§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of this Bill is to carry into effect the Government's intention, which I announced in answer to a Question on 6th December, to repeal those provisions of the Licensing Act, 1949, which extended State management to the new towns, and to make the development corporations and the licensing justices jointly responsible for deciding the number and siting of new licensed premises to be constructed in each new town.
May I mention the problem which faced my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself when we came into office? A large sum of more than £1 million had been included in this year's Estimates for the acquisition of premises in the new towns. Although a very small fraction of that sum had actually been spent, it was obvious that a further very large sum would have to be included in next year's Estimates for acquiring the remainder of the houses, because the total number was 205. My predecessor had asked the local advisory committees under the Act for their views on which of these premises should be included, and the news of the contemplated purchase had raised vigorous opposition in the new towns, opposition which was not at all confined to the trade.
The position we found was that the building of three new houses was about to begin and plans had reached various stages for another 12, or more. That is the physical side, the bricks and mortar side, of the matter. Plans were also being made to set up a local organisation to control and supervise the houses built or acquired. As everyone will realise, these new towns are far from Carlisle, too far to extend the existing organisation. It was, therefore, a question of setting up an entirely new organisation in the southern parts of the Kingdom with 1152 a number of sub-divisions, as the new towns are scattered all over the country.
I may summarise the serious disadvantages as they appeared to me if this policy was continued. It meant taking immediate measures involving spending a great deal of money in acquiring existing houses, in building new ones and in setting up a local organisation in the South. In addition to that, in a number of the new towns, obviously, if we can give any weight to the expression of opinion, we would have antagonised and upset local people if we had persisted in the former policy of giving existing tenants a choice between becoming State managers or going elsewhere.
Without these difficulties it is not always easy—I do not put it higher—to reconcile the people in the neighbourhood to the changes involved in creating a new town. I came to the conclusion that persistence in State management of public houses was all too likely to stir up antagonism and suspicion among the existing population. Therefore, I was bound to ask whether the game was worth the candle? What would be achieved by this policy which had been initiated and had proceeded to the extent I have mentioned?
I looked at the objects of the 1949 Act and I read, with the pleasure which his literary compositions always give me, the speeches that the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor made at that time. I do not think there could be any doubt that the objects of the policy—which, after all, are the criteria by which it should be judged—were to ensure that the public houses in the new towns were satisfactory in numbers and quality, and were properly town planned.
Although certain people had other reasons, it was almost entirely on the ground of planning that the late Administration justified applying State management to new towns. I remember the right hon. Gentleman taking great pains to show that this was not the thin end of the wedge of nationalisation of the drink trade. That was an aspect of it which he disowned entirely; he spent a good deal of time and eloquence disavowing it when the Bill was before the House. There was a faint suggestion that no one might come forward to run the public houses, but I do not think that was a very large calibre gun in the battery of the right hon. Gentleman.
1153 These being the declared objects, we have to consider—and I ask everyone to approach the problem quite objectively —whether the problem of satisfactory licensing arrangements in the new towns is a difficult one or not. I say that it is not a difficult problem. It is only necessary to adapt the existing provisions which have been thought out and placed in legislative form for licensing and town planning and in one case, to which I shall refer in a moment, a combination of both at the same time. I do not believe, having reconsidered this matter again after an interval of three years, that there is any need to bring in direct intervention by the State.
May I say this about the position of licensing justices? Although de jure the powers of licensing justices are negative in form, their ability to prevent bad public houses becomes de facto an encouragement of what is good in accommodation and design of the houses. I do not think that any fair-minded person who has seen the types and designs of houses built in the last 30 years would deny that there has been an immense improvement in design and layout, accommodation and amenities.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman also agree that most of these modern type houses put up by the brewers are managed on their behalf by managers and not owned by the people running them?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Certainly, I accept that at once. What I have had to say applies to houses owned by the brewers where the licensee is a manager just as much as where the licensee is a tenant. The point to which I was drawing the attention of the House, if I may be forgiven for elaborating it in answer to the hon. Member, is that all the conditions—accommodation, space for drinking, ventilation and other amenities—laid down by the Southborough Report on disinterested management 25 years ago have become common form for the reason that licensing justices all over England have said, "It is our duty to see that no house except one of that kind shall be given a licence."
I agree there are exceptions[Laughter]—well, it is very easy to be cynical about unpaid public servants. I 1154 have had a great deal of experience of this matter in the North of England, where my constituency lies, as well as the districts round London where I have lived for the last 12 years. I say that the job done by licensing justices in the last 30 years has been a good and constructive job, and it is only fair that this House should not be cynical about it.
§ Mr. Mellish
With respect, I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the point I endeavoured to raise. In regard to most of these houses, we agree that their quality, size, and so on, are admirable; but the principle involved is whether or not they are run by the brewers for themselves, or whether they allow private enterprise to run them on their behalf. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must agree that most are run by the brewers for their own profit.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am not considering that point, but, after all, the brewers are private enterprise. I gather that was one of the objections to them. I am not trying to make—
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am quite prepared to discuss the question of monopoly in its proper setting, but I do not believe anyone would be successful in referring to the Board of Trade under the Monopolies Act the position in which we find competing breweries going out for new licences. After all, everyone, including hon. Members on the benches opposite, has had the chance of referring this to the Board of Trade under the Monopolies Act. Nobody has done it and I do not think that is a very good point.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
May I say a word about interruptions? As the House knows, I am always anxious to give way, but I do want some chance to put forward a coherent argument. I will give way to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) and the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), but I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will recognise that, unless I am given some opportunity of advancing a 1155 coherent argument, it is not quite fair to the case I am presenting.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
As I shall have an opportunity to speak later, I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
May I make one interruption of my own? Can we have a promise that we shall hear from the Secretary of State for Scotland on the Scottish aspects of this case?
§ Sir a Maxwell Fyfe
If I may be quite frank, I had decided to leave it to see how the debate develops. I was proposing to deal with certain aspects of that matter myself, but may I leave it like that for the moment? I will do my utmost to answer any points on the Scottish Clauses. If any point arises, my hon. Friends and I will consider the matter and whether an answer is necessary.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I agree with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said about interruptions. I hope he will be allowed to put his case coherently, and I hope the arrangement will be mutual between the two sides of the House. Referring to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), it is hoped that my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) will succeed in catching Mr. Speaker's eye at some period during the debate so that he may refer to some Scottish aspects of this matter. It would not be fair to leave the right hon. and learned Gentleman in any doubt that we shall raise specific Scottish questions.
§ Mr. Follick
Regarding the question of monopoly, there is this difference; that where the brewery own a house they insist that only their beer shall be sold in that house. There is that difference between ordinary free enterprise and that sort of free enterprise.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think the position about the availability of beer is one about which I may say, without any disrespect, there is pretty considerable knowledge in the House. I know that everyone in the House realises the position, but of course I do not wish to 1156 make any bad points. If there is a house tied to a certain brewery, naturally that brewery wish to sell their own beer; but they may have supplies of other beers, especially bottled beer, for the convenience of customers. It is on that basis that I deal with the argument.
I repeat that I do not think that anyone who has considered licensing problems would deny that, over the last 30 years, there has been an enormous and visible improvement in the types of houses that have been erected. I wanted to put that particular point, which I think one fairly can, because I see that some hon. Gentlemen opposite, with experience of local government and local work, agree with me, that in that regard the licensing justices have done a good job.
The other aspect which we have to consider—and it is one in which the licensing justices have not got such clear powers—is the siting and town planning of houses. They can do a great deal by general influence, but we have to invent machinery which will secure not only the best types of houses from the point of view of accommodation, but that the houses are placed so as best to meet the needs of the people in the area. That is the problem which has to be faced, and it is the problem which we have sought to solve by the co-operation between the licensing justices and the development corporations which is suggested in this Bill.
I should like the House to consider the matter for a moment from the standpoint of the development corporations. The first duty of the development corporations is to build their new towns as balanced living communities, with adequate and worthy social amenities. If that is the purpose of the development corporations and that is their general responsibility, why should they have licensing alone excluded from their competence? As I understand it—and I have listened to a great many discussions in the last six years—the House as a whole has every confidence in the ability and readiness of the development corporations to play their part. I have taken part in most of the discussions on licensing matters, but I have never heard any serious criticism of the way licensing justices carry out their work.
1157 Therefore, if we have two local bodies in whom the House has confidence, I can see no justification for thrusting them aside in order that the State may intervene. On the contrary, I believe that local bodies are in a better position than the State management organisation to do this job. As I have already indicated, a point that seemed to me of great importance is that State management would experience great difficulty administratively in setting up a satisfactory organisation for widely separated and relatively small groups of public houses, especially if that organisation had to operate in an atmosphere which, in places, would prove to be frankly hostile.
When we find that, in the present situation, by leaving the job to the people on the spot we shall avoid a large expenditure of public money which it would be impossible to justify—above all, at the present time—then I think the argument is reinforced. All that is needed, I suggest, to ensure satisfactory planning in the fullest sense—that is, the planning both of the size, accommodation and amenities of the houses and of their siting —is simple machinery to enable the development corporations and the licensing justices to co-operate fully in working out arrangements which will be satisfactory to both of them and to the public. In my view, this Bill provides such machinery
Now I want to turn—because it is an argument that has been advanced—to the position of, and a comparison with, existing State management schemes. Some people supported the Act of 1949, and regret the introduction of this Bill, because they admire the system in operation at Carlisle and the Scottish State management districts, and would like to see some of the features of that system extended to other parts of the country. I have tried to give my reasons for saying that, even assuming that there is an argument for further experiment in State management, which I do not admit, in my view the new towns are not the right places in which to carry it out: they present no special problem which calls for so drastic a remedy.
Somebody, at some stage, is sure to go back to the Royal Commission on Licensing, in England and Wales in 1929–31, and to quote carefully selected sentences from paragraph 418. I will give the House a sentence which, if I do 1158 not quote it now, someone else will quote later on. The Commission recommended thatpublic ownership should be applied elsewhere in circumstances which will submit the system to a further test both in a social and in a financial sense.But the same paragraph goes on to say:An area in which there is such superfluity of licences as to make it doubtful whether our reduction proposals meet the case might be selected for the purpose.In other words, they regarded State management as a possible remedy for extreme instances of maldistribution and superfluity of licensed premises.
My point is that the new towns are wholly different, and that no one has ever suggested that these conditions apply. In fact, I do not think one could imagine a situation more different from that of the new towns than the situation which existed at the time prior to the introduction—and which led to the introduction—of State management in the neighbourhood of Carlisle and Gretna in 1916. There the intervention by the State was to cure an actual social evil which called for an urgent remedy by extraordinary means.
Here, as I have said—and I do not think that anyone with goodwill can disagree with me—what we all want to do, whatever methods we choose, is to secure licensed premises of a high standard on the right sites and able to play a worthy part in the life of the new communities. When I say "all," the House will understand that I exclude the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), whose consistent, vigorous and good-tempered presentation of his views always delights the House, even though other hon. Members do not agree with him. But apart from that, it is the universal desire. We have no doubt that the right bodies to do this are the development corporations and the licensing justices, with the assistance of the trade.
Before I leave the report of the Licensing Commission, may I just remind hon. Members, and especially hon. Members from Scotland, that the Licensing Commission that dealt with Scotland put it very differently and very flatly? They said:Apart from the official witnesses, the evidence before us was almost unanimous in condemnation of the system of State management.1159 Therefore, I do not think, as far as the Scottish problem is concerned, that the case for State management gets much help from the Royal Commission.
I will now deal with a point introduced by the hon. Member for Ealing, North. He said that the party to which I have the honour to belong did not place this matter before the electorate. I am not going into the very difficult argument—I say "difficult" because I remember the then Lord President of the Council wrestling with it in relation to the Act whose repeal we are considering today—whether a Government can do anything not specifically written into its election manifeso.
If I remember rightly—I do not pretend to quote him verbatim—the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said of the Bill that this was not a matter which required to be put into an election manifesto. In fact, at that time he seemed to be taking the view that it was such a small matter as to be barely worth all the heights of his oratory, but that he would use it with the courtesy we all expect from him just to meet the argument that had been adduced. That was his attitude, that it was a comparatively minor matter and not one which required to be put into an election manifesto.
But whether the right hon. Gentleman is right or not, my party had fortunately made its position quite clear. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will have the recollection that the Conservative Party, through the instance of myself, moved the rejection of this Bill both on Second Reading and on Third Reading, and voted against the Third Reading, a course which is not followed unless the opposition to a Bill is strongly founded and persistent.
My I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of the position on Second Reading? It was clearly an unpopular Measure. On Second Reading, those on the Conservative benches were supported by the Liberal Party and even by three hon. Members who had been returned as Socialists at the Election in 1945; and another 87 Socialist Members abstained. Therefore, it cannot be said to be a Bill which excited a great upsurge of party loyalty and determination on the benches supporting the Government of the day.
1160 The Bill was also criticised in another place. That being three Sessions ago, I think I am in order in referring to the fact that the noble Lord who spoke for my party announced then that we should take the earliest opportunity of reversing these proceedings and abolishing State management. The country at that time had ample notice that we were not committed to the continuance of the 1949 Act, but were, in fact, going to repeal it.
During the Election itself—I have gone into this point carefully in view of what the hon. Gentleman opposite has said—all three political parties were approached very early in the campaign for a statement of their attitude towards this question. The party opposite stands on record as having replied—and a cautious reply is no bad thing at election times; far be it from me to complain—that the matter was on the agenda of the party executive meeting at Scarborough. I congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite on this height, or shall I say depth, of non-committal answer. Then the Liberal Party were approached, and their reply was that the question would be left to the conscience of individual members. Again, far be it from me to criticise a reply couched in those terms.
But what the hon. Member is waiting for, of course, is the reply made on behalf of the Conservative Party by its Chairman, Lord Woolton. He said that the Conservatives strongly favoured repeal of the State management provision of the Act and would bring new town areas into line with the licensing laws in force for the rest of the country. That reply was widely reported in the Press, and the intentions of the Conservative Party were also mentioned in public speeches and articles by Conservative candidates. Time prevents me from giving these in detail, but the suggestion either that the decision to repeal the relevant provisions of the 1949 Act was taken without reflection or that the country was not aware of the Conservative Party's intentions is, I submit, without any foundation.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Did I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that Lord Woolton, as Chairman of the Conservative Party, made the statement which he has just read out, or was it an official statement of the Tory office?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I made inquiries and I was told it was Lord Woolton, and that the statement was given prominence in the Press. It was after the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that I made inquiries, and that was the information given to me.
The next point with which I wish to deal is one which certain individual Members opposite have made—that this Bill is making a gift to the brewers. Again, I want hon. Members opposite to consider the position and to consider my argument that that is an erroneous and untrue suggestion. The reason I say it is untrue is that the ordinary law will apply and that the brewers who erect or acquire new houses will have to pay the monopoly value payable on any new licence.
I do not want to go into technicalities before the House, as I see hon. Gentlemen opposite who understand monopoly value very well, but I think they will agree that it is right to define it as the difference between the value of the premises with a licence and their value without—that is, the additional sum which has to be paid in order to get the right to sell and deal in liquor. It is a substantial sum, as hon. Gentleman who have sat as licensing magistrates or have appeared in licensing cases are well aware. That will have to be paid in the ordinary way. On the view that was expressed in the course of the debates—that any kind of beer would be obtainable in State public houses— brewers would have had their right in respect of wholesale profits.
An hon. Gentleman opposite has suggested that this Bill is either a brewers' Bill or has been produced at the instance of the brewers. I want to make it quite clear that I have had no consultation with the trade about these provisions. May I say at once—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), my predecessor in office, would be the first to agree—that that is contrary to modern legislative practice. He had consultation with the brewers before he introduced his Bill in 1948. Modern legislative practice is to have consultation with those who are affected by the provisions of a Bill. But in view of the feeling which has already been expressed by an hon. Gentleman opposite, and by other people, I felt in these circumstances it was better that I should produce my 1162 proposals without that consultation, because they would be my proposals and not the proposals of anyone else. I want to develop that—
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that matter, there is a point which is perturbing me considerably and I daresay other hon. Members, too. We had a statement made on behalf of the Conservative Party before the Election, but I doubt whether such wide publicity was given to it as we have been told. In any case, what I should like to know is what consultations there were between the party, or anyone speaking on behalf of the party, and the brewers.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
As I understand it, the circular the three replies to which I have read, including the reply from the party to which the hon. and learned Member belongs— he will remember that his party replied that the matter was on the agenda of the party executive meeting at Scarborough—was sent out by the trade to all parties, and it was answered in the way in which I am sure these questionnaires are answered by every party—after consultation in the party. The answer was given in that way.
I have stated the position on consultation. Of course, hon. Members will realise that I cannot leave the matter there because I admit at once that certain of the provisions of this Bill resemble the proposals which were put forward by the Brewers' Society before the 1949 Act to my predecessor, and which he explained to the House. I want to show where the resemblance comes and where the enormous difference comes between the proposals in this Bill and the proposals put forward to my predecessor.
The similar part of the proposals, namely, the constitution of the joint committee of licensing justices and the development corporation came from legislation which was passed by the Coalition Government in 1945 with the assent of both parties—the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1945. If the House will forgive the personal reference, I had the honour of introducing the Bill into the House in the regrettable but short indisposition of the then Home Secretary, 1163 now the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, who had influenza from which he quickly recovered.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I would not be so rash as to connect anything diplomatic with the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South. That was the similar part of the proposals. The idea of the joint committee, of course, was taken from that Bill. The enormous difference, to which I referred, between this Bill and the proposals of the Brewers' Society in 1948 is greatly to the disadvantage of the brewers.
At that time the brewers asked, as regards England only, that provision should be made, following the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act, for the removal of licences to a new town from the areas from which its population was to be drawn. That required a special statutory provision, as certain hon. Members opposite are well aware, because we know removal can only be made within a single county and not across a county boundary. It was sought that that right to remove should be given to the new town. The purpose, of course, was clear. It was to secure that no monopoly value should be payable because no monopoly value is payable when an existing licence is removed to new premises.
Therefore, if effect had been given to these proposals, the brewers would have been enabled to remove licences which are now in suspense or have become superfluous in London to the new towns and thus escape payment of monopoly value on any new public houses they were allowed to construct in the new towns. This Bill makes no such provision. The Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act was concerned with the redistribution of licences in areas which had suffered severe war damage. I think it was reasonable then. Every part of the House thought it was reasonable that special provision should be made for licences suspended as a result of war conditions and that we should treat as a single unit the area from which they came and the area to which they were going, following a movement of popula- 1164 tion, even if it was across county boundaries.
I believe that the idea that licences should follow population should not be pressed too far. If it is, one gets a highly artificial situation involving possible injustice to the local interest in the receiving area, and I do not think—and this is a view on which I have proceeded in drafting this Bill—that it is any more applicable to new towns than to any other form of long-term development involving movements of population across county boundaries. We therefore came to the conclusion that there was no sufficient justification for the proposal of the brewers, and rejected it.
I am sorry that I have taken up so much of the time of the House, and, therefore, unless any hon. Gentleman would like to ask me any special point, I shall deal rather briefly with the individual details of the Bill, because I do not think that they call for very detailed examination at this stage.
§ Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)
Might I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman one question, and perhaps you also, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Certain hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are known to have shares in breweries and distilleries—[HON. MEMBERS: "And on the hon. Member's side."]—that is so. For the general guidance of the House, it would be interesting to know, as a vote is more a political act than a speech when one has to declare an interest, whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would advise the House what those who are shareholders in the interests about which we are speaking should do.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
My recollection —subject of course to anything that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may say—is that on the Transport Bill my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked that question in relation to transport undertakings, and the then Speaker said that it must be a matter for the individual conscience of a Member according to how he considered those shares would affect the direction of his vote. I am quoting from memory and I would certainly say no more, beyond adding that that seems to be a very reasonable approach to the matter.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The Manual of Procedure says:A Member may not vote on any question in which he has a direct pecuniary interest. If he votes on such question his vote may, on motion, be disallowed.In 1811, Mr. Speaker Abbot said:The interest must be a direct pecuniary interest, and separately belonging to the persons whose votes were questioned, and not in common with the rest of His Majesty's subjects, or on a matter of state policy.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think that raises the question of what is a direct interest, and in regard to a shareholder's interest what I have quoted from memory would seem to be reasonable. I hope that my memory is correct. If I may say so with the greatest respect to you, Sir, what I gave as my recollection seems to me to be a very reasonable test for anyone who is considering the point.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have indicated that the test is "a direct pecuniary interest." Do I take it that what the Home Secretary is indicating is that shares held in any particular company does not constitute direct pecuniary interest?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I do not like giving legal opinions off the reel. After all, I have left that part of my life behind me. I notice that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch is present, and I am sure he will check me if he sees any divergence, as will the hon. and learned Gentleman sitting in front of him. Again, my recollection is that, in the case of the Act which deals with disqualification on the ground of contracting with the Government, the contracting by a company in which someone holds shares is not direct contracting within the meaning of the Act.
