§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Hon. and right hon. Members who have followed the Bill will have heard sufficient from me and will wish to make their own contributions to the debate. I will try to set a good example by being as brief as possible.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, made it clear that there should be wide scope for discussion on all stages of the Bill and that the Government would welcome this. His expectations have been fully realised. The Bill has had a full consideration at all stages. I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for making it possible for the Bill to be reprinted since Monday night. The reprint of the Bill makes it clear that considerable alterations have been made at various stages. This is right and proper, because in a Measure of this kind the Government for their part, while being clear about the general principles which they wish to commend to Parliament, ought to be receptive to constructive criticisms and suggestions from right hon. and hon. Members on all sides of the House.
My first and very welcome duty, therefore, is to thank all those right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions and for their co-operation. Perhaps I should say a special word to those who represent Welsh constituencies. I seem to remember that at one time one of them said that we should still be in Committee in August. Many of the Welsh Members have made clear from the start their fundamental opposition to the whole principle of local option, and we respect the sincerity of their views. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend and I believe that in the outcome the people of Wales will welcome the opportunity afforded to them of reaching a decision by direct vote on this important question. Although on a matter like this the Government have not found it possible—I am speaking of Clause 6—to make any compromise of principle, it 1558 has been possible to make some alterations to Clause 6 and to the Second Schedule which I think have met with general approval. I have in mind the limitation on advertisements, the procedure at the poll, postal voting provisions and provisions for observers at the count, and matters of that kind.
I have mentioned this Clause first, because it has possibly been the most time-consuming Clause in the Bill and also because it represents, as we accept, one of the most radical changes. Having said that, it might be helpful if I remind the House once again of the objects of the Bill. I can summarise them as follows: first, to revise social legislation in the light of present-day conditions; secondly, to achieve a balance between the restraints necessary to prevent abuse and the need for freedom in a responsible society; and thirdly, to introduce a Bill to suit the general interest and have particular regard to the needs of the consumer.
I think that it is fair to say that the consumer has perhaps tended to be under-represented in our deliberations, while the demands of particular interests have been, no doubt quite rightly, heavily pressed. I therefore believe that the public take a more generous view of this Measure than might sometimes appear from a report of our proceedings.
It would perhaps be helpful if I referred to the principal changes which have been made in the Bill since it was read a Second time. The first change to which I refer is that in the procedure for the granting of licences and for subsequent appeal. This change will simplify and modernise the structure of the licensing laws and should bring advantages to the authorities, to the trade and to the public. I apologise to the House that this change was made at a late stage, but it was impractical to do it in Committee, for reasons which I think are understood, and we felt that the proposal met with such universal approval and that the occasions for licensing legislation are so few and far between that we should make it better late than never. It appears in Clause 11. I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr Rees-Davies), who has been interested in this aspect of licensing reform for many months.
1559 The second change which the Bill makes—this was in the original Bill but it is perhaps the major change—is to differentiate between a drink with a meal or at one's place of residence and a drink for the sake of drinking, or perpendicular drinking, as hon. Members have come to know it.
This is the basis of Part I of the Bill, and the principle remains, but it has been strengthened with additional safeguards. I will put them on record, because they are rather difficult to find in the Bill as it stands.
First, the term "customary main meal" has been introduced in place of "substantial refreshment". Secondly, liquor may not be sold to persons other than those taking table meals. The emphasis is on the word "table". If there was any possibility of the snack bar being considered, this definition will eliminate it. Thirdly, licensing justices can limit hours in premises where only lunch or dinner is provided. Fourthly, justices may refuse licences if the trade done on the premises in providing table meals is not substantial. Fifthly, the residential requirement is now no longer bed and breakfast but bed and breakfast plus one main meal. I want to make it quite clear that these safeguards are additional to the safeguards and conditions which were in the Bill which received a Second Reading and they should serve to protect against abuse of this Part of the Bill.
I have no doubt that applications for these licences will be fairly numerous, but, apart from the obvious attractions and merits of this proposal, any diversion away from casual drinking, which this Part of the Bill could well mean, must surely be welcomed in all parts of the House.
The third major change relates to permitted hours. The Bill retains the framework of uniform hours, but in response to general demand it now introduces more flexibility, particularly during the middle hours of the day, and gives licensing justices fairly wide discretion to meet local needs. This was pressed upon my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary from all parts. It will now, for example, be possible for licensing justices to vary the hours on different days of the week. That is something new in our licensing procedure. The 1560 extra hour on Sunday afternoon has been removed, but an extra half-hour has been added in the evening. It would be open for consideration in another place as to whether this should be at the discretion of the justices.
I remain quite unrepentant about drinking-up time. We believe that this is right in principle and the modified period of ten minutes seems the reasonable solution. The Government readily accepted a proposal made by my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) for a new type of licence where music and refreshments are provided beyond the normal permitted hours, subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. This proposal will be introduced in another place and should meet the needs of holiday resorts, which I believe feel that even the more generous proposals in the Bill do not entirely meet their needs.
I come now to Part III, one of the most important parts of the Bill. Here we have adhered to the general principle, which clearly commended itself to the House on Second Reading and at subsequent stages. This Part provides a form of control over registered clubs which should prevent in the future the formation or continuance of those clubs which are little more than unlicensed drinking shops or have otherwise given rise to social evils. For this reason, we could not respond to the clarion call of "killing Part III".
At the same time—I take up the words used earlier this week—the Government are not insensitive to the rights of club members, and relaxation in this part of the Bill has been made wherever possible where this is not detrimental to the essential fabric.
I will mention the relaxations, which I think will be of interest to the club community. First, certificates of up to ten years may be granted at the first renewal, and in the case of clubs which have been established for twenty-five years this may be done a year earlier. Secondly, clubs which are registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies may be exempt from those parts of the Bill where the Registrar exercises control similar to that contained in the Bill—that is, principally in the Schedule.
Thirdly, appearance in court by the applicant is no longer necessary—it was 1561 not really necessary in the Bill as published, but it has been removed beyond all doubt—unless the magistrates or objectors require it. Fourthly, the representations which right hon. and hon. Members received from all over the country in respect of ex-Service clubs have been met in full. Fifthly, in respect of the character of the committee, which caused some offence, I hope that the Amendments moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General have been effective in removing the disquiet caused in that respect. Lastly, police inspection, always limited to first inspection before registration, is now to be limited to new clubs where special need arises.
I am quite certain that the provisions of Part III will not be found to be an inconvenience to the genuine and respectable clubs of this country, and I am putting these words on the record so that those who still suffer apprehensions—I think that there are still a few of them today—may judge them in the course of time. Indeed, I have always argued that the elimination of the drinking clubs should be to the advantage of the thousands of genuine and respectable clubs.
In the light of the recent disastrous fire in a Bolton club, we have looked again at what might be called the public safety aspects and provision has been made for the inspection of clubs by the fire authority and we are examining further to see if anything else should be done in this respect.
Many other changes have been made which will be of advantage to the public as well as to the trade and to licensing authorities. We have, for example, accepted all the Amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson), because we felt that some relaxation here was consistent with the general pattern of the Bill.
As the House knows, further changes in the Bill remain to be implemented in another place.
As I said when speaking on the first Amendment earlier this week, young persons cause us considerable anxiety. We have always had this matter very much in mind. For example, one of the grounds for refusal of a Part I licence—this was in the original Bill— 1562 is that in the case of premises which are frequented by a large proportion of young persons, the justices can refuse to grant a licence. It has also been made an offence—this has been put in the Bill since Second Reading—for a young person to consume a drink in a public house. We also agreed on Report—the Amendment is yet to be inserted—to prohibit the sale by off-licence premises to those under the age of 18, and the penalties for offences in respect of young persons have been increased by as much as twenty-five times.
To those who fear that the Bill gives fresh encouragement to drinking I say that throughout its contents the penalties for offences against licensing laws have been stepped up very considerably. Most of these increased penalties were in the Bill at the time of Second Reading, but perhaps they had not received all the attention that they merit.
In conclusion, the Government do not regard this as a charter for increasing drinking, but repression, especially in a free society, is no remedy for the evils of excess drinking. The Bill provides, or endeavours to provide, a sensible framework within which the forces of moderation and persuasion can operate, but which also contains powerful deterrents against those who might otherwise abuse it.
I hope that the Bill will be viewed as a whole and not as a collection of individual Clauses. If it is viewed as a whole, the Government are confident that it will be acceptable to public opinion, understood by the public, and enforceable, which is, perhaps, most important of all. In this sense I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
As the House knows, right hon. and hon. Members on this side throughout our debates on the Bill have had an entirely free vote, completely untrammelled by the Whips or party discipline. It is perhaps for that reason that so many of our debates in Committee were so admirable and served such a useful purpose, Therefore, on this as on other occasions, I speak merely for myself. There is, however, one respect in which I think that I can fairly claim to speak for all my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is in acknowledging the consideration 1563 which we have had throughout the passage of the Bill from the Minister of State, who has listened with so much sympathy and receptiveness to the numerous Amendments which we tabled during the Committee stage and, indeed, subsequently. As the Minister has just recognised, a very large number of changes, perhaps of detail but in total amounting to quite substantial changes, have been made since the Bill received its Second Reading.
I would, therefore, like to pay tribute to the way in which the Minister of State has, throughout, made a very real attempt to meet the views which Members of the Committee and of the House have expressed on many controversial points. In paying that tribute, I extend it, of course, to the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General, from whom we are always accustomed to receive such a masterly combination of courtesy and lucidity.
On Second Reading, which is now nearly six months ago, I said that it was with same hesitation that I would vote for the Bill's Second Reading. I said that I realised that it was opposed on Christian and moral grounds by leaders of the churches, that I was supporting it with reservations and that I was not sure what my attitude would be on Third Reading unless the Measure was substantially modified.
The Bill has been materially changed and I endorse what the Minister of State has said, that in deciding this evening how we should vote we have to regard the Bill as a whole. It does not contain a great many provisions that I should like to see in it, but, on the positive side, I welcome it as a liberalising Measure. We must all recognise that our existing laws are out of date and full of anomalies that create irritations for responsible citizens. They discourage and hamper our tourist industry, they fail to differentiate effectively between the licensed hours for drinking in public houses and the permitted hours for consuming alcohol with a meal.
I feel, therefore, the provisions in Part I for the grant of restaurant licences and residential licences are a step in the right direction. I believe that they will tend to promote as a social habit the drinking of alcohol—by those who wish it—with 1564 a meal, as distinct from the habit of the continuous consumption of alcohol in public houses without other refreshment. That will be a change altogether to the good, and I look forward to the day when a good many of the rather out-of-date, sordid public houses are transformed into "pub-restaurants", to which the man who wants a drink can, without embarrassment, take his wife, friends and other members of the family.
I regard Part II as being of rather less importance, but I shall say a word about that later. From the outset I have welcomed the provisions of Part III as a genuine effort to rid our society of the evil that has grown up in recent years, particularly in the suburbs of London, of those bogus clubs that are at present able to obtain registration merely by the payment of a nominal fee; clubs that have become little more than dens of drinking and of other vice, and are entirely without any police control or supervision.
My only regret here is that the Bill does nothing to touch the equally undesirable non-alcoholic clubs and cafés which also abound in the suburbs of London, often as breeding-grounds of vice, and I hope that, in another Measure, the Home Secretary will do something to deal with these non-alcoholic cafés and clubs, of which he is aware.
On the other hand, I and a great many of my hon. Friends cannot disregard the strong feelings still held by the churches and by moral welfare workers and others whose opinion is that, taken as a whole, the Bill will lead to a considerable increase in drinking and, in particular, will expose young people to greatly increased temptation to drink, through the grant of a virtually free trade in intoxicants in boarding houses and restaurants.
For my part, I believe that in dealing with social matters like this, we in this House always have the duty to heed the voice of the Christian churches on these problems, but I am also conscious that, recognising what the churches have to say, Parliament has a wider duty to all its citizens, and that we must have regard to the reasonable wishes of responsible people, and to legislate for them by introducing sensible legislation.
I would say, if I might, to those in the churches, both in Islington and elsewhere, who have written to me on this 1565 subject, that, apart from special protection for the young, one cannot—and I think that the Minister of State echoed this sentiment—in this day and generation inculcate temperance and restraint in drinking habits by repressive legislation. That can be done only by precept and example. I would also draw to the attention of those who have written to me the very substantial improvements that have been made in the Bill since it had its Second Reading. As I am sure the Minister of State will acknowledge, most of the improvements have resulted from Amendments moved by my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself—although, I agree, some have come from the other side.
The Minister has referred in detail to some of the changes in the Bill, but I should like to indicate what I regard as the six major improvements that have been made since Second Reading. First, I would put the promise to prohibit any public houses or restaurants selling alcoholic drinks on any motorway. I believe that in accepting that Amendment the Home Secretary was responsive to a very widespread feeling on this subject throughout the country.
Secondly, I welcome the tightening of the controls over restaurant licences, notably, as the right hon. Gentleman said, by substituting the words…customary main meal at midday or in the evening…for "substantial refreshment," and also by insisting that those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, including water, can get them without any difficulty.
Thirdly, I stress the fact that as a result of the new provisions introduced in Committee, magistrates will now have power to refuse restaurant licences to premises that are largely patronised by unaccompanied young people, even though those young people are taking substantial meals there. Fourthly, I welcome the promise to place some check on the present right of children of 14 years of age and over to buy any quantities of alcohol at off-licences. Fifthly, I welcome the abandonment of the idea of extending the Sunday afternoon closing time from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.—a proposal that was almost universally condemned as soon as it was proposed in the House.
1566 Finally, I welcome the substantial relaxation of the provisions in Part III in regard to the registration of workingmen's clubs. My own feeling is that those relaxations in the law for the benefit of genuine clubs, including workingmen's and similar clubs, will not in any way hamper or restrict the main object of Part III, which is to give the Home Office power to eradicate what we have come to call the bogus, undesirable club.
It is because of the substantial improvements in the Bill that I, on balance, think that the law as amended by this Measure will be better than the law as it now stands, and, although it does not contain all the improvements that I would have wished, I propose to support it on Third Reading. But there are two reservations which I want to make in the hope that there will still be further changes in another place.
The decision of the Minister of State, endorsed by the Home Secretary, which really made me cross was the sudden and totally unexpected decision, announced at a late hour on Tuesday night of last week, to extend the closing hours of public houses on Sundays from 10 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. That announcement was received with very considerable surprise and alarm by practically all my hon. Friends—I acknowledge that there were exceptions—and by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope that the Home Secretary will reconsider this matter.
We had no reason to suppose in the Committee, in view of the considerable debate we had on this subject, that any such fundamental change would be made. There was a conflict of opinion in the Committee. As the Home Secretary knows, the Minister of State said that he would review the whole matter, and he said that, while he was proposing to adhere to the existing closing hour of 10 p.m., he was prepared to consider giving the justices the discretion to extend the closing time until 10.30 p.m. These were the words the Minister of State used:I should like to consider…not a general extension on Sundays but an extension, at the justices' discretion, of half an hour…I have not closed my mind to that completely, but I suggest that the Sunday hours are about right, with the possible extension of half-an-hour in the evening if the justices are of that 1567 opinion". [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 14th March, 1961; c. 563.]In view of those words, for the Home Secretary to announce that he was going to fix the closing hour at 10.30 p.m., whether the justices liked it or not, was quite unreasonable, capricious, was not supported by any public demand, was contrary to the wishes of the trade, and, indeed, was contrary to the general view of the Committee and of the House.
