in the evening. That was the reason why we did not want to interfere with Sundays. It throws up a whole range of anomalies some of which have already appeared this evening.

6 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I wish him to be factually correct. He said quite clearly that clubs can now open until 3 p.m. on a Sunday. Am I not right in saying that that is only with the permission of the local licensing magistrates? Very often, in more cases than not, the magistrates do not grant such a licence. The overwhelming number of working men's clubs in this country open from 12 noon to 2 p.m. I said that the club of which I was the secretary for a great number of years had a variation from 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. but it was the only working club in Manchester that had such a concession. Can the Minister confirm that permission has to be granted by the local magistrates when the club is reregistered which, I believe, is now after every three years?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, is not entirely correct. The clubs do not need permission provided there is a gap of two hours. I see that the noble Lord shakes his head; but I believe I am correct in saying that.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I challenge the information which the Minister has because I had the job of reregistering the club. When the licensing laws of 1964 were invoked the local magistrates could give a licence for 12 months, three years or five years and that depended upon their judgment. Together with other club secretaries, I had the job of going down to register the club. I am perfectly convinced that I am right, unless the law has been altered meanwhile and no one has taken much notice.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I think we are now totally out of order. Perhaps I may have the permission of your Lordships to speak yet again, but if your Lordships would prefer me not to do so I shall resume my seat quite happily. As I understand the position, subject to the requirement that clubs must not start serving alcohol before 12 noon, that they must take a break between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and may not serve alcohol for more than three-and-a-half hours after 5 p.m., registered clubs are free to set their own hours.

Lord Kaberry of Add

My Lords, perhaps I may take the noble Earl to a more convenient place adjoining this Chamber and explain to him the advantages of being a member of a Conservative club. At the same time, I shall tell him how angry the members are at the moment that this clause seeks to make them second-class citizens. There are no half measures about it because that is what the Government are doing.

The noble Earl said that the purpose of this Bill is to remove anomalies. He has just made one! Clause 1 is absolutely anomalous. The population is divided into two. People who frequent public houses to buy liquor in permitted hours are treated in one way; they are given six-and-a-half hours on Sunday. There is no dodging the issue because it is there in print. It is not what the noble Earl wishes to do or perhaps what may happen; that is what the Bill states. Equally, licensed clubs may only open for five-and-a-half hours despite the nonsensical idea that if they wish they can opt to open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. Equally, they can opt to open for three-and-a-half hours in the evening. However, three-and-a-half plus three, according to my arithmetic, does not make five-and-a-half. I am seeking to help the noble Earl. My amendment proposes six-and-a-half hours for clubs. I shall be very happy to take the opinion of the House.

6.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-Contents, 65.

Ailesbury, M. Kilmarnock, L.
Airedale, L. Lawrence, L.
Attlee, E. Lindsay, E.
Auckland, L. Listowel, E.
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Bauer, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Mais, L.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Manton, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Mayhew, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Monson, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. [Teller.] Morris, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mulley, L.
Erroll, E. Nicol, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Falkland, V. Pender, L.
Gallacher, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L
Harlech, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Hayter, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Tordoff, L.
Jeger, B. Ullswater, V.
John-Mackie, L. Underhill, L.
Kaberry of Adel, L. [Teller.] Winterbottom, L.
Kennet, L.
Ampthill, L. Kitchener, E.
Annandale and Hartfell, E. Lauderdale, E.
Arran, E. Long. V. [Teller.]
Balfour, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Luke, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Belstead, L. Marley, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Brentford, V. Merrivale, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mersey, V.
Caithness, E. Mottistone, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Munster, E.
Campbell of Croy, L. Nelson, E.
Carnock, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Chelwood, L. Orkney, E.
Coleraine, L. Oxfuird, V.
Colwyn, L. Perth, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Reigate, L.
Deedes, L. Renwick, L.
Dundee, E. St. Davids, V.
Elton, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Selkirk, E.
Ferrers, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Glenarthur, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal L.
Haddington, E.
Halsbury, E. Teviot, L.
Harvington, L. Thorneycroft, L.
Hesketh, L. Trafford, L.
Hives, L. Trumpington, B.
Hooper, B. Ward of Witley, V.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Whitelaw, V
Ingleby, V. Wise, L.
Kenilworth, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.15 p.m.