§ Mr. Bing
If the Home Secretary will allow me to say so, my recollection, for what it is worth, is the same as his own. I think that the question of propriety in this matter would arise in the case of those persons who are either shareholders or directors of firms which might acquire a monopoly in a new town and which would otherwise not have an opportunity of trading therein. I have not got the Brewers' Almanack with me, but speaking without reference to any hon. Member, 1166 I would say that if there is someone who is selling Guinness in any event, I should not think that the point arises, but if there is someone who might have a tied house it would, in my submission, be wrong for persons interested in that matter to vote.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As points of order may arise, it may simplify the matter if I quote further from the Manual of Procedure, which says:The objection to a vote on the ground of personal interest must be taken by a substantive motion, should be taken at once, and cannot be raised as a point of order.
§ Mr. Bowles
That means that after the Division we should call attention to the votes which we consider are disqualified?
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
Surely the whole point is that no brewery can decide whether they will have a chance of being granted such a licence or not. How can they tell whether they may have a chance? It is at this stage all a question of supposition.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Further to that point, I do not think my right hon. and learned Friend has left the matter in a satisfactory position. I do not think it is satisfactory for him just to say that it is a matter for each individual's conscience. If I may state my own case, I am chairman of a distillery which would not be involved in an application for a new licence, but I have shares in a certain brewery. I have not the faintest knowledge whether that brewery would attempt to apply for a licence or not. I do not want this question left to my own conscience. I desire a directive in this matter, and I earnestly ask you, Sir, to give it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I cannot agree to give a directive in a matter which falls to be decided by a vote of the House on a substantive Motion.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
This is a somewhat lengthy interlude in what I am afraid is a somewhat lengthy speech. Despite my hon. Friend's difficulty, I believe that what the matter comes to is that every hon. Member has to consider the effect of his shareholding on his vote, 1167 as the late Speaker suggested in regard to similar provisions, and I am sure that if hon. Gentlemen approach it in that way they will find that the answer is one which they can reach without a great deal of difficulty.
I proceed to the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 repeals the provisions which extended State management to the new towns. Clause 2 provides for the establishment of the committees which I have explained, consisting half of licensing justices and half of representatives of the development corporation and a chairman appointed by the Secretary of State.
Clause 3 deals with the duties of the committees, namely, deciding where new licensed premises are to be placed and specifying the type of accommodation and the services to be provided. It provides that the proposals shall be published, and that there will be full opportunity for local objections to be made and considered before proposals are confirmed or otherwise. These proposals will be confirmed or modified or rejected by the Minister of Housing and Local Government in England or by the Secretary of State in Scotland.
Clause 4 deals with the licensing justices, and it will be seen that it restricts their powers in this way: they are required to grant any application for a new licence or for the removal of an existing licence which is made in accordance with the committee's proposal and approved by the Minister. They are forbidden to grant any application for a new licence or a removal which has not been so approved, but they retain the power which exists with regard to renewal of a licence or a special removal of refusing on the ground of the fitness either of the premises or of the licensee.
There is also a transitional provision requiring the licensing authorities to grant licences for premises certified by the Secretary of State as having been approved by him in consultation with the development corporation before the Bill comes into force. The purpose of that is to ensure that there is no delay in licensing urgently required new premises, and I mentioned at the commencement of my speech that certain of these are being built or have been planned. Under the last Act there was a local advisory committee set up, and the site of certain of 1168 the new premises had to be approved by such a committee. If it had to be approved again by the new committee there would be serious delay, and that we want to avoid.
Clause 5 deals with the position of the licensing justice. It provides that he will not be disqualified if he sits on the committee which follows the provision in the Licensing Planning Act: it would be rather absurd if he were disqualified for doing what is intended to be done under the Act, which is to act in co-operation with the development corporation. Clause 6 deals with the position after the development corporation has been wound up, because the provisions of the Bill will cease to apply to the new towns and the ordinary law will take its course.
Then there are the provisions in Clause 7 which set out very fully the application of the Bill to Scotland, and provide for the differences in the licensing law and the different conception of the annual licence which applies in Scotland.
The result is that the Bill provides machinery for deciding where and what new premises are to be built. It will be for the development corporation, as the owners of the land to be developed in the new towns, to decide who is to build them and who is to apply. We believe, as I have said, that the application of State management to the new towns by the Act of 1949 was a false start and, as I have indicated, the work of implementing that Act has not gone far enough for a change at this stage to cause any administrative difficulty or practical inconvenience.
The change will not delay the provision of the needed licensed premises to any of the new towns. On the other hand, the change must be made at once so that plans proceed on the new basis; and we believe that the Bill will make a fresh start by substituting simple workmanlike arrangements, ensuring satisfactory town planning and also ensuring no unnecessary departure from the arrangements to which we are accustomed throughout the country.
We have tried to conform to what I have indicated all along is the governing consideration, namely, that we should try to give local bodies and local people a chance of dealing with local matters 1169 before we bring in the steam-hammer of State action. It is as a reasonable method of achieving that result that I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I have to thank the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) for the compliment he paid to the literary quality of my past speeches. Let me say that I myself have never recognised their literary grace sufficiently to be able to read them again.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman brings a Bill before us this afternoon which at least secures effectively that every house erected in a new town shall be a tied house. That is the first great triumph of the brewers, and I do not wonder that he did not need to consult them, because what more could they ask for even if he had seen them? I was very close to the point of interrupting him, but in view of what I had said, I forebore, because I do not agree with his statement of what happened during my consultations with the brewers. I detailed this on 14th December, 1948, when I was introducing my own Bill. I set it out quite clearly, and. as far as I know, it has never been challenged.
On that date I set out that a letter had been received by me from the brewers asking not for licensing planning arrangements but for the arrangement by which they should be able to take a licence from the place from which it was believed that the population of the new town was coming and transfer it into the place where the new town was, so that everybody should be able to see the same licensee, no matter whether it was in Bermondsey or Stevenage. I pointed out that that really could not happen. Of course, it would involve a very substantial alteration of the law, or an adaptation of the Licensing Planning Acts.
On 14th December I referred to a deputation which I had received from the brewers, as hon. Members will see at column 1035 of the OFFICIAL REPORT:I said that it seemed to me there were three possible ways of dealing with the matter. The first was to rely on the existing law. That, I think, was agreed by both sides not to be possible. The second was an adaptation of the Licensing Planning Acts, and the third was the adoption of State management in these new 1170 areas. We spent a very pleasant morning, during which the brewers dealt with their ideas on the necessary adaptation of the Licensing Planning Acts and, at the end of the morning, when we were just breaking up for lunch, I said that I did not suppose that the discreet silence observed on State management was to be taken as implying consent. I gathered from a subsequent letter that I was right in that conclusion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 1035.]The right hon. and learned Gentleman, as far as I can follow, has given them exactly what they asked me for.
On the second occasion they recognised that it had been a good try-on to try to get the licences transferred from the old to the new areas. They failed in that and, therefore, they concentrated on what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is offering them today. I do not think one need say that he inflicted any very great discourtesy on the brewers when, having this Bill in mind, he said that he would not consult them.
§ Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)
The right hon. Gentleman said at the outset that this Bill ensured that the new towns would only contain tied houses. I do not understand that. Would the right hon. Gentleman point out in what part of the Bill that arises? As far as I can understand it, there is no objection to anybody opening a free house under the Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
No, of course not. I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman has practised before licensing justices and knows how many free houses have been applied for within the last few years. The practical working of this Bill means that every new licence that is granted will be for a tied house. If a person wants to put forward a scheme of his own he will have to face the possibility that the united brewers might suggest that his was not quite the house that ought to be built.
§ Mr. Ede
I thought we had arrived at an arrangement whereby there was to be no interruptions. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I do not mind interruptions because, when one is dealing with interruptions, one does not have to worry about one's notes. If the hon. and gallant Member wishes to ask a question, I will give way.
§ Colonel Clarke
What will be the position of existing independent public houses in these new towns? I have in my hand a letter from the owner of one of these houses. Surely they are exceptions to the rule he has laid down that there will be nothing except tied houses. I know it was intended that they should be nationalised, but if nationalisation is done away with there is continued trade.
§ Colonel Clarke
is the right hon. Member suggesting that I am misquoting him? He said, "What this Bill will ensure is that every house should be a tied house." Those are his words; I wrote them down.
§ Mr. Ede
I did not think that the House was under any misapprehension as to what I was saying. If I did say it in the form given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman—well, he can understand now that I am dealing with new houses. I think it is as well that we should recognise from the first that this Bill gives the brewers exactly what they ask for, in the form in which they ask for it. I will leave it at that.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us some history of the period just preceding the General Election. I took a very close interest in that Election. I read as far as I could, the speeches of prominent leaders of the then Opposition. I noticed particularly those things that were more closely connected with my Department and I did not notice this wonderfully explicit declaration on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues—and the curious thing is that neither did Lord Woolton. That is an astounding thing.
1172 Every morning, the first paper I read is the "Daily Herald," but the first paper my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) reads is the "Morning Advertiser." His political faith is more robust than mine; therefore, he bites his teeth, first thing in the morning, on the Opposition. On 24th November, 1951—a month after the Election—reading the "Morning Advertiser" at breakfast, he found a statement by Mr. L. R. N. Percey, Secretary of the Licensed Victuallers' Association that, at a meeting in the Isle of Wight, Lord Woolton had assured him at the time of the General Election that the Conservative Party, if returned, would repeal certain provisions of the Licensing Act in order to bring new town areas into line with the licensing laws applicable to the rest of the country.
On reading that, my hon. Friend wrote to Lord Woolton on 7th December. He received from Lord Woolton—and in my experience it is something unique in public controversy—a letter dealing with a detailed subject and marked "Private." My hon. Friend knows what is in that letter; Lord Woolton knows what is in that letter; but, clearly, it is not a letter than can be published.
§ Mr. Ede
The letter is in the possession of my hon. Friend. It is his private property. I do not know if he would recognise the summarising of it as honouring the marking on the letter. At any rate, he wrote and expressed the view that the marking of "Private" was unreasonable, and he asked for the removal of the embargo in view of the public statement made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the House of Commons on 6th December. He received a reply on 18th January, which he has handed to me and which I think I ought to read to the House.
This is not the letter marked "Private"; this is the one from which that embargo has been removed, and how nearly it coincides with the original only my hon. Friend and Lord Woolton know.
Lord Woolton says:I should of course have no objection to your saying publicly that I made no reference to the subject of the new towns licensing legislation in the course of my Election speeches. 1173 The reason for marking my letter 'Private' was that I could not be certain that during the heat of the campaign I had not met Mr. Percey and verbally given the assurance that he attributes to me.The noble Lord never promised red meat; he only said that he would like to have some. I can only wonder what, when he was conversing with Mr. Percey, he would have liked then. The letter goes on:In view of your letter, therefore, I asked the Conservative Central Office to have a search through their papers and it transpires that Mr. Percey did, in fact, write to me there on this subject in September last and that a reply was sent to him from the Conservative Central Office. I enclose a copy for your information: it did not issue over my signature but I do, of course, accept responsibility for its contents.I am afraid this rather alters the picture. I am sorry, but you will I feel sure appreciate how difficult it is to recollect all the many and varied matters which are raised during an Election campaign.In his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned Lord Woolton specifically as having made a statement. Is there any other statement by Lord Woolton besides the one to which I have referred?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I have said what was the reply to the questionnaire which was sent to all parties. I quoted the replies of all parties, including that of the party opposite, and I said that the reply on behalf of the Conservative Party was given by Lord Woolton. Whether it was issued by him directly or from the staff of the Central Office, it was issued from the Central Office and, as he says, the Chairman takes responsibility for it.
§ Mr. Ede
He takes the responsibility after the event, but not before. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the difference?"] He can say that he saw the letter and that it was issued on his authorisation; that is taking responsibility before the event. It is quite evident that this letter was never submitted to Lord Woolton. It was an arrangement made by an obscure official in the Conservative Central Office and Mr. Percey, and that is typical of the relationship between the Conservative Central Office and the licensing trade.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
As the right hon Gentleman has gone into private matters, I am sure it would interest the 1174 whole House if he would now tell us how this fared when it came on the agenda of the Party Executive meeting of the Labour Party at Scarborough.
§ Mr. Ede
It was not an answer. It merely said that it would be considered. If Lord Woolton's private secretary had sent an acknowledgment saying that he was referring the matter to the Central Office, that would have been precisely the same as the letter to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers. At any rate, quite clearly there was no pledge given by the Labour Party to the licensing trade on this matter.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The right hon. Gentleman is far too old a campaigner to leave the matter there. The party for which he is speaking—and he is speaking from the Front Bench—did not commit themselves on this subject but said, "It is on the agenda of the Party Executive meeting at Scarborough." The House is surely entitled to know whether the Party Executive were contemplating changing their view to the view expressed by us today.
§ Mr. Ede
I do not agree at all. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had a distinguished military career. He knows that the last order stands until it is altered; and the last word of the Labour Party on this issue was the Licensing Act of 1949, and as far as I know there has never been any indication by a single member of the party that we were going to depart from it.
§ Mr. Nicholson
The right hon. Gentleman is implying that Lord Woolton is the sort of person who sells his policy for money.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, then the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Nicholson
It is the pity the right hon. Gentleman will not give a straight reply. Does he say Lord Woolton is the sort of person who helps to make up a party policy according to the amount he is paid?
§ Mr. Ede
We are trying to observe the arrangement which I suggested we should make, following the right hon. and learned Gentleman's appeal. I have no objection to giving way but, owing to an interruption about the qualifications of certain hon. Members to vote in this matter—which was no fault of his—the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to take a very considerable time over his speech. I am anxious not to be compelled to do the same.
§ Mr. Baxter
At least the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the brewers do not have to contract out.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Gentleman is probably both a historian and a prophet. When one thinks of the circumstances in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman revealed to the House that he had made up his mind on this matter—on the last day before the Christmas Recess, when no statement could be obtained from the Government about their intentions towards the education services—it is surprising. Taking Question No.78— and Oral Questions having stopped at No. 47—the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked that he might make the earth-shattering pronouncement to the House that he proposed to introduce this Bill. It indicates the extent to which the brewing interests not merely control the policies, but also control the timing of the Conservative Party's activities.
I want to deal with the suggestion made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in some way or other this scheme is better than the scheme in the Act now on the Statute Book. Nothing I have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman today has convinced me that the public in the new towns will be better served as a result of this change than they would have been had the Act on the Statute Book remained unaltered. I listened very carefully to what he had to say. During the last year I was in office I received several deputations from the new towns about this matter and all the interest in the new towns in this Measure and all its history concern the existing licences and the existing licensees.
As far as I have been able to trace, in not one of the new towns had they any of the houses to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman paid tribute when he spoke of the improved standard of public houses during the past 30 years. I asked some members of the State Management Committee, including at least one brewer—and I am not sure there were not two—to go round one or two of these towns from where these complaints were coming and to give me their views on the standard of the existing accommodation. The standard as described by them was nothing like that which the right hon. and learned Gentleman described for the new houses which have been built. I do not understand 1177 how under this Measure a number of the old-fashioned, insanitary, inadequate houses are to disappear. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us no indication with regard to that.
Most of the core of the new towns—that is, the old villages or small towns around which the new towns are planned —have a large number—a large number far in excess of the ordinary ratio now between population and licences—which are distinctly below standard; and all the deputations that I received were concerned not with improving the standard of the houses but in maintaining the licences that were already there.
In coming to deal with the new towns, of which the already existing small towns or villages are the core, one of the things that we had hoped to do, by providing new houses in the parts where the new population was coming, was to be able to remove some of the licences in the existing parts of the areas. I know of nothing under this scheme that will enable this proposal to be carried into effect.
In spite of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, the difficulty that still confronts the new committees that he is setting up is that, if he is confronted with a brewers' strike, a refusal to comply —a hint that was dropped to me at one stage of the proceedings—because they do not like the place where the committees propose to put a house, he cannot himself, now that he has destroyed the State system in these areas, ensure that the houses shall be in the exact places where the new committees say they ought to be. I hope that when we have a reply at the end of the debate we shall hear how the Government propose to deal with that particular problem.
I think that the arrangement that we have, by which there will be disinterested management in these places, is the nearest approach that we have yet been able to make to a sound licensing system. I want to make this quite clear: I have never myself believed in local option, because I do not think that any majority has the right to deprive the minority of reasonable facilities for refreshment. I know that in that I differ from some of my hon. Friends, but that has always been my belief.
If we are to allow licensing, it does seem to me that then we should try to 1178 ensure that management is not interested in an undue sale of a commodity which, if taken in undue quantities, may have a harmful effect not only on the person concerned but on the social life of the neighbourhood; and I know of no other way to ensure that than the system of State management which has been tried out in Carlisle.
I know that it was suggested at the time of the Act of 1949 that a good many limitations were imposed on the Carlisle houses. Most of them were quite false accusations. There was an accusation, for instance, that darts were not allowed. As a matter of fact, a darts league exists in Carlisle, and proof of its existence is that I was asked to become its president and to present a cup. When I was considering the matter I left office, and I can only hope that it is now receiving favourable consideration.
But I made it quite clear during the passing of the Act that we did not intend to have a monopoly in the new towns, any more than there is a monopoly in the Carlisle area. What we did intend to have was a scheme by which we could be assured that the houses would be placed where the needs of the district indicate they should be, and that they should be conducted in circumstances which would make them on every occasion an asset to the neighbourhood.
The habits of our people underwent a very remarkable change in the first part of this century down to about three or four years ago, and drunkenness had declined very considerably; but two years ago I had to face a very alarming series of reports from all over the country which indicated that drunkenness was again becoming a problem to be dealt with in some areas. At any rate, although the figures were still much below what they used to be, there was a very regrettable trend the wrong way.
I must say I have not yet found—though I tried to find it when I was in office—any reasonable explanation why that trend should have occurred. I think that, to some extent, it is due to the fact that the Churches and temperance societies believed that they had won the battle, and had retired from the conflict. As my lion Friend the Member for Ealing, North, knows, when I received a deputation from the Churches, 1179 who seemed to think it my duty to promote temperance in the country, I told them quite frankly that, compared with the later years of the 19th century, when I was a lad, they had very considerably fallen down on the task that they then believed they ought to have.
But I have been somewhat shaken from too dogmatic a view of that matter by reading what was said by the late Sir Edgar Sanders in 1933, when speaking as Director of the Brewers' Society to a trade audience. He said:We want to get the beer drinking habit instilled into thousands—almost millions—of young men who do not at present know the taste of beer. These young men, if they start with what beer they can afford today, as they grow up will afford better beers to the greater advantage of the brewing industry.I would like to say not only to the House but to the Churches that they can now see the working out of that policy, and I believe that in combating that tendency, the State management system, where there is no inducement to make undue profit or to force undue sales, is a reasonable way in which to carry on the steady sobering of the people that took place during the first half of this century.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
The right hon. Gentleman said there was no monopoly in the Carlisle district. Surely nobody can get a new licence in that area unless it is State controlled.
§ Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)
On a point of order. Is it in order for two Members to be on their feet at the same time?
§ Mr. Ede
I want to make this quite clear. I do not believe that it should be possible in a State management district for there to be a monopoly of houses in the possession of the State management committee. I believed that the proper thing to do was to have houses that were used mainly for local consumption—
§ Mr. Glanville
On a point of order. With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as I may not be able to take part in this debate and follow on my dear old friend the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), as I have another meeting to attend, might I ask my right hon. Friend if he would stress the importance of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union. We have a brewery of our own. We brew our own beer; we do not buy beer from anybody else.