It seems therefore, that that decision was completely out of line with the numerous other decisions which the Minister of State and the Home Secretary had taken to respond to the general views of the Committee. I hope, even at this stage, that the Home Secretary will have further thoughts about this matter.
The only reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave on 6th June, when he intervened in support of his right hon. Friend, was that he thought that it would make for uniformity. But the case for uniformity has long since been abandoned. The attempts made to secure complete uniformity of a closing hour throughout the country have long since been abandoned and, personally, I do not think that the idea was ever very practical. I think that the danger that it was intended to deal with—the chasing around from one district to another where closing hours varied—was always exaggerated.
The idea of uniformity does not apply on six days of the week and it is, therefore, ridiculous to argue that this totally uncalled for change in the closing hours on Sunday is either desired or can be justified on the ground of uniformity.
The other reservation I make is with regard to young people. As the Minister of State has said, there are provisions in the Bill expressly designed to give the maximum protection to young people so as to do all that we can to protect them against the incipient temptations to drink alcohol at a premature age. They do not go far enough.
In this connection, I should like to quote what the Guardian said yesterday:…the Government has missed chances to curb drinking by young people under eighteen…restrictions on their right to drink in clubs, or to buy liquor at off-licences, would have made an appreciable contribution to the checking of the juvenile disorders which are 1568 so constantly deplored. The Lords should give the Commons a chance to think again…I echo those sentiments and, with those reservations and in the hope of still further improvement of these matters, I am prepared to support the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
My first thought on this occasion is to thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his courage—for this has been a difficult subject to approach—and for the sound basis, in general, of the Bill which he has presented to the House. There have been one or two occasions when I have not felt it possible, or necessary, for me to extend so large a bouquet to him. And for the Minister of State I have the greatest warmth and praise.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) made a fair speech, and I do not substantially quarrel with its content. But I thought that he made rather heavy weather, as I indicated in an intervention on the Report stage to the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), about the extension of the half an hour. There is, perhaps, room for doubt about the thoughts of the Committee on this point, but I had no measure of doubt that the Home Secretary was impressed with the arguments adduced on this subject and it was no surprise to me when he announced the extension to 10.30 p.m. I have no doubt that, having considered the arguments expressed by hon. Members in the Committee and having consulted his right hon. Friend, he came to the decision he did. Actually, I do not think that it surprised the hon. Member for Islington, East as much as he said it did.
In approaching this subject, hon. Members will know from previous occasions that I have a modest interest, and I declare it emphatically. I have approached this subject from the angle that it has been highly desirable to have a wide measure of liberalisation and freedom, compatible with safety, public decorum and fairness to those employed. In the course of the 75 to 80 hours which we spent in Committee, those three points were never absent from the minds of hon. Members and the same has been true of the thought of hon. Members in the House.
1569 I have been impressed with the almost, but not quite, unanimous view that we want to see a working licensing system more in accord with our modern society. Few hon. Members—even those who do not look upon the habit of drinking as at all desirable—have been reasonable in wishing to see, if there is to be drinking, that the system is reasonable and is in accord with present day standards.
In recent years, great steps forward have been taken. There has been a much greater growth of self respect and the public house is now seldom referred to as an "alcoholic solace". It is becoming more than ever a social centre and, in some areas, it can be the best club in the town. That partnership of effort, good will and civility has made our system of public houses exemplary. Public houses are admired and respected, and, of course, they represent a sort of indefinable characteristic of the British way of life.
I have much praise for this Measure, but my modest criticism of it is almost entirely devoted to Part I. I am grateful to the Minister of State for his attitude towards the considerable number of Amendments I have ventured to move and for tabling his own to carry out, perhaps in a better way, the objects and aims of my Amendments. The hon. Member for Islington, East referred to several of these Amendments, which have resulted in the tightening up which I desired to see in respect of new licences or the capacity to acquire new licences, particularly by restaurants under Part I.
I want to say a word of praise to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office. He contributed enormously to the atmosphere of that remarkable Committee. Several of us, including myself, found ourselves supporting different sides of the Committee at various times, and quite often the Government had the support of Opposition Members. The Government did not always have my support; indeed, I voted with the Opposition on a few occasions. The whole atmosphere made this the best Committee that I have known in the relatively short period of eleven or twelve years that I have been in this House, and that was due in no small way to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State who was so patient 1570 and willing to listen and learn and also to give his advice.
The good will which was present in the Committee has contributed equally to the good will that has been present in all quarters of the industry which has been deeply impressed with the way in which this House has conducted its proceedings on the Bill. With those few words, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
Whatever be the merits or demerits of the proposals in this Bill, I am forced still to register my objection to the Bill as a whole because of the inclusion in it of Clause 6. That Clause is entirely alien to the rest of the Bill. The other Clauses deal with and will affect Wales in the same way as England in relation to licensing matters, hours and so on, but Clause 6 goes much deeper and further than any of them.
Clause 6 deals with the life of the nation, its habits, its respect for the Sabbath and the possibility that those of us who are truly native to that land which we cherish, who still speak the language of our forefathers, may find our lives altered by a majority vote exercised by those who still dwell there but rarely enter fully into the life of the nation. We are still passionately anxious that our separate individual identity should be preserved. We still speak the language of our ancestors. It is the language of our homes, the language that we not only use in Wales but which we who are Welsh-speaking use amongst ourselves in the Palace of Westminster.
We cherish our literature and our language. There is a difference between us and the other two non-English races. In Scotland only a very few speak Gaelic. In Ireland, which has at last demanded and obtained its own independence, its own ancient language has merely been preserved artificially. But to us our language is still our natural and first language and is still in daily use.
I understand from the Home Secretary and the Minister of State that before the other parts of the Bill were introduced full inquiries were made and a number of people were consulted. But apparently Clause 6 was introduced at 1571 the last moment merely because somebody said, "What shall we do about Wales?" The Clause was slipped in surreptitiously by a sort of sleight of hand. It reminds one of the practices of a card-sharper. Wales was not consulted.
If I were in charge of a Bill of this kind and had this sort of question brought before me, the first people I would consult would be the Churches, because this matter affects the churches probably more than it affects anybody else. I should want to know what effect they think Sunday opening would have on the Sabbath day. But neither the Church of England in Wales nor any one of the Nonconformist Churches seem to have been consulted at all. This was brought in without any consultation with those who know most about it.
There has been no consultation even with the local councils. Lord Morrison, when Leader of the House, consulted me with regard to proposed legislation which he thought might be of advantage to Wales and I suggested to him that it would be a very good thing if he consulted the County Councils Association. He did so. That body gave advice contrary to what he thought was right, but he bowed to its advice as it represented the people of Wales.
There has been no consultation on this issue with the representatives of the local councils in Wales. The Government could have consulted the magistrates. But they did not. I understand that consultations on a very wide scale were made on the other parts of the Bill, but not on this Clause. Reference has been made to the effect of Sunday closing upon the tourist trade in Wales. So far as I know, it would never affect the tourist trade, but the tourist agency which could have given advice was not even consulted.
Finally, and the most extraordinary thing of all, there was created by the Labour Government the Council for Wales. I never liked it. It is a non-democratic council. It is appointed by the Minister. I even denounced it, when Lord Morrison introduced it at the Dispatch Box, as a Welsh soviet. Nevertheless, the Welsh Council has been continued by the present Government, and it was not consulted. All 1572 that happened was that at the end of a meeting of the Council, the Minister for Welsh Affairs presiding, there was a talk with individuals—not a formal consultation—each person expressing his own views, and, according to the Minister, they were not unanimous about it.
No Government would dare to treat Scotland as we have been treated. The treatment that has been meted out to Wales reminds me of the treatment that used to be given by the English Government and this House to the Irish people, and we all know the effect of that. Not only do I admire Scotland, its people and its Members in this House; I envy them. I understand that a Bill is going to be introduced to deal with the question of licensing in Scotland. That was not dealt with by pushing a Clause into the middle of an English Bill. It is going to be introduced as a separate Bill. What is more, it will go before the Scottish Grand Committee and the Scottish Members will discuss it.
True we have been granted something similar, and we now have our Welsh Committee meetings, but we were not consulted. We have got to debate this matter on the Floor of the House, where we are a minority and always will be. This is flouting the nation. It is wounding to national pride that Measures of this kind should be introduced without any consultation with us whatsoever.
During the Report stage we were asked to agree that a percentage of people should vote before a poll could be regarded as a proper and legal poll. That was refused to us, but it had been granted to Scotland. We were asking for a mere 2 per cent. It was flouted and put on one side. Scotland was granted 10 per cent. Why the distinction? It seems to me that we, the Welsh nation, with our very honourable record and our great history, have been flouted and been treated as of no importance. But the Government Front Bench not only have a respect for Scotland; they have a wholesome fear of the Scottish people.
The Government have behaved very differently from the way their predecessors behaved in regard to matters affecting Wales. It is well known that, since 1573 1485, certainly since 1536, politically and economically we have been closely associated with England. It may interest the House to know that our political association which began in 1536 with the Act of Union was not forced upon us by an English Parliament but was brought about in response to a request and a petition from Wales. Ever since, that has been the history almost throughout. For example, our education system, of which we are tremendously proud—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I hope he will remember that he is speaking on the Third Reading of the Licensing Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
I realise that, Sir William, and I bow to your Ruling. What I object to is Clause 6 and the way it was introduced, the differentiation there has been in bringing Clause 6 in in regard to Wales compared with the way in which other legislation affecting my countrymen and myself was introduced in the past by the House of Commons.
I have mentioned the example of education. In 1888, our education system was established at the request of Wales. Again, the Church of England in Wales was disestablished at the request of Wales. What is still more extraordinary is that Clause 6 is introduced now, without consultation, yet it will repeal an Act of 1881 which was introduced at the request of Wales expressed in a very great petition in those days. It must have been extremely difficult to collect 267,000 names in Wales in those days, but that was the petition to the House, at that time, to which the House responded without any negation whatever.
I believe that through the way they have behaved in this matter the Government may have started a movement the end of which they cannot foresee. I myself have long felt that our affairs should be looked after by our own Parliament much on the same lines as Ulster. We have a greater and better right than Ulster ever had. There is a movement in Wales for complete independence, and action such as this—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I regret to have to interrupt the right hon. and learned Member again, but the Third Reading debate must be restricted to what is in order.
§ Mr. Davies
I bow to your Ruling, Sir William. I conclude by saying that because of the introduction of Clause 6 in this way, without any consultation, I have no alternative but to oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has spoken with considerable feeling about Clause 6 which deals with Sunday opening in Wales. He will not expect me to follow him in those observations, although I can well understand his concern for the Principality. As a Wessex man myself, born and bred, I know very well that it is sometimes forgotten in the House how strongly we feel about our part of the country and the way in which its individuality tends to be merged with other parts of England which are very different.
No one can say that the Bill has not received very full discussion. We had no less than twenty-five sittings in Committee and three days on Report. For that very reason, I think it is good now to recall exactly what we are doing in the Bill so that we may see the wood through the trees. Some of the principal changes wrought by the Bill can become easily forgotten in the course of our discussions.
Reference has been made already to the way in which the Bill has evoked very strong religious and moral reactions, in particular on the part of what one hon. Member opposite called the "teetotal lobby". The teetotal lobby was very strong in our deliberations upstairs. Others of us have felt that the freedom of the individual to use his leisure as far as possible as he liked was an important principle also. The two principles have been in considerable conflict. As so often happens when there is a conflict of that kind, there have been many compromises. Compromises find few champions, and it is, therefore more difficult to champion this Bill wholeheartedly than it would have been otherwise.
1575 I feel that the members of what has been called the teetotal lobby have had a bit more than their share of influence during the course of our discussions. The very fact that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), whom I regard, rightly or wrongly, as one of that lobby, likes the Bill as it now stands leads me to believe that, perhaps, a rather vocal minority has had more than its share of concessions. In saying that, however, I do not wish to detract in any way from the very excellent task performed by the Minister of State. He has exercised amazing patience and very great skill throughout. If it seems to some of us that the outcome of the conflict between liberalisation and restriction went too much one way, that is not to deny that his piloting of the Bill has been truly skilful.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his courage in tacking the problem at all. It is not an easy problem to tackle, any more than was the Betting and Gaming Act of last year. Both Measures will touch a great many people, and it is a little difficult to see quite what the effect will be. Both Measures are bound to evoke sharp reactions from many. This is no drastic reform which we are considering tonight, but it is, perhaps, as large a measure of reform as the country itself is ready for.
A great many hopes and fears have been expressed. There is a poem by Clough which beginsSay not, the struggle nought availethand which continues with the lineIf hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.There have been many fears expressed about what drinking habits the Bill may lead to, and, no doubt, in the minds of some interested in brewing there have been hopes as well. Both may well prove false and, for my part, I doubt that it will make a tremendous difference to the volume of drink consumed in this country.
After our weary hours—some of them were weary, I think—in Committee and on Report, we do not at first sight seem to have made any very devastating alterations in the licensing law. Public houses may remain open thirty minutes longer during the course of the day. That is not a very devastating reform. 1576 There may possibly be an extra thirty minutes in some places where the magistrates so decide.
§ Mr. Digby
I said at the beginning of my speech that I should not discuss the Bill in relation to Wales. That is a separate issue and I cannot deal with it now.
There has been the recognition that drinking-up time, which has been advocated as of various possible lengths and is now finally decided as ten minutes, is something reasonable, and that it is probably preferable to that last drink being a "bumper", which seems to me the only logical alternative. Finally, we have made a number of restrictions on the clubs in order to enable the police to have a greater control over the undesirable clubs. If that were all that this Bill was to do, I think it would be little enough, but I believe that some of the other provisions in the Bill are perhaps more worth while.
For example, in some guest houses, of which there are a number in my constituency, up to now it has been a practice, I understand, for people to bring in their own drinks and to drink in bedrooms. Curiously enough, hon. Members who take a different view from myself did not seem to think that this practice was a bad thing. Now, if they so wish—and I do not believe that a tremendous number will do so—guest houses will be able to apply for licences, and people will be able to consume their liquor in public downstairs. For myself, I think that is a change for the better, but I do not think that a large number of guest houses will find it possible to give up an extra room. One alteration upon which I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend is that he abolished the rather stringent conditions about the third room, a room which is seldom available in the average guest house.
In the case of restaurants, we have an important change. Restaurants are to get licences easily, and even the hon. Member for Islington, East agreed that it is better that people should drink with their meals rather than drink for drinking's sake apart from their meals. I am quite sure that this will alter drinking habits and that it will be easier to get 1577 a drink when having a meal at a restaurant. There must be many hon. Members in this House who are glad that the practice of turning a restaurant into a club so that people can drink there, or the farce of sending out for drinks, is to come to an end in this country. That is all to the good, because it is one of those anomalies which, in the long run, is not defensible.