Clause 10 [Disqualified premises—garages]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 2: Page 8, fine 40, leave out ("(3)") and insert ("(4)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps I may speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. At Report stage your Lordships decided to add, against government advice, a new clause prohibiting garages from receiving a justices' licence. These amendments to the new clause are intended only to ensure that the new clause fits logically within the structure of the Licensing Act 1964 and to clarify certain terms. The amendments do not affect the substance of the clause. Nor does the fact that we see a need to propose amendments mean that the Government have been persuaded of the merits of the clause. That is a separate matter which we wish to consider further.

The main effect of these amendments is to replace "sited within a location" and "primary purpose" with a reference to "premises or parts of premises primarily used as a garage". The term "sited within a location" is imprecise. It does not convey an accurate notion of boundary and could be construed as extending, for example, to an adjacent pub or off-licence that happened to be on a trading estate which might be regarded as a location. Equally, we felt that the words "primary purpose" were not adequately descriptive. I hope that my noble friend Lord Brentford will agree that our amendments convey his intended meaning with more precision. We have also added a definition of "use as a garage" which is couched in very similar terms to the wording of Clause 10.

Even as amended, there is still doubt about the precise interpretation of the new clause. The clause does not specify how the primary use of premises combining a shop and garage is to be determined. What constitutes primary use? Is it the size of the turnover of the petrol and motor side as opposed to what is sold in the shop? Is it the amount of space that is occupied? Is it the number of customers who buy petrol as opposed to the number who buy other things? Is it the number of transactions for the sale of petrol as opposed to the number of other transactions for the sale of other goods?

We have taken the view that if the new clause should become law it will be for local justices to decide what test to apply and how to apply it. It will also be for the local justices to determine what precisely constitutes the premises in any given case. Is it the total area of the garage, including the forecourt, repair workshop, sales room and shop? Or is it solely the building?

Where there could be a problem of interpretation is in the case of existing licensed garages. For some, it will not be immediately obvious whether the premises will become disqualified from holding a licence or whether they can lawfully continue as before. Much will depend on how they see their primary use, and some will need to take advice and to seek the views of the courts. Nevertheless, I think that as a result of our amendments the wording of Clause 10 is as precise as we can hope for.

The amendments tabled to Schedules 3 and 4 to the Bill are purely technical drafting points and are consequential on the amendments to Clause 10.

We have proposed these amendments in order to clarify the intention behind the clause which your Lordships chose to insert at Report stage. I am bound to make clear that the Government reserve their position as to whether the principle behind my noble friend's new clause is a suitable addition to the Bill. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 3 to 6: Page 8, line 41, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("subsections"). Page 8, line 42, leave out ("(3A)") and insert ("(4A)"). Page 8, line 42, leave out ("from") and insert ("for"). Page 8, line 43, leave out from ("are") to end of line 45 and insert ("primarily used as a garage or form part of premises which are primarily so used. (4B) In subsection (4A) of this section, the reference to use as a garage is a reference to use for any one or more of the following purposes, namely, the retailing of petrol or derv or the sale or maintenance of motor vehicles.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, these amendments have already been spoken to. I beg to move.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I should like to put in a word at this stage to express my support for my noble friend's amendments. I have some general comments to make on the points he raised, although I am most grateful to him for the clarification which he has inserted in the amendments. However, as regards his diffidence, I should like to point out that the justices will still retain their discretion if it falls within the law. Should there be any doubt in their minds it seems to me that they would have no problem in refusing a licence.

Since previous discussions on the matter, I have given some thought to the position with regard to garages that are already licensed and will cease to be licensed as a result of the amendment—assuming that it becomes law. I think it is perhaps an outstanding question.

There is one further point that I should like to ask my noble friend to bear in mind for the future. It concerns the issue which would arise if the bar on retailing were enacted. In order to avoid anomalies—something which the Government are quite rightly keen on—should there not be a bar on the wholesaling of alcohol in garages? Naturally that point is not one which should be covered at this time, but I wish to put it into my noble friend's computer mind so that he may consider it before the next opportunity arises to discuss the matter. As I have already said, I support the amendments in general.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 7: Before Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

("Intoxicating liquor.