§ Mr. Ede
I have been an affiliated member of the Club and Institute Union for 50 years, and I think my hon. Friend can rest assured that, as far as I am concerned, they have my best wishes.
It was always contemplated that in these areas there would be some houses of a sufficiently high standard which would be left to private enterprise and carried on by them. But in my view it is essential, when we have these new populations springing up, and if we are to get the licensed places where they ought to be—and that includes removing those that have become redundant or whose 1181 houses are below standard—that it should be undertaken by bodies that have the widest possible range of interests.
That was why, not merely the licensing justices and development corporations, but other interests in the area, including the trade, the Churches, and various social organisations, should be represented on the committee that we established. I have heard nothing from the Home Secretary which makes me think that what he proposes will enable this work to be carried on with the same efficiency, with the same certainty of producing good results, as the scheme that we embodied in our Act.
For that reason, I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add: "upon this day six months."
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
As one who represents a new town very much affected by this Bill, I am very glad of the opportunity of saying a few words in its support. First, I wish to say a word or two on the question of a mandate. A great deal has been said this afternoon, and before the debate, as to whether our party had or had not a mandate. I can assure the House that we stated quite clearly that if we were returned to power we would introduce a Bill on these lines. On many occasions in my own constituency, where it was a matter of great interest, during the Election, I stated it quite definitely, and I heard scarcely a word of protest. There was no doubt at all about my attitude in the matter.
On the question of support coming from the brewers, I was never approached by the brewers at all. But I was approached by hundreds of ordinary men and women who were extremely perturbed at what was happening. They were not necessarily the kind of people who visited licensed houses, but they did not want the State interfering or existing laws changed. Certainly, both they and I resented the fact that, although the former Home Secretary treated us with great politeness, he did not appear to be very interested in our views.
I am not sure, but I do not think he really consulted the views of local authorities or the new town corporations. He set up an advisory committee, but as 1182 far as I could gather very little attention was paid to their advice. I went with a deputation to the former Home Secretary and I must confess that my recollection of what took place at that meeting does not altogether agree with his. However, perhaps we can discuss that another time.
The effect of his proposals would have been to deprive the new towns corporations of control over a very important sector of those new towns for which they are responsible by statute, and also of a potential source of revenue. This was pointed out in the Second Annual Report of the Hemel Hempstead Corporation, who wrote in April, 1949:By the licensing Bill now before Parliament the Corporation's influence in the social sphere will be curtailed; perhaps also its financial prospect injured.The proposal to introduce State management was an embarrassment to the new towns corporations on planning grounds, and it was unwelcome to other interests. It is very seldom that a Government decision commends itself to all parties concerned, but in this case the decision to repeal the Part I provisions of the Licensing Act, 1949, is generally approved.
I emphasised that the opposition to State management comes from the ordinary men and women, who still believe in freedom of choice, and that competition produces better service. They represent the vast majority, as compared with the small but ardent minority who claim to know best what other people should want. The superimposing of a new town on an old long-established borough such as Hemel Hempstead is fraught with difficulties, and it is only when one happens to be in the position of the representative Member of Parliament that one appreciates quite what sufferings, distress, anxieties and problems arise out of it.
We are solving those problems; we shall, I hope, solve them satisfactorily; but only because there has been a great deal of give and take, and understanding of, and sympathy with, the problems of both the new townspeople and the new corporation and the old townspeople and the old town authorities. But I can assure the House that when my constituents heard that the public houses were to be taken over by the State, they felt that this was something which they 1183 could not possibly accept. I can also assure the Home Secretary that my constituents and I are grateful to him for introducing this Bill. It removes at least one of our real anxieties, and it will be welcomed both in old Hemel Hempstead and in the new town.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
I think that, at any rate, the brewers may be congratulated on one thing, that they have made their tied houses so unattractive that, obviously, the hon. Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) has never entered one. We know her to be one of the most sincere of all Members in the House, and she certainly would not have thought that her constituents could have obtained any freedom of choice had she ever gone into a tied public house and ordered a glass of beer, because she would have been immediately told, "It doesn't matter what you think; it is what our brewers think that matters." In practice, her speech invites her constituents to accept a type of beer of which they will have no choice whatever in deciding.
If she still believes in freedom, perhaps she will join with me a little later when we put down an Amendment to make certain, in the event of the Second Reading of the Bill being carried tonight—if it is—it will be carried by the votes of some hon. Members opposite who will have a direct interest in the matter. In that case we could ease their consciences by the noble Lady and myself joining in an Amendment, quite easy to draft, which will provide that all the houses in the new towns shall be free. In that event, her second point will be met, because this will, of course, secure a far greater revenue to the new towns corporations; it will not all be frittered away on the brewers.
I think that the hon. Lady, in supporting this Measure, showed by her remarks a lack of understanding of it, whereas I am afraid that the Home Secretary understood it all too well, hence the thinness and contradictions of his speech. First, he said, "We must save money, and when the Government came into office we decided to introduce this Measure in order that we might save money." Next, he comes forward and 1184 says, "We must see that the best possible public house system is available in the new towns to attract people to them." If, in fact, to invest in a public house in a new town were to involve a serious loss, why does he suppose that the brewers would do it?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman tells us that he had no consultation with them. In other words, he is proposing that there shall be no public houses in the new towns, if what he says is correct. He is not asking the brewers to agree to build new houses where they will secure a loss, and he comes to the Despatch Box and says, "The Government cannot do it because they are certain of a loss." What is his case? It is "to save money"—his very words, which I took down. Why should not the Government make a profitable investment; or is it the theory of the party opposite today that that would be so contrary to their principles of public life that it should not be permitted even in the case of beer?
His next point is that good public houses should be available. The one thing that will happen in the new towns is that people will come from all over the countryside to them, and will come with certain drinking habits, good or evil as they may be, and will wish for certain beers. If he does not believe that to be so, let him look at the protests continually made in Margate by Conservatives against the tied house system there, which, they say, puts off visitors who are looking for a particular kind of beer. If we are going to put off visitors looking for a certain kind of beer, then, to use an expression which occasionally falls from the lips of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, a fortiori we put off people from coming to live in the area.
What are these good houses going to be? The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows his solution, I hope, and I shall show him from something which he said just now and something he said earlier when he was dealing with the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Bill. He knows perfectly well that every one of these houses will be a tied house. What sort of safeguards are we to have? Are we to have utilisers in these new houses? Perhaps he feels that if he does away with the utility scheme, it is only fair to give the new towns the use of the utiliser. He knows what it is, I am sure. Speaking on the 1185 Customs and Excise Bill, I described it in the words of Lord Balfour of Burleigh. So now I need only say briefly that it is a machine for filtering the overspill, spittle and waste and putting it back into the beer. On that occasion I was dealing with the very limited point as to whether the addition of a proportion of spittle to the beer was or was not adulteration. Now I may ask generally: Are we to have the utiliser in the new towns? We know that the utiliser was in constant use in the inter-war years, but has the right hon. and learned Gentleman made any inquiries from the brewers as to whether they have stopped using it?
Perhaps it would be a good thing to have the utiliser because, at least, it is fair to the utiliser to say that it gives everybody a certain share of the spittle and waste beer. For every pint, one only gets one-eleventh of spittle and waste beer; but there are, of course, a great many brewers who are in favour of the sale of waste. They do not do it in anything like as scientific a way as the machine. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the good service given by the brewer. Did he see the report of the Sanitary Inspectors' Conference at Bath? They said, in 1950, that 29 of the 156 licensed premises in that town were found to be re-selling to customers drippings from beer taps, and overspill from glasses. Let us know the Government's policy on the utiliser.
May I say a word about what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said about temperance? I think that both sides of the House are agreed that the one thing that we should try to do is to encourage the sale of food and the sale of non-intoxicants in public houses. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary knows, as well as I do, because the Government are always adopting his policy in everything else, that, as Lord Balfour of Burleigh said, the only object of a tied house is to sell more and more drink. How can it be otherwise if the Home Secretary installs in his new towns tied houses whose rent is directly proportion-able to the amount of drink which is supplied? These houses are managed by very able, efficient and distinguished businessmen, many of them sitting behind him today. They are obviously going to see that the things that are sold are 1186 not things which involve no profit to them by way of wet rent.
Let me suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman a very simple test. Let him go into a tied house of Messrs. Charringtons and ask for a bottle of lemonade. Then let him measure how much he gets, and ask for a bottle of their beer. He will find that he has to pay only one halfpenny less for the lemonade than he has to pay for the beer. Why is that? Because the people he is going to put in the new houses are charged, first of all, a royalty on any lemonade they are allowed to sell and they put up the price of lemonade. Why? Because they want to discourage its sale.
§ Mr. Bing
That is a point of view, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman should realise that his own problem is an equally difficult one, because soda water, which I believe is his favourite beverage, is similarly treated despite the fact that Sir Stafford Cripps removed the tax from it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that this was no monopoly. I do not know whether he has changed his views about monopoly, but his party issued a guide to the General Election in 1950 and they included in it a section on monopoly. Possibly, in the same way as it has been alleged in the debate, Lord Woolton's name has been used without authority. The Conservative Central Office may have written the right hon. and learned Gentleman's name against what they said about monopoly.
The Conservative Party's Election Campaign Guide says:Monopoly, by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. Published by the Conservative Central Office, —A monopoly exists when a person, or a group of persons acting together, has the power to influence prices in conformity with his own wishes.Now that the Government have decided not to build any schools at all I do not suppose they will build four or five new public houses in each of the new towns. In that case, even on their scale of priorities, there must be only one new public house to every new town before they get on to their other plans for putting up a few schools, and, if that house is tied, the price of everything one can get falls 1187 within the right hon. and learned Gentleman's definition.
The Guide goes further than that. I shall not read the whole passage, because it must be obvious that hon. Members opposite are familiar with it. However, I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that his argument was that at that moment the Monopolies Commission was not wide enough to deal with the abuses. Are we now to have a plan from him to widen it so that we can submit to it the monopoly of the brewers? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said:The monopolies can, however, go some way to safeguarding themselves by erecting artificial barriers to would-be competitors.Is not that exactly what he is inviting them to do in the new towns?
We know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has a very sincere interest in this matter. He opened his opposition to the New Towns Bill by referring to what he regarded as the inalienable heritage of every Englishmen —the right to choose his own beer. In which of the houses which he will set up in the new towns will that right be exercisable? Will he give us the case of one tenant who has any guarantee that if he tried to allow an Englishman to exercise his inalienable right he would not lose his house and his home the next day?
The House is interested to know why the Bill was introduced. We understand from Lord Woolton's correspondence that he regarded it as a matter of such unimportance that he could not remember whether he had given a pledge on it or not. That does not seem, at first sight, a reason for giving the Bill priority over all the other important Measures. The present Government said, "Let us have two months' holiday to think over what we shall introduce." What did they introduce? They introduced this contentious Measure, which will take a week or so in Committee, at a time when they had said that all building of schools must be at a standstill. Does that mean that there was great urgency that the school building scheme should be stopped to permit the building of public houses not for the State, but for the private brewers and that, therefore, the Bill could not wait?
What about the question of mandate? It is an interesting one. In a sense, the 1188 right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct. He got his dates a little wrong. In 1950 the Conservative Party tried to secure a mandate in this matter. I have here only the popular edition of the Conservative Party's Guide to the General Election, 1950. It was all I could afford. It cost 7s. 6d. What the less popular one cost I do not know. I take it that this edition is sufficiently full. In the index were 10 matters dealing with licensing to which the attention of candidates was directed. In view of the attitude of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it is appropriate that "licensing" follows immediately after "liberty."
For the General Election of 1951 something was issued which could be purchased by members of the Conservative Party for 3s. There was no mention of the mandate in that booklet.
§ Mr. Bing
But there was no mention of it in the first one either. This one was specially prepared for the General Election and I thought it fairer to refer to it than to make a point out of the other more general document produced at an earlier stage.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's party attempted to get a mandate for this in 1950, but did not secure it. No doubt they thought they would not get a mandate for it in 1951 and, therefore, did not put the matter forward. That does not seem a particularly good reason for introducing the Bill. However, let us suppose that the right hon. and learned Gentleman genuinely considered that he was fighting the 1951 campaign by fighting the battles of 1950 all over again.
Six reasons were put forward in the Campaign Guide why the Licensing Bill of 1949 should be opposed, and in each case this Bill fails to carry out the reasons put forward by the Conservative Party in their propaganda. There was one misapprehension. They said that the Bill extended to an adjacent area. They then noticed that an Amendment proposed by themselves had been accepted and that this objection no longer applied.
They went on to say:There is no sign at all that the public want this extension of State ownership and 1189 the residents of the new towns are to be given no opportunity of expressing their views on the matter.Where is there in the Bill any opportunity for the people coming to the new towns to choose the type of public house that they would like? The next point:The State will have the power to enforce a complete monopoly in these areas, as a result of which the residents will have no effective freedom of choice.How does the Bill ensure freedom of choice? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give me an undertaking now that he will favourably consider an Amendment to provide for the same provisions as these points which the Conservative Party set out in their propaganda?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I do not agree with the Amendment that the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. I believe that we get freedom of choice by allowing different brewers to come in with different beers. That gives the freedom of choice, which I still stand by, and the inalienable heritage, in which I still believe.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Before he makes that point again, which is a very bad point, the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to look at the number of licences already existing in the new towns. He will find that they extend to considerable numbers.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows circumstances vary from town to town. There are certain instances where there are a large number of licences existing, but in a number of towns there are no licences or very few licences.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I have gone into this and I cannot recall any town where there are no licences. There are some where licences might be comparatively few; there are others, if my recollection is right, where there are something between 40 and 50.
§ Mr. Bing
The argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is clear. He 1190 states that the object of the Bill is to enable public houses to be built in areas where there are already 40 or 50; otherwise, there will be no freedom of choice. I leave the House to judge the issue. This Guide also says that the scheme
creates a breach on a large scale in the system of licensing by the Justices.So good, but does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that?
This measure empowers the State to enter into any and every aspect of catering trade, licensed and unlicensed, to run any kind of entertainment provided there is a snack bar attached and to engage in the actual manufacture of beer and the bottling, etc., of intoxicating liquor of all kinds and the manufacture of table waters.Very good, but, of course, the State brewery is not in the new towns; it is in Carlisle, and if that is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's quarrel why are we not doing away with the old State licensing district. Why not hand this brewery back to private enterprise? If that is the plan this Bill has nothing whatever to do with that particular issue.
Let me now come to the final point:It is impossible, without official permission, to start any new registered club in the new towns. This particularly affects the British Legion, Working Men's Clubs and the Institute Unions.A great many of us are in favour of properly conducted clubs, but a case exists where a brewery closed down the public house, obtained compensation for redundancy, and opened it again as a proprietary club with the original licensee as steward. I do not suggest that this is a widespread evil. The Royal Commission of 1931 went into it, and found that it occurred in only 30 or 40 cases. But that is the sort of thing, surely, that the Government would not want to go on in the new towns or, indeed, in the old towns, and that seems to me to be a reasonable provision.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to do something effective for the British Legion and for the working men's clubs let him make one suggestion which is far better than this Bill. He should persuade his hon. Friends, who sit behind him and who have such interest in the brewery trade, not to tie land so that clubs cannot be opened. I have among my correspondence a letter from a British Legion branch in Birmingham, which is not able to open a British Legion club anywhere because 1191 all the land is tied by the brewers so that they cannot build anywhere. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends do for the returned soldiers. So much for all this talk about the British Legion.
What about the working men's clubs and institutes? Nobody suggests that a respectable body of that sort should be kept out. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman is bringing in again the very people who tried to squeeze these clubs out before by refusing to serve them. They had powers to threaten them continually, and never in any case would they disclose to the pubs the strength of the beer which they sold to them.
I have detained the House a little too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "Carry on."] There are, however, just a few more points I should like to put. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that this Bill was following the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act. That was a Measure which was founded on the recommendations of the Morris Committee. Lady Astor said of this body that there were on it 13 representatives of the drink trade and none of the Churches. I think that was carrying the thing a little too far. The Committee was appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and he even, under the pressure of the Coalition, would not have done a thing like that. That was a typical piece of Conservative extravagance.
It is quite true that the liquor interests outweighed the Churches by about four to one, and why not, because they were engaged on various technical approaches to the matter, and perhaps that was the reason why a Committee of that sort was set up. Of course, this Bill does not follow their recommendations, and in one very significant fashion it has even departed from the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act. At the instance of the strange combination of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), Sir Alan Herbert and Lady Astor there was inserted a subsection which is now part of Section 4 of this Act. It laid down that food should be provided. When one comes to look at the wording of this Bill, one sees that it is almost similar except that the word "food" is left out. Is that just by accident? Is that just one of those little 1192 slips, or is it because, in fact, a great number of public houses do not provide any food at all?
I do not know what the figures are. It is very difficult to get them accurately, but so far as I can marry two sets of statistics together, the position is that out of about 64,000 regular public houses in Great Britain some 30,000 sell food while there are some 240,000 catering establishments without a licence of any sort. What my right hon. Friend was trying to do in this Act was to see that in the new towns the licensed victualler really was a licensed victualler, a man who supplied victuals and who provided for comfort and was not a mere purveyor of drink. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just handed it all back to the brewer.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that there is no secret deal of any sort. Then let us have some explanation of how this Bill comes on now. What is the urgency if there is nothing behind it? Why should the first Measure, after four months of thinking by the Government, be something which, on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own showing, cannot affect the position at the moment because no building is to take place? Why does it come on now, and why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman give Parliamentary time to it in this way? Why has Parliamentary time to be occupied in this way?
We are in a serious situation. Nobody doubts the gravity of the position. This House ought to be occupied in discussing the issues which matter—the issues of peace and war, the issue of trade, the issue of the economic situation. To accommodate such a Bill as this the Export Guarantees Bill is being taken after 10 o'clock and probably in the small hours of the morning. That is the sort of priority which is being given. After four months of thinking the only thought which emerges from the Conservative mind is, "What can we do for the brewers?"
It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that there is no evidence of any sort of conspiracy. I shall ask him one question on that. Does he think—there was some comment on it—that the Prime Minister tells the 1193 truth? There was some objection yesterday when it was suggested that he did not. If the Prime Minister is telling the truth, then in the years before the 1914–18 war the party opposite was tied to the brewers. Have they changed? If not, what other explanation is there for the Bill?
We know that the power of the trade was built on one Section of the Licensing Act, 1904. It is their sheet anchor. Today, we know how that Section was produced. It was built up in one of those conversations which Lord Woolton appreciates. I will conclude my speech by reading a report of one of those conversations, connected with this last great Measure to help the brewers. The present Bill is built on the same principle. In their report Mr. Roach, General Secretary of the National Trade Defence Association, the very body to which Lord Woolton addressed his letter, said:With regard to the Licensing Act, 1904, he could safely say that a considerable amount of the good that the trade was able to do in passing that was due to the personal acquaintance that happened to exist between one or two of their officials and one or two Members of the Government…He could say this, that the Clause which was the most important, and which did the most good, was drafted in the office in which he sat.This may not be the case today. The Conservative Party may have changed since those times, but if it has somebody on the Government Front Bench will have to produce a far better excuse for introducing this Measure at this date than we have so far heard.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Maudling (Barnet)
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has shown his usual vigour and wit in pursuing his vendetta against the brewers. If ever I wished the hon. and learned Gentleman ill—and I do not think I ever would—I should wish him to spend a holiday standing drinks to a brewery director in a tied house in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Bing
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but in justice to Northern Ireland I must point out that there are no tied houses there. The licensed victuallers own their own brewery and do very well from it. If I wanted to buy a brewery director drinks, I should have to do it in an entirely free house.
§ Mr. Maudling
As least I have achieved something if I have persuaded the hon. and learned Member to say a good word for Northern Ireland.
As for his argument, I cannot follow the logic that there can be no freedom of choice in the new towns unless there is a complete range of supplies from every brewery in the country. He made a reference to people coming from all over the country to the new towns, with individual tastes for the beers of various districts. He implied that there could be no freedom of choice unless every brand was there available in every public house. Would every brand of all the brewers in the country be available to residents of new towns under State management? Of course it would not.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I happen to be one of the few hon. Members who are consumers in a new town. I live in Welwyn. The only beer I can buy in Welwyn is Whitbread's. Where is my freedom of choice?