Thirdly, there is the question of flexibility. We had a lot of discussion during the Committee stage on how far local flexibility was a practical proposition, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend has given a certain discretion to local justices to vary the hours according to local needs, and to make it possible for public houses, out of season, to remain closed for long hours, without being in any danger of losing their licences. That flexibility I think will work well, although it is not so great as some of us hoped we should achieve at one stage.
Fourthly, there have been these changes about motorways, where I find myself in alliance with the teetotal lobby, somewhat to my own surprise. I believe that in tackling this question early, from the beginning of our motorways in this country, we have done the right thing. The fact that, as from the very beginning of the building of motorways, alcohol will not be obtainable anywhere along them is a step in the right direction. Anyone who feels strongly about road safety will see that it does not altogether remove the difficulties about drink and driving, but I believe that if we can make the change at a very early stage like this on our new system of motorways, it is worth a lot of attempts to deal with evils later in the day.
I do not know how far this Bill will change what we may call the drinking pattern of the nation. It is always so very difficult to see whether what we intend to do here will work out in practice, but I hope myself that with the change in the restaurant licences and these other changes, it will mean that people will tend to drink more with their meals and less separately. I should not be sorry if it changed the conception of the public house a little. When I was a young man, I used to spend a certain amount of time on the Continent of Europe, and, 1578 whatever may be our views about our being more or less like them, I always remember with approval that one could go into one of these big cafes without having to buy any alcohol at all. Whether one bought a coffee, a beer or even a brandy was completely immaterial, and one was never faced with a nasty look when not ordering alcohol. Perhaps we may be getting somewhat nearer to that situation if we succeed in slightly changing the drinking pattern of this country by the Bill.
I do not regard the Bill as a very startling or as a very great step forwad. It is a modest change, but I believe that it is the kind of change that the country wants and for which the country is ready.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I am sure that we have all listened with the utmost interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), particularly as sheer modesty prevented his mentioning that he was responsible for one of the few things in the Bill of which I, at any rate, approve. Through an inadvertent vote, he made it possible, and in fact made it definitely desirable, for the Minister of State to introduce a new code dealing with appeals, and, in introducing that code, felt bound—although to begin with, he did not want to do it, and it was not in the Bill—to give the same right of appeal to those who oppose the granting of new licences as those who sought one. Therefore, for that reason, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
I am sorry, however, that the hon. Gentleman talked about what he called the "teetotal lobby". Those of us who are teetotallers need not be ashamed of it, but so far as I know, there is no teetotal lobby. There is in this House a group of over 100 Members, drawn from all sides of both Houses, which is interested in temperance legislation.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
Will the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? It was not I who coined that term but the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), and it was not challenged when he used it.
§ Mr. Hall
If I were to pursue that topic, I feel sure that Mr. Deputy-Speaker would pull me up. I can at any rate assure the hon. Gentleman that there is little affinity between myself and 1579 my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), who made a speech which, if I had been on the Government Front Bench, I should have wished had not been delivered, for he indicated that he was going to support the Bill, and then went on to give a good many reasons why it was bad and should be changed. I am going to vote against this Bill because I think it is a thoroughly bad Bill. I am going to vote against it for the reasons given by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). He said, and I take it that other Welsh Members will say again with equal felicity, force and sincerity, what many of us feel about Clause 6. I know that Governments are not supposed to be too nice about the way in which they carry out policies upon which they have decided, but I think that we would have to go back a long way before we found legislation of this kind introduced in this way. The Government must have known—otherwise, they would not have done it in this fashion—that if they had introduced it in a proper and aboveboard manner, it would never have reached the Statute Book. So to do it in this way strikes me as quite unfair to a great Principality and to a race of people which has served this country well for so many centuries.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, he ought to be taken up on it. Does he realise that if the Government had not put it in, it is pretty obvious that either myself or somebody else would immediately have done so and, thereby, would have brought it about? Does he not agree with me that it would have been in order to do so? Does he not also further agree that, whereas Scotland has a law of its own, England and Wales stand together with one law?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the House will bear in mind that we are debating the Third Reading of the Bill and that what is in order is restricted to what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hall
That is my quarrel, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It is in the Bill. I wish that it were not. I know that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has great power and 1580 authority over the Government Front Bench. When he says that if it had not been in the Bill he would have put it in, I am inclined to accept it. I hope to deal with the hon. Gentleman a little later, because during the passage of the Bill he has said some very astonishing things and reference should be made to one or two of them by somebody before this debate ends.
First, I wish to protest against the fact that the Third Reading has come on at this time. With a major Measure of this sort, which makes revolutionary changes in the law, it is grossly unfair that we should have to come to it, as it were, at the fag end of the day and after an all-night sitting, which the Government must have foreseen knowing the state of the Order Paper on the Finance Bill. It is true, as the hon. Member for Dorset, West said, that we had protracted debates in Committee. But there was no filibustering. A good deal of the time was spent on proposals of hon. Members opposite. I make no complaint about that, but that is the fact. No time was wasted by those of us who were against most of the provisions of the Bill. We merely took our share of the time. Many of the proposals and Amendments were tabled by hon. Members opposite, and we supported some of them because we thought that they were worth supporting.
We must remember, too, that the Committee consisted of only forty-five Members. Therefore, the House of Commons, on a Bill of this kind, is entitled to have its say. Originally, the Home Secretary gave us one day for the Report stage. It was a shocking thing to do, and I should like to protest about it. In the end, the Report stage ran on for at least three days, with one or two quite late nights. We are now debating the Third Reading at this late hour, and, as I said, it is grossly unfair to the House that this should be so.
I should also like to protest against the fact that the Home Secretary has put in only sporadic appearances at our discussions. I may be wrong, but I cannot charge my memory with any occasion when a major Bill of this kind was introduced and when the Minister principally concerned with it was not a member of the Standing Committee. I make no complaint against the Minister of State. I wish to reiterate what my hon. Friends and others have said 1581 about his courtesy and patience in Committee, but, nevertheless, he is not the Cabinet Minister responsible for the Bill. We have not had the presence of the Home Secretary at our debates, and we do not have it at this moment.
When I was a small boy we had a china Chinese mandarin which used to nod its head if it was touched. The Home Secretary reminds me of it. He sometimes looks very much like him when he is sitting there. The only difference is that he never nods his head, but he is equally dumb. I repeat that it is wrong and an affront to the House that a Measure of this kind should not have had more attention than it has had from the principal Minister involved.
The Home Secretary moved the Second Reading. He said, as we have been reminded by the Minister of State tonight, that the Government were not wedded to the terms of the Bill and that improvements to it would be welcomed. One would imagine from a statement of that kind that if improvements were to be welcomed a free vote would be allowed on them. But not a bit of it. Hon. Members opposite had to toe the line even though there was a free vote on our side on the Second Reading, and that, to start with, was quite wrong. To do them credit, some Conservative Members who were on the Committee—I see one or two of them opposite me now—put forward some extremely good suggestions which the Minister accepted. But he accepted them under protest. Much has been made, for example, about the change concerning motorways. The Minister of State will remember that he resisted that change right up to the last.
§ Mr. Hall
That is true, but only partially true. An Amendment was moved which covered trunk and similar roads. What those of us who put our names to the Amendment had in mind were the motorways. It was made plain during the discussion that that is what we had in mind. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was a Road Traffic Bill coming along and that that would be the proper Bill in which to deal with this matter. The Road Traffic Bill is still coming along, and it is likely to be coming along for another year or more. 1582 However, in the end, under pressure from his own side and backed up by pressure from our side, the Minister accepted the Amendment dealing with motorways. I am very glad that he did. The same applies to the change which has been made about off-licences. An hon. Member opposite moved an Amendment which, the Minister, when he realised how strong feeling was in all quarters, decided to accept.
The reasons for this Bill are very difficult to discover. I am aware of the reasons which have been given for it. The Home Secretary said on Second Reading that one of the reasons for the Bill was that he wanted to wipe out anomalies. There are certainly some anomalies in our licensing legislation, but, surely, they could have been wiped out without having to have such a sweeping Bill as this. Anomalies are inevitable in any legislation. Purchase Tax regulations are full of them, as those who have listened to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) know only too well. The Home Secretary said that the Bill was being brought in partly to get uniformity in opening hours. In fact, the lack of uniformity is more pronounced than ever. Instead of getting more uniformity, we shall have far less.
Then, most astonishing of all, the Home Secretary told us, and the Minister of State reiterated it tonight, that there was a public demand for the Bill. For a little while, I was inclined to accept that assertion at its face value. Since the Bill was introduced, however, and our discussions have got into the Press, I have been astonished to find how little demand there is for it and what a volume of opinion there is against it, not among those who belong to what the hon. Member for Dorset, West called the "teetotal lobby" but among moderate drinkers and ordinary people, particularly those In the licensing trade. They do not want it. They assure me that the hours which they work are long enough already and that if the changes envisaged in the Bill are brought into operation, the cost to them will go up out of all proportion to the extra drink that they might sell. In any event, they value their free time just as much as anybody else does, and this will be greatly lessened.
Is the Bill in its present shape a better Bill? My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East was rather inclined to 1583 think that it was. The short answer, I suppose, is that in some directions it is and in other directions emphatically it is not. As a result of pressure, licensed premises are not to be allowed on motorways. The proposed opening till 3 p.m. on a Sunday has gone. What happened in that respect was that the Home Office published its Bill much too soon. If the Government had had their debates and got the Bill through before people became aware of this provision, it would probably still have remained, but, as soon as people noticed it, there was an immediate outcry from housewives—
§ Mr. Hall
—and from publicans as well, and the Government dropped the proposal like a hot cake.
The supply of intoxicants to young people from off-licences has also gone and drinking-up time has been cut by five minutes. That is the most amusing change which has been made, from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Licence-holders tell me that the change of 5 minutes will make little or no difference to them. They will still have to get the people out of the bar, and after that they will still have to clear up, get the ash trays emptied, sweep up and wash down. With the extra hours which public houses will now have 'to remain open, it will often be midnight and after before the staff get away. Very often, the last bus will have gone, and I am told that the cost of getting staff home by taxi will in some instances, be too heavy for the landlord to bear. All these considerations should have been such that the Home Office was aware of them. Instead, however, the Government apparently have no regard for the individual so long as they can give the appearance of being a liberalising Government carrying through a liberalising Measure.
I do not want to speak too long, because I know that a large number of hon. Members want to take part in the debate. There are, however, other parts of the Bill which I find difficult to accept. Something has been said tonight about the apparent improvement in the new definition of what should constitute a meal. The original draft of the Bill referred to "substantial refreshment". 1584 That has now been defined as a "customary main meal", but what a customary main meal is is anybody's guess.
§ Mr. Hall
With some people, it is a sandwich or a couple of sandwiches. To others, it is a three-course meal. I do not want to quarrel about that, however. Although that definition has been included and is all to the good, it does not mean that drink must be taken only with the meal. When we were discussing the matter, it became obvious that a table meal could be a meal taken off a shelf; it would be perfectly possible before a person sat down to his meal or afterwards to stand at a bar and drink, and the bar could be in the restaurant. This makes a great difference to what many people imagine to be the change in the law, a change which, I freely admit, if it meant sitting at a table to have a drink with the meal, was a change considerably for the better from what has been called perpendicular drinking.
I was shocked the other night when the Minister of State refused to accept the change to prohibit young people under the age of 18 being supplied with with drink in clubs. Working-men's clubs overwhelmingly refuse to allow people under 18 to have a drink in their clubs. More often than not, they will not even admit them to membership. But the right hon. Gentleman the other night envisaged a tennis club, for instance, where one has people under 18, and, as far as I understood him, saw no reason why they should not be allowed to have a drink. This makes nonsense of Clause 2 (3), under which justices can refuse a licence to any restaurant or boarding house to which young people habitually resort unaccompanied.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would put a tennis club in the same category as a restaurant or a boarding house when it comes to an application for a licence. I understand not, and that means that tennis clubs and similar clubs where young people foregather will be able to supply intoxicating liquor to adolescents, many of them of quite a 1585 tender age, and it will be quite legal to do so.
The object of the Bill is to increase the facilities for drinking. There is no doubt about that. The Government's case is that the time has come to allow this, but some of us rather doubt that. I do not accept the suggestion that these modern times demand a new approach to this subject. For over 400 years Governments of this country, whatever their complexion, have thought it necessary to control the supply of intoxicating liquor.
We may object to that or accept it, but Government after Government have decided that it was essential in the interests of the community at large that some control should be placed on the sale of intoxicating liquor. The only question which we must ask ourselves today is whether the conditions have changed so much that we can relax the controls which have been found necessary.
The advent of the motor vehicle on the roads has made all the difference to the approach which we and the Government should make to this matter. The casualties on our roads are alarming, and in spite of every effort that is made they seem to be on the increase. Not all, of course, are due to drink, but medical research has shown that alcohol, even in small quantities, lessens the faculties of the driver. That means that even if he takes food—and this has been definitely proved—with his alcohol the effect of the alcohol is still there, although it may be slightly delayed.
This raises a dilemma that the nation will presently have to face. I hoped that the Government might have faced it, but apparently they have run away from it. The dilemma is that if alcohol has such an affect on the individual, and if the majority of us now have cars, to what extent should we permit ourselves to drink when we are driving? The Minister of Transport has laid down the principle, and apparently acts upon it, that "If you drink don't drive, and if you drive don't drink."
Instead of facing this problem, the Government apparently want to widen the facilities and increase the opportunities for drinking. We had hoped that the problem would, at any rate to some 1586 extent, be dealt with in the Road Traffic Bill, but, as we know, that Bill is not likely to reach the Statute Book this Session. It means that the Bill we are now discussing will be in operation before legislation is passed to deal with the difficulties which arise when people who have been drinking drive vehicles.
I shall vote against the Bill with great pleasure. It is a retrograde Measure. It is far too sweeping. It is too early to know what effect this Bill will have on the social habits of the community, but that it will have effects which many of us will deplore, is, I think, definite. I hope therefore that not only as many hon. Members as possible will show their disapproval of the provisions in the Bill in their vote tonight but that when it reaches another place their Lordships will find it possible to take out of this Measure many of its worse features.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
In moving the Third reading of the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Home Department said that in drafting it the Government had had in mind all the time the welfare of young persons. I was glad to hear that. He referred to the safeguards in that connection and to the heavier penalties for those who offend against the law. Indeed, he was art pains to draw attention to the increased penalties for offences agaist the licensing laws. I do not disagree with that.
My right hon. Friend went on to say that the Government did not regard this as a charter for increased drinking. I shall say something about that later, but I believe that the Government and my right hon. Friends are sincere when they say that, however mistaken that sincerity might be. I am one of many people who hope that this Bill will not be regarded as such a charter, and that its effects will be innocuous.