. In section 201(1) of the principal Act, in the definition of "intoxicating liquor", in paragraph (a), the words "of an original gravity not exceeding 1016° and" shall be omitted.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is of a technical nature. On the last occasion when the Bill was before your Lordships, on 31st March, I took the opportunity to explain at some length what lay behind the amendment and therefore I do not propose to repeat those arguments. However, I think it is sufficient to remind the House that we are discussing the manufacture and sale of low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers. Under existing legislation those products have to pass two tests under Section 201 of the 1964 Act. They have to undergo the test of gravity, called "original gravity", as well as that of alcoholic content. The origin of the "original gravity" criteria was in the late 19th century and arose as a result of excise laws. However, retail excise licences were abolished in the Finance Act 1967, so there is no relevance today to that part of the twofold criteria of "original gravity". Therefore we are left with the alcoholic content, which is measured by volume.

When I made the latter point at an earlier stage my noble friend Lord Arran, while conceding the points that I had made, said: It is important, for the sake of consistency and clarity, that the definitions stay in tandem".—[Official Report, 15/3/88; col. 1106.] Of course that statement might be all right if the two definitions had relevance and indeed were in tandem; however, they are not relevant and not in tandem. The only true test is alcoholic content by volume.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, in her supporting contribution on 31st March of this year reminded us that the Budget provisions—the recent Budget—by virtue of the change in duty on beers actively encourage the drinking of non-alcoholic drinks. She said that the provisions were designed to encourage the production and wider sale of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers; that is, those beers with less than 1.2 per cent. of alcohol by volume. Previous to the Budget there were two levels but now it is to be evened out and such assistance to the industry is to be welcomed.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, reminded us of what the Masham report said and I am glad to see that the noble Baroness is in her place this evening. Broadly speaking the report—although I take it perhaps a little out of context—called for the industry to use its expertise to provide a wider range of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers for the community and to monitor the effects thereof.

On that occasion my noble friend Lord Arran accepted the logic of my argument but said: It seems to us that there is considerable danger that, by encouraging children to drink these products, we shall be developing their taste for beer and wine at an all too early stage in their lives".—[Official Report, 31/3/88; col. 902.] I do not support his contention. The amendment that I have moved on two previous occasions has received wide support from many noble Lords in this House. It has also received the support of the manufacturing industry, the retail industry and was mentioned in some sections of the Masham report. Furthermore, by virtue of the Budget, it even has support in governmental areas.

Finally I suggest to your Lordships that this will be the last opportunity, probably for 20 years, that we shall have to reform the Licensing Act. The last such reform was in 1964 when there was a tinkering with the legislation. My suggestion is that your Lordships should sweep away this anachronistic legislation which is quite irrelevant to today's technology; we should remove the restrictions that inhibit investment in manufacturing industry and inhibit the wider production and availability of low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers. We should also encourage young drivers, and indeed other drinkers generally, to turn to low-alcoholic drinks. We must show enterprise and leadership to the industry in a positive and responsible way, which is in keeping with the spirit of the Bill.

I finish by saying that the spirit of the Bill was described by my noble friend the Minister on 18th February when he said: Three considerations lie behind the Bill. The first is that the habits, conventions and customs of society change with time, and it is only right and proper that Parliament should periodically up-date statutes in order to conform". That is the first consideration. He then said: The second consideration, though, is the recognition that the misuse of alcohol is a serious problem with long-term consequences for individuals and societies". Later my noble friend said: The third consideration that we have in mind is that we believe that people should have freedom of choice, unless there are over-riding reasons to prevent it for the benefit of society at large".—[Official Report, 18/2/88; cols. 797–798.] I suggest that the amendment meets all three of those considerations with no disadvantages whatsoever. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I again support the noble Lord and his amendment. I agree with him that the Minister's reply on Report was baffling and difficult to understand. If he is going to refuse to accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord I hope that his answer will be more understandable. Surely anything which might help to steer the public away from high alcoholic drinks towards low alcoholic drinks must be right, encouraged and welcomed in every way.