§ Mr. Maudling
I am coming to that point. I first want to declare my interest in this matter, but not a financial interest. I have no pecuniary interest in the beer or wine and spirit business; but my interests are two. First of all, my constituency contains the new town of Hatfield. It also adjoins Welwyn. Secondly, I make it my duty, a very pleasant duty, to visit the public houses in the district. I live myself in the Hatfield district. I remember encountering the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) playing a very lively game of bar billiards in a public house there. I cannot remember what precise brew we were drinking, but I remember we found it quite enjoyable. It may be that the hon. Gentleman had to travel a long way to get there, but he seemed to find it worth while.
I am interested in the Bill because I live in a new town. I am convinced that the people who live there do not want to see State management in the new town of Hatfield. The wishes of the people who live in the district are, after all, rather important. There may be a certain amount of exaggeration in this, but it has been suggested that if there were State management the "Bull and Butcher" would become the "Bill and Minister" and that instead of saying "bung-ho" we should have to say "Bing-ho." Now 1195 let me come to the question of the mandate, about which we have heard a good deal.
§ Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)
I suggest that what the public want is the free house and not the tied house, and that if the hon. Gentleman were really considering the public interest he would demand that free houses be provided and not brewers' tied houses.
§ Mr. Maudling
I will explain that point later. Now I am coming to the question of the mandate, about which a great deal of comment has been made, and will probably still be made, in the debate.
I have been reading the debate of 14th December, 1948, which has been referred to, and in which the then Lord President of the Council dealt with the question of the mandate in words which bear repeating. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) said:First of all, the question of the mandate. I am not going to accept the argument that everything that every Government does has to be justified by specific electoral declaration or mandate. This matter arose, incidentally, in relation to new towns.…It really is an incidental matter, a by-product of the new towns policy, as to how the licensed premises should be dealt with. Therefore, the question of a specific mandate does not arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 1133.]I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said on that matter.
§ Mr. Woodburn
It does not logically follow, if that arose incidentally to new town legislation, that this legislation is arising incidentally to anything.
§ Mr. Maudling
Of course it does. Obviously the way public houses are run and managed is incidental to the new towns, and it is just as incidental to that development to have this type of legislation as to have the type of legislation presented by the previous Administration.
I would refer to one further point. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made a reference earlier—I am very sorry that he is not in his place now —which I think was rather unworthy of him, about what goes on and went on between the brewing industry and the Conservative Party before the last General Election. I do not want to enter into the major question of the effect of 1196 the brewers on the Conservative Party. We have had those bogeys for many years and may have them again. But I want to know exactly what the right hon. Gentleman meant by referring to the relationship of officials of the Central Office of the Conservative Party with the licensed victuallers.
The implication of what the right hon. Gentleman said was clear. I happen to have been an official at the Central Office, and I know the standards which are maintained at the central offices of all political parties. I should like to know what was meant by the imputation which appeared to be made by the right hon. Gentleman. The position was made perfectly clear in another place by the right hon. and noble Lord who was opposing the 1949 Bill. He said, at the time of the passage of the 1949 Bill, that we intended to repeal it. That was our policy thereafter. Anyone inquiring for our policy from the Conservative Party and at the Central Office would be told perfectly clearly that our policy was to repeal the Act.
The next thing I want to do is to consider the argument for State trading in the new towns. So far as I can see, the arguments divide themselves into two. First, there is the question of the distribution of licences. It has been argued from the other side of the House that it is impossible to distribute licences through licensing justices in the new towns. As far as I follow it, the basis of that argument is: What will happen if the brewers do not apply to establish new houses? Now, we have been told all the time that it will be immensely profitable to the brewers to establish new houses. In those circumstances why is there any fear that there should be a failure on the part of the brewers to come forward and apply for licences?
§ Mr. Bing
It arose from a remark made by the Home Secretary, who said that if this money were spent by the Government there would be a loss. In those circumstances we were asking from this side of the House how there would be any public houses at all. If the Home Secretary was wrong, then the argument is on the other foot.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I hope my hon. and learned Friend will allow me to explain. I never said there would be a loss. I said that the money would be 1197 spent by the Government in acquiring existing premises. I said that if the policy of the late Government were followed it would mean that over £1 million would be spent this year on acquiring half the existing premises, and presumably rather more than that amount would appear in next year's Estimates. In other words, I was giving the additional expenditure by the Government, and I said nothing about anyone making a loss.
§ Mr. Bing
I hesitate to conduct a private argument with the Home Secretary in the middle of another hon. Gentleman's speech, but may I say that if they acquired the houses, then the balance-sheet of the Government would be the same because they would have that much less money but that much more profit unless they bought them at an excessive figure.
§ Mr. Maudling
But does it not occur to the hon. and learned Member that houses requisitioned by the State might show a loss rather than a profit? [HON. MEMBERS: "Carlisle."] I will come to the question of profits and losses at Carlisle in a moment. The point I was making was not relevant to the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch. I was trying to reply to the speech of his right hon. Friend who, I thought, implied that there might be a refusal on the part of the brewers to apply for licences. I was saying that I could not understand why, if it is so profitable for brewers to have these licences, there should be a fear that none of them might make such an application.
§ Mr. Maudling
I know the right hon. Gentleman said he was quoting a veiled threat, but I do not for a moment believe that any such threat would be carried out. Why should anyone carry out a threat to his own great pecuniary detriment? I do not follow that.
The only remaining argument for State management can be dealt with by this question: Is it the object of the person managing and running a public house to 1198 increase the amount of beer sold or to decrease it? Let us have no humbug on this question. Should a manager or a licensee running a public house try to increase or decrease his sales? We should be clear in our minds what he should decide. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sales of what?"] Of everything he provides, principally beer because, strangely enough, it is beer which people go to buy in public houses. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are a little inconsistent in this matter. I will refer again to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South in 1948, when he said:While the nation will not go teetotal in these new towns, nevertheless the probability is that the amount of alcohol consumed will diminish, and I think that that is a perfectly legitimate purpose of social policy in this regard.The right hon. Gentleman appears to think that the establishment of State management will reduce consumption, which is hardly a good argument for the excellence of State beer or the efficiency of State management. If you have good beer and pleasant public houses, you normally get more custom.
Surely the job of anyone running a public house is to make it as pleasant and attractive and as congenial a place as he can. If he does so, he will get more custom. If he wants to reduce his custom he can do it by making his public house unattractive. Which is the argument that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite want to put forward? Do they want State managements to reduce consumption by making public houses unattractive or do they want more beer to be consumed? They cannot simultaneously maintain both points of view.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? If he is quoting the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) he ought to quote the sentence immediately before what he said, which was—…it is a legitimate ambition and legitimate aim of social policy that the assistance of State management houses and of disinterested management should lead to absence of the pushing of alcoholic liquors, which might otherwise take place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 1130.]Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let us know whether he is or is not in favour of the pushing of alcoholic liquors?
§ Mr. Maudling
I do not know what the hon. and learned Member means by "pushing." I have done a certain number of things to alcoholic liquor, including pushing it down, or whatever the phrase is. Does he think that the average publican tries to persuade the person coming into his public house to have another one? [An HON. MEMBER: "Of course he does."] Hon. Members who put forward that point of view either have no experience or so much prejudice that it blinds their judgment. The fact is that if you go into the ordinary public house, be it tied or free, the publican tries to serve you with what you ask for and, if he is a good publican, tries to make his public house as attractive as he can. That seems to me to be the right thing for a good publican to do.
I want to come once again to the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch whose most interesting pamphlet on the subject of "Setting the Pubs Free" I have just been reading. I think he falls into the confusion of not knowing whether he wants the sales of beer to rise or fall. He criticises the brewers for pushing the sales of beer and at the same time criticises them for keeping the price of beer too high. If he wants the price of beer to come down, they will sell more beer. Does he want cheaper beer and more consumption, or dearer beer and less consumption?
§ Mr. Bing
If the hon. Member is inviting an interruption, I am only too willing to accede to his request. I have always advocated that the charging of what is elegantly known in the trade as a "wet" rent is a deliberate incentive to the sale of liquor because the rent which the brewer derives from his property is directly proportionate to the amount of beer sold. If the hon. Gentleman has read my pamphlet with the attention which I am sure he feels it deserves, he will have seen that I quote an actual letter from a public house—"The Malvern" in Dover—where the licensee was removed because the sales of his beer fell. That threat hangs over the head of every publican.
§ Mr. Maudling
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not answered my point that either he wants to see higher prices of beer leading to smaller sales or lower prices leading to greater sales.
1200 I now pass to my next point which is a fundamental one on the question of freedom of choice. When the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch gets on to that question, he and other hon. Members opposite get most out of touch with reality. One cannot interpret freedom of choice in these matters in terms of having every variety of beer, or even large numbers of different kinds of beer, available in every public house. The freedom of choice which is available to the public is the freedom to go to another public house if one does not like the beer in the existing one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I might issue an invitation to hon. Members to come to the new town of Hatfield and see the existing facilities, which are very good, offering a wide range of excellent beers. It is because that freedom of choice would be restricted that we who live in the areas of the new towns are convinced that the 1949 Act, which this Measure is designed to repeal, was a thoroughly bad Act.
There are three fundamental reasons why the Bill deserves a Second Reading. First, it is a matter of principle. It is a matter of principle that no economic activity should be carried on by the State if it can be satisfactorily carried on by private enterprise. It is for the nationalisers to make the case, and they have utterly failed to do so.
Second, the Bill should be supported because it restores to the local justices and to the development corporations powers that should never have been taken away from them. The justices locally know their job and understand the district. They are the best qualified people to deal with this matter. The development corporations, which, I believe, were not consulted at all and were, certainly to my knowledge, distressed and upset when it happened, should not have been deprived of the right if necessary to take their share and maintain their control over licensed premises.
Finally, and most important of all, there is the question of local public opinion. I am quite convinced that there is no substantial public opinion in any of the districts concerned that demands State management of the public houses in the new towns. It is because this public opinion is the most important consideration of all that I particularly ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I hesitate to come into this rather fluid argument about the qualities of beer, but that is not the main question of the Bill. I also apologise to those who belong to south of the Border if I introduce some elements which are rather strange to them and which belong to the north of the Border. For that reason, I say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that there should have been a separate Bill for Scotland.
When hon. Members who are now on the Government side were sitting on this side of the House, they showed a great passion on every occasion to have separate Bills for Scotland. It may be argued that we did not have a separate Bill when we introduced the Licensing Act. That is no argument in this case, however, for at that time the two Secretaries of State were jointly responsible for State management districts and as the then Bill dealt with State management districts, obviously they could not be separated in a Bill covering the whole of Great Britain.
In the present case, the Government have eliminated from the Bill the one element that made it necessary to have a single Bill, and there could have been two Bills. It takes two and a half pages of a 10-page Bill for an application Clause to make the Bill apply to Scotland. The very fact that I have to intervene in a debate which is quite clearly discussing matters which are peculiar to south of the Border, is an indication that it would have been far better had the Scottish Members been discussing their business in their own Committee and the English Members left to deal with their own Bill.
I see no reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not have left Scotland out of the Bill altogether. All the arguments that have been given in support of introducing the Bill apply to English conditions, and not to Scottish conditions. We in Scotland would have been quite pleased had there been no Bill at all. I should be very surprised if the Secretary of State could show any instance where there has been the slightest demand from Scotland—even from the drink trade—for the Bill.
The Scottish attitude to drink and to the drink trade is quite different from the attitude south of the Border. One of 1202 the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland—the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith)—when making the case for the Opposition against the previous Bill, gave as his reason his nostalgia for the atmosphere of the old English inn. That may be understandable, but it was noticeable that he never mentioned the atmosphere of the Scottish public house. That atmosphere, as most people who have visited Scottish public houses know, consists of smoke, fumes, noise and sawdust. The English inn may have the smell of violets, but the conditions in a great many Scottish public houses may be said to reek of nothing but drink.
The Scottish houses afford an early example of time and motion study, so that drink can reach the customers' lips with the least passage of time and the least traversing of space, so that the maximum amount of drink can be consumed in the shortest possible time.
§ Mr. Maudling
I am not sure of that, not being an expert on Scotland, but is it not a fact that most of the houses in Scotland are free houses, for which the right hon. Member's colleagues are pressing?
§ Mr. Woodburn
I think that the hon. Member is quite wrong. There is quite a lot of control of the public houses in Scotland by the brewers also.
That does not alter the fact that the atmosphere in Scottish public houses is not a leisurely one, in which people sit and talk with their wives and friends. It is an atmosphere of people standing at the bar, drinking beer and whisky as fast as they can be served. Any respectable woman in Scotland would think twice, if not three or four times, before going into a public house, but I understand that that is not the case in England. At those places which I have visited in England, anybody could go in, whether they were drinking or not people sit around and talk, and men are there with their wives. That could not happen in most of the public houses in Scotland. It must he realised, therefore, that the attitude of people in Scotland to this whole question is quite different, and it would have been far better to have left us out of the Bill altogether.
The Home Secretary quoted the attitude of temperance people who sat on 1203 the various Commissions. I said on the Second Reading of the previous Bill that it was an extremely curious thing that some of our temperance friends took the view that it was wrong to make public houses such that people could go into them without feeling ashamed. In other words, they think that drinking is encouraged by houses which are reputable and into which people can take their friends. That, of course, leads to the perpetuation of the very kind of thing I have been dealing with, but if I were to choose I should say that the conditions I have described tend to degrade the self-respect of people. That does not occur when people go into hotels where people may be taking tea or drinking, where drink does not dominate the situation, and where people are entirely free to do as they like.
Therefore, the intention in new towns was not to establish places with a view to making a profit out of selling the maximum amount of drink. The purpose was to establish a social institution which people could use, which had for its purpose, not the pushing of drink but the providing of facilities where people could have drink if they wanted it and where they could have other services also. All people do not drink—some do, and some do not; and there is no reason why they should not be able to mix in a social atmosphere. Non-drinkers should not be made to feel they are forced to drink by going with their friends into a mere drinking place. Therefore, I differ from some of my temperance friends, and I think it right that we should develop a decent atmosphere.
I come from a constituency where, perhaps, there is centred a greater control over the drink trade than in any other place in the country. One of my constituents controls, I understand, about £65 million of capital in the drink trade. He invited me to go to Oxford to see what a respectable public house could be like. I have not been able to go, but he is heartily ashamed of the conditions which exist in Scotland and of some of the people who run public houses there, and who will not provide conditions where people can go with self-respect.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
Surely in his capacity as a Member of 1204 Parliament, the right hon. Member must have had many cases brought to his attention where licence holders are trying to improve conditions but cannot do so because of building restriction.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am not condemning everyone who purveys drink. I recognise that many of these people would perhaps copy what is being done in England and there may be building restrictions, but what we are talking about is a century of the drink trade during which that has never been done, although they had the opportunity. We have to take conditions as they are in Scotland.
I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to say who was consulted in Scotland about the introduction of this Bill? Were the Churches consulted? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen this month's edition of "Life and Work." It says:The Government's decision to reverse the policy of state-management of public-houses and licensed premises in the new towns is an ominous indication of the financial interests at work at high levels.Some hon. Members resented what my right hon. Friend said about the working of financial interests, but the Church seems to think that is going on. The quotation continues:The previous legislation was not without its inconsistencies and it had been constructively criticised by the Churches and other public bodies and considerably amended. But it had the great merit of restricting competitive selling of intoxicating liquor in towns which are being planned deliberately as this generation's answer to the shameful conditions which it inherited from last century. Whatever the differences of view we may hold on State control and direction in other spheres, we might well have been agreed on the necessity for the most careful control at this point. If the usual arguments for private enterprise apply here, then this decision is not one which will commend itself to the majority of Christian people.I notice that one of the presbyteries in the North is also expressing alarm at the reversal of what was done by the last Government. The purpose of the original Bill was to ensure that the nation was spending public money to establish as near as possible ideal towns and it was essential to safeguard them against unlimited exploitation by private persons with no regard to social purposes but who were merely concerned with making the maximum profit. In my view, this Bill fails to do that.
1205 Under existing legislation the Secretary of State is responsible. He can be held responsible for any licences which are established in new towns. Under the earlier licensing laws and existing licensing laws outside new towns, there is judicial control by the licensing courts. Under this Bill neither of those safeguards applies—neither control by the Secretary of State nor control by the licensing courts. Clause 2 sets up a committee and once the committee is established it does not appear to be responsible to anyone and does not appear to have to meet in public. It is supposed to determine the distribution of places where licences will be held, and I am not clear whether there is any limitation of the number of houses which can be established. That may just mean a district, and the question is how many licences can be established in the so-called "places" in which this permission is given. I am not sure whether there is a definition of places in the Bill, or not.
The Bill also introduces objectionable new principles. Until now an applicant has had to prove the need for a new licence before a licensing court. The onus was on the person wanting the licence to show a need for it, but under the Bill—if I read it correctly—there is no longer any obligation on the person applying to show any need. The onus is transferred from the person applying for a licence to people objecting to the granting of the licence. They are given permission to sustain their objections to the licence.
I am not clear whether the police come into this or not. Are the police entitled to go before these bodies, as they wore entitled to go before the licensing courts, and to show objection to a licence in any particular place? That is a most important provision of the existing licensing laws which does not seem to be covered by this Bill.
To summarise, an applicant under the existing licensing laws must show need and objections can be lodged. These matters are decided judicially. It is now proposed that there is no cause to show a need for a licence and no call to go before the court or to the Minister. Under this Bill the licensing court is not allowed to consider need at all. If three conditions are satisfied the licensing court is bound—the word "shall" is used, "shall 1206 grant a licence"—to put a rubber stamp on and the licence is granted.
At present a licensing court can take into consideration all the circumstances surrounding the proposed licence. They can hear objections, they sit in public, and the public knows what is happening. Under this scheme they may sit in private and, if they sit in public or in private, as far as I can see, when an inquiry is held under the ægis of the Secretary of State all that happens is that the objectors are allowed to state their objections, but there is no call on anyone else to appear before the court. The inquiry is on the lines of inquiries in other circumstances, which are quite different, where the Secretary of State is to hear objections.
What the public want to know is the justification for a licence. Under this Bill, the potential licencee is not called upon to show cause why a licence should be given. That is an extreme departure from the whole purpose fo the existing licensing laws under which every applicant for a licence must show cause; the police have a right to object and members of the public. Churches, etc., have a right to object, and the court decides judicially after hearing the evidence. As far as I can see, under this Bill there will merely be an administrative body and no objectors to the licence will be heard. It seems to me to be a very bad step to deprive the licensing court of all its existing rights to take every circumstance into account in considering these matters.
Another more detailed point is that the Bill overturns one of the principles of the existing licensing laws by which no person under the age of 21 is allowed to get a licence. That does not seem to be repeated in this Bill, and I should like to know whether it is to be put in. It also abolishes the general rule that a certificate is not valid until it is confirmed by the licensing appeal court. A licence is granted and there is no question of the appeal court being called in; the appeal court's power is entirely abolished.
It has been pointed out several times that there has been no mention of this change in the programme of the present Government in regard to legislation this Session. If there was to be a change and the Government wanted to abolish the State management system in the new 1207 towns, what is being proposed is not the only alternative, and not the alternative given to the House by the Members of the present Government during the Second Reading of the previous Bill.
One of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland said that he had no objection to municipalisation of public houses, and I think the Home Secretary also said he had no objection to municipal public houses. He evidently thought the alternative was a municipal public house. The Joint Under-Secretary asked why we could not leave the new towns the opportunity to get on with the job themselves? I ask the Government why they have not done that, if they thought it was the alternative? Why did they not give them the opportunity of getting on with the job themselves and why have they handed it back to the publicans?
The drink trade in Scotland disgraced itself in the past and acquired a very unsavoury reputation for contributing to the degradation and misery of the Scottish people by its greed for profits and complete disregard for good social conduct. It would be very difficult for the drink trade to eliminate that from the minds of people in Scotland. There is a great feeling about this in Scotland. Everyone who is old enough will remember the feeling created by the Bands of Hope, and that still persists.