My right hon. Friend said—and in this he was supported by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher)—that we should regard the Bill as a whole. What I imagine my right hon. Friend meant was that we should consider the effect on our society of the different parts of the Bill taken together. In other words, we should consider the good with 1587 the bad, and the different with the indifferent. I do not see how one can do that. I do not think that that is possible
Like every other hon. Member I am delighted to see the repressive—I use that word advisedly—measures in Part III to stop these mushroom clubs which ought never have been allowed to start. I am in favour of that part of the Bill, but I cannot in the same Bill bless something which, without any question of discretion, requires public houses to keep open half-an-hour later on Sunday nights. I must distinguish there between the good and bad parts of the Bill, and I think that every reasonable Member will do the same.
The hon. Member for Islington, East said that the Bill had been materially altered since the Second Reading debate. He is right. He enumerated six major points on which it had been changed, all of which were cogent, important, and thanks be, are now in the Bill. He also used an expression which has been very much bandied about the House when he talked about the Bill being a liberalising Measure. That is using a rather classical and high-class term for something for which I could find much clearer descriptive terms. I do not like the word "liberalising" being used in a way which implies that much more licence is being given in matters of general conduct. I hope that the Bill will not prove to be liberalising in that way.
The hon. Member also said that the Bill had been brought in to deal with anomalies and to attract tourists. There are still some anomalies left which seem to have escaped the notice of the Government. As for tourists, I should like to know how far we are going in order to please them. I have not heard of any great number of tourists who have refrained from coming here in the past because of our so-called antiquated licensing laws. I do not believe that any have refrained. I shall look with interest for the new figures of these would-be drinkers, drinking till 3 o'clock, who will be appearing on these shores in the years to come. I do not believe that the figures will be so different that they will justify this provision in the Bill.
I can well imagine that some tourists who came here in the past and found that, in contrast to the situation in Berlin and Paris, they could not get a 1588 drink until a certain hour in the morning, were rather disappointed, but that they ever refrained from coming here because they knew that that was the situation I cannot believe, any more than any of us know the licensing laws of a foreign capital which we approach for the first time. We know if we have been there before, but not otherwise. This tourist argument is being very much overdone in many ways. I am not at all certain that we are not visiting upon the backs of the tourists our own desire for a little more liberalisation, knowing that the tourists cannot answer back.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
My hon. Friend will not be able to prove any case by referring to people who do not come to this country. Surely he should pay regard to the views of those people who do come here and have repeatedly told the British Holidays and Tourist Association that they think our existing licensing laws extremely irksome and discouraging.
§ Mr. Cole
I take my hon. Friend's point. I would make a further point to him. If he can prove that the people to whom he is referring have not come here again there may be something in the argument. We all know that those people have come here again. The argument seems to be more than that. We must have foreign exchange in order to maintain our standard of living, and it appears to be a specious way of maintaining our standard of living to alter our licensing laws in order to persuade foreigners to come here.
As I said just now, I am quite convinced of the sincerity and belief not only of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are responsible for the Bill but the Government themselves about their intentions in bringing it forward. My doubts are whether their sincerity will fructify in practice and lead to our being a better nation. The hon. Member for Islington, East said that he thought that, on balance—and he was most careful about that—the Bill was for our good. I am a little more cautious. I think that we must wait to see how it works. I sincerely hope that the hon. Member is right.
I am pleased to see some of the repressive measures in Part III, although I am sorry that some of them are not 1589 as crystal clear as I would wish. I hope that the lawyers and magistrates who will administer them will understand what is in our minds. It is not the function of judges or magistrates to interpret what appears in HANSARD; their job is to interpret the law as passed by Parliament, which is a very different thing.
I believe I am right in saying that the hon. Member for Islington, East pointed out that there were no powers in the Bill to deal with nefarious clubs which did not have liquor licences. I can see nothing in Clause 23 which requires it to be necessary for the proprietor to hold an alcohol licence if he is to be prosecuted for unlawful conduct. I hope that is right. If it is not, I shall be very disappointed and wish it otherwise.
There are one or two points about what is in the Bill to which, in fairness to myself, I must refer. In Clause 8 (6) there is a reference to the question of regarding Christmas Day and Good Friday and Sundays as weekdays, and the subsection at the end, contains the peculiar expressionand in that section week-day' shall include"—and for some reason which I cannot discover it goes on to say,and be deemed always to have included, Christmas Day, when not a Sunday, and Good Friday.I am sure that there is a good legal reason for it, but in a House to which restrictive legislation is an anathema it seems a strange conclusion.
In subsection (8) of the same Clause—I have already given notice of my intention to raise this point—there is a reference thatnothing in the Sunday Observance Act, 1780"—which, for the interest of the House, I may say was originally called the Profanation of Sunday Act—shall apply to any extension of hours to three o'clock on a Sunday morning. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has looked at this point again. I should like him to be certain, with the observance or otherwise of the remaining emaciated portions of the Sunday Observance Act. Dancing in this country is illegal on a Sunday and in this three-hour extension past midnight, to which we are about to assent in that subsection, I am wondering 1590 whether this general reference to the Sunday Observance Act is adequate. That is not a point for or against the Bill but a question of using a little intelligence about it.
The second point to which I wish to refer is the announcement, to which reference has been made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, about this mandatory half-hour extra on Sunday night. It eliminates any question of discretion by the magistrates. I do not believe that every drinker wants it, and certainly not every portion of the trade desires it. Nor will publicans in every case want it. But here it is, and they have to have it.
§ Mr. Eric Johnson (Manchester, Blackley)
If my hon. Friend will look at Clause 7 (7), he will find that it states:Nothing in the Licensing Act, 1953, or this Act, shall be taken to require licensed premises to be open for the sale of intoxicating liquor…and so on. As was made clear during the Committee stage discussions, a licensee is not forced to keep his premises open.
§ Mr. Cole
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) has quoted the legal point. But the majority of licensed houses in this country are becoming tied houses. I should like to take the opinions of the twenty or thirty brewery companies about what they would do regarding the houses which are tied to these breweries in one form or another.
§ Mr. Vosper
My hon. Friend is not aware of the discussions which have taken place and the fact that the Brewers' Society has said that it will not enforce the additional hours under this Bill upon the tenants.
§ Mr. Cole
I am prepared to admit that it was my lack of knowledge of the conversations which have taken place that led me to the opinion I expressed. It has possibly led other people to think 1591 the same about what might happen. I am delighted to know, as I am sure others will be, that we are wrong.
The third matter I come to is the question of the protection of young people under 18. I shall not rehearse this controversy. Reference has been made to it tonight, and it was fully debated on Monday evening. Talking of anomalies, to which I referred earlier, it seems rather extraordinary that Clause 20 solemnly and rigorously lays down that no chocolate which includes liquors shall be sold to any person under 16, but, if he happens to be in some club, although he may not buy such chocolates, he could, under this Bill, buy any amount of drink which the club sees fit to sell to him.
That is an anomaly which I give to my right hon. Friend to think about. It is laid down in the Bill at present. For a Bill which seeks to think—and which I believe does think—about the welfare of young persons, who after all will be the adults of tomorrow, a Bill which in the actual printed word and in promises we have had is protecting young people under 18, I fail to see why we cannot make this protection comprehensive and to cover clubs and all licensed premises. However, that is the position and we must leave it there.
I end with this thought. I believe this Bill can, and possibly for a time will, give increased facilities for drinking. That I deplore. I do not think we want those increased facilities. I do not think they were asked for by any section, the consumers, suppliers or those who dispense drinks. Nevertheless, I have great faith in all my fellow men. I believe that the pattern and habit of society in this country will not change, will not depreciate, will not get worse and that—despite the additional facilities provided in this Bill, not because of them—we shall take the Bill in our stride. It will go on to the Statute Book ironing out a few anomalies, but creating a few more, yet I think it will go into history as not causing damage to the country.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I join in the complaint which has been made that we are having only half a day for the Third Reading of this Bill. 1592 The Government did not realise it, but today my heart is in Llanelly, where I wished to be in the procession which will be proclaiming there that the Welsh National Eisteddfod for 1962 is to be held in my constituency. However, I felt it my duty to stay here, however long this debate may last, in order to vote against the Bill on Third Reading.
I shall say only a few words about the general provisions of the Bill. A word or two ought to be said, although no one has yet mentioned it, about the fact that we are creating a new kind of licence, quite unknown in our licensing laws. I must pay tribute to the Minister of State and to the Solicitor-General for their courtesy. However, they did not think this matter worthy of mention. For the first time we are to give licences as of right. We are removing from the licensing justices a principle embodied in the licensing legislation for a long time, that they have the right to decide in granting licences where there is a public need.
By Part I the criterion of public need now goes. I say to all hon. Members, whether they belong to the "teetotal lobby" or any other lobby, that we are making a very great mistake in that. We are destroying something which on Second Reading the Home Secretary himself said had served the country well. I hope that many hon. Members will vote against the Third Reading of the Bill if only because of that.
The second thing I say, in the hope that it will be considered in another place—I repeat what I said on Monday—is that whatever may be argued, all of us, I am sure, are disturbed about the increase of drinking and of drunkenness among young people. Whether we ourselves like drinking or not, all of us are disturbed about this question. We are all disturbed about its effects and consequences in our lives. I deeply regret that the other day the Minister refused an Amendment, supported by many of my hon. Friends associated with clubs, which would have prohibited the supplying of drinks in clubs to boys and girls under 18. Speaking as a Commoner from Wales, I hope that the other place will have more wisdom than this House when dealing with that question.
I turn to explain why I, as a Welsh Member, will vote against the Bill. First, 1593 I want to make my protest against what I regard—and I use my words after due thought—as the shabby treatment meted out to Wales by the way in which this Bill has been handled. The Bill removes one of the few Acts on the Statute Book which apply specifically to Wales. Not a word was said about it in the Conservative Party's General Election manifesto. I have made many researches, but as far as I have been able to find out, not a word was said about it by any Minister or by any Conservative Member fighting any constituency in Wales. They did not take this issue to the people. They never broached it to them or discussed it with them. It was not an issue If it were their intention to include Clause 6 and the Second Schedule in the Bill, they owed it to the people of Wales to explain what they intended to do if they were returned.
Let me bring it nearer than that. We began this Session, as we begin all Sessions, with a Queen's Speech. I will read to the House the sentence in that speech—it is not my sentence but the Government's sentence—which refers to the Bill:Legislation will be introduced to provide for a levy on horse-racing and, in England and Wales, to check abuses by registered clubs and to reform the licensing laws.There was not a word specifically about Wales or about the Act—which was passed in 1881, it is true, but which the Conservative Party eight years ago reaffirmed and consolidated in the 1953 Act. That was consolidated unanimously. Every hon. Member here who was present in 1953 voted for confirming the Sunday Closing (Wales) Act in the 1953 Bill—and that applies to the Ministers, too. There was not a word in the Queen's Speech about that Act. Had there been, then no doubt there would have been speeches on the subject at the beginning of the session.
Secondly, as the right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said, there were no consultations with the appropriate bodies in Wales. For some time after I first came to the House, I served as Secretary of the Welsh Parliamentary Party. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) is the present secretary. It was the practice of Governments of all kinds to consult the Members of the Welsh Parliamentary 1594 Party, which included all the Members for Wales of all parties in the House, on specifically Welsh matters. Why did not the Minister consult us on this matter? There was not a word about it.
The only consultation which took place was with the Council for Wales. We representatives of the Welsh people, elected by the people, first heard that the Government had an intention to include this provision in the Bill by reading a report in a newspaper of the meeting which the Minister had with the Council for Wales. It was an extra-ordinarily interesting meeting. I had something to do with setting up the Council for Wales, and as far as I know it is the only hush-hush meeting which the Council has ever had. Generally, Ministers ask the Council to look at a problem and give its views. We have had a number of reports from the Council. In this instance, we learned from the Press that the Minister met the Council and discussed this matter with them before it was ever mentioned to anybody in Parliament. No one knew about it. Wales knows that this is true, even if the House does not.
However, we have the Bill. I have expressed my views about it. I shall oppose it. I am opposed to its provisions. I am opposed to the repeal of the 1881 Act, which was reaffirmed in 1953. I have stated my reasons for opposing it. I do not propose at this hour to detain the House much longer, but I want the Government to realise that they have caused deep offence to and deeply wounded Welsh Nonconformists. I represent in the House of Commons a town and two valleys—the town of Llanelly, the Valley of the Ammon, in which I was born, and the Valley of the Gwenddraeth. They are typical Welsh places, no better and no worse than others. This evening I shall cast my vote for myself only and not for them. The social democracy they built up, their trade union movements, their cultural movements, their political movements, everything connected with them, have been cradled in Nonconformity. I believe that I shall speak for all that is best in their life when I vote against the Bill this evening.
There was a time in the history of our country as a whole when the Nonconformist conscience would have been too powerful to let this Bill pass into law 1595 It is not so powerful now. The Non-conformist conscience has things which are worth preserving, but if it were to pass I should not regret it altogether if it was replaced by something better. I have spent all my life fighting for better material conditions in industry and politics. I fear that we shall go on to a material affluent society which will have no conscience at all.
Perhaps Nonconformity is weak. Perhaps it can be discarded. Perhaps it is a minority. If it is not too late to appeal to the House, I remind hon. Members that we in this country have a great tradition of recognising, and being sensitive to, our obligations to minorities. Not long ago I stood at the Dispatch Box and pleaded with the House and my hon. Friends, against all the traditions of my Nonconformity, to be generous to a religious minority in this country—the Catholics. The House was generous. I hope that the House will realise that it has an equal obligation to recognise, and be sensitive to, its obligation to nonconformity, even if it is a minority.
I hope that my words will not fall on deaf or unsympathetic ears. I know that I have taxed the generosity of hon. Members a great deal during the passage of this Bill. My duty is clear. I have never cast a vote on any issue on which I was more firmly convinced than I am on this issue tonight. I am sure that in voting against Third Reading I shall vote for everything that is best in the life of my country.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I admire and respect the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). It has been my opinion for a long time that he is one of the finest debaters who graces our assembly, but in supporting this Bill I feel as strongly as he feels to the contrary that it is a good Bill; that it will achieve good, and in so far as I have the capacity of persuasion at all I will try to give a few reasons for that belief.
Because I am the fourth Member of this House whose father and grandfather were Liberal Members of Parliament for Welsh constituencies and who understood Nonconformity, and because I was brought up at least with that understanding of it, although I do not hold to its principles, being a member of the Church 1596 of England, I do understand and deeply appreciate the Liberal viewpoint—as it was in those days, and as it now resides to a very large extent in the hands of Labour Members opposite.
I want in a moment or two to say a few words about Clause 6 and Wales, because although I have spoken a great deal on this Bill, in the House and in Committee, and have played a very close and active part in a great many of its Amendments—twenty-five days or more in Standing Committee, not to mention those days spent in the Chamber—it will be the first time I have spoken at all on that Clause. That is not because I have not felt strongly on the Welsh issue, but because I thought it right, for reasons that I shall give in a moment, not to intervene.