I should be interested to hear the Minister's arguments if he is going to oppose the amendment, because many of the arguments put foward on Report were unacceptable to many noble Lords.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I too support my noble friend Lord Lucas. Unfortunately, I was away when the Report stage was debated at the end of March. RoSPA also supports the amendment because it will help to promote alcohol-free drinks. As my noble friend quoted what my noble friend Lord Arran said at col. 902 of Hansard I shall not repeat it. If the case rests as it was in March, the Government will be going against the recommendation contained in paragraph 73 of the national report, which states: We recommend that the alcoholic and soft drinks industries should make a concerted effort to promote these drinks as an attractive alternative to alcohol". Paragraph 84 was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, on 31st March (col. 900). Furthermore, if the amendment were not accepted it would undermine the excellent work done by the youth services, which help with health and education and the prevention of an intervention in alcohol abuse, as set out in paragraph 109 of the report. It would also undermine the work of the alcohol-free bars, as set out in paragraph 82. For all those reasons, I support the amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I hope that the Minister has had time to reflect. If he accepts, as I do, the motivation of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but cannot accept it for technical, constitutional or legislative reasons, that will be sad. I have listened to all the arguments put forward on this matter. I have had the benefit of reading the excellent report of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. The amendment seeks to take account of the current social situation and to ensure that a wider and more acceptable range of drinks is available, which would be less alcoholic than if the amendment were refused.

The amendment will encourage people to put their money where their mouths are. They will have to take a risk and perhaps lose money. I and many noble Lords want to encourage a vibrant social life, but we are conscious of the terrible price sometimes paid by those who recklessly or fecklessly drink too much. The amendment tries to do something of which the whole House would approve. This is the last opportunity for the Minister to be helpful.

On the previous occasion when the amendment was opposed, it smacked of the feeling that it was opposed merely for the sake of opposition. There is no logic in opposing it. I do not think that it is right or just to do so. Someone somewhere is digging in his toes. I do not know whether it is the Minister or someone else who is saying: "We are not going to have it". Words are then produced on a sheet of paper that can be used to support the argument.

The logic of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the general situation mean that the amendment is right. At the last stage the noble Earl, Lord Arran, I think soberly and fairly, said that the proposal would encourage children to acquire a taste for alcohol at a younger age than they otherwise would. That was not a good argument. They would have a substitute for the more heavily alcoholic beverages. The Minister and his advisers may be cautious to the extent of saying that they are not prepared to contemplate a proposal which might go wrong. But the Minister would have had the benefit of the views not only of Members of your Lordships' House but of those organisations which, with great respect to him and his advisers, have spent a great deal of time, and some money, anguishing over these matters.

At this stage of the Bill the logic is to accept the amendment with whatever recommendations the Minister has. There is another stage to come. If the amendment is accepted, it will go to another place. There may be other arguments. The Government may decide to have their way in another place. On the basis on what we have heard at all stages and in all speeches on the amendment I feel that the amendment is sound; it will be of social benefit to the country and to the Government's credit.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I too should like to support the amendment because attitudes in the country are now happily changing. It is a proposal which at some stage of the Bill most noble Lords have said that they wish to see. It is especially important for young people. Unfortunately, I was unable to be here at the Report stage, but I read it carefully in Hansard. I found it curious that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, gave as reasons for opposing the amendment that it was undesirable to give young people a taste for beers at an early stage.

The move to low-alcohol beers is an important social change in our drinking habits. Everything should be done to encourage that change. The market is now growing, but there is uncertainty in the minds of those who manufacture and sell the drinks because of the anomaly which was so lucidly explained by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Everyone accepts that the provision in the original Act is an anachronism.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord who put forward this amendment. For the life of me I can see no reason why the Government cannot accept it, except for the reason given at Report stage by the noble Earl. I disagree with that because I think there is a misconception about attitudes. Surely it is preferable that a young person, even though he has a taste for beer, learns that it is better to drink beer and feel reasonable after it than that he should illegally drink beer which is stronger, become intoxicated and get an early taste for that. I think it has already been proved that that is so in our society. I strongly support the amendment on that basis alone.

Lord Monson

My Lords, once again there seemed to be a certain uncharacteristic lack of logic on the part of the Government at the Report stage of a Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has suggested. My noble friend Lady Masham and her committee want to wean people on to lower strength beers. By and large the House agrees, and so, one understands, do the Government. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would help this process. Yet the Government are, or at any rate were, resisting it.