I realise that there have been great improvements in the behaviour of the Scottish people. I never see drunken people staggering about the streets as was the case in the old days, and I gladly recognise the tremendous improvement which has taken place in social life. But the former reputation of the drink trade lives on, and they must do something to eliminate that from the minds of the people before there will be any confidence in their management of this commerce.
We are convinced that it would be wrong to allow that trade, with its reputation for corrupting social government and legislation, with its reputation for undermining the probity of people in Scottish administration, to get into the new towns where people appointed by the State are trying to build ideal cities. We believe it is in the public interest to ensure that this trade is directed without 1208 danger to the people. The existing Act provides for that, but this Bill, I fear, abolishes all the safeguards.
I am sure I speak for a great mass of the Scottish people; members of Churches, temperance people, and indeed people who are not temperance people in the sense of being prohibitionists, but who want to see our towns and cities well managed. They want to see our cities free from all the ugliness that has attached to the drink trade in the past and which we certainly do not want to introduce into these new towns which we hope are being built with new standards of conduct, free from corrupting influences. For that reason I hope the House will support the Amendment and will reject this Bill.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
I must first declare my interest, as I am a director of a whisky broking firm and a director of a company which owns three small hotels in the Highlands of Scotland; but I am sure the House will agree that will not influence my remarks this evening.
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) said that he believed he was speaking for a great number of people in Scotland. He also said that there had been a great improvement in the way that drink was served, and so on—which I thought rather broke down his argument. I am sure he is not speaking for the controlled area of Ross and Cromarty. In my constituency I have one of the two State controlled areas in Great Britain and I wish to tell the House some of the complaints made in my constituency regarding State managed hotels.
I was sorry to hear the Home Secretary suggest that an experiment to seek to extend the control system might be put into operation. I maintain that the extraordinary position which existed and necessitated the control of the Ross and Cromarty area, for which I speak particularly, is now over and passed, and that this area should be de-controlled. But I do not know how far I can follow that argument in this debate.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member says he speaks for the people in the Ross and Cromarty area and that they want decontrol. Does he not think it rather strange that when I was Secretary of State 1209 for Scotland and had a good deal of contact with Ross and Cromarty, and also while my successor, who had a great connection with the same area, was in office, not one word ever reached either of us about this feeling which the hon. Member says exists?
§ Mr. MacLeod
I am very surprised, but perhaps that reflects on my having been the representative of that area for the past six years, and not having taken, until this occasion, the opportunity of bringing it to the notice of the Government of the day.
As I understand it, the monopoly of State control in Dingwall has meant that there is no option at all. I understand that no one can come into the Ross and Cromerty area and obtain a free licence unless he obtains a letter of authority to do so from the Secretary of State for Scotland. As far as I am aware, nobody has ever obtained such a letter from any Secretary of State for Scotland since this area was controlled.
§ Mr. MacLeod
I cannot answer that question. I dare say people have applied. Perhaps they thought it was pretty hopeless to apply when they found out about the complete monopoly which appears to exist in that area.
Hotels there are run like a State machine. I am afraid that the atmosphere which is associated with hotels—and particularly, I hope, with the hotels in the Highlands—in which "mine host" is ever in attendance, supervising every meal of the visitor, is now absent. That, I think, is no reflection on the personnel or their efficiency at the present time. It is merely that the managements of these hotels just manage them for some remote State machine.
The town council of Dingwall have, I am assured, lodged protests again and again suggesting that the organisers of social functions leave the town and hold their functions outside the area in places which are not under State control. Another complaint is that, in a place the size of Dingwall, all three hotels refuse to accommodate parties of more than 70 guests. This means that weddings and dinners, and so on, have to be held outside the town. I have been informed that just recently a party of 30 from outside 1210 Dingwall attended the opening of a new savings bank in Dingwall, and were refused accommodation in the town. They had to hold their luncheon outside. That is not a very good case for State management.
Organisers of various functions are penalised because of this State monopoly. When agricultural shows, Highland gatherings and functions of a similar nature are held, outside caterers fight with one another for the privilege of securing the catering rights, and a substantial cheque is also secured by the organisers. In Dingwall none but the State-controlled establishments can carry out catering for such functions, and private individuals are de-barred. Another complaint is that State-managed establishments pay nothing at these outside functions and make a very considerable profit.
Recently another town council in my constituency, in the borough of Fort-rose, asked for the support of other towns in requesting that the profits—I think this is a suggestion which should be treated very seriously by the Secretary of State—from these State management districts should be spent in the districts, and not sent to the national Exchequer, where they are but a drop in a bucket.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am a mere Englishman trying to follow this excursion into the wilds of Dingwall. Could the hon. Gentleman explain which of these places are new towns, and how the disposal of the profits of public houses in a place the name of which I could not hear is connected with what we are now discussing?
§ Mr. MacLeod
With all respect, I think it is very largely connected with it. This is the sort of thing which goes on under State management at the present time, and will continue to go on if this Bill is not passed.
As a matter of fact, it was suggested by the late Government that there should be a new town at Invergordon, in my constituency. They made out a case for a new town there, and some plans may even have been drawn up, but I do not think they got much further. Let us suppose that there were a new town established at Invergordon. What 1211 would happen to these controlled hotels within that area? I should like to know, because I certainly would advocate that there should be a new town at Invergordon. I hope we shall eventually have one there, and draw off some of the surplus population from the industrial areas. Should that development take place, what will happen to the controlled hotels in that area?
I do not want to delay the House any longer, but I wanted to point out these facts, and to show that these unhappy conditions exist in the area of Ross and Cromarty, where we have nationalised hotels.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I could not gather what was the relevance of the speech of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. J. MacLeod) to the provisions of this Bill. I do not think that the hon. Member has a new town in his division. I have; Glen Rothes is a developing mining town in the division of West Fife, and I want to underline some of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn).
I believe that we could have wasted a lot of time in this Second Reading debate in discussing the respective merits and demerits of State as opposed to private ownership of public houses, but I do not think that that issue is involved. Certainly, this is controversial legislation, and I believe that public opinion in the new towns would be a very close reflection of the political loyalties of the people concerned. I believe that, if a census were taken in Glen Rothes, for instance, there is no doubt that the people would oppose this Bill. I do not think that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will challenge me on that, but, if he does, I invite him to go there, because it is not far from his own division, West Fife.
Indeed, the Glen Rothes Development Corporation opposes this Bill. They want State development and State control of licensed premises in Glen Rothes. Why is that? They believe that these new towns—and this was the argument advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—are being developed for the welfare of the people in them, and that the last consideration involved was any question of 1212 private profit for anyone. Yet, now that these new towns are being developed to a considerable degree, we have this Conservative Government saying, "All right, now we have got the development, let us make some profit at the public expense." That is what it amounts to, and I believe that this is basically a fight on that principle.
It was asserted during the Second Reading debate on the Bill introduced in 1948 that the Labour Government had no mandate for doing what they did, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now Home Secretary said at that time that there was not a word about it in "Let Us Face the Future." I believe that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) also said something on the same lines, indicating that we had no mandate. Well, I want to ask the present Government where is their mandate?
Incidentally, I might remark in passing that the Liberal Party, represented by the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), dutifully knelt before its Tory leaders at that time, and that the Liberal Party went into the Lobby against the Labour Government. As far as I could see, their only argument at that time was that the Labour Government had no mandate for the Measure. I submit that the present Government have no mandate for this Measure, and that the majority of people in Scotland will oppose it, and certainly the people of my own town of Glen Rothes.
Assuming that the Bill receives a Second Reading, I want to speak on behalf of the corporation of Glen Rothes concerning one or two safeguards, remembering all the time that they are opposed to the principle of the Bill, and that they object to it on many grounds.
First, they want to know how existing licensed premises are to be dealt with, because there appears to be no provision for them in the Bill. Secondly, they want to know whether there is to be one committee for each new town area, or whether, in fact, there will be one committee that might serve two towns. Even on the assumption that there is to be one committee for each town, the corporation will not have a majority of members on the committee. They are to have half the membership, with the other half appointed from other sources, with an 1213 independent chairman having no voting powers, except that of giving a casting vote. The corporation would like to see incorporated in the Bill a guarantee which would ensure that they would have a majority on the committee itself. Surely, this is fundamental, if all the amenities of the new towns are to be planned by the corporation which was set up for the purpose.
The third objection which the corporation have is to the provision that the development corporation, as far as they can interpret this Measure, have to pay the expenses of the committee. They must provide accommodation, secretarial facilities and that kind of thing for this committee at a time when the Government are pledged to build 50 per cent. more houses per year than the Labour Government. They have to provide all this accommodation and pay all the expenses of the committee.
We should not forget, of course, the schools that are not now to be built. "Pubs before schools"—that is the motto of the party opposite; and profits before everything. That is what we are discussing tonight, and let nobody be under any delusion about it. We on this side of the House have no vested interests. None of us need declare an interest before making a speech. I have no interest. Indeed, if I had my way I would put a bomb under the Smoke Room and the pub in this building.
The only people with whom I am concerned are the people of Glen Rothes, and I am sure those people do not want private interests to come in. After all, they are a mining community and know what private interests do. They do not want them to interfere with a publicly developed institution and take out profits from that community. I can assure the House that the people of Glen Rothes will organise opposition to this Measure, and I shall certainly play my part in organising it.
I am convinced that the moral aspects of this matter are typical of the Tory approach to what is, after all, a social problem with which we are dealing this evening. The party opposite are approaching it in the way in which the Tory Party always approach these things. Their main consideration is how much can those with vested interests in the brewing industry get out of it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
I intend to detain the House for only a few minutes in dealing with the Scottish problems associated with this Measure, and I will attempt to reply quickly to the points raised by hon. Members opposite and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod).
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) began by complaining that the Bill included Scotland. He said that there ought either to have been a Scottish Bill or that this Bill should not have applied to Scotland at all. The best answer to the right hon. Gentleman was provided by his right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) when this matter was last discussed. Let me read to the right hon. Gentleman what his own right hon. Friend said in 1949, when precisely this point was raised:The three last licensing Acts, the Licensing Act, 1921, the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1923, and the Licensing ((Permitted Hours) Act, 1934, have been United Kingdom Measures. So I think it is desirable that where we can we should have United Kingdom Measures on this matter. We are not breaking fresh ground, but are following the most recent precedents, when we deal with England and Wales and Scotland in the same Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 339.]If that was right then, I do not see how it can be wrong now. In fact, this is a matter which affects our two countries more or less in the same way. Of course, the results are not precisely the same. Our methods in Scotland are different, as I will point out, but the broad principle is the same.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Gentleman will surely agree that on nearly every Bill that came before the House—certainly during my term of office—his hon. Friends rose and complained that there was not a separate Bill for Scotland. Why this sudden conversion even to the point of view of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), a view with which I do not necessarily agree? Why are the party opposite so slavishly imitating him and the previous Government when they so violently protested against what was being done at the time?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is a fair point, but if the right hon. Gentleman looks at 1215 the Bill he will see that its application to Scotland is compressed into a relatively small part of the Measure. There is very little in it actually, and I do not think we should have been justified in departing from the normal practice of the House in this particular matter. In other cases I am as anxious, and have always been as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman that a Scottish Bill should be produced, but not unless it is necessary, and I do not think it is in this case.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked who was consulted. I might as well ask him whom he consulted when he brought forward the previous Bills. Did he consult the people and the bodies whose names he listed? We have to take account of the public interest, and have done so, but we also have to act according to the principles upon which we won the Election, and that is the answer to the question about the mandate. Nobody in the country was in any doubt at all at the last Election—I am sure the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) was not—that we stood wherever possible for the abolition of nationalised enterprises. This was one of them.
Hon. Members opposite have really very little right to press this matter. Nobody knew what they wanted to do. They had very confused thoughts upon it, and, apparently, they could not arrive at any proper conclusion. Indeed, they had all the attributes of that strange machine, the utiliser, about which we beard this afternoon, a machine which, I understand, mixes things together and turns out neither one thing nor the other in the end. That is what the party opposite did.
§ Mr. Stewart
The party opposite have no policy at all. They had no policy at the Election, and they did not tell the country where they stood. We did.
§ Mr. John Wheatley (Edinburgh, East)
The hon. Gentleman has said that this was part of the Tory Party's Election policy in Scotland. Will he mention one Tory candidate in Scotland who, at the General Election, included in his Election address or campaign the denationalisation of these establishments?
§ Mr. J. MacLeod
I was heckled at one of my Election meetings on this very point and I said I hoped that controlled hotels in the area would be denationalised.
§ Mr. Wheatley
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would explain whether he was then a Liberal, an Independent Liberal, a National Liberal or a Tory candidate?
§ Mr. MacLeod
I was then standing as a National Liberal, and I am as good a Liberal as any in this House.
§ Mr. Stewart
When the party opposite have composed their own quarrels they will then be justified in searching for invisible breaches on this side.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite put several questions to me. The first was about the control to be exercised by these new joint committees. With respect, I think the right hon. Gentleman may have got it a little confused. Let me try to put it as I understand it. The joint committee in each of the two new towns in Scotland—and I rather fancy there will be a separate committee in each town—
§ Mr. Stewart
I am just telling the hon. Gentleman that I rather expect there will be. Indeed, I cannot imagine that anything else would be done. The joint committee in each town will consider whether and where as the town develops there should be a hotel, a restaurant and a public house. That joint committee is composed of representatives of the corporation and members of the licensing court. Therefore, it has both views represented on it.
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn), as I understood him, pressed hard for the strengthening of the position of the licensing court. It is there at the very centre. They come to the conclusion that there should be so many hotels and restaurants, and perhaps attached to them bowling greens, and so many public houses situated here and there and the licensing court members on that joint committee have presumably agreed.
1217 That scheme is then published and advertised in the Press. Everybody knows about it. There is nothing hole and corner about it at all. Objections can be made by anybody, including the police. Those objections and proposals are put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who can confirm, alter or reject them. At that point again the police can come in, if they so choose, and exercise all the authority they used to do.
My right hon. Friend ultimately confirms the scheme. It is then that the licensing court, quite apart from this joint committee, exercises its authority in granting the licences. But it does not grant licences except to people whose circumstances it has examined with the greatest care to discover whether they are the right kind of people or whether the public house, hotel or restaurant, will be of the right kind. I can assure the right hon. Member for East Stirling that his fears should be set aside. The right hon. Member raised the question whether there is any change in the law as applied to persons under 21 years of age. There is no change in the law. No licence can be granted to anyone under 21 years of age. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members for Scotland will feel reasonably satisfied on that score.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I raised the very important point that under this Bill there is no onus on the applicant to show need, as is the case under the present licensing Act. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether that is the case or not?
§ Mr. Stewart
It is quite true that there is a change, but the question whether there is need is a question to be discussed and settled by the new joint committee. I submit that that method of the joint committee is far more effective and safer, from the temperance point of view, in ensuring that there is really a need.
§ Mr. Manuel
I think we all agree that the new towns corporation should have certain safeguarding powers. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that under this Bill it is possible for the committee to be outvoted on the question of the new town sites by other interests?
§ Mr. Stewart
As hon. Members know, the committee is based on a 50–50 repre- 1218 sentation of two bodies, with an independent chairman. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Fife, West, that the Glenrothes Corporation and, indeed, the other corporation feel they should have a majority on the committee. It may also be the point in the mind of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). But the committee is a balanced affair with an independent chairman. if any one section of the committee, let us say the new town corporation, were dissatisfied with the conclusion, they would be free to make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and he would be ready to consider them at any time.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that in new towns, where all development should be under the control of a development corporation, the corporation should have a majority on the committee?
§ Mr. Stewart
What am I to do? The hon. Member for Fife, West, wishes to give greater power to the new town corporations and therefore less power to the licensing courts. But his right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling was more concerned to make it the other way. He was concerned lest the licensing authority's influence would be weakened. We have balanced the thing as reasonably as any set of human beings can balance it.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Under the existing law the licensing court is entitled to take all circumstances into account, but under the proposed new law they are confined to satisfying themselves that three conditions laid down in the Bill are satisfied.
§ Mr. Stewart
We must see, of course, how this works out, but our considered view—and we have taken advice—is that all circumstances will be considered and will be better and more effectively considered by this new joint body than they otherwise would be.
§ Mr. Ross
Under the Bill a development corporation whose representation on this new committee is unanimously opposed to the site or to the type of accommodation that is being established on a site can be outvoted. Despite the unanimous opposition of the development corporation the proposal can go through.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am trying to be fair to hon. Members. That is a theoretical position, but what is likely to happen in practice? Here is a committee of reasonable Scotsmen and women. Half of them are justices of the peace and members of the licensing courts. They are our own friends whom we know and whom we trust to understand these matters. The other half represent the corporation. They consider whether there should be three, four, or five hotels and they come to the conclusion that they should be erected on certain sites. I do not think it is likely that there will be this harsh division of opinion between the two sides of the committee. But if there were, either side is free to make representations to my right hon. Friend, and he will not confirm the scheme until he satisfies himself that what is proposed is reasonable. He may very well sanction a change or amendment of the scheme.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty, whose intervention was, I thought, extremely helpful, brought some useful facts to the notice of the House. He brought out the fact that in those areas where there are State-run pubs there is not all that unanimity of praise we had been led to understand existed. I see the right hon. Member for South Shields has come back into the Chamber and I might take up now the point he made that under this Bill every new establishment erected in a new town would, from now on, be a tied house.
With very great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he could not have known anything about Scottish conditions when he made such a statement because out of all the public houses and hotels in Scotland fewer than½ per cent. were tied houses according to the last information from the Royal Commission of 1931. I am not aware that there has been any change in the situation since, but if hon. Members have other figures to give let us have them.
The tied house is a thing we scarcely know at all in Scotland and I have no reason to believe that there will be tied houses in these new towns. It will be for the corporations and the licensing courts—I have no doubt they will act together—to see that these new houses and hotels are in the best hands avail- 1220 able; and no doubt they will make them as independent as they can.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty said, and here again I am sorry to say that the right hon. Gentleman was at fault, in Gretna and in Cromarty, it may also be so in Carlisle, there is not one independent house nor has there even been an independent house since the State took control. There cannot be an independent house without the authority of the Secretary of State and never once has that authority been given. If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong in that respect as well. There is not one. As for Invergordon becoming a new town, there is no thought in the mind of the Government at present of anything of that kind.
The hon. Member for Fife, West, said he thought that if a census could be taken at Glen Rothes the people there would be opposed to this Bill. The hon. Member is entitled to take that view if he chooses; it is in his constituency, but he knows that Glen Rothes is only in its very early stages. There are not a great many people there, so that that does not mean very much. We hope that it may have a population of 10,000 or more; and if there had been 10,000 people there the hon. Member's evidence might have been worth while, but I do not think that in the circumstances it means very much.
We have taken such opinion and advice as we can obtain, and we are certain that what we are doing is right. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member say that Glen Rothes Corporation were against this Bill. I know that both there and in East Kilbride the corporation are opposed, as I have said, to the 50–50 proposal. But I think, and I very much hope that Members in all parts of the House who represent Scotland will, in the end, agree, that by balancing the licensing interests, which are of enormous importance, and the planning interests, which are also important, this system may well be the best.
I have dealt with the point about a single committee for each town. I have dealt with the matter of the majority. The only other point that remains concerns the payment of expenses by the corporation. I imagine that my Scottish friends on both sides of the House would agree that the corporation ought to provide the facilities—office accommodation, etc.—for this important committee.
1221 I am not here to speak about English conditions; but I agree with the right hon. Member for East Stirling that on this matter of licensing and the drink trade there is the strongest and deepest sentiment in Scotland. I was brought up in all the surroundings of a temperance household and tradition. I understand it. I represent a constituency which has taken a very prominent part, through the church and in other directions, in advancing the cause of temperance. I fully understand all that, and the last thing that the Government would seek to do would be to affront the Scottish people in that matter.
Our desire is that of the right hon. Member for East Stirling, that this function of the new towns shall be performed with the greatest possible care and good judgment, that we shall take the best advice, that we shall try to ensure the most attractive buildings and that the service provided in those buildings, not only drink, not only food but other refreshments also, shall be such that those buildings will be places where any of us could, if we wished, take our wives and children, if we thought that way. I do not think that way, but there may he others who do.