The first criticism that has been levelled in this matter is that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not played any great part in the Bill. Well, I have always been brought up to believe that if one can delegate things to a leader who can put them over with equal ability, it is not necessary to be there oneself, and one thing we have all agreed is that in my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General we have, indeed, had two extremely good generals handling this Bill; and they have managed to do so to the contentment of the House as a whole, and that is quite an achievement.
Having said that, I should also like to say this, and I mean every word of it. For many hours in the Standing Committee the Nonconformists were fighting, and frequently they were fighting me, and I, at any rate, greatly appreciated throughout their courtesy and their moderation. If now, perhaps, a little bit of extra emotion creeps in, that, to say the least of it, is fairly understandable, after a long debate and after what they must regard as quite a serious number of defeats for their principle.
On the other hand, they have, if I may say so, throughout the debate expressed their view in a forthright fashion, and almost man for man. Indeed, though even now any vote would, I think, show that three-quarters or more of the House were against them, none the less the great majority of views expressed so far in this debate have come from them, and rightly so.
1597 The real clash comes right at the start. I do not believe that we need any longer to control the supply of alcohol in the United Kingdom, save only in respect of youth. Therefore, though I support the Bill, I do so not because it is a liberalising Measure and we have to extend a little further to our grown-ups the opportunities for drinking, or because at last, perhaps, the people in the provinces might be allowed to have the same sort of drinking hours that they have had for so long in London because London is grown up and the provinces are not. That is not my view, and it is not the view of the country.
Here I beg hon. Members opposite to recognise that those of us who express this view are speaking for millions of men who have not the capacity to express a view, who certainly hold no strong religious views, and who think, "Well, the Government are not doing so badly, and I hope to heaven we can drink when we want to".
I think that the time has completely gone for Victoriana, and it is not an idle gesture that I have been closely associated with this Bill, as I was with another last year, and as I hope to be with all Home Office legislation which is bringing us up to date, and forming a new social pattern in line with the changes in our times. I assure the House that this Bill will make considerable changes—not small ones—in the social drinking habits of our age. I do not share the view that this is a small Bill; it is quite a big Measure, and I should like to say why I have come to that conclusion.
The constitutional change proposed in the Bill is extremely important. This evening hon. Members have sat throughout the Finance Bill, a Bill dominated by Government. Here, on the other hand, we are seeing the emergence of a new change in the House; legislation largely moulded by the House—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
With no Whip, so far as we have been concerned. There has not been any question of that and I can assure the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) that I have not felt guided at any time save on the one major matter of Wales where I have 1598 been persuaded of the good sense of the Government.
As I say, this constitutional change is important. It is essential that hon. Members should be given greater facilities, by Parliamentary draftsmen and others, to enable them to assist the Government in the changing and moulding of social legislation which, to a large extent, is non-party and which is partisan usually only in the moral sense. New concepts are emerging and, in these days of good Standing Committees, we are beginning to get at what is the real heart of government.
I know that a great many hon. and right hon. Members, high up in Government circles, believe that the Government should govern. I, on the other hand, believe that the House should govern on matters affecting social conscience; and this is one of them. There has been immense pressure from those concerned with the tourist industry to see that tourists who wish to enjoy themselves in this country should, if they so wish, be able to drink as and when they want and as and when they require it.
The first part of the Bill is, in simple terms, a means of ensuring that any adult may have a drink with a meal at any time when he or she would normally have a meal. Consequently, there has been quite a substantial change. I do not believe that one can ever apply a test of public need. It is not really a question of need. It is, really, a question of training. It depends whom one is. I was brought up, at any rate from a fairly young age—from 16, 17 or 18 onwards—not to think it wrong to have a beer or a glass of wine with a meal. As a result, by the time I was about 21, although I did not have the smoking habit, I was playing for the Cambridge cricket side and I would have my drink of beer and wine. We went to cricket and tennis clubs, some of us being 17 or 18, and we would usually have a drink. Therefore, how could I come to this House and oppose this Bill without being a hypocrite?
It seems manifestly right to me that one should decide, first of all, whether one believes, in this modern age, that there should be a severe control on alcohol. I do not believe that there should. The other day someone, I think from the B.B.C., said to me that this is 1599 really a sort of trades union Bill. I said that, in a sense, it is.
Part I aims to ensure that one can have a drink with a table meal at any time one wants a drink. It also says that in hotels and boarding houses which wish to have a licence—and many of them will not—one can have a drink if one wants to. A large number of such hotels and boarding houses in Thanet will not seek licences because there is not sufficient demand. While many of them will not wish to avail themselves of the provisions of this Bill, others will.
People like the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) and others, including Nonconformists, who wish to come to Thanet, can stay at hotels and boarding houses that are not licensed. Such people will have opportunities of staying at "dry" premises in London and throughout the country. At the same time, however, those who want to drink will be able to do so inside their hotels or boarding houses without having to go to the nearest off-licence and bring their drink back with them to the establishment at which they are residing.
If the proprietors of such premises are of the proper character and run their premises correctly they will be able to obtain licences and, with the extended general licensing hours, people will be able to get a drink in public houses or hotels until a slightly later hour. In London tourists from all over the world will be able to dine until midnight and drink until 12.30 a.m. if they so desire. That is what I particularly want to see. The British Travel and Holidays Association and the Hotels and Restaurants Association, not only pursuing their own interests, but in the closest possible touch with the demands of the people in this country and in every part of the world, came to one not purely as lobbyists but saying, "This is what the country needs and this is what the demand is", and I am satisfied that they were right. That is what my friends, as they have travelled round the world, have said time and again. That is what Part I is about.
As to Part II of the Bill, the licensed trade itself is the greatest obstacle to extending the hours, other than the Nonconformists. Consequently, 9½ hours is the maximum period for which one can reasonably ask. Those who say that we should 'sweep away the licensing laws 1600 are equally wrong, because men and women must have reasonable and proper working hours. Therefore, the only real question which arises is whether this opening period could be made flexible or not. The Government, who I am afraid to say were not wholly with me, said "Yes." So we have got flexible hours and we can have different opening hours on different days of the week from Monday to Saturday, but the period can be only 9 hours.
I should like the licensee to be able to choose his own 9 hours out of the 24 hours. I did not think that the Government would have disagreed with that, but they have said that 11 o'clock must be the latest closing hour. In cities like Manchester and Birmingham on a Friday or Saturday night a man may want to stay up till 11.30 p.m. I do not think that Nonconformity can argue that if a grown-up workman stays up till 11 o'clock at night having a glass of beer it is all right but that he should not be allowed to stay up till 11.30 p.m. That is what I find difficult to understand.
I do not think that alcohol is evil in itself. I find that drinking with meals is more beneficial than drinking without a meal. I do not want "pub" crawling to continue. That is why I coined the word—I thought it was quite attractive at the time—the "prub". I believe that we shall see a social change in our time and the "pubs" will become all-purpose restaurants. I believe that we shall see the larger "pubs" taking over and the smaller "pubs" gradually turning in their licences.
As this evolves, we shall get what I want to see—one can see it in one or two places already, in Hemel Hempstead for instance—places where the family can go, the "prub", with the restaurant in one part, the men's bar, and the family bar where wives can go and where even children can have their lemonade, and if the "old man" wants to drink alone he can go to the men's bar. So we shall see the end of the old small "pub" designed for drinking only and the emergence of the "prub", the development of the hotel and restaurant, leading to something new and more attractive and better for our social future.
I was rather hurt when one hon. Member suggested that I was saying something derogatory about Nonconformity.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Other hon. Members hold views which are contrary to the views which I am expressing. That I appreciate and understand. I understand that they do not agree with the views that I am expressing, but just as they have the right to the adherence to their views, I am sure they will concede to me the equal right to the views which I am expressing.
I come now to the clubs. It is important to ensure that we do not change their constitution and structure. It is still necessary to look at their voting rights and ensure that the good clubs are not excluded by the bad. The strengthening of Part III is vital. I believe that it has been effectively done, and I am sure that there will not only be no drinking clubs of the old kind in the West End of London, but there will be no need for anyone to try to operate that type of club. The man who will try to operate in vice will be cornered, if not by this Measure, at least by recent decisions of the courts. I see no danger, therefore, of the destruction of moral fibre to which one of my hon. Friends referred.
I wish now to reply, with every moderation, to what the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said about Wales, and to make certain explanations. I have never before said a word on this subject, either in Committee or in the House.
First, I believe that it would have been right to introduce this Bill in Wales completely. That is my view, as I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate. I believe that it is far better for Wales that it should happen in this way than that the present system of drinking should continue. I say that for this reason. There are more drinking clubs in Wales than in England. I have seen more people drinking on a Sunday in Wales than in England.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. He said that there are more drinking clubs in Wales than there are in England. Is he aware that the Home Secretary, in reply to a Question from me some weeks ago, gave figures which proved that the number of clubs in Wales and the number in England worked out at about the same pro rata, about one to every 2,000 people.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Perhaps I should have said that there are more drinking clubs per county in Wales than there are per county in England. That would, perhaps, have been more accurate, I agree. Suffice it to say that there is a very much higher ratio of drinking clubs in Wales than there is in England, with the exception of the West End of London. [Interruption.] All right. This is not vital to the argument.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
What is of vital importance to the argument is that there is very considerable drinking in Wales on a Sunday at present, and it takes place in clubs. The obvious fear of hon. Members opposite—a genuine fear—is that if local option prevails the Welsh people, in having their say on the matter in a properly conducted election, will decide that they no longer wish to be so limited.
I should have been with the Welsh Members who pursue that line had they been prepared to fight this as a true issue which would have meant closing the clubs altogether on Sundays. Unfortunately, this idea of closing the clubs on Sunday would merely have resulted in Nonconformity losing the battle altogether. If one had put in an Amendment, as I wanted to do, for the purpose of excluding club drinking as well as public house drinking on Sunday, in order to get the issue right, that would in the end have been regarded as a trick, because the club members would have voted with the public houses and excluded the alternative altogether.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I shall give way to the right hon. Member in a moment. Therefore, purely on that ground, it was not done. Let us suppose that the Government had not introduced—
§ Mr. Griffiths rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman in a moment or two. I am dealing with the heart of the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said that what had been done was shabby, and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said 1603 that it was almost the act of a cardsharper to include Clause 6.
Had the Bill come forward without Wales being referred to at all, Welshmen in Wales, apart from those in the House, would definitely—I am sure I shall have confirmation of this from another quarter—have sought to include Wales altogether without any right to be consulted. When the right hon. and learned Member says that Welshmen were not consulted, I ask him to note that what the Government have done—I want this to be clearly understood—is to defend Nonconformity against me and my hon. Friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is true. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel), in his Second Reading speech, made perfectly clear that we wished to include Wales completely. They would not have had the opportunity of an election, which they will now have. I say quite frankly that I certainly would have done so.
Therefore, on this issue, the Government have fought against their own back benchers and have defeated them good and soundly, and that is the reason why in Committee we did not fight this battle but accepted local option, a view which I find, constitutionally, most unattractive. If we are to have a referendum on this matter, I say that I do not like it one little bit.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
I want to correct what the hon. Gentleman has said. He said that we had not presented a clear issue, and that the clear issue would be to include the clubs as well. I am not sure whether he was present in the Committee at the time, but no doubt he has read the proceedings. My hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) and myself tabled an Amendment to bring in the clubs, but the Government rejected it and it was turned down by the Committee.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely justified in making that comment. I was immensely attracted to his Amendment. I wanted to do it, but I did not do it on the ground that if we brought in the clubs in actual fact it would be a very much more difficult battle than otherwise.
I want to conclude now, because I must not keep hon. Members—
§ Mr. G. Roberts
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that we also suggested that the ballot paper should contain, not one question, but a tripartite question which would separate the questions of closing the clubs, public houses and other licensed premises, so that the difficulty which he has mentioned, namely, that taking both or all three lumped together would prejudice the issue, would not have arisen?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
That depends on the view one takes on elections. I take the view that we are very lucky to get people to put a cross in the right place with one question, let alone several questions. For that reason, I think that the suggestion, ideal though it is for those who understand the issue, would not be practicable.
I did not want to say anything on the Welsh issue. There are many of us who, first of all, dislike this idea of local option, and who, secondly, say that Wales is not Scotland. Wales has the same law as England. Many of us practise on the Welsh circuit, and go around Wales. Scotland has a different law. Wales decided of its own volition to be part of England. Scotland, as we well know when we see Scotsmen in the House, has an entirely separate law.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
It is all right to give way to an hon. Member, but not to more than one at the same time, which causes confusion.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
Surely the crux of the matter is that Wales has a general law which is common to both England and Wales, but, regarding Sunday opening, it has a different law.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
That is an argument with which I do not agree, but it is an argument.
I want to conclude by saying that in 1881, when that matter was raised, and I will not go too far back, there were no clubs in those days. There is now a very large number of clubs, and if I may have the temerity to say this, even the Welsh Tourist Board, which has been referred to on this matter, is in favour of this Sunday opening, and not against it.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am not guilty of saying that, but we have a letter from that Tourist Board, which supports it and is not against it.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
On a point of order. Since I am a member of that Tourist Board, will the hon. Gentleman give way?
§ Mr. Speaker
That cannot conceivably be a point of order. The hon. Gentleman may or may not give way.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I have the letter about this, and it would only lead to argument if I dealt with it. [Interruption.] We often have two Scots arguing. To have two Welshmen arguing, particularly if one of them has Irish blood in him, is too much. I shall leave some other hon. Member to take up the cudgels for the Welsh argument.
I am sure that everyone has done his best to improve the Bill. A considerable number of improvements to it have been made by both sides. I am sure that those in the country who think that we have been too restrictive will appreciate that we have had our difficulties in getting liberalisation to the extent that we wanted. I hope that the consumers will bear in mind that the trade and the people who have to work in it must have reasonable working hours. It is along those lines that Parts I and II of the Bill will work to the benefit of the country and, I have no hesitation in saying, will lead every foreigner coming to this country next year to say, "I need have no fears of being able to get a drink in my hotel or in a restaurant when I want it". That will certainly be of benefit to the tourist industry.
§ Mr. Watkins
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him whether he would be kind enough to show me the letter which he has had from the Welsh Tourist Board?
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) bore every sign of having sat down.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has said so many 1606 things with which I totally disagree that I had better not try to deal with those but should try to select something that he said with which I do agree. He said that the real point of this Bill is whether there should be control of alcohol. I entirely agree with him that the real difference is between those who are against restriction and control and those who believe that there should be fairly considerable restriction and control.
I propose to vote against the Bill on two grounds, one general and one specific. The general ground is that I believe that the Bill will inevitably be harmful to the character of the people of Britain at a time when they need all their strength and sobriety to face the immense economic and social challenges with which they are confronted. The second ground is that I wish to join the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in protesting against the manner in which Wales has been treated in the Bill.
To revert to the general point, it is possible to adopt one of three attitudes or policies in relation to alcohol. First, there is total prohibition. Few people in the country or in the House would agree with that. Secondly, there is the policy of unrestricted sale, to which I rather think the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet would lend support and which the Government, in the Bill, seem to be well on the way to supporting. At least the Bill originally provided that off-licence premises might remain open literally day and night. That has been amended, but the original intention was of that magnitude.