As I understood it at Report stage, the Government were happy for young people to develop a taste for beer or near-beer with a relatively dry taste, but for some reason they were opposed to their developing a taste for beer or near-beer with a sweet taste, unless the sweetener were artificially added afterwards. I am bound to say that the logic of this totally escapes me, and I dare say it escapes most noble Lords as well. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will press his amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilion

My Lords, I too would like to support the amendment. There is nothing wrong with drinking; the danger is the alcohol, which is a very dangerous drug. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is trying to help promote non-alcoholic beers. The Government really want to be responsible but they are allowing pubs to open longer. Therefore, there will be more drinking because people will not stand there without a glass in their hands. If people can go on to a non-alcoholic beer and still enjoy it, surely that must be encouraged. I cannot see that the Government could think otherwise.

In addition, in the past few years many people have lost their licences. This has really made them take note and I think they are being more careful. They would prefer to drink a non-alcoholic beer than a glass of orange juice. Therefore, I cannot see why the Government will not accept this amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Masham does not know as yet that the Government will not accept this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said that he could not understand the logic behind it. He said that all that Government Ministers do is stand up and read out from a piece of paper. I shall endeavour to refrain from doing that and probably get myself into more trouble by doing so.

However, there is a curious argument that runs here. Many noble Lords—and I can think of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Masham—throughout the whole of the Bill have been saying how terrible it is for young people to be encouraged to drink alcohol, and that there should be less alcohol for young people. What we want to do, they say, is encourage less alcohol drinking in young people. Yet nevertheless they come along and support an amendment which allows beer-like substances, even though they may not contain alcohol, to be sold to children.

I accept that there is a very distinct difference of view here. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that low-alcohol beers should be encouraged. He is quite right in saying that they should be encouraged in opposition to high-alcohol beers. I think what the noble Viscount has in mind is that when people go to pubs they should be encouraged to drink low-alcohol beers instead of high-alcohol or full-alcohol beers, and that is totally acceptable. However, with a beer-like substance, the noble Viscount would be the first to consider that a beer which does not taste as if it is beer does not satisfy people. Therefore, the beer must taste like beer, even if it has no alcohol in it.

That substance without the alcohol in it but which nevertheless tastes like beer will, under this amendment be sold to children along with milk, coca-cola and lemon juice. Is that really what my noble friend Lady Masham wants? She is one of the people who are more concerned than most to see that young people do not get the taste for beer. Yet here she is encouraging young people to drink beer-like substances and to get the taste for it. Then when the children grow older, they will have the flavour of beer and they will go on to alcohol.

A noble Lord

My Lords, no.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Viscount says, no; I think he emitted the word "No". Perhaps I may be permitted to depart for a moment from the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, which was not to read from a piece of paper. I shall read from a piece of paper. It is not my brief but a piece from the Daily Mail of 10th April, only a few days ago. Some research was done at Reading University and the increased awareness of alcohol among the nation's 7 and 8 year-olds has been revealed in it. It says: Children not only frequently referred to outings to the pub at the weekends or evenings but included drunkenness in their adventure stories. A surprising number say they would go and get drunk in an ideal world where they could do as they liked … Teachers at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers last week said that going to the pub, or waiting in the car outside, was a common occupation for young children". That is the reason we believe that it would be wrong to accept the noble Lord's amendment, because it would enable the beer-like substances to be sold freely to young people.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps he would agree that at the present moment bottled shandy, which has an underlying beer flavour, can be sold to children of any age whatsoever, even those 2 or 3 years old, if they so wish.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may correct an impression which he or I may have given but which I hope Hansard will reveal as different. What I meant to say was that it seemed to me that someone somewhere, either a Minister or a civil servant, had said, "We oppose this". Thereafter, having agreed in principle to oppose it, what happened was that arguments were produced to support the opposition rather than arguments causing one to come to the conclusion that it was a wrong principle. However, the last thing I would accuse the Minister of is either being a cypher or merely a second reader of a brief.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I should be most grateful if he would allow me to correct something. I did not utter the word "No". If I had uttered anything, I should have said "Not necessarily". I accept that it is possible that a percentage of young people, having drunk non-alcohol or low-alcohol beers, may well go on to the stronger stuff and suffer as a result. I suggest that it is likely that a significant proportion of those young people will have a more gentle run-in, if I may put it that way, to the activity of drinking and will enjoy the taste more than the immediate alcoholic effect of the drink.