That is what we are aiming at, to get the drink trade away from its unhappy past. If men must drink—and we know they do—let us ensure, and this is the purpose of the Government, that they may drink in conditions of which our country may at least be proud.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
The interlude in the debate, which has been filled by Scottish Members in an interesting way, has, I hope, thrown light on the fact that things in Scotland are different from what they are here in respect of the matter under discussion. There are many differences. They have the Scottish Temperance Act, and they are proud in Scotland to call it by that name. Legislation and public opinion there are of such a character that this Government have not dared, in the legislation before us, to interfere with the operations of the Scottish Temperance Act.
I will not attempt to interfere in Scottish affairs more than to say that the extent to which the new town areas can be made to utilise the advantages that 1222 are available under the Scottish Temperance Act will be a way of providing protection for the more decent attitude in Scotland against the machinations of this Bill.
I turn to what I call the machinations of the Government or of the trade. This is an old story. The venal and furtive pressure of the liquor trade on pliant Governments, particularly Conservative Governments, is a well-known story. Nobody has commented upon it more vigorously than the present Leader of the Tory Party. If I have time, I hope I may be allowed to quote the Leader of the Conservative Party, the present Prime Minister.
Some things have been said tonight about the way the Bill has been brought about; indeed, that is the main issue before us. The provisions of the Bill have their own importance, but nothing like the importance of the revelations which we have had tonight about the way in which the Tory Central Office works in matters of this sort. I find it difficult to say all that is in my mind about this subject in front of the Home Secretary, because I admire him and reciprocate the very kindly words he uses about me; but he is a member of a dreadful party. He has given me information tonight which I am sure he believes, but which has been shown to be quite mistaken.
Lord Woolton did not, certainly in the places where he should have made statements, say anything about this Bill so that the Government might be judged by the people who were voting at the General Election. Lord Woolton, apparently knowing nothing about it—I do not intend to read his private letter —had left it to the Tory Central Office to make statements about what the Tory Government would do if they were returned in a General Election.
I have hunted carefully through all the records. I have had the assistance of churches and temperance societies in hunting through all their records. I find that the newspapers also were hot on the trail. They joined in the hue and cry. One might almost have thought they had got a scent of red meat again. None of them could find what Lord Woolton had said.
1223 It is true that my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary told the House that there was an unofficial statement—one that I have never heard of before—which was not published in any prominent place until the Election was over. Out comes Mr. Percey to tell an audience in the Isle of Wight what would happen if we had a Conservative Government. There are a lot of people besides Mr. Percey's friends in the liquor trade who are interested in the vote that ought to be cast on a matter of this sort. The churches are very interested in the matter; they are as interested as my friends in Scotland. The temperance societies are very interested. They had a right to know before the Election if this matter was to be made the important issue which it has proved to be.
We can postpone Budgets apparently, but not this question. We can put off all that we promised about steel. We are not dealing with the explicit promises made about transport. There is a whole series of very vital issues dealing with health, schools and children. They are all postponed or not introduced. But this Measure on licensed houses—yes, this is the thing. I repeat that, as has happened before—I am not including the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this —the liquor trade knows that it has got its agents—the potmen of the Tory Cabinet.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has spent some time in saying that he did not give the liquor trade all they wanted. But he has given them enough in this Bill to satisfy them entirely. It is not good enough to say that there was in existence a type of legislation which it was better to follow than the legislation which my right hon. Friend introduced—the legislation following on the Morris Report. I was temporarily outside the House in those days, but I was a very interested observer and I sat in the box allowed to the public to watch all the proceedings. I understood the validity of that Bill. It was justified by the special circumstances of the blitzed areas, the overspill areas as they came to be known. It was put forward by a Coalition Government that hoped it had got public opinion behind it. It was only a few months before the General Election, and it found it had not got any public opinion behind it. In fact 1224 that Bill was no indication at all of public support.
I suggest that a far better type of legislation was that which followed the frank proposal of the Royal Commission that there should be an experimental extension of the Carlisle scheme which, it is said—I do not altogether agree—had been successful enough to justify a further extension. Although the Royal Commission made recommendations about this matter, the Conservative Party following 1931, when the Report was made, always took the line—and particularly Sir John Simon at Question time in the House, and even when Measures were introduced here —that they could not stand for a piecemeal approach to the licensing problem, that there ought to be a complete frontal approach to this problem which was presented by the whole of the licensing conditions in the country.
I thought there was some sense in that view. It is right, if this matter is so important, that if we are going to do something we should not nibble at it. The Labour Government was justified because it found the brewers nibbling at it anyhow in the new towns, and if they had not taken action in the new towns the brewers would have gone off with the whole of the swag before anything could have been done about it.
But even that does not justify this continued neglect by all parties in this House of the problem that confronts us. The problem is twofold. It is represented by the expenditure on drink last year and the year before—in these difficult years. We hear talk about a financial crisis, but in 1949 the expenditure on drink was £719 million and, in 1950, £727 million. As far as we can make out, in 1951 the amount was about the same —a little less on beer, but more on spirits and wine.
This problem is represented by the wholesale diversion of badly needed food such as sugar and grains which could be used for feedingstuffs and which this House is constantly discussing. It is a problem represented by repeated accidents on the roads and the Lord Chief Justice pronouncing in favour of imprisonment and all sorts of extreme penalties because of what is taking place.
It is a problem represented by the return of drunkenness, as my right hon. 1225 Friend the Member for South Shields said, which we thought was disappearing. In 1946 the number of drunkenness convictions was down to 20,000 for the year. In 1950, only four years afterwards, there were 47,000. In 1951 Chief Constables were already reporting to their watch committees that, as far as they could see, the increase was continuing.
It is all very well the right hon. and learned Gentleman talking about what the liquor trade has done in improving its houses. What has it done to lessen the drunkenness statistics? The Royal Commission surveyed all this and came to certain conclusions about it. It said that there ought to be set up a new central national licensing authority which would have better powers in levying the trade and in continuing the work of clearing out redundant licences which for years the Tory Party admitted was a great problem in this country. It is a problem, that, to use a phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister represented horrid havoc.
That was what the Prime Minister once said about the liquor trade. What did the Tories set out to do in 1904? If anyone doubts it they may find a recital of the facts in paragraph 115 of the Report of the Royal Commission. The Tories, through their leaders, set out to bring about a reduction of licences in this country from 99,000, as they then were, by 48,000—at the rate of 2,500 a year. They passed their legislation, but they never got a reduction of 2,500 in any year. They exceeded 2,000 in one year only. They are now in the neighbourhood of only 300 a year reduction.
The position has got steadily worse and today, instead of having a reduction of 48,000, which the Tory Party agreed ought to be brought about, they have got something like 64,000 licences. I think that is the figure to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) referred. Now there is an addition of all those institutions which my other hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville), persisted in recommending—the registered clubs, to which we should also add innumerable bottle shops and licensed restaurants, with heaven knows what, to meet his requirements.
There are now far more drinking institutions in this country than there were when the Tory Party, with honesty in the 1226 matter, began to deal with this licensing problem. The Royal Commission was right in its recommendation to establish a national licensing commission, which could have dealt with these new towns and which could have hurried up the backward areas, where magistrates were doing nothing. Something of that sort was called for. To have carried that plan through would have been a problem of statesmanship. The Labour Party did not adopt the line of a national licensing commission, but it took one part of the recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission. It is the part that I like least, but at any rate it did not neglect its duty.
The line that the Royal Commission suggested is not what is being proposed today. I know there is an expectation that I shall be greatly embarrassed by the vote that I shall record tonight in that I shall appear to be supporting this idea of the extension of the Carlisle experiment. In principle, I do not stand for the nationalisation of those things which bring curses in their train instead of blessings. I stand for the nationalisation of coal, because it is a good thing to extend the production of coal and we all thank God today that we can say, "More, more and more coal." Apparently there is an hon. Gentleman—who has now departed—the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) who has been half suggesting tonight that it would be a good thing, too, to extend the production and consumption of beer. At any rate, the licensing legislation of the Tory Party in 1904, which aimed at a reduction of 48,000 licences, was not thinking about a considerable increase—
§ Mr. Hudson
To the extent that I could persuade the miners to leave liquor alone I would prove a better advertisement for increased production of coal than ever the hon. Gentleman will be. I will leave it at that.
§ Mr. Glanville
The miners are doing better now than ever before. I did my level best for a great number of years, but I was associated with a great deal of consumption as well as production. Although this does not appertain to the matters before the House at the moment, if my hon. Friend will only go down- 1227 stairs with me and have one night's good "booze-up" he will feel better for it.
§ Mr. Hudson
I will leave that to my hon. Friend. I hope, in time, to convince him of the truth of what I am saying. We shall have to leave it to impartial authority to judge who is the better advertisement of his cause—my hon. Friend or myself.
The Tory Party, about which I have spoken with reference to its past in 1904, had some sense of the importance of what I am dealing with now. Immediately before the Election there was a request by the churches and the temperance movement to the leaders of the three main parties to meet a deputation to discuss with them what reasonable line could be taken about what was admitted by everybody to be a problem.
My right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary, made a public statement about the size of the drink bill. The present Foreign Secretary, on one occasion, drew attention in the House to the wasteful expenditure on drink. The Chairman of the Liberal Party has emphasised the same view. The temperance movement and the churches said "Here are good men, of good will, in all parties, facing up to this, up to a point. What are they advocating should be done?" The Prime Minister did not meet them, but he appointed the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to take his place.
I will not recite the Chancellor's statements. They were very interesting, and he gave us a frank talk without committing himself. He had to see other members of his party. From that very friendly interview one would have thought that we were safeguarded from what actually happened—this Tory Central Office statement—but we were not. The trade was told precisely what it might expect. We were told that the matter we had raised would be talked over by the party and they hoped that something might be done about it.
At that interview the case for the churches was put by the Lord Bishop of Rochester. He put his case not as I would, naturally. I am speaking in terms of great respect about the way in which he did put his case, but it was different from the way I would have put it. The Bishop said there were many people who 1228 voted temperance today who wanted to vote Conservative—he would not include me—and he wanted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell him and the churches something that would encourage this large body of temperance people to vote that way.
Does anyone on the benches opposite imagine, after all that has been revealed tonight about the private talks with the trade and about leaving the matter to officials in the Tory Party Central Office, that they are making a good case to persuade keen Church people and temperance people to vote Conservative? During the discussion with the churches and temperance deputation, somebody said that Professor Trevelyan had referred in one of his books to the fact that the Tories were traditionally in the pockets of the trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was a little indignant about it. He said, "That is not true now, it was only the statement of a Whig."
I want him to look at the statement of another Whig—and this time I will answer the request for quotations. I do not know whether one would call the author of the following quotation a Whig, but he went to Nottingham one day to tell the people there that.As for intemperance, the Tory Party had no policy except to make sure of the public house vote.That was the Prime Minister. How do hon. Members think he would make sure? How do they think he thought the Tories made sure of the public house vote? Something which he said at Manchester, in the same period, provides the answer, when he said that the Tories stood forthe open hand at the Exchequer and the open door at the public house.Speaking of Mr. Balfour's Government, he had some not very nice things to say. As I have said tonight, I could find something to recommend in that attitude which Mr. Balfour's Government adopted towards the need for reducing the number of licences. But, speaking of Mr. Balfour's Government the Prime Minister saidThey had a capacity to sneer at every philanthropic enthusiasm while flinging sops from time to time to brewers and other of their friends.That is the view of a Whig whose opinions still count with the Tory Party. I submit 1229 that what has taken place about Lord Woolton and the unknown official in the Tory Party head office will emphasise to all thinking people what I have been saying.
I will make only one more quotation from the speeches of the Prime Minister, because I have taken too much time. It is a famous quotation; I do not know how many hon. Members have heard it. He said that the problem that faced them was the problem ofa brewer's dray blocking the road of progress.That was very well put. I should think it was a brewer's dray which went full tilt into the middle of the Tory Central Office, blocking "The Right Road for Britain."
I must come to a close. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I want to say a word or two about that vast pretence of the thirsting millions who back up the trade in anything which the trade demands. The hon. Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), told us what she knows of her constituency in this respect, as have hon. Members from Scotland. But there are not as many people at the back of the trade as there used to be. I hold in my hand a copy of the book which was quoted by almost everybody in the General Election. The Tories quoted it wholesale, and we certainly quoted it. It is "English Life and Leisure," by Mr. Seebohm Rowntree and Mr. G. R. Lavers.
There is a reference in that book to "Research Services" and what they discovered about the drinking habits of the people. They say, on the basis of a very wide series of examples examined, that only 8.7 per cent. of the people drink a pint of beer a day or more and that 45 per cent never drink beer at all.
In the case of wines and spirits, the percentage is bigger—22 per cent. drink less than one glass a week and 11½ per cent. drink one glass a week, so that my hon. Friend the Member for Consett has had no influence. About 70 per cent. of the people either do not drink at all or drink intoxicating beverage very rarely. It is the 8.7 per cent., supported so strongly 'by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett, who lead the Tories to think—and, I am sorry to say, lead my hon. Friend to think so, too—that there is a tremendous demand for the extension of drinking facili- 1230 ties and that we must proceed very warily and carefully in the licensing legislation with which we deal. I think precisely the opposite.
In conclusion, I believe that the new towns presented an opportunity to all of us to give a chance to people, who very often have not had much of a chance in the crowded cities in which they lived, to climb to better levels and to live better lives. Those who take drink will agree with me—and I do not touch drink—that there are many people who take it and who would be glad if something could happen to help them to take less. I meet them every day. I suppose it is my reward—the greatest reward I can expect in life—that, out of the modest stand I take on this matter men of all political parties make known to me how the struggle against these habits still goes on amongst all manner of people.
It would have been a good thing to make alcohol less freely available in the new towns, to put it under the most careful restrictions. I was not sure that my right hon. Friend's Bill, with its use of the Carlisle experiment, would do what I wanted, but I was willing to try it and I wanted to see safeguards adopted. I persuaded everybody I could, and they were at work on it, building up advisory committees, so as to create an opinion which would help people who would like to struggle against the habits which conquer them.
Toryism need not be entirely deaf to that appeal. I know, when I talk to the Home Secretary, that I can get his sympathy on this matter. Toryism ought to be adopting a different line at every turn in this matter, if it wants to hold the intelligence of the people for the purposes of its proposals, if for no other reason. Toryism ought to be interested in this, and certainly we in this party ought to be interested. I once told Mr. Gallacher, who was formerly a Member of this House, that even the Russians had a clearer vision on this matter than some of us. It was Lenin who once said that the way back to Capitalism from Socialism was the way of alcohol, and he laid down a very strong rule for himself. I wish more people in this House would lay down a similar rule. I think that it would be a better guide and a better stimulus for sobriety than this legislation which Toryism has brought in.
1231 I wish we could all take a stronger stand about this evil of the drink trade, of the drink habit, with its drunkenness, its accidents, its crime, its lunacy and its poverty. We try to do our duty in respect of the Health Service and in providing for the children of the country. We should then make a better contribution to making that better world we already try to make by our other efforts here. I ask for the reconsideration of this Bill, and I hope that even now the Government will be able to withdraw it.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Hitchin)
We have all listened with respect to the views of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). We respect his sincerity and the opinions which he expresses on these occasions. He mentioned in the first part of his speech this matter of the mandate, and I hope to answer that during my speech. On the general temperance issue, I am afraid that we shall just have to agree—I hope with mutual respect—to differ.
It seems to me that the salient point of this Bill is that it repeals Part I of the 1949 Act, which would have deprived considerable numbers of people of the right to choose their own beer—or certainly, their own draught beer—and would have deprived them of the right to choose where to drink it. Of course, I fully admit that that was not the object of the Act; but that was, in fact, what would have been the effect of it. Therefore, that Act—quite rightly, in my opinion—was extremely unpopular with the people most concerned, that is to say, with the residents in the areas of the new towns.
It was particularly unpopular in Hertfordshire, which was, perhaps, the county most affected by it, and it was especially unpopular in my own constituency in which is situated the new town of Stevenage. Indeed, it was so unpopular there that my predecessor in the representation of the Hitchin division—quite rightly, I thought—spoke and voted against his own party and against his own Government on the Second Reading of that Bill in 1948. I remember the stalwart speeches he made at that time up and down North Hertfordshire. I was doing the same, but, of course, I was 1232 expected to do it, and he was not, so he derived—and I am very glad he did derive—a lot of credit for his courage and for the resolute way in which he represented the views of the constituency.
There was at that time no public demand for that Act whatever. Very much the reverse. Certainly there was no demand in the new towns for it, and such attempts as were made at that time to ascertain public feeling revealed tremendous majorities against the Act of 1949. That was so in Stevenage, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, and Harlow, where 50 per cent. of the electorate at that time there, voted. It worked out at 110 in favour and over 2,000 against.
We heard a lot of noise in the House today when the Minister of Food was answering Questions about State buying. I can assure hon. Members that, whatever they may feel about State buying, my constituents feel just as strongly—much more strongly—about State beer. They dislike the very idea of State beer. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have never had it."] I said the idea. My constituents fervently hope that they will never be asked to swallow what might—horrible thought! —what might even have come to be called "Attlee Mild" or "Bevan Bitter" or possibly "Shinwell Shandy." They do not want that sort of thing.
I believe that the decision to bring in this Bill will be supported by the residents, actual and prospective, in the new towns, by the local authorities, by the development corporations, which—of course, I stand to be corrected on this point by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—which, I believe, were not consulted before the passing of the Act of 1949, and I think, by the public as a whole, who have always disliked the Act of 1949, quite irrespective of their normal party political allegiance, because, of course, this is not and should not be a political matter.
On this question of the brewers, which has been so much referred to today, hon. Members opposite seem to see something sinister about what has gone on behind this Bill. They are seething with synthetic indignation, but it is based on the totally false premise that this Bill has been engineered by the brewing industry. I do not want—I think it may be disrespectful 1233 of me to do so—to deal with the rather unfortunate implication, as I think, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields that Lord Woolton or the Conservative Party were bribed—because that was the effect of what the right hon. Gentleman said—to form or change their policy at the behest of the brewers.
§ Mr. Thomas Price (Westhoughton)
Will the hon. Gentleman dispose of the suggestion or imputation or whatever he may call it by urging that the Conservative Party should publish their balance sheets to show what money, if any, comes from the brewing industry to finance the operations of the Tory Party?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Can the hon. Gentleman name any time this century when the Tory Party have not been hand in glove with the brewers?
§ Mr. Fisher
The only evidence we have had so far—the only shred of evidence produced to this House today—has been, I think, the reference by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), who referred back to 1904, and even then did not suggest any pecuniary arrangement.
§ Mr. Fisher
I cannot go into that. I would refute any suggestion of its being my own paper. That is rather like saying, "My own brewers." I cannot agree.
§ Mr. Glanville
Would the hon. Gentleman use his influence, if any, with the Conservative Central Office to persuade it to publish its balance sheets to clear away the suspicions that exist in the minds of all of us that the Conservative Party are financed largely by the brewers of this country?
§ Mr. Fisher
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion, but he has not produced any evidence for it. I thought 1234 that the imputation that the right hon. Gentleman made was an unfortunate one, and it was, I think, rather unworthy of him, because he is usually so fair in his speeches. I do not think that there is a word of truth in this allegation. I do not think that any convincing evidence—
§ Mr. Fisher
To be perfectly frank, I have absolutely no idea. Nor has the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not know anything about these hypothetical payments of which the hon. and learned Gentleman talks.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am coming to the point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I shall explain why we introduced the Bill, but so far as I know it was not at the behest of the brewers. I hold no brief for the brewers. They have no doubt a very good case, but they can argue it for themselves. I have not encountered in this House or outside any of this so-called "brewers' lobby." I have never been approached by any firm of brewers or by anyone acting on their behalf. I do not want to deal with this matter from the brewers' point of view. They can look after themselves. I want to deal with it from the point of view of the consumer and of my constituency.
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that when the original Bill was being introduced, all the brewers in the country supplied every public house with propaganda against it?