Thirdly, there is the policy, which I and those who think as I do support, of control and restriction and, indeed, of repression in these matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) stated that he did not believe that the evils of drink could be countered by repressive measures, but he went on to list five or six progressive measures with which he wholly agreed and which would lead him to support the Bill in the Lobby.
For the last forty or fifty years, Governments of all complexions, drawn from the three great political parties, have agreed that alcohol, being what it is, a 1607 substance of great potential danger to the individual and to society, must be controlled and restricted. The argument for that policy is non-partisan. It is not confined to teetotallers. Sensible people, whether they drink or not, agreed long ago that the potential dangers of excess in drinking are such that the Government and the country must control and restrict its use. Experience has shown that that policy is the right one.
Until about the beginning of the First World War, we had a system of non-restriction, or something closely allied to it, with calamitous results. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has graphically described what happened in those conditions before the great changes of 1915. After a few months of war, however—and war has a way of revealing mercilessly the weaknesses as well as the strength of the people—all parties in the State agreed that there was a case for control and control was accepted. It continued in the inter-war years with little change and carried on right throughout the Second World War and up to the present time.
What we have had with beneficial results is a system of control and restriction which, by and large, has worked well. The Government, however, are now abandoning that system, which most people would agree, has worked with the exception of a few anomalies and which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) indicated, could be put right. They are instituting a major revolution in our way of life, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet described it.
The hon. Member is quite right. This will lead to a major revolution. It will affect social habits. It will change the direction of individual lives. It will cause great hardship, worry and anxiety. It will add to the numbers every year who take up prematurely the drinking habit and the number of those who begin to indulge in it to excess.
The general argument based upon the experience of the past is surely conclusive. What about our experience of the present? Before we let the Bill have its Third Reading, we should ask ourselves whether this is really the time for a major relaxation of those controls and 1608 restrictions. This is a time when, it must be agreed, convictions for drunkenness among young persons under the age of 21 have doubled in six years, rising from a little over 3,000 in 1953 to over 6,500 in 1959. One could give other figures which prove that this is certainly not the time when a Bill of this kind should be sanctioned by the House of Commons.
There is also the figure about death on the roads. No one will deny that many of the cases of death and maiming on the road do not arise from indulgence in strong drink. Since 1948 deaths on the roads have trebled, and last year the number of those killed or hurt approached 350,000. At this time and in these circumstances it is criminal that the Government should introduce a Measure which greatly extends facilities for drinking and the hours during which drink can be sold. If any change were necessary, there should, in view of these facts and figures, have been a sober appraisal of where the law should be tightened up.
It is difficult for a Welsh Member to restrain his feelings about the way Wales is being treated. I see that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is at last in his place to listen to our complaints. I say to the Home Secretary that Clause 6 and the Second Schedule are the result of the worst possible advice about Welsh policy that any Government could have received. I am certain that the Home Office never intended to introduce these features into the Bill, to insert this grotesque method of dealing with the Welsh question into a general Bill and to hold local option polls on this question. It was something dreamed up somewhere else and wished upon the Home Office—and now it wishes that it had not listened.
These polls cannot be conducted with dignity and authority even with the Amendments which the Government have inserted. If the Government persist in implementing Clause 6 and the Second Schedule they will be faced with recurrent headaches to successive Home Secretaries and Solicitors-General—because I do not want to leave the right hon. and learned Gentleman out of this. This thing is not workable. The Government may persist in holding these polls in the autumn, but I prophesy that they will only be held once, because the provisions are not workable. In any case, 1609 Clause 6 should not be in the Bill. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said that if the Government had not introduced a provision of this sort he and other English Members would have done so. By what right?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am just as much entitled to speak as a Welshman as is the hon. Member, even if I am not at the moment representing my native land. There are scores and scores of Welshmen in Thanet and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Roberts
I asked by what right because I appeal to every section of the House to understand our position. We are thirty-six Welsh Members out of 625. When the most specific Welsh question comes before the House, anything that we can do is nullified by sheer force of numbers. The numerical majority has no right, by sheer force of numbers, to override the desires and the will of the Welsh Members.
§ Mr. Roberts
Local option is not the answer. If it were, why have Members of Parliament at all? Why not settle everything by local option? While we are on that subject, I ask the Solicitor-General whether, now that the idea is to be democratic and enable the Welsh people to settle these questions for themselves—this is quite a change—we may look forward to being allowed to settle other questions in this democratic way.
For instance, is it proposed that the various Welsh counties shall decide by local option whether they shall receive German troops? Or is it intended that; there shall be local option either by county or throughout Wales on the question of leasehold reform? The Principality is demanding the reform for which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has been assiduously and devotedly arguing in this House. Can we look forward to the application of self-determination by this democratic process in regard to questions like that?
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that it is high time that Wales was granted the means of settling its own specific problems by the Welsh people in Wales, leaving the Parliament of the United Kingdom to concentrate on the great issues which face the peoples of Britain as a whole.
1610 The House deals with international, economic and local issues—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member to whom I was listening with much interest, but it is a little difficult to believe that all that is within the rules relating to the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Roberts
Oddly enough, Mr. Speaker, I think that I agree with you. Having been the recipient of a good deal of silent kindness from the Chair more than once, may I reciprocate by drawing my remarks to a close and simply say that those of us who have opposed the Bill on principle have done so not because we are prohibitionists or anything like that. We think that strong drink, by its very nature, and by the experience of individuals and of society of its possible effects, must be very carefully controlled as to facility, time of sale, and availability.
As a Welsh Member, I join my hon. Friends in protesting once more against the treatment of the Principality in this way by the Government, and I ask the House to join us in throwing out this Bill, if only because it is an insult to the Welsh people.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Dr. Donald Johnson (Carlisle)
This Bill has been put forward by my right hon. Friend as a liberalising Measure. Various views have been expressed on that point, but there can be no dispute about the liberal way in which my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend have conducted the Committee and other stages of the Bill.
We on this side of the House cannot complain that we have not had our say in respect of the Bill. In that respect the Standing Committee considering this Bill was different from certain other Standing Committees on which I have served during my time in the House. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that in a way the Bill has been formulated by the views of hon. Members serving on the Standing Committee and that we may be evolving a new method of framing our social legislation. I hope that the Standing Committee which considered this Bill will be an example to other Committees which consider social legislation.
1611 My right hon. Friend has been good enough to accept a number of Amend meats to the Bill. Though I have a special constituency interest in the Bill, to which I shall refer later, by supporting other general Amendments I have derived a certain amount of vicarious satisfaction
As individual Members we often feel that we do not get the credit we deserve for the things we do, and it is gratifying if, on occasion, we receive credit for things that we do not do. It was with intense gratification, therefore, that after the Committee stage I received an airmail letter from a writer in Columbus, Ohio, informing me that it had been announced on the radio throughout America that I was sponsoring a Bill providing that water should be served in restaurants throughout this country. The writer asked for more particulars about my Bill. I apologise to my right hon. Friend and to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) for having stolen their thunder on the other side of the Atlantic, Whoever has the credit, there are certain establishments in the City of London in which I shall not have lunch or any other meal in future without having a copy of this Measure protruding from my pocket.
I want to register my reservations about Part I of the Bill, and to echo the doubts I expressed in Committee whether sufficient control will be provided over restaurant licences. I still think that we may have been a little too free with them. I hope that my right hon. Friends, including the Home Secretary, will keep an eye on the way in which these restaurant licences are granted and the sort of people who obtain them. My doubts, however, are not sufficient to cause me to refrain from supporting the Bill if a vote is called tonight. I am happy to support my right hon. Friends in regard to the main functions of the Bill.
I have to thank my right hon. Friend, in particular, for accepting the Amendment relating to the Carlisle State Management Scheme. Carlisle was rather a late entry into the field—even later than the Principality of Wales—but it made a certain amount of progress because of the sympathy of my right hon. Friend in accepting my Amendment 1612 relating to restaurant licences and a further Amendment—I am not quite sure whether I can call it mine—relating to clubs in Carlisle. I apologise for not being in the House when the Amendment was moved on Report, and I do not want to bother my right hon. Friend for a reply on the matter now, but I hope that I shall be able to have a word with him about it, because on looking at it I find it a little untintelligible if it is supposed to be my own brain child, and I hope that my right hon. Friend can explain it to me in clear terms.
During our debates we have not considered the Carlisle scheme as a whole, and I have refrained from pressing my right hon. Friend on the subject in view of the late stage at which we considered certain aspects of it. However, it may be that his mind is not entirely closed. Now that we have gone so far in considering the scheme, and he has been good enough to pay a personal visit to Carlisle, so bringing the subject into his range of personal experience, he may agree to give further consideration to the whole question.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Since the hon. Gentleman has the honour of representing the City of Carlisle, I should like to ask him a direct question. Is he informing the House now of some kind of opposition—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The point I should like to put to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) is whether, in view of his remarks in the last few minutes, he is indicating to the House that as the Member of Parliament for Carlisle he is opposed in principle to the Carlisle experiment which, so far as my investigations go, has been a success?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot reply to that within the rules of order relating to a Third Reading debate.
§ Dr. Johnson
May I ask the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) to listen to what I have to say—
§ Mr. Speaker
No. If that is what the hon. Member is proposing to discuss, it will be out of order on the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
There is no point of order. If some point of order has been raised, I am unaware of it.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was dealing with it. He was suggesting that the Home Secretary might have some further reflections about it. Had it not been so near to ten o'clock I should have stopped the hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. Johnson
Relative to this experiment, I think that my right hon. Friend must stop and ask himself what on earth he is doing running a brewery, and for a number of reasons I have suggested—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must assist me by relating his observations to the express provisions in the Bill.
§ Dr. Johnson
In deference to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, may I curtail my remarks—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and speak to the Amendments which my right hon. Friend has so kindly accepted during the discussions on this Bill? I hope that on future occasions, and starting from the circumstances that he has given during the proceedings on the Bill, he will consider the scheme as a whole with a view perhaps to transferring it to an independent foundation of some kind. The profits might go to the arts or humanities or to a worthy scientific experiment rather than be under the direct control of the Home Office.
With those few remarks I should like to draw my speech on this Bill to a conclusion by again congratulating my right hon. Friend on the way he has steered 1614 this Bill through the Committee stage and to thank him again for the special consideration which he has given to my constituency.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
This is the first time that I have had the honour of speaking on this Bill throughout all its stages, and I am not sure that I am altogether attuned to the bandying atmosphere which has developed. I wish to make one or two comments about the provisions in Clause 6. I agree with my hon. Friends who have expressed the view that this matter should have been taken as a separate issue. It has not been possible for hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies to express their views upon it in a substantive form until today. Now we are being asked to express our views on it in connection with a number of other issues with some of which we may agree and with others of which we may disagree.
There is no doubt a very strong feeling in Wales that this is an issue on which Welsh Members of Parliament should have a special voice and an opportunity to express their views. I regret that the Home Secretary did not introduce a separate Measure dealing with this issue. The more I look at the Bill the less I like it. There are same things in it that I am not enthusiastic about and there are others to which I am actively opposed.
I think, for example, that Part I, dealing with drink with meals is drafted in a way that, unless it is taken in hand by the justices, can lead to a substantial extension of drinking. I know that there are many hon. Members who do not mind that. On the whole, I do. Maybe it was my Nonconformist Band of Hope upbringing that causes me to think like that. I was only six years of age when my elder sister guided my infant fingers in signing the pledge. I adhered to it for many years and was none the worse for that.
As I have embarked on this personal biography, let me say that I kept the pledge until I was a man of substantial years and I was none the worse for it. I do not want to encourage drinking. I do not believe that it is a good thing, especially for young people. I very much regret that the Amendment which would 1615 have put further restrictions on drinking by young people was resisted. Much is said, sometimes scornfully, about the moral fibre of the nation. Great play is made about it, but there is such a thing as a climate of opinon. I am getting the feeling that the climate of opinion is moving too far the wrong way at present.
I do not want to disappoint my hon. Friends, but I do not think that drinking a glass of beer on a Sunday is going to affect the moral fibre nearly as much as the philosophy which I heard expressed recently, "You can get away with as much as you can". That I believe to be much more dangerous, but I feel that this is a Bill which we should all view with considerable reluctance. It has something to be said for it, because it attempts to deal with the bogus clubs. To that extent I am in favour of it.
If we can do anything to clean up those clubs I am all for the Bill, but we are being asked to vote for a very mixed bag of measures, some of which I agree with and to some of which I am opposed. I am now speaking as the Member for Cardiff, South-East. It would be possible to abstain from voting on this Measure and not to declare myself. Frankly, if I were an English Member I should be half inclined to let it go and let the Government get on with it, but, in view of the nature of the Bill, and as a Welsh Member, I believe I have a duty to say where we stand on this matter.
I have had a great deal of contradictory advice and instruction from constituents. There is no doubt, as some of my hon. Friends have said, that Welsh Nonconformity feels itself deeply attacked and offended by the action of the Government. I have had representations from the Free Churches in my constituency. I have met their representatives and talked about this matter with them at very considerable length. I have also had representations from the clubs. I have met representatives from all of them, at least all who asked to come to talk to me—eight in number. We had a long talk in a club where alcoholic refreshment was provided. I have met the licensed victuallers. I have also had letters, not many, from constituents with no particular interest in the matter.
I can claim that I am fairly well instructed in the views of constituents in 1616 so far as they have been expressed. I should not say that there is any great enthusiasm about this Bill. Their attitude ranges from indifference to very active hostility. But I am satisfied that if they were asked, on the whole they would like to be able to express their view about the opening of public houses on Sundays. My view is of less concern in this matter. I have stated their view as far as I have been able to ascertain it.
I have to decide whether I shall vote for a Clause which will give them the opportunity to decide. Because I think that, on balance, as far as I can make it out, they would like the opportunity to decide for themselves, I shall cast my vote in favour of the Bill.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
All hon. Members who have been through the Committee stage will agree that the Members for Wales have put their case with a persistence and, if I may say so, with an agreeableness which has commended itself to all. I do not propose to enter into the rights and wrongs of the Welsh issue. Obviously, from the point of view of principle I should have preferred the House to deal with the issue outright. It is clear that from the point of view of principle that would have been the more desirable way. But I accept the compromise which the Government have proposed, and I hope that many hon. Members who represent Welsh constituencies will take the view expressed by the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and will come with us into the Lobby in favour of the Bill.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for the way in which they have dealt with an extremely difficult and trying Bill. I doubt whether there is any other issue which Parliament can raise which impinges on social questions quite as much as does licensing. Almost every hon. Member has a view upon almost every aspect of this issue. Moreover, the problem which I see in the Bill is that there is a conflict of interest within the trade and often an alignment of interests between some sections of the trade and some sections of the teetotal lobby. In an endeavour to steer a good middle course between those conflicting interests and to bring about a liberal measure 1617 of social reform, my right hon. Friends have had an extremely difficult task, and I believe that they have acquitted themselves most ably in it.