That is what now happens to a lot of young people well under the legal age who immediately become intoxicated and suffer, not only in terms of their health but in terms of the trouble into which they get as a result. I think that on balance I would go for letting them acquire the taste from the non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic beers in the likelihood that that would lead to more civilised drinking than when they were able to drink the higher-powered beer.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, as the noble Earl talked about me—

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt. I fear we may be getting out of order because most noble Lords have spoken once, and some have spoken twice. I nearly made the same mistake too. I do not wish to shut the noble Baroness up. That is the last thing one could possibly want, with any form of courtesy. I merely point out to the noble Baroness the danger. She could of course always say, "Before the noble Earl sat down", since I sat down about five minutes ago!

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down again, and with the permission of the House, I wish to say that I should not like to give the impression that I would want non-alcoholic beer sold with milk. That is wrong. I should like it sold in pubs and in places where people will be drinking beer. I want to encourage them to drink non-alcoholic beer rather than alcoholic beer, which is the dangerous beer.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for his response. I am more grateful however to all those noble Lords who have spoken in support of the amendment.

I say to my noble friend Lord Ferrers that I also have a copy of the publication to which he referred. It was not the Daily Mail but the Mail On Sunday. A young child in school asked about a wide variety of things might say, for example, that he wants to be a soldier and fight the enemy—whoever the current enemy may be. Should we therefore prohibit the sale of lead soldiers, tin tanks and the like in our shops? Children follow the example of grown-ups who have found the pub to be an attractive recreation area. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Ferrers said at col. 797 of the Official Report on Second Reading: Pubs are a great British tradition. They are not merely places to drink. They are meeting places for friends. They are debating chambers for rich and poor alike. They are social centres for small communities and they are refuges for weary travellers and tourists who seek refreshment". Of course children have in their minds the outing that the family takes to the pub. They will write about this and see enjoyment and a certain grown-upness in expressing views.

The response of my noble friend Lord Ferrers has been solely—as indeed was his noble friend's response on 18th February—to do with young people. We are trying in this amendment to encourage manufacturers to provide more low-alcohol beverages. We are trying to encourage retailers to stock them and sell them for the young, for the old, for the infirm and for drivers to help change the pattern of drinking.

I do not believe that the Government have given a sensible enough answer to enable me to withdraw the amendment. I should like your Lordships to decide whose opinion they prefer.

6.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 47.

Airedale, L. Listowel, E.
Bonham-Carter, L. Longford, E.
Brentford, V. Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller.]
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Colwyn, L. McGregor of Durris, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Erroll, E. Masham of Ilton, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Mayhew, L.
Falkland, V. Monson, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Morris, L.
Mottistone, L.
Halsbury, E. Mulley, L.
Harlech, L. Munster, E.
Hayter, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Hooson, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. Swinton, E.
Jeger, B. Tordoff, L.
John-Mackie, L. Underhill, L.
Kennet, L. Wise, L.
Lawrence, L.
Arran, E. Kitchener, E.
Balfour, E. Lauderdale, E.
Bauer, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Beaverbrook, L. Long. V. [Teller.]
Belstead, L. Luke, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Malmesbury, E.
Caithness, E. Merrivale, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Mersey, V.
Campbell of Eskan, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Carnock, L. Orkney, E.
Clitheroe, L. Pender, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Penrhyn, L.
Davidson, V. Renton, L.
Deedes, L. St. Davids, V.
Dundee, E. [Teller.] Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Elton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Ferrers, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Haddington, E. Sudeley, L.
Hesketh, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Hives, L. Trafford, L.
Hooper, B. Trumpington, B.
Joseph, L. Ullswater, V.
Kenilworth, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.1 p.m.

Schedule 3 [Minor Amendments of the Principal Act]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 18, line 9, at end insert— ("1 A. In section 9(5) (saving for disqualification under other enactments of premises for receiving a justices' licence), the words "of subsections (2) and (3)" shall be omitted.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 have already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Repeals]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 21, line 14, at end insert— ("In section 9(5), the words "of subsections (2) and (3)".")