§ Mr. Fisher
I expect out of their profits. I believe in profits. I want now to deal with the question of the mandate, to which the hon. Member for Ealing, North, and the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch referred. They both took the line that we have not a mandate for the Bill because it was not in our Election manifesto. That argument is not quite good enough. Had the late Government the faintest mandate for the 1949 Act? There was nothing about it in "Let us Face the Future," or in the New Towns Act, and so far as I know it has never been discussed at a Labour Party Conference. The right hon. Member for South Shields had no mandate from his own party, let alone from the public or from the residents in the new towns.
As was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), expressly rejected the argument during the Second Reading debate in December, 1948, that a Government must have an electoral mandate for every Measure they introduce. It is a fair point to make, and it was a fair answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave on that point. If it was a valid reply to the argument when given by the right hon. Gentleman, that reply must still be valid today. If this mandate argument has any validity, its only significance can be, not whether the proposal was in our respective election manifestoes but whether we made our intentions clear to the electorate at the time.
The party opposite did not make their intentions clear, either in 1945 or later, and not even in the Gracious Speech before their Measure was introduced. We certainly made our intentions clear in 1951. We vigorously opposed their Bill on its Second and Third Readings. The OFFICIAL REPORT leaves no doubt where we stood on that occasion. The present Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking in another place, said:We shall take the first opportunity that is afforded to us to amend the Bill, and to abolish all the State management areas and the arbitrary powers which the Socialist Minister seeks to take on himself.Nothing could be clearer than that. During the last General Election we again made our position clear. We categorically said that we favoured repeal of State management, and that was reported in the national newspapers in early October. 1236 On 23rd October, just before polling day, the Minister of State for the Colonies stated, in the "Morning Advertiser," that we should definitely repeal Part I of the Act. In a speech at Stevenage on 8th October, I told my own constituents, who were most anxious about this whole matter:If you re-elect the Socialist Government you will have State pubs whether you like them or not. If you elect a Tory Government you will not have them. The Act will never be implemented.That was a fairly straightforward statement, which I should never have ventured to make unless I was pretty confident about our party policy. I have no doubt that many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House said the same sort of thing during the Election.
I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite declared their intentions with such clearness. I very much doubt whether they did. The Act of 1949 was not very popular. We are all human, and at election times hon. Members are very interested in votes. The Act was not a vote winner. I should think that if hon. Gentlemen opposite searched their hearts they would admit that if they thought of this issue at all during the Election, they felt that silence was sometimes more golden than the best State beer ever brewed in Britain. Not only was there no mandate for the 1949 Act, but there was no rhyme or reason for it.
There had at least been a good reason for the Carlisle experiment. There was a large increase in population because of the setting up of a munitions factory in Carlisle during the First World War, and there was a very serious increase in drunkenness which was affecting the making of munitions. Mr. Lloyd George, who was not given to curtailing liberty, had to curtail the liberties of the people of Carlisle in order to curtail that drunkenness and to further the war effort. No one suggests today that there is an increase in drunkenness in the new towns or in the country as a whole. I believe that the temperance and sobriety of the nation are as marked today as at any time in our history.
§ Mr. Fisher
They are very much lower now than they were at an earlier period. It is not a very serious trend. I do not 1237 want to see the figures increase any more than does the hon. Gentleman. Circumstances were very different at the beginning of the Carlisle experiment. There seems no reason for the 1949 Measure except, presumably—I am not going to make a party jibe because I genuinely think that this is the real reason—the doctrinaire desire of the Labour Party to create another State monopoly.
That is a principle that we reject and always have rejected. It is one of the reasons we opposed the 1949 Measure and support the present Bill. We believe in freedom of choice for the consumer to select for himself the beer he prefers to drink, and the sort of public house in which he prefers to drink it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have that support from the Opposition.
Many people dislike large modern public houses. There are one or two where the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) lives and they are very attractive in their way. They are large and well-ventilated, and they have an air of great quality. But many people still prefer the small, old-fashioned inn, perhaps lacking in many modern amenities but possessing a charm and character, a homeliness and a friendliness of its own, that should be respected.
It is often said that the poor man's pub is his club, and he should be allowed to choose what sort of club he likes. The right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) is a member of White's and we should not deny to anyone the liberty to choose the surroundings in which to take his leisure. To my mind it was the greatest impertinence on the part of the party opposite to dictate to the people in the new towns how and in what atmosphere they should spend their leisure and what they should drink and where they should drink it. It was a quite unwarranted interference with the liberty and freedom of choice of the individual. It is high time that a British Government restored to the British people this traditional British freedom.
There are some Election promises which, owing to the calamitous financial position which we inherited from the party opposite, we have not yet implemented. We are always being reminded of that. I do not find it surprising, for, after all, we have only been in office for four months. 1238 What is more surprising is that the party opposite failed after six years to implement many of its 1945 election promises.
§ Mr. Fisher
The hon. Lady seems to disagree with me, but surely she will remember the promise of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin for four million or five million houses in very quick time. [HON. MEMBERS: "He never said that."] Certainly—
§ Mr. Fisher
I was provoked, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but naturally I will leave this point, in deference to your Ruling. It is a pity, because I have about a dozen examples which would upset the equilibrium of the hon. Lady. Here we have a situation in which hon. Members opposite jeer because some of the promises we made we have not yet been able to carry out.
§ Mrs. Braddock
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I want to ask him one question. Has he any idea of the fact that the business people in the Exchange division of Liverpool, which I represent, are terribly distressed? In fact, they had their top hats and frock coats out waiting for the fulfilment of the promise that immediately the Conservative Party came into power the Liverpool Cotton Exchange would be reopened. They have had to put their top hats and frock coats back again because there is no sign of it.
§ Mr. Fisher
I think we are getting wide of the Bill but I would tell the hon. Lady that there was no promise that this would be immediately restored—
§ Mr. Fisher
We have already been told by Mr. Deputy-Speaker that we are out of order on that, so, in conclusion, I say that since hon. Members jeer, as the hon. Lady has been jeering, at some of the 1239 promises which we have not yet been able to keep, then logically they ought to cheer when we carry out, as we are carrying out tonight, one of the promises we made. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having so speedily implemented this promise, which I at any rate made to my constituents at election time, and which I am quite certain will give much satisfaction to them and to other hon. Members who have new towns in their divisions.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Hargreaves (Carlisle)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, suggested, as did the hon. Members for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and Hitchin (Mr. Fisher), that he was completely opposed to the expenditure of public money in the innovation of State inns in the new towns. I want to deal with that point, because it is rather important to the Bill.
The fact is that in these new towns, and in most of the larger centres of population in this country, hundreds of millions of pounds of public money are being spent on housing development and industrial development. We all recognise that this provides an opportunity, especially for brewing interests, to make enormous profits, and there is no doubt that they have seized upon these opportunities. Certainly every one of us must recognise that the new towns represent an enormous profit for brewing interests.
I cannot exclude from that possibility the State management undertakings because we all know, from the annual reports presented to this House, that in the case of the Carlisle and District State Management Scheme the Treasury have received back within nine years all the money originally expended on that scheme. Since that date, £3½ million of profit has accrued to the Treasury from the State management undertakings, so there is no doubt that in spending hundreds of millions of State money on new housing development in new towns, and on the outskirts of every town and city in the country, an opportunity is provided and taken advantage of by brewing interests to make enormous profits.
When the Home Secretary referred to that point, I was reminded irresistibly of his own constituency. In Liverpool 1240 about £40 million has been spent in providing houses. Liverpool is a particularly good instance where Toryism and the brewing interests are synonymous. No doubt the Home Secretary will remember that, prior to his advent in the constituency of West Derby in 1935, the managing director of Bent's Brewery was the leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Archibald Salvidge. There was a Tory majority in the city as well as among the licensing justices. When Sir Archibald Salvidge died, the next leader of the Conservative Party took over, as was natural. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The hon. Gentleman asks why not? It is regarded as a natural thing. In taking over the management of the brewery, he naturally took over the chairmanship of the Conservative Party in the council and in the city, and also the chairmanship of the licensing justices.
When development took place on the outskirts of the city, in the constituency of the present Home Secretary, it was not unreasonable, therefore, to expect that even before the housing and industrial development took place, the Conservative majority, with the brewing and Conservative chairman in control, would know where that industrial and housing development would take place; and the public house development took place beforehand.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the magistrates were appointed by the Conservative Party or by the brewers?
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I am describing, in the constituency of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced the Bill today, the fortuitous set of circumstances which is to their very considerable advantage wherever new towns and new industries are provided.
Let me go on to one of the instances which the Home Secretary will remember. We found that this particular brewing interest was building a public house, called the "Bow and Arrow," in the constituency of the Home Secretary, in the middle of a field, with no housing development and no road development anywhere near it.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I was a member of the housing committee at the time. I 1241 found to my very great surprise that immediately housing development took place on the fringe of the Home Secretary's constituency, not only were there built there about 3,000 houses, but that the arterial road, about which I knew nothing whatever when the public house was built, went right past the door of the "Bow and Arrow" that had been built 10 years before—another instance of a completely fortuitous set of circumstances.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
In an adjacent constituency, there was another instance. Hon. Members will know of the East Lancashire Road, a 180 ft. arterial road, with enormous site value, with factories all round it and with, I think, 5,800 new houses under development. Land was bought by the housing committee for development by them for industry and housing. The housing committee was dominated by the Conservative Party, in a council with a Conservative majority of about 100 over other parties. I am dealing with the same kind of development as we visualise in the new towns. That land, the property of the housing committee, was bought for a specific purpose. They decided that no other development, certainly no public house development, would take place on that site.
To my very great surprise, the housing committee, dominated by the Tory Party and with brewing interests upon it, sold the housing land to the finance committee. The finance committee sold it to the brewery. The residue of the land that the brewery did not want came back to the housing committee, and today that 180 ft. arterial road, with its housing development of almost 6,000 houses and its thousands of industrial acres, is dominated by the Crown Hotel, owned and run by the firm associated with the chairman of the Conservative Party and the chairman of the brewery.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Will my hon. Friend also give to the House the instance of 1242 the public house built by the same people in Liverpool and the provision for a 'bus to leave at two minutes past 10 in order to bring people from there because it was such a distance from housing accommodation? Will he also point out that the chairman of the finance committee to which the land was passed in the instance to which my hon. Friend referred was also the leader of the Conservative Party and managing director of Bent's Brewery?
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I do not want to go further into these matters, but I want to deal with the question as fairly and objectively as I can. I ask hon. Members opposite to accept this as a view held by a person who has had almost 22 years experience on a local authority housing committee and knows something about development of new estates and has seen them grow during those years. I say that they represent an enormous profit to the interests I have described but, in addition, they represent an enormous expenditure of public money which, in my view, should mean that whatever profits accrue from development of this trade ought to go back to the public who have invested that money.
The argument put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and supported on the benches behind him that the State ought not to interfere and take over this work—their objection to the expenditure of public money on the provision of public houses in face of the enormous expenditure of public money on the provision of estates and that that money is accruing site value—has no validity at all. It is my honest and firm opinion that when public money is poured into new developments, the only right to accruing profit from such developments, representing an enormous increase in assets and site value, belongs to the public who put their money into it.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I would agree if there were means to do so, and in past years the House has had an opportunity of dealing with that matter. That site value should accrue to the public who created 1243 that value, and the House should take steps to see that that was done.
Another point which should be made is that if this Bill is such a good one and if State management undertakings and State management schemes are bad and their effect bad on the people, why on earth does the Bill not apply to Carlisle? A number of hon. Members have said that Lord Woolton made the intentions of the Conservative Party very clear, but proof of that is not forthcoming, and indeed it has been denied. Apparently the only people who knew the intentions of Lord Woolton were the brewers who published the statement that was repeated from the Dispatch Box this afternoon and which appears in the brewers' monthly bulletin:Lord Woolton said: 'Bring new town areas into line with the licensing laws in force for the rest of the country '.Lord Woolton, of course, said nothing of the kind. The statement was repeated a few minutes ago, although time and again it has been denied this evening. I should have been glad at the General Election of an opportunity of seeing an authoritative statement of that kind, because in Carlisle such a statement would have represented a very great electoral asset and I should have been very glad to use it.
The fact is that State management in Carlisle has gone out of local politics. Irrespective of political parties, there is a general acceptance of the scheme. Though it may not be generally known in the House, there is within Carlisle itself, and at Maryport and other areas, actual competition with the State scheme. There are available other choices to the public which are alternatives to the State management scheme.
§ Mr. Remnant
Will the hon. Member say how many other on-licences there are in Carlisle outside the State management scheme with similar licences?
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I think the hon. Member has been given that information previously, but I will give it again. It was within the city of Carlisle that he wanted to know—
§ Mr. Hargreaves
The number in Carlisle is 53. The licences that are not under State management—obviously if the hon. Member wishes to take into account clubs. I cannot make those figures available to him—are the Crown and Mitre Hotel, the County Hotel, the County Hotel bar, the Silver Grill—[Interruption.]—all within the actual city of Carlisle. I am trying to answer the question. In addition there are the theatre bars. I would not be certain of this, but I think there are three of them. I am trying to answer as fully as possible the question which was asked.
§ Mr. Fisher
It would seem to me that there are no public houses, in the accepted sense of the word, in that list. The hon. Member is simply reading out a catalogue of hotel bars and theatre bars.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I am answering as fully as I can the question asked me in relation to Carlisle. In Maryport there are actually public houses in competition, as there are in other districts immediately adjacent to Carlisle. I am reminded that in Workington there are public houses in competition with the State managed inns.
I am not asking for additional expenditure for the profits that are made out of this scheme, but it is fair to say that criticisms have been made here today which are ill-informed, and we ought to get the facts right. It is true that within nine years of the commencement of the scheme, the whole of the Treasury outgoings were repaid, and since that time about £3½ million has accrued to the Treasury. I think it fair to say that the State managed licensees brew their own beer, and of course every other variety of bottled beer and draught beer. Bass, for example, is available.
They also have a separate system for making mineral waters and other soft drinks and the stock includes proprietary brands of spirits, and so on. They are sold at lower prices than rule in the competitive places in Carlisle or in the rest of the country. Notwithstanding that, they make the profits to which I have referred, and give a higher standard of working conditions than is available to most of the people employed in the industry. For instance, there are super-annuation rights not usually available to people employed in such places.
1245 Another argument against State management which was made this afternoon was the suggestion that the present scheme gives no help and no impetus to local patriotism in its management. There, again, there is a good deal of completely ill-informed criticism. I took up the whole question with the previous Home Secretary, and I want to suggest that, in the Carlisle scheme and in adjacent schemes, the local interests represented are the county council, the city council of Carlisle, the licensing committees and the urban and rural district councils of the adjacent areas. All these are fully represented, especially the interests, which I regard as being very important indeed, of the city council of Carlisle.
Further, the local advisory committee, which is responsible under the Home Secretary, has appointed, with his consent, one member of the committee whose name is generally accepted by all the churches in the district. Another person who has been appointed is actively associated with social welfare in the city, so that it can fairly be said that every possible local interest is represented on the local advisory committee dealing with the Carlisle scheme.
I think these points of criticism that have been made are fairly answered by the information that is available to me, and I suggest that the real danger existent in the proposals behind this Bill is the one to which I drew attention at the beginning of my remarks—the danger that the Bill places opportunities in the hands of interests which have proved to be, in many areas, inimical to decent social life. These interests have been considered very important indeed in the short lifetime of the present Parliament, although hon. Members have drawn attention to the fact that the King's Speech contained no reference to this legislation.
To many of us, it is ominous that, while Measures of very great importance, including the Budget, the National Health Service Bill and the Iron and Steel Bill have had to be postponed, there has been brought forward a Bill of this kind, with the obvious implication that it is meeting a demand, a demand which I have attempted to prove comes from quarters which have been associated for a very long time with the work of one political party in this country. Therefore, I hope 1246 this Bill will not receive its Second Reading.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)
I do not know the full circumstances concerning the gentleman, and the incident connected with him, to which the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Hargreaves) has referred, but, quite unconsciously, in relating these matters to the House, the hon. Gentleman deployed a large part of the arguments in favour of this Bill and against State trading in public houses.
What he did not seem to realise—and perhaps it was because he approaches these matters with some degree of prejudice—was that the incident which he related concerning a public house being built in an area subsequently developed as a housing area shows, of course, considerable foresight and private enterprise by the brewers. They are, of course, far more capable of exercising an independent judgment and the proper perspicacity on these matters than is possible, we believe, under schemes of State management. Quite clearly, we believe that private enterprise provides the best service to the public in this field as in a great many others.
Any debate which raises these licensing questions covers a very wide field. Today's debate has been a great opportunity for the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) to ride his favourite hobby-horse, the Tied House Bill, and a great opportunity for the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) to give us his customary speech in favour of temperance, the speech which we hear so often and for which we never lose respect. The hon. Member for Ealing, North, drew attention to the fact that some £700 million a year are spent on beer, but I am willing to wager that when the Bill for National Health Service charges is introduced, and which many have the effect of siphoning off, perhaps, £10 million of that money and requiring it to be spent on medicine instead of beer, the hon. Member for Ealing, North, will vote against that proposal.
§ Mr. Marlowe
It is a good enough argument to provoke the hon. Gentleman.
1247 I want to deal first with the question about a mandate for introducing the Bill. I really do not see the case against us on that. We have made it perfectly clear in every Election programme which we have put forward since the war that we are in favour of private enterprise and against State trading. Nothing could have been said more clearly than that. It is quite impossible to cover every aspect of that policy. One cannot detail in an Election programme every minute form of trading to which one is referring, but, as I say, we have made it perfectly clear that we are in favour of private enterprise and against State trading.
This animosity towards the 1949 Act is only another example of that. It is a clear example of our disapproval of this particular form of State trading. On the question of whether we really gave notice of our intentions, I was rather surprised to read in a letter in "The Times" on 29th January—which I think was really the foundation for this charge—that we had not given proper notice of our intentions in this matter. The letter was from Lord Astor and Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, and it finished with the following sentence:When the late Government enacted the Measure"—that is, the 1948 Act—the Conservative opposition expressed no desire to upset the policy then adopted.I cannot imagine how a noble Lord and another gentleman who have so deeply interested themselves in this problem could have put their signatures to such a wild misstatement, because it was abundantly clear throughout the passage of the Bill that we were bitterly opposed to it. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was Home Secretary at the time, will recall that on Second Reading and day after day during the prolonged Committee stage of the Bill upstairs we on this side of the House strongly opposed the Bill, and again on Third Reading. The right hon. Member for South Shields will recall, I am sure, the tussle which took place then on that very issue. I am not going to quote the enormous number of occasions when reference was made to it on the Committee stage upstairs. It is enough to refer to the Third Reading.
I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman who was then Under-Secretary 1248 of State for the Home Department, the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), said on Third Reading:May I turn to Part 1 and the State management proposals? In the Second Reading debate the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) told us he regarded them as the thin edge of the wedge of nationalisation coming by stages. That suggestion, or allegation, was repeated very frequently by a number of hon. Members during the sittings which we devoted to this part of the Bill in Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 268.]That reinforces my recollection that time and again throughout the Committee stage we made it perfectly plain that we were bitterly opposed to Part 1 of the Bill and we did everything in our power with our limited number in the Parliament elected in 1945 to prevent Part 1 becoming part of the Bill.
The present Home Secretary, right at the start of his speech on Third Reading, said:We on this side of the House oppose this Bill because it still applies to top-heavy machinery of centralisation to an essentially local and different problem. This is its cardinal error,…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1949; Vol. 465, c. 273.]How Lord Astor and Mr. Rowntree came to say after that that the Conservative Opposition at the time of the passage of the Bill expressed no desire to upset the policy then adopted I confess I am at a loss to understand.
I want to deal, very shortly, with one other aspect of this matter which was referred to by the right hon. Member for South Shields. He made an attack on the Tory Party in this matter and said, in effect, that the natural deduction must be that the Tory Party were virtually in the pay of the brewers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad I have correctly expressed the sense of the right hon. Gentleman. He and other hon. Gentlemen have said that must be so because the Tory Party and the brewers always walk hand in hand with each other.
What hon Gentlemen opposite do not understand, because they approach these matters with such prejudice, is that the only reason they walk the same path is that both the brewers and the Conservative Party have a mutual confidence in private enterprise. Because one happens to find two people going in the 1249 same direction there is no need to assume any sinister motive and that one is necessarily in the pay of the other.