Hon. Members opposite who support the teetotal lobby have said that this is a transcendent measure of liberation, almost of licence. But if we look through the provisions we find that, with the exception of the restaurant licence, there is nothing in the Bill which can by any means be described as revolutionary. It is a modest measure of liberation which I should say is well within the compass of the socially restrained and responsible people of this community. Unlike some hon. Members who are members of the teetotal army, I believe that on the whole we have a responsible and well-disciplined people. Of course we have drunks, but if the Bill reduced the hours of drinking to three hours a day there would still be drunks in our midst.
There is no evidence, and none of the teetotal army has produced an iota of evidence, to show that an extension of drinking hours will bring about adverse social consequences. I am prepared, on the other hand, to assert without any doubt that giving the facility for drink with food will have a beneficial effect upon the drinking habits of the people of the country, and I am convinced that a few years of experience will show that that assertion is true.
I have been concerned with Licensing Bills in the House for the past fifteen or sixteen years, and it is comforting to me to see the difference between the attitude of the House towards this Bill and the attitude towards the Licensing Bill in 1949. Then a relatively small handful of Members dominated and tyrannised the House. A small minority of people compelled the House to produce a Measure much more illiberal than the ability of the nation justified.
I am glad to say that today the domination of the teetotal lobby is at an end and the House is prepared to judge the issues not on the question whether they will offend a certain element of Nonconformist opinion, but on the question whether these issues are ones which should be decided upon the broad basis of what is good for the community as a whole. This is a great change which I wholeheartedly welcome, because I 1618 have been greatly angered at the way in which a minority in the House and in the country have tried to trammel the lives of the majority of people. I say this as one who is not interested in drink. I say to teetotal hon. Members that they should try to have the same liberal attitude—
§ Mr. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the teetotal lobby, as he calls it. Has he never heard of the brewers' lobby?
§ Mr. Shepherd
I have, indeed. I said earlier that during the course of the Bill there was an unholy alliance between the brewers, on the one hand, and the teetotallers, on the other. The brewers wanted to restrict sales to their own avenues, and the teetotallers wanted to restrict sales altogether. During the course of the Bill I have heard of the effect of the brewers' lobby. I say with all sincerity that it is quite wrong for hon. Members who are teetotallers to try to inflict upon the rest of the community the views which they hold. If people want to drink, and drink within reasonable moderation, there is no reason why they should not. If the "pubs" are open for another half hour, no teetotaller need be forced into a "pub" for the extra half hour.
I want to refer to the special hours certificates, in which I have been particularly interested. I am very glad that we have been able to get an extension of hours to three o'clock on each day except Sunday. I have had some experience with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in the operation of special hours certificates. I very much appreciated the really liberal-minded manner in which he, a teetotaller, was prepared in 1949 to face up to the realities and give establishments in the West End the opportunity of special hours certificates.
I have said before that this experiment has been justified, but it has been a difficult experiment. The police have had extreme difficulty in keeping the regulations up to date, because the hours have been too short and it has been extremely difficult to conduct these establishments on a basis of reasonable profit. I believe—this was the real reason, among others, why I pressed the Amendment to extend the hour to three o'clock—that, if we extend the hour to three 1619 o'clock, there will be no incentive for any establishment to serve after hours. If an establishment serves after hours, I hope that the magistrates will not take the lenient view which magistrates during the past two or three years have taken of offences committed by licensees of special hours certificate establishments. In the past few years magistrates have inflicted fines of £10, £20 and £30 in respect of establishments serving drinks up to four o'clock These are derisory fines and do nothing to stop the individual profiting by his misdeeds. When the Bill becomes an Act and we get licensed service until three o'clock and licensed consumption until 3.30 on every weekday, including Saturday, I hope that magistrates will then take a most serious view of any infringement of the Act beyond those 1620 hours. If they do not they will not be serving the community as they should.
I sum up by saying that I believe this to be a sound, liberalising Measure. It is a compromise as, of course, such political matters always are. It has been said that one could do away with the whole gamut of licensing law without any serious social consequences, but the country is not yet prepared for that. In this Bill, the Government have produced a sound measure of reform, which will give to every person an opportunity of taking alcoholic refreshment when and where it is reasonable to do so. It will not give offence to any other section of the community that may oppose that point of view. It is a sound Measure, and I am quite convinced that when our teetotal friends look back in five years' time to this occasion they will say, "Why did we prophesy such dire consequences from this Bill?"
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)
As a democrat, I have had to exercise a great deal of restraint, while listening to some of my Welsh colleagues denouncing the principles contained in Clause 6. Several bouquets have been bestown on the Minister and the Solicitor-General by hon. Members in all parts of the House, but I think that mine is the first Welsh bouquet they have received. The Minister of State deserves the congratulations, the esteem and high regard of the Welsh people for his strenuous and determined resistance to the barrage of rhetoric and intense, high-voltage protests in Committee by those who expressed indignation and disgust because, for the first time in eighty years, the people of Wales are to have the opportunity to decide matters for themselves.
On what grounds do my Welsh colleagues object to Clause 6? Some of them have accused the Government of cowardice because they did not bring in a major Bill to deal with the position in Wales. I leave hon. Members to imagine what would have been the fury of my Welsh colleagues in such a case. They would have accused the Government of wilfully applying their overall majority of a hundred in order to impose their will upon the Welsh people, and, in the absence of any authority for the Government doing that, I would have supported such a protest. As has been said, on this issue the Government have no mandate. The matter has never been an issue at any General Election, so they are not able to act in that way. Neither has any Welsh hon. Member the right to decide for himself that he shall be the judge of what the Welsh people require in this matter.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) deplored the fact that the provisions contained in Clause 6 had been included in the Bill without anyone in Wales having been consulted. He deplored the fact that the Council of Wales had not been consulted and that the opinions of other representative bodies in Wales had not been sought. But I urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to remember that even if they had been consulted by the Government on the question of Sunday opening, what right would they have had to have 1622 spoken on behalf of the people of Wales? What right has the Council for Wales or any other organisation to claim to be the voice of 2½ million Welshmen?
For that reason—which is a very simple one—it must be realised that there is no authority, no mandate, no consulted representative opinion existing on this matter. It is, therefore, fair and proper that the people of Wales should exercise their democratic prerogative to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to have Sunday opening. There should not be any attempt made by any of the 36 hon. Members representing Wales to impose their private standards for life on the community as a whole.
I listened with extreme interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and I appreciate that it was his proudest moment in his life when he stood at the Box to advocate and observe the rights of the minority. That is the sort of approach every Nonconformist should have. There must be tolerance and understanding, and both of these virtues have always been associated with the Nonconformist movement in Wales.
We—and I claim to be a Noncomformist by tradition—have always realised that there must be tolerance towards others. Tolerance must exist if we are to obtain what is right in life and to uphold the sacrifices that were made by those who originally formed the Noncomformist movement in Wales. Freedom of conscience and liberty of the individual are of paramount importance. That is why the feelings that existed in the heyday of the Nonconformist movement in Wales fifty years ago exist today.
For those reasons, I urge my hon. Friends, whatever their opinions may be about other facets of the Bill, and I shall not speak about many other points which some hon. Members may not consider are in tune with the social requirements of the community—to take the right course. I hope that in the dying hours of this day hon. Members vote to do one thing: to liberate the people of Wales from the tyranny and the bigotry that has dominated their lives for over eighty years.
1623 What have the Nonconformists to fear from Clause 6? What have they to fear from giving the people of Wales the right to decide by ballot? Apparently they fear that this great culture of ours that has withstood the challenges of succeeding marauders from Europe, that has beaten back the English invaders, this glorious heritage that has withstood the test of time—this imperishable glory will be mortally wounded because somebody in Wales is going to have a drink on a Sunday.
I have no desire to deal further with some of the inconsistencies which have been expressed in this debate. I know that hon. Members wish to express their opinions—
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
—and to speak. But any hon. Member who goes into the Division Lobby against this Bill is saying something that is an insult to the intelligence, dignity and nobility of the people of Wales. He will be seeking to deny them the right to decide for themselves what shall be the position of Wales so far as it is affected by Clause 6. The issue is not the question of teetotalism or alcoholism or a question of the brewers versus the Churches. Deeply rooted in Clause 6 is not a moral, spiritual or religious question. It is a constitutional question, a question of civil rights.
Thanks to the resistance of the Minister and the Solicitor-General, this Clause has been preserved to enable Welshmen, for the first time in their lives, to raise themselves from the status of second-class citizens as they are today, and to obtain constitutional parity with England. I am sure the Welsh people will be ever grateful to the Minister and the Solicitor-General for this remarkable service of giving them the right to decide for themselves what shall be their way of life in the future.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I am grateful to be called, and I realise the anxiety of the House to reach a decision, but I none the less believe that it is quite wrong for my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) to go unanswered. My 1624 hon. Friend is in no position to lecture Nonconformity. He is the last one in this House to speak with authority and knowledge of what happens within the family of Nonconformity. He claims to be a Nonconformist by tradition—though not by conviction, apparently. My hon. Friend referred to the bigotry of the people who belong to the chapels of Wales. I think the House ought to know—I thought that my hon. Friend might have told us—that the Treherbert ward in his own division disowned him on this question. I think he ought to have told the House that.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas rose—
§ Mr. Thomas
I shall give way in a moment or two. I promised to speak for only five minutes. I hope my hon. Friend will allow me to finish my sentence. He has been saying thoroughly unjustified things, very rude and undesirable things, about the people who have made in Wales a great contribution to our national life.
§ Mr. Iorwerth Thomas
My hon. Friend has said that I ought to have confessed to the House that, because of what I have said on this matter, a certain ward—a group of about half a dozen people—has dissociated itself from my remarks. It was not so much because of what said on this Bill but on other matters connected with religious organisation. The members of the executive committee of my division are in no way protesting against the stand I am making on behalf of the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Thomas
The truth is that, immediately before the municipal election in my hon. Friend's constituency, the candidate and the local party felt it necessary to disown the attitude he had adopted, and this was stated publicly in the Rhondda Leader.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood) rose—
§ Mr. Thomas
Will the hon. Member allow me to get on? I believe that the chapel people of Wales are not alone in their resistance to Clause 6. In the Weekly Argus published in South Wales 1625 last weekend, the whole front page was given up to an article by a licensee who told us that the majority of licensees have been afraid to speak. I will read what is said:The majority of public house managers and tenants throughout Monmouthshire, and, indeed, Wales as a whole, are against Sunday opening. But they have been afraid to speak out against the proposal to have seven-day drinking in the principality because their employers, the brewers, would view such outbursts with disfavour. Even within their own organisation, the Licensed Victuallers' Association, managers and tenants have not aired their true views because they dare not do so.It is a very long article, which goes on to say,Particularly where Socialist M.P.s are concerned, we look to them to better our lot and not put the clock back half a century.Then there is complaint about having to work seven days a week.
The House knows my attitude, and so do people outside. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-West (Mr. Callaghan), with whom I am sorry to find myself out of step on this question—
§ Mr. Crowder rose—
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member is ruining any attempt on my part at making a coherent speech. I wish that he would remain quiet.
I am sorry to find myself out of step with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-West on this question. I respect his sincere views on the matter, as, I trust, he respects mine. None of us in the House is a delegate. Not one of us is expected to go about with his ear to the ground. Not one of us is expected to try to find out majority opinion on any subject. We should for ever be playing for popularity and security if it were otherwise. The duty of every hon. Member of the House is surely to declare what he believes is right for the country. That is our duty. If our constituents do not like it, they will know what to do. But, whether they like it or not, it is our duty to proclaim what we believe is in the best interest of the people.
I end with one word to the Home Secretary, who last weekend addressed the Conservative teachers and deplored the increase in juvenile delinquency. He said that we need moral uplift and more discipline in the family. But the same 1626 Minister is responsible in this Measure for increasing the temptation to the same young people. In my judgment, this Bill is a bad Bill. Clause 6 is a coward's castle which enable Welsh Tories who have not been into the Chamber at all during the Third Reading of the Bill—
§ Mr. W. G. Morgan (Denbigh) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Thomas
As I was saying, Clause 6 is a coward's castle which enables Welsh Tories, who have not been into the Chamber at all during the Third Reading of the Bill and who would not be in the House at all today had they fought the last election on the question of Sunday opening, to hide behind this facade put up by, the Government, pretending that they are letting the Welsh people decide.
We are elected to act for the Welsh people and it is our responsibility. Clause 6 is an abdication from the authority that we ought to assert, and I regret that the Government are pushing the Clause on to the Welsh people.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
We have now arrived at a very late stage in the consideration of what is a Measure of first-class importance, and our deliberations have been greatly facilitated by the courtesy of the two Ministers in charge who are present on the Government Front Bench. They have—at any rate, I believe they have—satisfied those who took part in the debates that, whether or not they agreed with the arguments advanced, they at least took them into consideration and weighed them carefully. We did not always agree with their conclusions. If we always agreed, democracy would come to a sudden and sickening end.
As the Bill emerges—at any rate in my view—it is a Bill that we ought to support. I said on Second Reading that it was my intention to vote for it, and I did so. That is still my intention, and I think that the Bill has been considerably improved. In the short time that I propose to detain the House I will state the reasons which lead me to my view.
1627 The Bill is in three parts. I would put a plus against Part I, a double plus against Part III and a query or a minus against Part II. Part I—(Restaurants and Guest Houses)—I evaluate in this way. I am not so impressed by the tourist consideration, although I have no doubt that tourists would prefer to have a drink with their meals. What impresses me is this. I try to enter into the minds of the many millions of ordinary people in the country. Many millions of them like to have a drink with their meals. I do not, so that I can speak without having to declare any interest. I nearly always take water or lemonade with my meals. This is not a virtue; it is, an idiosyncrasy, but one which I do not share with many millions in the country.
The present position is that the law says to people, "If you go into some restaurants, you may buy a drink. If you go into others you cannot, but even in those others in which you cannot buy a drink you can resort to this ridiculous stratagem. You can turn to one of the waiters or waitresses and, if you can persuade him or her for the time being to act as your agent in that behalf, you can ask him to go out until he finds an off-licence and there, as your agent, buy an alcoholic drink and bring it back to the restaurant. If the restaurant management does not object, you can consume it upon the restaurant table. That has always seemed to me to be a ridiculous situation. Speaking, perhaps, too much as a lawyer, I very much dislike inconsistencies and anomalies in the law which lower it in the public respect.
I ask myself whether it really does very much harm if ordinary people who like to have a glass of beer with their meal have it. That is what Part I of the Bill permits. It does little more than that.
I recognise, as many hon. and right hon. Members have said when speaking in these debates, that the change embodied in Part I may have far-reaching consequences. It may produce the result that every Lyon's teashop will have a licence and be able to serve alcoholic refreshment. Lyon's teashops are well run, they serve solid and substantial meals and they are only to have their licence to serve alcoholic refreshment if 1628 it is served merely as an ancillary to one of the main customary meals consumed by persons sitting at a table or another structure or counter which serves as a table, to use the definition of the Bill.
That seems to me to be a sensible change which accords with the general views of the citizens of this country. It does not seem likely to produce any great evil in its train. In a sense, I suppose, the change which we are making must be regarded to some extent as experimental. It may be that restaurants with licences will proliferate so enormously that some future Parliament will have to reconsider the matter; but I think it unlikely.
What is likely to happen is that in a large number of well-conducted restaurants where a person can get, and where one resorts in order to get, a solid customary meal, to use the language of the Bill, Which one proposes to consume sitting down on a chair at a table or another structure which serves as a table, one may have an alcoholic drink with it. I do not believe that if we make that change, we will be doing any harm. On the contrary, we will be doing this good. We will prevent the law from requiring recourse to these rather absurd stratagems, as I call them, to produce the sensible result that the normal citizen can have a drink with his meal. Therefore, I would put in plus against Part I of the Bill.
I put a query or a minus against Part II. My reason is that I do not think it has been established in the course of our discussions that there is any real public desire for an extension of the permitted hours. If I felt that it had been shown that people wanted drinking hours to be longer than they are, I would think that that Part also was a Part which should have a plus put against it, but it is very much open to question whether that is the case.
A number of our fellow citizens will be seriously disadvantaged by the proposed change. I refer to those who have to administer that part of the law, the licensees and those who work in licensed premises. It has been pointed out over and over again that considerable hardship may be imposed upon them owing to the lengthening of the hours.
I have already expressed my view on Clause 6 on Second Reading and I will 1629 not run the risk of expressing it again in this debate. All I would say about it is that we owe to Clause 6 a considerable debt in having had the advantage of the two remarkable speeches to which we listened from my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who replied to him. That was a valuable addition to our debate. That is all I would like to say about Clause 6, except to hark back to the fact that I said at an earlier stage what I thought about it without qualification.
I pass on to Part III, against which I put a double-plus. It would be unthinkable to allow disreputable clubs to go on—clubs in which we find shifty-eyed individuals engaged in luring young gentlemen with sideboards, drain-pipe trousers and unwholesome complexions into their insanitary basements and dousing them with alcohol while the young men concert violent plans to replace from other people's pockets the money that is being removed from theirs. That state of affairs cannot go on.
During Second Reading, and in Committee and on Report, it was pointed out that Part III, with its stringent and necessary provisions, perhaps went too far. The Minister of State and the Solicitor-General paid heed to the apprehensions expressed and have responded to them. The changes they have introduced in order to make it unnecessary for reputable clubs to keep going to the courts, and, in particular, the change they have made in relation to working-men's clubs—exonerating them from police inspection if they have been in existence at the time of the passing of the Bill for three years—and other similar changes which it would be supererogatory to enumerate now, have very considerably alleviated the position in the case of the respectable clubs. The heavy burden that remains on the shifty-eyed managers of disreputable clubs remains, and I hope that nothing will prevail upon Ministers in another place in any way to alleviate that burden.
These are the things which lead me to the conclusion that this Bill, on balance, is a good Bill and should certainly be supported. I differ from many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are also to support it, in that they have 1630 hesitations and I have none. I believe that the good in the Bill easily outweighs the evil. It would be few Bills which, dealing with such a highly controversial subject as the consumption of alcoholic liquor, could pass the test of being altogether good.
This is a matter on which there are the most conscientious differences held and, if I may refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), I think he put his point of view with an intensity and sincerity which is of the greatest value in the annals of this House. I am sorry that some hon. Members used, in somewhat contemptuous terms, the expression "teetotal lobby." I do not know on which side I would stand. I favour people having more facilities to drink, but I never, or rarely, drink myself. The term is a bad one, and I do not think that those who are anxious about the evil effects of intemperate consumption of liquor should be open to criticism because they watch carefully and with suspicion any extension of drinking facilities.
Their contributions which have animated our debates showed the utmost sincerity and are of extreme value. I have a different approach and differ in my conclusions, but their point of view is entitled to respect and they should not be referred to in contemptuous terms.
I hope I have at not unnecessary length explained the reasons why I shall follow the course I have followed throughout the proceedings on this Bill, and support it as a useful social change.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Jocelyn Simon)
Whatever views right hon. and hon. Members may have about this Bill—and they differ sharply—they will be united in one matter, that is, the almost unexampled way, in modern times, in which the Bill has been shaped by the House of Commons. One could see that in the difference of approach of the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) as measured by his Second Reading speech and by the speech to which we have just listened. It seems to me that, whereas on Second Reading he was very wary in his commendation of the Bill, on this occasion he was much warmer. The reason for 1631 that is that from all quarters of the Committee and the House there have been modifications of the Bill—leaving its main structure untouched, but nevertheless effecting very substantial changes and improvements in detail.
On behalf of my right hon. Friends I must acknowledge a particular debt of gratitude to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), who were the main spokesmen from the benches opposite in Committee and on Report, for the unfailingly constructive approach which they brought to our proceedings.
It would be very ungenerous if I did not mention particularly the conduct of those right hon. and hon. Members who differed very sharply from our approach to this problem. I mention only the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), but there were many others. There is no question but that they felt, and fell strongly, not merely that we were taking an inexpedient course, but that what we were doing was wrong. That made us all the more grateful that with all their fervour they never changed for a moment from unfailing courtesy to us in the conduct of the debates, and for that we are really profoundly grateful.
I say that they felt that this Bill was wrong. But there is another view, the view of those who support the Bill, which I suggest has a respectable moral lineage. I do not speak only of the views of enlightened pagans like Horace and Omar. There are Christians like Izaak Walton living a decent quiet life. There are great moralists like the Prophet Isaiah, who spoke of the House of Israel as a vineyard in which the Lord had put a winepress. That view is also entitled to moral respect.
What is more, I believe that it is the overwhelming opinion of the people of this country. I believe that the overwhelming opinion of the people is that drinking in moderation is a harmless pleasure, and that what gives harmless pleasure to human beings is to be welcomed and not despised. Of course, it can be abused, but so can any beneficent thing. Drinking as an anodyne of squalor and misery is likely to increase squalor and misery; and it 1632 may be necessary in circumstances of that sort to institute a measure of control, whether it is an individual or a community that is concerned. But surely where the conditions improve control ought to be relaxed.
When the right hon. Member for Colne Valley asks for the reasons for this Bill, we answer unhesitatingly that the social conditions are vastly changed from those which made our existing licensing laws seem desirable, and that we ought in this day and in the changed conditions to see how we can enlarge people's freedom. That is not a matter for which we need apologise for a moment. We need not apologise for rendering to the ordinary citizens the right to make decisions affecting their lives and conduct, instead of arrogating to ourselves the right to make those decisions.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not quarrel with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but my point was that with the coming of the motor cat the conditions had altered so much that we looked to the Government to do something to settle, if they could, this problem of drinking, and facilities for drinking, and driving a car on the roads as they exist today.
§ The Solicitor-General
The right hon. Gentleman need not fear. I was going to deal with that paint of his as well.
Before I come to the general matters there are two specific matters with which I think that I ought to deal. One, as was said by the right hon. Member for Llanelly, is of great importance, since it affects the life of a nation. That is the matter raised in Clause 6. That is not a matter on which any licensing Bill could be silent. Among other things, we are amending the 1953 Act and that re-enacts the 1881 Statute. Therefore, it would have been open for any hon. Member to have put down an Amendment dealing with drinking on Sunday in Wales and it would have been quite impossible for the Government under those circumstances not to have a policy and not to embody it in the Bill.
There are quite clearly two views in Wales and both have been expressed with great eloquence. There is, for example, the view of the right hon. Member for Llanelly, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) 1633 and others, on the one hand. But there is also the view which was strongly expressed by the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas). It is the fact that obviously a great many people in Wales express their own view on Sunday drinking in Wales by going in their great numbers—to put it in quite a neutral fashion—to the clubs. Therefore, I say that there are two views, and the question was how those views should be given expression.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the democracy which the people of his valleys have built up—a striking phrase in a striking speech. But this is a democratic expedient. Surely it is democracy to give to the people the power themselves to influence decisions which affect their lives. That is what this Clause does, as the hon. Member for Rhondda, West pointed out; and it was the tenor of the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South East (Mr. Callaghan).
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said that Wales was not consulted and that this was flouting a nation. How can one use that sort of language in view of the fact that this very Clause provides for consultation with the people of Wales? The right hon. Gentleman said that the people for whom he spoke might be a minority, but they should be respected. Surely that is so, for Clause 6 provides that every administrative county and county borough shall speak independently and make its own views heard. Again, it seems to me that we have no need to apologise in any way for Clause 6, for the reasons given by hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent Welsh constituencies, the hon. Members for Rhondda, West, and Cardiff, South-East. We are not imposing our views as a United Kingdom Parliament, nor the view of the Welsh Members, on the people of Wales. We are letting the people speak for themselves on this issue.
The other matter about which I should say a word is Carlisle. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Dr. D. Johnson) asked me to deal with that question. Clause 4 (4) has the effect that the whole of the sale of liquor under a restaurant or residential licence in Carlisle will not require the authority of the Secretary of State. In other words, there will be no difference between Carlisle and the 1634 rest of the country regarding these licences. The second effect of the Bill on the Carlisle scheme is that under Clause 21 (5) a club which obtains a registration certificate under Part III will not require the additional authority of the Secretary of State for the supply of liquor. In other words, all clubs are cleared from the Home Secretary's veto.
We have been glad to meet the points put by my hon. Friend in making those provisions; they are quite consistent with the general philosophy of the Bill. To have gone further, as he pressed us to do, would have involved fundamental alterations in the present conception of State management which, whatever view one forms of that issue, would have taken us far beyond the scope and intention of the Bill. I gather from the earlier exchanges that it would be out of order for me to answer the further questions which my hon. Friend put.
§ Dr. D. Johnson
May I correct my right hon. and learned Friend? I did not press him on this matter during the course of the Bill. Would he make that clear?
§ The Solicitor-General
I gladly accept what my hon. Friend says. I do not think that I need say more about Part III. Particularly since it has been modified in Committee and on Report, and in the light of the further assurance which we have given about Amendments which we propose to make in another place, I think that it commands universal approbation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It seems to have commanded it in today's debate.
§ The Solicitor-General
I do not want to provoke the right hon. Gentleman into making a speech. Let me content myself with saying that I do not propose at this late hour to deal with Part III, except in so far as it relates to young people.
I turn to the liberalising provisions of the Bill. As far as I can see, only two reasons have been put forward why we should not enlarge people's freedom in this manner. The first relates to young people. It is said, truly, that in recent years offences of drunkenness among young people have increased; but, as my right hon. Friend said, one must look at the Bill as a whole, and, first, the Bill says for the first time that 1635 it is an offence for a young person to buy or consume alcoholic liquor in on-licensed premises; secondly, it sharply steps up the penalties for the offence of selling or supplying liquor to young people; thirdly, we have given an undertaking in relation to the sale from off-licensed premises to young people; and fourthly, I put it to the objectors that Part I provides any young person, as other people, with an alternative outlet if he wishes to drink. He can eat and drink at the same time; and, as the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) put it in Committee, that is a civilised pastime. In addition, we are legislating in the Bill, and we have to legislate in the Bill, for adults as well as for juveniles.
The second argument against the liberalising provisions of the Bill relates to the seriousness of road accidents and the undoubted fact that the excessive consumption of alcohol will lead to road accidents if the person who has drunk too much then drives his car. That is a serious problem. But if some people abuse their liberty by drinking in excess and then driving, the proper place to deal with it is in a Road Traffic Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is it? "] That goes beyond my compass, but I say this very seriously. In a Road Traffic Bill we can ensure that the remedy impinges
§ only on drivers who drink to excess and not on the whole community.
As those are the only two arguments which are put forward in favour of restricting people's liberty to make up their minds, so far as we can properly permit it, on a matter which so intimately concerns their own affair, we are glad and proud to be putting forward the liberalising provisions of the Bill. It is far too late to rehearse them all, but they are very extensive and my right hon. Friend indicated some of them in his opening speech. At the beginning of my speech I mentioned Horace. It is not fashionable nowadays to quote Latin, and I do not propose to do so, even if I could. There is the great ode in which he celebrated the fall of Cleopatra. It starts with the words:
Now is the time to drink.
Even if we rested there, that would be an epigraph to the Bill of which we need not be ashamed; but he goes on to say:
Now is the time to stamp the floor with the feet of freedom.
It is in that spirit that we commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 56.1637
|Division No. 217.]||AYES||[11.12 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Critchley, Julian||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Allason, James||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Hastings, Stephen|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Crowder, F. P.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Curran, Charles||Hiley, Joseph|
|Balniel, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Barter, John||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Batsford, Brian||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Dighy, Simon Wingfield||Holland, Philip|
|Bishop, F. P.||Doughty, Charles||Hollingworth, John|
|Bossom, Clive||Driberg, Tom||Holt, Arthur|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||du Cann, Edward||Hopkins, Alan|
|Box, Donald||Duncan, Sir James||Hornby, R. P.|
|Braine, Bernard||Eden, John||Houghton, Douglas|
|Brewis, John||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Caerphilly)||Howard, Hon, G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle upon-Tyne, N.)||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Emery, Peter||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Farr, John||Hughes Young, Michael|
|Bryan, Paul||Finlay, Graeme||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Buck, Antony||Fisher, Nigel||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bullard, Denys||Fletcher, Eric||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Callaghan, James||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Jackson, John|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Goodhew, Victor||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Cower, Raymond||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Green, Alan||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth. W.)||Crimson, Sir Robert||Kitson, Timothy|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Gurden, Harold||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough||Leavey, J. A.|
|Garfield, F. V.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Coulson, I. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Pott, Percival||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Longbottom, Charles||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Temple, John M.|
|Loveys, Walter H.||Prior, J. M. L.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pym, Francis||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|McLaren, Martin||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Marten, Neil||Rawlinson, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees, Hugh||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Denis|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Mills, Stratton||Renton, David||Walder, David|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Walker, Peter|
|Morgan, William||Roots, William||Webster, David|
|Morrison, John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Noble, Michael||Seymour, Leslie||Whitelaw, William|
|Oliver, G. H.||Shaw, M.||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Shepherd, William||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Skeet, T. H. H.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Parker, John||Smithers, Peter||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Woollam, John|
|Peel, John||Speir, Rupert||Worsley, Marcus|
|Percival. Ian||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Storey, Sir Samuel||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Mr. Gibson-Watt and|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)||Mr. Chichester-Clark.|
|Abse, Leo||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Ainsley, William||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Awbery, Stan||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexheam)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Blyton, William||Kelley, Richard||Stones, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Loughlin, Charles||Symonds, J. B.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||McInnes, James||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Milne, Edward J.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Morris, John||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Evans, Albert||Neal, Harold||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Finch, Harold||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Greenwood. Anthony||Pentland, Norman||Woof, Robert|
|Grey, Charles||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Probert, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hall, Rt. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Mr. Wakins and Mr. Hilton.|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Short, Edward|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.