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, which has been spoken to already.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I would only say that this is a fairly small Bill but we think it is a fairly important one and it sets out to tidy up one or two items in our law which we felt were now in need of modernisation. We have had a number of interesting speeches and a well-informed debate, particularly earlier about the problems of alcohol-related abuse—though I must say that the subject took a curious twist in connection with the last amendment we debated.

I am grateful to your Lordships for the part you have played in the progress of this Bill; and, if I may say so, for the highly informed and constructive contributions which have been made on the whole subject of alcohol and alcohol abuse. I hope that this Bill will be a useful addition to our law, and I think the best thing I can say, in moving that the Bill do now pass, as it is the end of this particular Bill in this particular House, to those of your Lordships who have taken part is, "Come and have a drink". Also, in view of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, perhaps I should add "strictly non-alcoholic".

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Earl Ferrers.)

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I would certainly not wish to prolong the debate, especially after the very kind invitation just made by the noble Earl; but perhaps I may say that this is an important Bill and I think its provisions were needed and will make a great deal of difference over coming into line with the habits, conventions and customs of society, which is one of the objectives mentioned by the noble Earl at the beginning.

With a further extension in the number of hours when pubs are open, this will mean that their owners will be able to invest more in making them agreeable places to visit rather than the "hard-drinking" places that they have so often been in the past. Therefore tourism will be increased and civilised drinking will also increase; and that is all to the good.

I am also happy that this Bill has given many of us the opportunity to put forward the more serious and sombre side of drinking and to present to the House the really very worrying increase in drinking by young people. In particular, the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, spoke of this disturbing trend, and it is for that reason that some of us are still worried that the Bill does not provide adequate safeguards against alcohol abuse by young people. In spite of changes that are made, it will still be all too easy for licensees to serve drinks to under-age customers without themselves going in too great a fear of prosecution. After all, we know that at present half the 15 year-olds who drink obtain their drink from pubs, and the gravity of this situation worries us. For this reason I very much hope that the Government will monitor under-age drinking after the Bill has become law, to see whether improvements occur with the new provisions. I hope that, if that is not the case, they will seriously tackle the problem—a dangerous and disturbing problem—of under-age drinking.

Finally, we hope that the Government will accept our amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol at garages when the Bill returns to the Commons. We feel the necessity for this to be done is strengthened by the publication this week of the North report, which takes a very strong line against drink-driving offences. Indeed it has recommended a number of very stiff penalties to try to deter people from the irresponsible and wicked tendency to drive when impaired by drink. I hope there will be a great deal of monitoring after the enactment of this Bill because, in spite of its civilising side, one must face the danger that it will increase alcohol abuse and therefore it must be carefully reviewed and monitored in the future.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I should like to add my particular thanks to the Minister for the customary courtesy and good humour with which he has conducted his side of the business. I should like also to say that I am very encouraged—I think other noble Lords will probably share my view—because although the Government have fought against some of the amendments with customary vigour, I sense a very encouraging wish on the part of the Government seriously to tackle the social problem of drinking in this country.

Attitudes are changing and, certainly over the past 12 months with the Wakeham Committee and the careful consideration of our amendments during the course of this Bill, we are moving into a happier era of understanding of the dangers of alcohol. It is to be hoped that that will be reflected in lower crime figures and much less damage to the health of people, both young and old. I should like just to confirm my appreciation of the way in which the Bill has been handled.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, perhaps I may say a very quick word and thank all noble Lords who were very complimentary about the report on young people and alcohol. I should like also to say that shortly in your Lordships' House we shall be having an education Bill. I hope that something can be inserted into the Bill to encourage health education because with the longer opening hours, the increasing violence in our society, the problem of parents having difficulty in controlling their children and also the schools having difficulty in controlling young people, there needs to be strong education to balance the problems of extra drinking with longer hours.

Therefore I hope that the Government will take a responsible view on this. I know they have many lobbies, and the drink lobby is a very strong one; but I can assure your Lordships that there is debate up and down the country in every county over the problems of alcohol abuse and young people. That will not go away, and I hope the Government will take it seriously.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.