I thought it was a little unworthy of the right hon. Member for South Shields to suggest that the only inference could be that the Tory Party were in the pay of the brewers. In connection with this I do not know whether it was the right hon. Gentleman who said, but certainly hon. Members have said, that whether or not that be so could be refuted by the publication of party accounts. That is the allegation that has been made.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have always been what I call dictator-minded because they believe in the one-party State. They have exactly the characteristic of a dictator who likes to follow what everybody does with his money, where subscriptions come from and who pays into what particular society in order that they may be branded so that when the time comes they can be marked down as the first to go up on the lamp-posts. It is a characteristic of the spirit of the dictator, with which the Socialist Party is so imbued.
I take the view that what funds people subscribe to free associations of their own choosing are their own affair, and I see no reason why they should be called upon to provide that information to another political party. I have no wish to trace what money hon. Members pay into their own party funds; it seems to me to be entirely their affair. I am not in the least concerned, nor do I wish to know who pays for their Election expenses. So long as they keep within the law of the Representation of the People Act it seems to me entirely a matter of their own concern. I regard with great suspicion—
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
The hon. and learned Member seems to be developing the argument that it is not to the public interest or of any concern to the public as to whence funds of a great political party are derived. Does he believe that that principle applied and was correctly applied in the case of the Nazi Party in Germany, which was financed by all the great industrialists of Germany, including probably the brewing interests, and the creation of which ultimately resulted in the last war?
§ Mr. Marlowe
I must apologise to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) for the time which his hon. Friend has made me take out of the time he will have to speak. What the hon. Member has said is a complete reinforcement of my point. It is a heresy hunt he wants, to find where money comes from so that the hon. Gentleman can mark down who is a party member and who is not—exactly the Nazi mentality.
I would say, in conclusion, that even if it be so, I have never understood the sinister deduction which hon. Members draw. Supposing it be true, suppose that they prove up to the hilt that the brewers subscribe to the Tory Party, why should they not do so if they believe that the Conservative Party is the party which will defend the free enterprise in which they believe? Why should they not subscribe to the party?
Hon. Gentlemen opposite defend many aspects of the trade union movement. I make no complaint that the trade union movement subscribes heavily to Labour Party funds. That appears to me to be perfectly proper and legitimate. I do not mind whether they publish the accounts or not. What I object to is the sinister deduction that merely because two people or two organisations happen to have a common belief in freedom, a common belief in the liberty of the people and in the right of the people both to choose what they drink and who they vote for, they are to be branded as hostile to the community.
I say that if the brewers support the Tory Party they are perfectly entitled to do so, and there is no deduction to be drawn from it except that we are both upholders of freedom and private enterprise.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Quite early in the debate one of my hon. Friends raised the question of interests in the subject which we are discussing, and whether some Members ought to vote. I therefore declare my interest at once. Mine is a consumer interest. I am the only Member who has spoken in this debate who is a citizen of a new town and a prospective consumer of the refreshment likely to be provided in that town. Therefore, I speak as having a consumer interest, not a financial one.
1251 Even at the risk of getting at loggerheads with some of my own friends, I think the Tory Party is acquitted in respect of bringing forward this Bill and in respect of the statement that it was part of their policy. I think that any sensible person, knowing the Tory Party's association with the liquor trade, ought to have anticipated that this would be one of their first Measures. There is nothing sinister in it; it is just a natural sequence of Tory affiliations and policy.
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe). There is no need to get cross about this sort of thing. Let us face the facts. There are interests behind politics. The interests behind the Tory Party are the drink trade, the Federation of British Industries and the Central Landowners' Association. It is equally true of the Labour movement. There are interests behind us—the trade union movement and the Co-operative movement, and the choice for the country is: which is best for the country—the brewers or the trade union movement?
I know where my interests lie. I am not ashamed that the trade union movement has a great effect upon the policy of our party. I do not see why hon. Members opposite should get so touchy when we state what is a fact, that the brewing interests have a great deal to say in the policy of the Tory Party. One only has to look at the "Sunday Express" last Sunday to see the financial interests of right hon. and hon. Members opposite in the trade itself. Even if it is only a question of self-interest, that applies.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary said that there was no direct consultation. Well, I think that is quite true; there was certainly no need for it. I agree with the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher), and the hon. and learned Member for Hove; they are quite entitled to say that the Tory Party is absolved of any question of breaking away from a pledge at any time. This is just what was to be expected, and it is really what we ought to oppose.
The Government have said that we on these benches are trying to force something on to people in new towns. Our answer to that is that that is exactly what 1252 the brewers are trying to do, and it is what this Bill does. It forces on to the people of a particular area what the brewers want—not what the people want. When I interrupted the hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), I said, "I am a resident of Welwyn Garden City. The tied houses at Welwyn Garden City are Whitbreads. I do not want Whitbreads beer. I want somebody else's." The hon. Gentleman said, "You can go somewhere else," but I do not want to go somewhere else. I want to go to a pub in my own town and have a drink and play billiards with my own pals. I do not want to go to the "local" where, the hon. Member for Barnet informed the House, he had met me, away from my town. The Tory Party are, in this Measure, depriving me of my liberty. Why should I not drink the beer that I want to drink in the public house where I want to drink it?
Hon. Members opposite engage in propaganda which is really unfair of them. As to the management of State pubs, it was not intended that there should be a State brewer. There is no provision in the Licensing Act, 1949, for a brewery—
§ Mr. Marlowe
The hon. Gentleman has forgotten that in the Committee stage of that Bill we had a lot of discussion about this, and there was considerable argument about the right hon. Gentleman taking powers to create a State brewery.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I stand corrected; but as far as my recollection goes—I was not present during the Committee stage of that Measure—there is no power in the Act for the provision of a State brewery.
But even suppose there were. I accept it from the hon. and learned Gentleman because he takes a great interest in these matters, and he was on the Committee and I was not. Even if there were, they could provide their own brew and they could also provide other beers. It is impossible for any publican at any free house anywhere to provide any and every beer that it is possible for a customer to ask for, but what can happen and what generally does happen in the free houses which are still left today is that the main general beers are sold plus a local brew which meets with the general wishes of the area. It is the Tory Party and this 1253 Bill which are denying the citizens of the new towns their right to drink their own beer in their own pubs.
Nobody from the opposite side of the House mentioned the people who really matter. They talked about the brewer: but the brewer does not make a public house in the real sense of the word. The fellow who makes a public house is either the manager or the tenant, and whether it is a good or a bad "local" depends not on the brewer—although he makes a difference—but on the manager who carries out the work. The tenants and the managers of licensed houses in this country do not get a fair deal from the brewers.
The hon. and learned Member for Hove —because of his interests in these matters —ought to look at the agreements which the tenants of tied houses have to sign. I have never seen more iniquitous agreements than those which these men are called upon to sign.
§ Mr. Maudling
Does the hon. Member argue that the tenants and managers would prefer State management?
§ Mr. Lindgren
Most certainly I do. I am a trade unionist and I know something about victimisation, and I know what some Tory employers like to do to some of us—even Tory officials inside an industry like the railway. I have never seen so much fear as exists amongst the managers and tenants of public houses. There are a number whom I have met who call one aside and whisper in one's ear that the "Bing Bill," as they call it, is their charter, and they are looking forward to its going through. They cannot say what they want to say because of the fear of victimisation. They say, "Give us security."
Why, in fact, do not the brewers give the tenants of public houses the benefits of the Rent Restriction Acts? If they did do so there would be a degree of security and the tenants and managers of tied houses would really be able to feel a little more free, with a degree of security which they do not enjoy at the present time.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Does the Co-operative Party give the benefit of the Rent Restriction Acts to the managers of Co-operative stores?
§ Mr. Lindgren
Their managers do not get "turfed out" in the manner in which tenants of public houses do.
We oppose this Bill because it interferes with the freedom of the consumer and with the freedom of the servant of the public who provides for it—the tenant or manager of the public house. Mention was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing)—if the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) will finish his cross-bench conversation I will go on.
§ Mr. Lindgren
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch and others have mentioned the question of the provision of food; but the brewers are not concerned with the provision of food. If any food is provided in a public house in which there is a tenant, who stands the racket whether the public house wins or loses; who has to bear the initial cost of the provision of cutlery—all the glasses and plates—and stand the risk of loss? It is not the brewer but the tenant who is in the public house.
That is the reason why there are a number of public houses which do not provide the victuals they should provide. The trade is becoming a vast monopoly. There used to be something to be said for it in the old days. There were, in parts of this country, the old family brewers. Round about them they had perhaps one, two or three houses. But the family breweries have gone; they are being absorbed into a great monopoly —a monopoly which uses its power not for the good of the community.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said we were interfering with the liberty of the people in suggesting that there should be State managed pubs. Who is interfering with the liberty of the people? The brewers. Before the 1949 Act they had already decided who was to go into each garden city or each new town. They had already divided them up—Whitbreads in here, MacMullens in somewhere else. Benskins in somewhere else. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), smiles as though that is not true, but it is true.
There was no question of competition, no question of freedom. The people of 1255 those areas were to have the type of licence which was to be provided by a particular brewer decided not by the people, not by the development corporation, not by a licensing committee, not by the licensing justices, but by the brewers meeting and sharing out the contracts of the various new towns which were to be established.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I was not smiling at the argument. I accept it. I was merely saying to my hon. Friends that this was similar to the Co-ops and certain trade unions who parcel out certain areas for themselves.
§ Mr. Lindgren
There is a great deal of difference between the social effect of trade unions, such as the Transport and General Workers' Union and the Municipal and General Workers' Union, dividing an area in scope of membership and influence, on the one hand, and the brewing trade doing so, on the other hand. This is a difference; the trade union movement is part of this Labour movement; the brewers are part of the Tory Party.
§ Mr. Osborne
A trade union worker in a certain area has, therefore, no option about joining either one union or another and he is restricted in the same way as the hon. Gentleman claims the public are restricted in the case of drink.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. and learned Member for Hove was exceedingly good in curtailing his speech so that I could rise at the right time, and I do not want, therefore, to be drawn along the line suggested by the hon. Member for Louth and so be discourteous to the Under-Secretary of State, who is to reply.
I have had some association with the Garden City movement. I have given 25 years of my life to the building up of the popularity of new towns and garden cities. What happened, for example, in Letchworth? It was decided, wrongly, I think, that they should not have any pubs. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), would not agree with me when I say I think it was bad for the Garden City movement at the time. It added to the idea that those associated with Garden Cities were long haired men and short haired women who chewed nuts 1256 and wore sandals. The decision to deprive the town of a licence caused difficulties for the Garden City movement.
As soon as the local option was decided —no pubs in Letchworth—the brewers had a ring of five of them on the outskirts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Private enterprise."] Of course; private enterprise. The only people who broke the rules were the Tory Party, and the only wet place in Letchworth is the Tory club. It has a licence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite cheer; it shows the tie-up between the brewers and the Tory Party.
But this matter went further. They considered, in Letchworth, whether there were to be licensed premises at a later stage, and the matter was to be decided by local option. When they were having their local vote, the friends of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North, and the publicans at the ring-side joined together—publicans and teetotalers—to prevent the local vote from being cast in favour of licensed premises in Letchworth itself. I do not think that sort of thing is for the good and it was to avoid it, as my right hon Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said, that the scheme was introduced.
Let us look at our experience at Welwyn. We started at Welwyn, seeing that Letchworth had made a mistake in not having any licensed places, with a free house, "The Cherry Tree." The Home Secretary said there were no special circumstances in new towns. There are some very special circumstances in new towns. A new town starts from scratch. It is not possible to build a big public house—sometimes that is done, but generally it is not possible—at the beginning of the development of a new town. Generally, it is a small one. It is not possible to provide a house of the type and size that ultimately is required for the population when the town is developed. In the early stages a small one is required.
At Welwyn we had a free house. Because the town developed we wanted a larger public house, and the Garden City Company at that time—it was a private enterprise concern to which I pay high tribute for their work in developing the Garden City movement—were short of capital, and so, to build a public house, they had to go outside. They could not, 1257 of course, get help from a Public Works Loan Board. So they had to go to the trade to get their public house. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Why not? As soon as they did, there were strings attached. Whitbread's provided the capital, and they said only their beers could be sold. What is worse, they attached that condition to bottled beers as well. The only people who seem to get in are Guinness and Mackeson—the stout people. They seemed to get in there. They are names associated with the Tory Party, too.
§ Brigadier H. R. Mackeson (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wants to be fair. I do not own any shares in the company which bears my name, and only one share in the holding company concerned.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. and gallant Gentleman reminds me that Guinness, and the other firm to which we referred, do not own houses. One can go into any house at any time anywhere and buy their wares if one wants to. Why not? Why should we not all be free in that way? I suggest to the Home Secretary that the tying of new towns to certain houses is wrong.
Certain Members associated with new towns on the Tory side of the House have spoken today. There was the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson). We all respect her general attitude to local problems, but she referred to the question of opposition in Hemel Hempstead to the 1949 Act. That is fictitious opposition—very fictitious. I could not put it to the test by inviting the noble Lady, as I should like to do, to come on a tour of the public houses in her division, because there are some there to which I could take neither my wife nor her because they are insanitary and ought not to be there. They do not even provide a living for the landlords. Indeed, the landlords themselves have got to go outside for part-time jobs. That is not good for the trade and is not good for the public.
That was the reason why we were suggesting provisions in the original Act to regulate the position in the new towns. There was no suggestion at any time that all the licences of the existing houses should be taken away and run by a local committee. It was the intention, and it 1258 was put in the Act, that those that were worthy to remain should remain, and that those that were not should be displaced, and that some other organisation should come into their place.
The hon. Member for Barnet referred to Hatfield. There are similar conditions in places in Hatfield to those I have mentioned in Hemel Hempstead. There are some houses within his area which are not really worthy of being public houses in the sense that they do not provide social amenities. What happened in Hatfield? The publicans got together years ago, long before there were any new towns and before de Havillands thought of coming there, and they started dividing up the public houses, as to which should go out and which should stay in, taking the compensation from a fund which they created.
The public were not consulted as to which pub went or which stayed. It was all decided by the brewers. Although there was compensation, the brewer got it and the tenant did not, but in fairness I must say that the brewers did their best to put the fellows who come out into other public houses. I suggest that local feeling, in Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage or elsewhere—I know the area—is disinterested.
§ Mr. Maudling
Does the hon. Member suggest that he knows more about the local feeling in the public houses in my constituency than I do?
§ Mr. Lindgren
I would not challenge the hon. Gentleman about the tours he may make, but I mix among the local lads in his constituency. I know that when the petitions were got up many of the tenants were not in sympathy with them, but they supported them because if they had said "No" it might have meant their being out on their necks, like the farm workers, and they would have had nowhere to go. I see an hon. and gallant Gentleman smiling, but he does not know what it means to be put out on the streets. One has to know that before properly appreciating what the loss of a home means.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I was smiling at the hon. Gentleman's reference to farm workers.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I know the hon. Gentleman's point about railway tied houses. I fought the railways very hard on it for a long while, but at least they did not turn people out on the streets within a week or two. In my constituency farm workers with six or seven children have gone out into the street and their furniture was put into a barn. [An HON. MEMBER: "How long ago?"] Recently, about a couple of months ago, and this is still being done on the basis of a certificate. We ought to have these questions settled.
The Home Secretary said that we had accused the Tory Party of making a gift to the brewers. So they are. We are spending millions of pounds of the nation's money in developing new towns. What gives value to a public house? [An HON. MEMBER: "Not the State."] It is the number of customers in its immediate vicinity. In the new towns the State has spent millions of pounds on the provision of houses, roads, water mains, sewers and all the facilities that go to make up a town.
The State has created the value. Why should the brewers walk away with the profits? That is the sort of nationalisation the Tory Party like—let the State take over the heavy responsibility and the work which is unprofitable, such as the provision of roads and buildings, and let private enterprise come in and take the custom of the people who are in the new towns. That is the kind of profit-making out of public enterprise which the Tory Party likes.
I suggest that, if we have provided millions of Treasury money for new towns, the nation should get back some of the profits which the community creates. The Home Secretary said that the monopoly value of the licence makes some contribution to it, but it does not. What happens? When a new house is sited the Customs and Excise officers look at it, decide in the light of the immediate area what additional licence shall be paid, and there is one payment. But the new town develops, over 10, 15 or 20 years.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but mono- 1260 poly value is assessed on the estimated trade over the period of years for which the licence is given. If it is for seven years, the monopoly value is estimated on the trade over the whole seven years.
§ Mr. Lindgren
My point is that a single payment is unfair and that there should be an extended one. In the areas of the hon. Members for Barnet, Hitchin and Hemel Hempstead the new towns corporations, by the expenditure of Treasury money, are bringing to them thousands of people who are adding value to the licensed houses there. The Home Secretary said that it was saving money not to buy those houses now. Surely it is sensible to buy those houses before their value has appreciated, thereby getting not only the existing value but also the value subsequently created.
In spite of what I know will be an eloquent appeal by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and in fairness to the British people, who ought to have the beer that they like in the house that they like for their social amenity, I ask the House to grant them their freedom of choice and the right to do what they like in the way in which they would like to do it. Do not tie the British public to the brewers. Do not tie the hands of the development corporations or anyone else in that manner.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth)
I do not suppose that any Under-Secretary would willingly choose a licensing debate for making his first major speech from this Box. It is a rather technical subject and at times tends to be a little acrimonious.
During this debate there have been a good many arguments which were not altogether relevant to the Bill before us. For example, the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) argued that if we have provided millions of money for new towns—and I think he also mentioned new drains—why should we not get 1261 some of the money back? May I point out that one puts beer into people and not into towns or drains, and in fact those who will consume the beer in the new towns will come from the old towns and to that extent will be lost to those areas. However, I do not base any argument on this point. I make it only to show that a good deal of loose argument has been used.
A good deal has been said today on the question of the mandate of the Conservative Party to bring forward this Measure. It is necessary to look briefly at the history of the matter in order to put this in its proper perspective. The Measure before us, in effect, repeals the greater part of the Licensing Act, 1949. I do not think it is denied in any part of the House that that Act was not in any way part of the policy of the Labour Party; it was not mentioned in any of their Election literature in 1945, nor, indeed, even in the King's Speech immediately before its introduction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) made a quotation, which it is important to reiterate, from the Second Reading debate on the Bill before it became the Licensing Act. On 14th December, 1948, referring to the Act which it is now proposed in effect to repeal, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr H. Morrison) said:It really is an incidental matter, a by-product of the new towns policy, as to how the licensed premises should be dealt with. …This is not such a startling Bill as all that. Indeed, that is why this Bill was not in the King's Speech. But then not every Bill was in the King's Speech. Quite frankly, we did not regard this as one of those exciting Measures which ought to occupy a place there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 1133.]If that applied to the original Act, it applies with even greater force to this Bill, which, after all, is only repealing a part of that Act.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I cannot give way —I was kept late by the hon. Member for Wellingborough, but I do not complain.
When that Act was being passed, it was stated quite specifically by the Conservative spokesman in another place that it was our intention to repeal the Act as soon as we got an opportunity. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) suggested this afternoon that not 1262 only were we lacking a mandate, but that there was something in the nature of an intrigue in order that the Bill should now see the light of day. If I may repeat his words as I took them down, he said that at the time of the last Election there was an arrangement between some obscure official in the Central Office and Mr. Percey—the secretary, I think, of the Licensed Victuallers' Association. Those were the right hon. Member's words
The suggestion was that there had been some quiet undertaking which was not brought to the light of day and that the whole of these proceedings are tainted by that and are to some extent improper. That suggestion was not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman, particularly as he went on to say that this matter had not been published; and I think that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) said that it was published only to a section of the population.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am not referring to the hon. and learned Member's speech today, but to an article in "Tribune." Many other hon. Members opposite have followed that up, taking the right hon. Gentleman at his word and suggesting that this was disgraceful. I do not really think the researches of the right hon. Gentleman were very thorough. I did not expect this point to be raised and so I did not come armed with any ammunition, but merely had recourse to the Library of the House of Commons. I have looked at the files of the newspapers, and here is the file of the "Daily Telegraph." This is the "Daily Telegraph" for 4th October, 1951, and on page 7 I see quite plainly set out in the middle of the page: