§ For the purposes of this Act any property held by the Secretary of State in the state management districts in England or in Scotland which is not disposed of within one year of the original notice of sale shall be regarded as having reverted to the ownership of the Secretary of State for a period of not less than five years.—[Mr. William Hamilton.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
It is right for the House to spend two more days on a Bill which is so vital to the national economy. Everybody knows the degree to which it will contribute to the solution of the pressing problems of inflation, rising prices, unemployment, and other national troubles of this Government's making. Clearly the Bill ranks as one of the Government's top priorities. Hence the two days that we have been given for its completion in this place.
The original Bill provides no time limit within which the flogging off of these public houses and hotels to the paymasters of the Tory Party shall be completed. An enormous game of bluff is being played by the brewers. They have indicated that they are not interested in this property and that anybody who thinks that these properties are goldmines is out of his mind.
Some of us on this side and one hon. Member opposite took the trouble, at our own expense, to perform our public duty and inspect our property in Carlisle during the Whitsun Recess. We visited certain of the pubs. We visited the brewery. Those who had a taste for the stuff drank it in limited quantities. We were impressed by what we saw. We understood from those on the spot that long before the election the brewers had been 1446 snooping around Carlisle casing the joint, finding out exactly what the loot was that was to be promised to them by a Tory Government.
It is very valuable loot. The Central Hotel, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) and I stayed, stands on a very valuable site, apart from the value of the hotel itself. I understand that the site next to it, on which had stood a hotel, was sold to Tesco for £½ million. So the Central Hotel, presumably, which stands on a bigger site, would on the site value alone, if development permission were to be granted by the local authority, as it no doubt would be by the Carlisle authority, be worth much more.
The original Bill instructs the Secretary of State, by Clause 2 as regards England and by Clause 3 as regards Scotland, to dispose of the property. There is nothing about a reserve price or a time scale—he must get rid of it.
The purpose of the Clause is to give notice that, if the sales are not completed within one year of the original notice of sale, whenever that might be—presumably it will be after the Bill has gone on to the Statute Book—there will be automatic reversion to State ownership for a period of not less than five years. That is a reasonable proposition which the Government should readily accept. If we are to get through the Bill in two days the Government should rise quickly and say, as this is the essence of co-operation between the two sides, that as a measure of their good faith they accept the Clause.
The experiment in public ownership of pubs in Carlisle, Gretna and the Cromarty Firth areas has been a success. Profits have been made. I know that the hatchet man at the Department of Trade and Industry may well think that they have not made enough, that they are rather drunk lame ducks, and that therefore they ought to be sunk. On going round Carlisle, and in particular one pub that we visited, I was much impressed by the fact that there was a bowling green attached to it. The pub was on a council estate. It was a community centre. There is no doubt that if the premises were taken over by a private brewer that bowling green—a social amenity—would disappear. It would disappear because it does not happen to 1447 make a profit. It is a service to the community. Indeed, we were told there that people who play bowls take a glass of beer on to the green and that is that. A private brewer would not be interested in that kind of activity—unless, of course, the bowlers took a barrel of beer out with them on to the green. It is this kind of problem that one should take into account in this matter.
The Under-Secretary of State has never shown as much taste for this Bill as he has shown for the weak brews of beer foisted on the public nowadays. But he did his best in Commitee. He knows—because we quoted from the authoritative version of the brewers' bible, the Morning Advertiser—that the brewers intend to hold back. He knows that if the State is saddled for an indefinite period with the properties, questions will be asked by hon. Members opposite as to why the Government are not reducing the price in order to conform with the statutory duty to get rid of them. The only statutory duty in the Bill as drafted is to dispose of the properties. There is not even to be a reserve price.
The hon. and learned Gentleman made a memorable speech to which we shall refer later. It was the Gettysburg speech of the brewers' loot Bill, in which he laid down the procedures he intended to take. It is interesting to note that he has not put them in statutory form. We are, therefore, faced with a situation where, if the Bill gets on to the Statute Book as at present drafted, the brewers will know that the State must get rid of the properties and that there are no safeguards whatever. It is true that there is something about the national interest—…on such terms as appear to him expedient in the public interest …"—whatever that might mean. The Government might define that national interest as getting rid of the properties at any price. Indeed, the hon. and learned Gentleman went a long way along that path by saying that it was not the business of the Government to be in the liquor trade. But, of course, the Government are in the liquor trade—to the extent of about £150,000 a year—indeed, more than that—which the Conservative Party gets from the brewers. So the 1448 Government need not say that they are not in the liquor trade. They are very much in it.
The experiment at Carlisle, Gretna and Cromarty has been going on for nearly 60 years. It is popular in Carlisle. The evidence we obtained demonstrated that. The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen), who also visited the area, would not dispute that the vast majority of the people of Carlisle are for the retention of the State management scheme.
§ Mr. Idris Owen (Stockport, North)
I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can say that the majority of the people in Carlisle are in favour of retention of the State management schemes unless he has taken a poll. I have met many people in Carlisle who are opposed to retention.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I look at my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis). This was a major issue in the election in Carlisle. Indeed, the Tory candidate went out of his way to state categorically that he was in favour of the retention of the State management district and my hon. Friend had a very considerable majority. He is here for life now as a result of what the Government are doing by the Bill and the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray), who is not in his place, will be out at the next election, partly because of this Bill, but for other reasons as well.
The second half of the new Clause refers to a reversion to State ownership… for a period of not less than five years.If one assumes that within the 12 months no sale takes place and the property therefore reverts to the ownership of the State for a period of not less than five years, we get a total of six years, which means that in the intervening period there will be a General Election.
If we had a General Election tomorrow the Tory Party would be decimated. Very few right hon. and hon. Members opposite would come back to the House. Of course, the situation might change between now and the next election. They might not be decimated. They might be half-decimated. But there is no doubt that there will be a change of Government, and one of the propositions which I am sure will be in our 1449 manifesto will be something on the liquor trade. I speak only for myself in this, but I make no secret of the fact that my constituency party has sent a motion to the annual conference of the Labour Party calling for the nationalisation of the seven big breweries. If we get this incorporated in our manifesto and we win the election, I do not know what the Conservative Party will do for its election funds. It will be in very great difficulties. It will have to appeal to the marijuana lobby or to the pot lobby or to the bookies. It will have to get funds from sources other than the brewers.
The five-year limit which I propose would give the electorate a chance. The Prime Minister is always prattling and prating about consulting the electorate on the Common Market. We want to consult them about the Carlisle pubs. The answer will probably be the same—they are against the Government offering the pubs to the contributors to Tory Party funds and against going into the E.E.C. That has nothing to do with beer in the E.E.C.—although, on second thoughts, it might, of course. I am not expert in that matter, so I do not know.
If the Government do not accept the kind of time limit proposed here, I hope they will indicate that if at the end of the 12 months which the hon. and learned Gentleman himself estimated it would take to sell off the properties they have properties left on their hands, then those properties will automatically stay there. It would be a nice gesture, a conciliatory gesture, if he said, "If we cannot get the price we want, if the national interest would be jeopardised if we gave them away, we shall hang on to them for another period of five years." It is a reasonable proposition and I hope that the Government will accept it.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)
The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) began by saying that we would need two days to deal with this part of our consideration of the Bill. As he made his speech it occurred to me that it was the most ponderous speech I had ever heard him make during the time I have been in the House.
Gone was the bright spritely "Willie" we all know, gone was all the cut and thrust of which we know he is capable. It seemed that he was really digging in 1450 for a long siege, and I felt that a good deal of his speech was superfluous because we have heard it all before. He repeated almost everything he had said on Second Reading.
He repeated all the jibes we had before about the brewers—jibes which were so scandalously uttered at the Second Reading debate. At least his right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has not had the face to return to the House today after the quite disgraceful speech he made on Second Reading. For small mercies let us be thankful. This is a most extraordinary idea which the hon. Gentleman has put forward in this new Clause. Looking at it, I can only think that it is a wrecking Amendment. It is clear that the only intention behind it is to hinder the determination of the Secretary of State to get this enterprise off the State's back. It seems that this new Clause is moved only for its nuisance value. I cannot believe that it is being seriously put forward and I will be surprised to hear that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) approves of it—although I will not be surprised if he feels that it is better, in view of his earlier views, to keep quiet.
What would be the effect of this new Clause? The hon. Gentleman never told us. What would be the effect of saying that the Secretary of State must dispose of these properties within 12 months and, if he cannot, must hang on to them for five years? It would mean that the Government in carrying out this operation would be obliged to meet delays of 12 months. Prospective purchasers would be very reticent about coming to an agreement in the earlier stages of this 12-month period. Prospective purchasers would be tempted to hang on until the last few months hoping that the Government would be so anxious in those last few months to get rid of their properties that they might drop their price.
§ Mr. William Hamilton indicated assent.
§ Mr. Jopling
The hon. Gentleman nods his head. He agrees that the price of the properties would drop during the last few months. I am glad that he agrees and it seems extraordinary for an hon. Gentleman to try to put the Government and the State in this position. Hon. Gentlemen are the first to come huffing and puffing when State industries are put 1451 at any disadvantage, yet here the hon. Gentleman seeks to put the State at a disadvantage. This proves to me that this new Clause is wholly mischievous.
Let us see what would happen if it were accepted. Any properties not sold during the course of that first year would have to be held by the Government for a further period of five years. We know that the Government, quite rightly, want to get rid of the properties and to get these enterprises off the State's back.
Is it likely that in the further five-year period any modernisation will be done? Will many improvements be carried out when the Government have shown that they are anxious to divest themselves of these properties and clearly will do so after the five-year period is up? Will there be any extensions or improvements to the bowling greens that we have been hearing about? The answer is clearly "No". There will be no encouragement if they are waiting for the end of the five-year period.
If at the end of a year the Government have managed to get rid of a large number of the pubs and were left with the brewery and a small number of pubs there would be a wholly unbalanced operation with insufficient pubs and hotels to keep the brewery going. This is clearly an unsatisfactory situation. It is necessary that the pubs and hotels and other properties will have to be sold first, before the brewery itself is disposed of.
It would look silly if the brewery was sold and we were left with some of the pubs, because it would leave some of the pubs in difficulties over supplies It is obvious that the pubs and hotels would have to be dispensed with first. The brewery must be left until later. It is typical of Socialist planning, to which we are so used, that the hon. Gentleman should try to foist a new Clause like this upon us, which would leave a wholly uneconomic and unbalanced operation.
The hon. Gentleman gave away the intentions of this Clause, apart from the mischievous side of things. The Opposition are hoping that there will remain a residue of nationalised properties to be held over for a period of five years, which could form the base for future nationalisation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are deluding themselves into believ- 1452 inng that a miracle will happen and that there will be a change of Government in the next ten years.
If they are hoping to keep a residue of properties in the Carlisle area and in Scotland to use as a base for further nationalisation then we should be told that this is the policy of the party opposite. The public have the right to know whether, at the next election, the Labour Party manifesto will contain a pledge that the Labour Party will nationalise the liquor industry.
I posed this question on Second Reading and got no answer. We must have an answer. The hon Gentleman has made a clear case for doing this. He said he hopes that it will appear in his party s manifesto and now I rather hope that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock will get up and tell us whether he will press for this to go into his party's manifesto. The country ought to know whether at the next General Election, to the added horror of a Labour Government there is a possibility of "Labour locals".
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I would be very happy if these assets were to be renationalised. I have noticed that at union conferences, Labour Party meetings and at public meetings in recent weeks when any speaker pledges the Labour Party to renationalisation of assets they get a substantial cheer. When they add to this statement the promise that the greedy men who are now taking people's money will get their fingers burned, the cheers are louder still. We on this side should have no qualms about saying that we will renationalise those assets which have been denationalised by this Government. Nor should we have any qualms in demanding that that should be done without compensation.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
As the basis of the argument of hon. Members opposite in Committee was that we should sell these public houses to individual tenants, am I right in assuming that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that they should be taken from the individual tenant without giving him compensation?
§ Mr. Golding
If the Bill provided for disposal to existing landlords and not to the brewers, if we on this side of the 1453 House were not conscious that the Bill rewarded the brewers for their substantial contributions to Conservative Party funds and if the disposal was to be achieved on different grounds from those envisaged in the Bill, our arguments would be different. We are not arguing against a Bill which has not been introduced. We are arguing against a Bill which has been introduced to reward the brewers for their substantial contributions to Conservative Party funds. We can discover from Tory Party balance sheets the reason for the talking among hon. Members opposite about denationalisation.
For that reason, it is important, and would be in the interests of the people who might buy the pubs, that the assets should not be sold immediately but kept in ownership for at least five years, because we are confident that at the end of that time we shall be in government and we should adopt a very different attitude towards public money from that adopted by the present Government.
I do not think there is any validity in the argument that the management of the Carlisle State Management Scheme would run down the assets merely because there was an outside chance of disposal after five years. That would not be the attitude of any landlord who expected to sell the assets for the best price he could obtain. Perhaps there would be a grain of truth in that from a party which was concerned, not with selling the assets at the best possible price, but only with disposing of the assets as a reward.
For those reasons, I support the new Clause and I hope that our Front Bench will advise us to divide on it.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
The speech of the hon. Member Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) was a mass of contradictions. I do not say that he twists himself—I could never visualise him doing that—but he bends himself almost double. He argues first one way and then the other. He did it in Committee, where we were amazed at the rapidity with which his arguments changed during his lengthy speeches.
First, the hon. Gentleman wondered why two days have been allotted to discuss the Bill. The reason is that we 1454 knew what to expect. Of the 30 Amendments and nine new Clauses which have been tabled, only two of them emanated from the Government side. That is why two days have been allotted to the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman then referred to the importance of this matter. He said that the Government had put it before all the other major issues confronting the country. But we cannot accept that argument from hon. Members opposite, because we then come to the most important factor for them—the defence of nationalisation. What is the extent of the nationalisation with which we are concerned today?—170 unlicensed properties, 150 licensed houses and 10 hotels in Carlisle, and 45 houses in Scotland. The arguments of hon. Members opposite do no carry any weight.
The hon. Gentleman went on to say that we should not get rid of these properties in 12 months. He talked about valuable sites worth £500,000 perhaps next door to hotels which would make the hotels worth considerably more than that. I do not envisage anybody holding back on development if the prospects were as good as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
The hon. Gentleman does not want these properties to be sold for another five years because he hopes that by then the Labour Party will be in office. He told us what his local association was doing to ensure that the public houses were nationalised. Apparently, the seven major breweries are to be nationalised. Good luck to his association. T hope that it gets the support of the Socialist Party for its policy. But nationalised Labour locals would be abhorrent to people. They do not want to drink State beer. They are not at all enamoured with that prospect.
The hon. Gentleman then tackled the proposals of my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for disposal. My hon. and learned Friend's proposals are fair, above suspicion and just, and I was delighted to hear them. They will cease to be fair, above suspicion and just if they are hacked about by the Labour Party.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) talked about greedy men. My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State intervened to ask the hon. Gentleman about individual tenants, with whom I was concerned on 1455 Second Reading. Are they greedy men because they want to own their own businesses? No. The hon. Gentleman had better not go round the country saying that about people who are legitimately carrying on business. Are they greedy men because they dare to want to conduct their businesses in a private enterprise way and to do things for the country and themselves? If that is the way in which right hon. and hon. Members opposite think, they have a divisive nature and they will split the nation in two.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
If an hon. Member does not give way, or when he sits down at the end of his speech, that is the end of the matter for the moment.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
I hope the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey) is not losing his grip, but this is the second consecutive speech I have heard him make when he has not revealed to us one of his multifarious occupations and given us a fascinating glimpse into his experiences which have been and could be of such strength and value to us. I hope that this will be admitted to us in the course of the two days.
The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) got himself into a tremendous furor. I glanced through his Second Reading speech and noticed that he suggested that a number of houses should go to tenants or managers and be operated as free houses. I would refresh his memory of the Committee, where strenuous efforts were made by this side to try to make sure that this would, in fact, be possible.
All through the Committee I tried to be fair to the Government—
§ Mr. Jopling
The hon. Gentleman was good enough to refer to my speech. I was delighted that in Committee my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that a certain number of these premises would be offeredat or near … valuation to the individual sitting tenant and he will be given, by private treaty, the opportunity to acquire should he 1456 so wish."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 20th May, 1971; c. 392.]That is precisely what I asked for, and I am very pleased that my hon. and learned Friend was able to meet my point.
§ Mr. Cocks
I appreciate the point which the hon. Member for Westmorland has made, but we made strenuous efforts to try to obtain from the Minister some sort of assurance that some of the money to be realised from the sale of the properties would be made available to tenants or managers who might wish to purchase to establish free houses, to free them from the grip of the brewers who offer loans on very low and diminishing interest rates. So it is not simply a question of valuation. We have impressed upon the Minister that goodwill should not be taken into the valuation because that would mean that an efficient manager, who had tried to build up the business, would be penalised and have to pay over the odds as a result of his own good efforts. I hope that the hon. Member will accept from me that we have been into this matter thoroughly. Even so, we are not satisfied that the Minister has done the very best for these people.
Before the hon. Member's intervention I was saying that I tried to be fair to the Government during the whole of the Committee on the Bill, and indeed, when some of my hon. Friends were pressing the point which has been put very strenuously by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) regarding the motives of the Government in disposing of these properties, I put the view that the motives must be seen more as some sort of sop to be thrown to the forthcoming party conference in the autumn—as some form of disengagement from the State sector, and to show that things are really moving and that private enterprise is flourishing. I took it much more in terms of a propaganda exercise.
However, I was disturbed when I visited Carlisle and talked to some of the people running the properties, because they told me that within a week of the General Election result being announced representatives of the big brewers were looking over properties and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West would 1457 say, casing the joints. This caused me genuine concern, because it did not square with what I heard previously.
A further cause of concern was what I read in the Morning Advertiser—some remarks which were attributed to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury talking about the problems of "the trade", as it is known, and he said that some problems turned out to be non-problems and he described, or was reputed to have described, the Monopolies Commission Report about beer as the "biggest non-event of the decade",
During the Second Reading debate I pointed out the very serious monopoly position of Courage's in my own constituency. I fet at that time that there was some sympathy on both sides of the House with what I said and that something might possibly be done about that position. I am disconcerted if in fact the Financial Secretary actually said what he is reported to have said and if that is a reflection of the attitude of the Government, and, if it is, a great deal more pressure will be exerted from this side of the House to try and remedy the situation.
I do not know that my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West is quite right in referring to the Morning Advertiser as the brewers' bible, because it is concerned also with the problems of licensed victuallers. My hon. Friend will know that licensed victuallers are very often in dispute with the brewers over various points, and while I do not say that this applies to everybody, I think that some of the brewers' treatment of their managers and tenants leaves a great deal to be desired.
To return again to Carlisle, the point made to me very strongly there was on this question of the return on capital about which we heard a great deal on Second Reading when a great many figures were put forward. I hope that the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman) will once again discuss this matter and give us the benefit of his experience. It was put to me that the restrictions were such that these figures were not true figures of what the State brewery scheme could do if the restrictions were lifted. I was given as an example somebody, having great satisfaction from brewery products, who established a branch or business 1458 somewhere else but was able to build it up because of this restriction on the area actually served.
I am still trying to help the Government in spite of everything, and so I support this new Clause very strongly, because I believe that another interpretation, other than the one which has been put on it from the other side, is that this is a Clause to protect the Government, and to protect them from the accusation of disposing of State properties at knock-down prices. I would have thought that, after all the charges which have been levied against the Government in this matter they would be only too glad to accept a Clause which would protect them from that sort of thing, and the charge of a forced sale of these properties.
It is well known that a forced sale is a thing to be avoided at almost all costs. Hon. Members will remember that a couple of days ago the Financial Times had a supplement on the question of property and property bonds. Hon. Members will know that property bonds have been a popular form of investment lately. They have performed well in the ordinary share index. However, it is recognised that these property bonds, which are a form of unit linked insurance, are open to grave doubts, first of all because valuation is very much a matter of opinion; no matter how professional the valuation is, it is still, in the end, a matter of opinion; but also, whatever the valuation put on a property, in the event of a forced sale there is absolutely no guarantee that one will get the price or even anything near it.
If it is known that the State is to dispose of these properties, and, moreover, is to dispose of them all at once within the space of a few months, the condition of a forced sale applies. I would have thought that the ultimate sanction, if the worst came to the worst, and if we think of the public interest being represented by getting the best possible price for these assets, would be, if we cannot get any reasonable sort of price, not letting them go. Why should we push the people who dispose of the property into the position of being blackmailed? Sir Hilary Scott's committee is investigating property bonds because of these weaknesses, and the weaknesses of this form of investment are equally 1459 arguments in favour of the Clause. The Clause also prevents properties going into limbo if they are not disposed of, and enables them to be held, and I cannot see the force of the arguments against this.
I believe that the Government probably regret bringing in the Bill. The decision may have been made in the higher echelons of the Government with out a great deal of thought. Somebody said, "Just dispose of these State pubs to show that we are disengaging." The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) has been left with an extremely unpleasant task, acting as butcher boy—
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South west)
Before the hon. Gentleman comes to the end of his speech, if I do not take up his challenge to explain the figures it is because I consider it to be out of order on this Amendment. An opportunity to do so may arise later. I understood that the hon. Gentleman was condemning the breweries for making advances at a low rate of interest. Is he suggesting that it would be more honourable for them to charge a high rate of interest for the loans given, or that they should not help private enter-price in the form of tenants and working-men's clubs who want advances to enable them to extend the business? Is he saying that the brewers should make no advances at all?
§ Mr. Cocks
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman's wishing to keep in order, and I hope that during the next two days we shall have the benefit of his accounting and financial experience. On the point he asked me, I do not think it is necessarily objectionable for breweries to make substantial advances, but I understand that advances are made on the basis that the house takes their beers, or at least a large proportion of them. If the loan is made on a purely altruistic basis, I am delighted to hear it. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) on Second Reading said that tenants and management should have the opportunity to acquire the houses, and that they should be run as free houses. In those circumstances, it is highly desirable that a source of finance should be 1460 available to tenants or managers so that they could run a free house if they wanted to do so. If they wanted to tie themselves to a brewer, well and good; the money would be useful.
The Bill is a pointer to Government thinking. I am astonished that this should be regarded as a matter of great priority. The Government will come to regret the Bill, particularly if the proper ties go for less than the generally recognised market value. New Clause 1 offers an escape route to the Government against charges that State property has been disposed of at less than market value—
§ Mr. Idris Owen
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, will he answer this question? Let us assume that 75 per cent. of the premises under the management of the State board have been disposed of at the end of 12 months, and the board is left with a residual property which is not of much character. Does he consider that the remaining 25 per cent. would be a viable unit as an outlet for a brewery? Does he not think that it would be a loss-maker for the remainder of the five years?
§ Mr. Cocks
It may be that outlets with small barrelage are not very attractive propositions. There are special problems here which were discussed at length in Committee, and I should not like to say anything which might prejudice the prospects of a brewery. In these days of rationalisation into larger units, there are difficulties in disposing of a small property, but there is a great deal of other property. The Arcade in Carlisle consists of a large block of property, and only one or two of the properties are not owned by the State management scheme. This site has great potential development. Once we start offering properties for sale we cannot think in terms of preserving any substantial viable unit. To attract reasonable offers, parcels of houses may have to be made up so that a brewery has a guarantee that it can acquire X number of houses. As the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) knows from his experience, these problems are almost intractable, and that is why it is such a pity that this proposal was ever made. I wish I could give a more satisfactory answer to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Cocks
There is not one, and this is one of the most unfortunate aspects. The Clause is a safety net for the Government and, even at this late stage, they may feel inclined to accept it, particularly as the Whip who was so faithful in Committee is here. Whilst one cannot always tell from their facial expressions what people are thinking, he has followed with keen interest our discussions about property disposal, and he is at the moment showing a complexion which, from our experience in Committee, we think may be favourable to us.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
As I was not a member of the Committee, I hope the House will excuse me if I mention one or two matters which have been dealt with in Committee. I cannot help comparing the doctrinaire attitude of the Government to the disposal of State pubs with their attitude to selling off council houses. The attitudes are quite different. The Government's attitude towards the sale of council houses is that the tenant should have preference and that a loan should be available to the tenant to enable him to buy the house. Many local authorities, particularly Tory councils, have widely advertised the sale of council houses and encouraged tenants to buy them.
In the selling off of public houses the Government exhibit a different attitude. There is no great demand that public houses should be sold to tenants. The Government want to bring in a third party—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I hope the hon. Gentleman realises that this is not a Second Reading debate but that we are confined to the narrow terms of new Clause 1.
§ Mr. Ashton
I am coming to the new Clause, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am now comparing the attitude on leases, covenants and other restrictions in regard to the disposal of other State property with the situation in the Clause which attempts to put restrictions on the Government for such State properties as public houses. A third party could be introduced into such sales; namely the brewer—on the same lines as if a third party, a landlord, were introduced in the sale of council houses.
There would appear to be a difference in Government philosophy on this matter. 1462 Nobody suggests that council houses should be sold to landlords, but if council houses are sold to tenants, why should public houses not be sold to tenants? Is this all tied up with the fact that the brewers contribute so much to Tory Party funds?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has looked carefully at the terms of the Clause. I hope he will do so and will confine his remarks to that narrow issue.
§ Mr. Ashton
I will come to the Clause in regard to the proposal for a period of not less than five years. We all know that there are good public house properties as well as bad ones. We should also remember that shops and private houses may also be disposed of under these provisions. The Clause covers all properties, not just public houses. If these properties are not sold in the first year, we consider that they should revert to State ownership. If this course is not followed, tenants will be in a state of limbo since they will not know whether they will be made redundant after a period of 12 months, and will be most uncertain about their future.
Another aspect that must be considered is the transfer of licences issued to publicans by magistrates' courts. What will happen to these licences if after 12 months properties are returned to the State? If the property is in process of sale, what will happen to the licence? Will it be transferred to the newly-built public house which will replace the old one, or will the licence go by default and a new licence have to be applied for in respect of the new premises?
There is a great deal of speculation in the area about the Bill's effects. The purpose of the Clause is to try to prevent some of this speculation and to allay the anxieties of tenants and people who own property other than public houses. Although this is a relevant matter, we have had no answer on it from the Government either in Commitee or today.
The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) said that assurances had been given in Committee that a great deal of help would be given to tenants; but there is no specific proposal on these lines in the Bill. Tenants of public houses, and indeed tenants of other properties in Carlisle, have been left in a 1463 state of uncertainty. The Clause attempts to regularise the position by providing that such a situation will exist only for a period of 12 months. If at the end of 12 months nobody is interested in the property, then it will revert to the State.
There is nothing wrong in this suggestion. When the State sells off Ministry of Defence properties, or when local authorities dispose of old houses or council properties, the State or local authorities lay down that if properties are not sold within 12 months, they are to be taken off the market and revert to the previous ownership. This is normal property dealing. An ordinary person selling his house may well say to the agent, "If you do not sell my house in six months, I will take it off the market." Why is such a procedure so wrong with State pubs? Why is it regarded as wrong for the Minister to say "This property is worth £50,000, and if it has not fetched this figure in 12 months, we will take it off the market"? What is the reason for the Government's objection to this Clause?
§ Mr. Michael Cocks
Would my hon. Friend not agree that what any private individual in selling a house must try to avoid is to over-stretch himself in his financial commitments, and is this not the sort of situation from which we are trying to protect the Government?
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ashton
I agree with my hon. Friend. A further consideration arises when one of these properties cannot be sold for the price it is worth. Is it not possible that a cartel of brewers could get together and say "We will force down the price of a property by not making a bid for two or three years"? If this happens, some of these properties might well be closed for a considerable time. This may lead to these properties receiving the attentions of vandals, with windows broken and these properties becoming full of cobwebs. Will not the value of the properties fall if they are left untenanted for any length of time? We all remember what used to happen in the art auction world. When a painting came up for sale dealers got together and agreed upon a price to be paid for it and, because nobody else put in a higher bid, a "kill" was made in that 1464 way. I do not say that this will happen in this case, but there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that this will not happen.
By putting forward this Clause we are trying to avoid waste of public money. We are also seeking to protect the people who live in these properties, whether they be shops or private houses or public houses. Finally, we are seeking to protect Carlisle from invasion by speculators who may be out to shut down the pub because it presents competition to other public houses elsewhere. If there are three pubs in an area and two are closed down, obviously the remaining pub will do a better trade. This will not be good for the consumer, who may have to go half a mile down the road to a pub he does not like because his local has been shut down to avoid competition.
Therefore, we should be much happier with the situation if a public house or any other of these properties reverted to State ownership when not sold within a period of 12 months. This is certainly a situation that would meet with the full approval of the people of Carlisle.
§ Mr. Idris Owen
I am sorry that I cannot agree with the proposals put forward in the Clause. They are contradictory and do not achieve what they would appear to be trying to achieve if they wish to get the best possible deal for the State. Although hon. Gentlemen opposite object to denationalisation, the Clause will not give the best possible deal under the circumstances.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) was in somewhat of a dilemma in answering a question I put to him on this matter a short while ago. I am one of the hon. Members on this side of the Committee who have walked the streets of Carlisle in the past month. I have visited a brewery and certain licensed premises, and I have seen for myself that there are some properties which are desirable and others not so desirable. Indeed, there are some which are pretty shocking.
§ Mr. Owen
I am referring to the one near Mole Street, plus the one at the bottom, which is regarded as a pretty poor public house. It was pointed out to me as a bad example. Will not the 1465 situation be that anyone interested in a property will inspect it and decide to make a bid, or will make a bid with a view to purchasing by private treaty?
It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a considerable portion of the State asset might be disposed of by private treaty to the sitting tenants of small off-licence premises or the smaller pubs. It is conceivable that at the end of the magic year which is being discussed 75 per cent. of the most desirable property would have been disposed of, and we should be left with the remaining 25 per cent., consisting of the less desirable property.
In such a situation, I am thinking of the brewery. Here is an asset that I should like to see protected.
§ Mr. Owen
Let us consider the situation of the brewery. At the moment, its production capacity is 1,500 barrels a week. It has lost a considerable amount of that trade to the clubs, and at the present time its production is running at 1,000 barrels a week. Assuming that 75 per cent. of its trade is denied to it because 75 per cent. of the State houses have been disposed of, the brewery is left with a potential output of 250 barrels a week. If anyone suggested to the management of the brewery that it could survive on 250 barrels a week, I can imagine the answer that would be given. However, that is the situation that the brewery might be forced to face for five years, merely to maintain a doctrinaire attitude that we must not let go.
I ask hon. Members opposite to look at the economic sense of their proposal, however sincere they may be as the main advocates of Clause Four.
§ Mr. Ashton
But if the brewery was not sold and 75 per cent. of the pubs were sold, surely the situation would be the same? The brewery would be reduced to 250 barrels a week and be in very difficult circumstances.
§ Mr. Owen
We shall come to that when we discuss the disposal of the brewery. At the moment we are discussing an Amendment which suggests that if the properties are not sold at the end of a year they are to be retained for a further 1466 period of five years. That is quite unacceptable economically.
I appreciate that the main objective of hon. Gentlemen opposite is Clause Four, the nationalisation of all means of production, distribution and exchange. They are loyal to that clause. But their economic sense must not be blinded. It is ridiculous to suggest, as the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) has done, that the Amendment makes economic sense. I found the hon. Gentleman's arguments in Committee quite fascinating, but this is possibly his poorest effort. I do not know who encouraged him to move the Amendment, but he has been done a great disservice.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I am delighted to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen), of whose sincerity I have no doubt. I was very pleased when he visited my constituency. I trust that he found my constituents friendly.
I make no apology for taking part in this debate. The greater part of the State brewery and its subsidiaries lies within the boundaries of my constiuency, the City of Carlisle. What is more, I make no apology for my intervention, bearing in mind that I am an ardent supporter of the temperance movement. It may seem illogical to some people that I should have spoken as often as I have in our discussion of this Bill. I realise that I have an obligation to my constituents, irrespective of my personal views, and I know the social habits of society today. Therefore, not having abdicated my responsibility, naturally I put my name o the Amendment, and I am delighted to support it.
I look upon the general principle of the Bill as one of public enterprise versus private ownership. I come down every time on the side of public ownership. In Carlisle we have under public ownership a greater measure of control than we shall have if this Bill becomes law and the pubs are sold. The North of England Temperance Movement is on record as having asked the Home Secretary to keep the State management scheme in being.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) is not in his place at the moment, since he has made a number of interesting interventions during our debates. However, I was 1467 amazed a little earlier to hear him accusing my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) of being hypocritical. He went on to say that the British public has the right to know what will be the policy of the Labour Party at the next General Election. I cannot agree more. But the hon. Gentleman forgot to say that never once during the last General Election campaign did the Tory candidate in Carlisle or even the Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), suggest that the Government intended to denationalise the State management pubs.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
My people in Carlisle do not believe what the Government say. They promised to do a number of things at a stroke. If nothing else, certainly they are trying to sell these pubs at a stroke.
The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that if the pubs are not sold in 12 months, they will be retained by the State. As a result of the introduction of this Bill, I now have one of the safest seats in the country. The hon. Member for Stockport, North, on the other hand, now finds his seat in jeopardy. Within the next five years we shall have a General Election—
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
—and a Labour Government will be returned, and we shall be able to undo some of the wrong that this crowd is trying to do
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
At a stroke, yes.
I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Westmorland once more in his place.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
We have been told that at the moment, the brewers are not interested. I must contradict that. They have spent weeks in Carlisle under assumed names. They have been round 1468 the pubs asking questions. They have been to the brewery. They are waiting for this Bill to become law, when we shall find immediately that they are in the market.
§ Mr. Idris Owen
I am fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's views. Apparently he and his colleagues are disturbed lest we are not able to dispose of the property. He is now saying that the brewers are crowding in on Carlisle, desperate to get to the auction sale.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
They are crowding in because they are hoping to get it at a give-away price. We are seeking to protect the taxpayer. As long as we remain in this House I hope that we shall continue to protect the taxpayer. After all, the State Management Scheme is the taxpayers' business. I am anxious to retain this scheme because it produces the cheapest beer in the country. The beer produced by the State brewery is approximately a shilling a pint cheaper in Carlisle than in London.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue prices elsewhere or anywhere, but will keep within the terms of new Clause 1.
§ Mr. Ashton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that two barrels of this beer were delivered to this House this morning with the best wishes of the State Management Brewery and hoping that we would sample it before coming to a final decision on the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must realise that far from that question arising within the scope of the new Clause, that is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Ashton
On a further point of order. May I ask when it will be possible to raise this subject of the action of the Chairman of the Catering Committee—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Hon. Members can find ways and means of 1469 raising most things without the assistance of the Chair.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is the prerogative of the Chair to assist hon. Members when debating a subject, either in Committee or on Report, by making available all reasonable matters which may assist them in coming to a decision on matters which have been raised.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman will not be entirely surprised that I get the gist of what he is trying to convey. However, it might raise a wide question whether his suggestion would be helpful or otherwise in assisting hon. Members.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
With respect, it is not within the prerogative of the Chair to decide whether something will or will not assist hon. Members. My point is that one can, and does, ask for papers and documents to be made available and Mr. Speaker often says that, with the aid of the Library staff, he will make available those papers and documents. Sometimes they are for, sometimes they are against, and sometimes they may or may not have any relevance. However, that is not for the Chair to decide. If the House feels that it is necessary to have papers and documents which may assist it to come to a decision, the Chair usually says that it will, through the usual channels—it may be through the Vote Office, the Leader of the House or the Services Committee—endeavour to make them available.
I have been a Member of this House for almost 27 years. I have known dozens—in fact, hundreds—of cases when exhibitions have been laid on and samples, plans and drawings have been made available, with the aid and assistance of Mr. Speaker and his staff through the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Vote Office, the Paymaster-General or whoever or whatever it is. We have a Services Committee 1470 —I am on a serious point—we have the Leader of the House—
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I bow to your Ruling about prices, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realise that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not in his place today. People in Carlisle certainly do not trust this Government. That is why I mentioned the price of beer in Carlisle and why I support the proposal in the new Clause that those properties not sold within 12 months should be retained by the State.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) reminded the House that his constituency party feels so keen about the Government's decision to hive off within the next 12 months that it has put down a motion on the agenda for the Labour Party conference suggesting nationalisation of the breweries. People in Carlisle feel the same way about it. In fact, we have put down a motion in almost identical terms suggesting the complete nationalisation of the seven big brewery companies.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman will realise that that is not in new Clause 1 either.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I appreciate that latitude was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West. I was trying to augment what he said. If it was right for a previous occupant of the Chair to allow my hon. Friend to develop his point, then I claim the same privilege in support of what he said. We want to see the seven big breweries nationalised. People in Carlisle hold the view that if we nationalised the seven big breweries income tax could eventually be cut by about 2s. in the pound—
§ Mr. Ron. Lewis
—because of the profits. Therefore, I certainly support the complete nationalisation—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The Chair has already expressed its view on the content of new Clause 1, and it certainly does not include this aspect of the matter.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
On a point of order. My hon. Friend was merely drawing attention to the previous old Clause Four.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman will be able to do that for himself if and when he wishes to do so.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I should like to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Stockport, North about the bad premises which he found in Carlisle. I repudiate what he said about them. The average pub in Carlisle is better than the average pub throughout the country. Some are better than others. When people who make allegations about the State pubs are asked to prove them, they are not forthcoming. Indeed, it was rather strange that members of the Locomotive Society of Worcester, whose president is the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), should make a visit to Carlisle to see the railway installations. A few days after their visit I received a stinking letter from a gentleman who said that the Carlisle pubs were dirty and disgraceful. When I asked him to produce the evidence supporting his statement he could not or would not produce it. I have since made inquiries and have come to the conclusion that this is a technique to try to discredit the State pubs in my constituency.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I promised the gentleman concerned that if he would provide me with the names of the public houses he had visited and found dirty and uninviting I would make a complete investigation. That was nearly three weeks ago, and I am still waiting for an answer. The only information that I have received is that the gentleman who made the remark is a sympathiser of the Conservative Party in South Worcestershire. It is no wonder that such allegations are being made about public houses in my constituency.
This afternoon a number of hon. Members have made particular reference to a barrel of beer. I should like to make—
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
The hon. Member for Stockport, North, who visited the brewery at Carlisle, referred to the barrels of beer 1472 that are produced there, and I am trying, in my humble way, to do the same, because if the Clause is included in the Bill these barrels of beer will play a very important part, indeed.
In my constituency there are many public-spirited people, and they are not all in the Labour Party. I am sure that they would support the Clause which I am trying to support. One of these good, public-spirited persons, who in the past acted as election agent to a previous Tory Member of Parliament for Carlisle, thought that hon. Members did not know anything about Carlisle pubs. He there fore purchased two barrels of beer yester day and despatched them to London so that—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member appears to be returning to a former course. I must ask him to return yet again to the new Clause.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
I am trying to come to that, because we are talking about barrels of beer, and barrels of beer are connected with the new Clause. I there fore claim that I am in order. We are talking about barrels of beer in the new Clause, and within the precincts of the House there are two—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member cannot go on on that tack, and he knows it. He must refer to the new Clause.
§ Mr. Ashton
The new Clause says:For the purposes of this Act any property held by the Secretary of State in the state management districts in England or in Scotland which is not disposed of within one year of the original notice of sale shall be regarded as having reverted to the ownership of the Secretary of State for a period of not less than five years.Surely it is in order—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The new Clause says:For the purposes of this Act any property held by the Secretary of State …".It does not say what the property is. Surely a barrel of beer is property in that sense, because everything within—
§ Mr. Kinsey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we be protected from facetious points of order?
§ Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) said that the capacity had gone down from 15,000 barrels to 1,000 barrels. He went on to say that if 75 per cent. of the pubs were sold and 25 per cent. were left, it would mean that the barrelage of beer in the State brewery at Carlisle would be depreciated by that amount. The hon. Gentleman was not called out of order for saying that. I do not see why you should differentiate between what was said by the hon. Gentleman and what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman intends to imply what is suggested in that remark.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I drafted the Clause, and had clearly in mind not only the buildings, but the beer within the buildings—I was thinking of property, which includes everything—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sure that the hon. Member, as the promoter of the Clause, is trying to help, but that is not a point of order for the Chair.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am trying to help the House and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because only the drafter of the Clause can know what he means by the word "property". When I went to see the property in Carlisle, I did not just see the buildings. I saw the barrels of beer. In fact, in some of the pubs the barrelage was more important than the building. To try to distinguish between the buildings and what is in the buildings would make nonsense of the Clause, and the last thing I want is a nonsensical debate on an extremely serious matter. I hope, therefore, that you will agree with the view that when we discuss property we should be able to discuss also what is in the buildings, which is the beer.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think it would be the feeling of the House that the 1474 debate was going fairly wide on the Clause.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to speak to the Clause, which is in my name and those of my hon. Friends. We are talking about property, and a barrel of beer is the property of the State, or of a private enterprise company, whichever way one looks at it. Two barrels of beer were sent to London yesterday. They are State property. Unfortunately, the Chairman of the Catering Committee has undone the arrangements that were made.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
There are two nine-gallon barrels of Carlisle State beer within the precincts of the House of Commons ready for hon. Members to taste. I do not have a licence, and I am not a barman. Perhaps I could seek the assistance of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey). I hope that the Serjeant at Arms will not search the vaults. The barrels are there. For the benefit of my constituent who sent this beer down for tasting, I assure the House that it will be on tap within the precincts of the House even if I have to ask the Press Gallery to take it over and distribute it to my hon. Friends.
§ The Clause provides that if property is not sold the State will be allowed to continue operating in Carlisle, and that is what we want. That is what the majority of people of Carlisle want, and I assure the hon. Member for Westmorland that the majority to which I am referring is far superior to the majority which the Prime Minister is claiming in support of his policy for joining the Common Market. The majority of people in Carlisle want to retain State pubs. A General Election could take place much sooner than some people think. The people of this country, and certainly those in Carlisle, will not be taken in by anything that the Prime Minister says at the hustings at the next election. I see that we have the Government's second team on the Front Bench today. They are the juniors. Not one member of the Cabinet is here to support this proposal.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis
My people in Carlisle are chary of the dealings behind the scenes of the right hon. Member for 1475 Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw). Therefore, I support the new Clause.
§ Mr. W. E. Garrett (Wallsend)
This is a helpful and useful Clause, and the Government must be kicking themselves for not having included a similar provision. They should thank the three sponsors of the Clause for their original thinking. This will resolve the Government's embarrassment. Of all the Bills introduced since 18th June, this is the most embarrassing for them.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate the embarrassment which they were caused by the speeches made when they had to introduce a Bill to nationalise Rolls-Royce.
§ Mr. Garrett
That pales into insignificance compared with the importance of this Bill in Scotland and Carlisle.
The two Ministers on the Front Bench look happier tonight than they did during the many hours in Committee, when I was worried about their appearance. They seem to have got over the initial shock of our attack in Committee. By the end of today, they will probably feel very embarrassed again.
The period envisaged in the new Clause will also help the Government to study the implications of the sale of these properties. One of the things which they have misunderstood—I am surprised that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has not grasped this, since he is a legal man—is the time factor involved in valuation and legal fees. The time factor given in Committee was quite unrealistic because of the slow working of the legal and valuation professions, this useful Clause will give the necessary time to get a fair valuation for the taxpayer.
We have been accused of being doctrinaire and nationalises for the sake of nationalisation. This is denationalisation for the sake of denationalisation. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), who, unfortunately, could not get on the Committee but who has made a speech today, which I unfortunately missed, must be embarrassed, because his constituents more than anyone enjoy the advantages of the State brew. He enjoys it himself.
§ Mr. Jopling
With respect, the hon. Member has a short memory. He may remember that on Second Reading, when he was here—I believe he interrupted my speech—I said there were no State pubs in my constituency.
§ Mr. Garrett
I wish the hon. Member would listen. I was talking of drinkers, not pubs. The hon. Member is an avid drinker of the State brew when he is in form—
§ Mr. Garrett
—and when the price is right. He knows when he is getting value for money.
It would be a good idea if the two Ministers got together with the Whip and quietly accepted the new Clause.
§ Mr. Perry
First, I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps my intervention a few moments ago was near the bone, but I felt that when a supporter of the Government had been allowed to speak about beer and barrels my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) should at least have been allowed to comment on that.
My hon. Friend has had to suffer a sniggering and sneering campaign by several hon. Members opposite, as he has this evening. We know my hon. Friend's temperance views, but, despite those views, he is prepared to fight for the interests of his constituents. It is to his credit that he has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the publicans and consumers of Carlisle.
Over a fortnight ago I put down a Question to the Home Secretary about the number of hereditaments that the Home Office owned in Carlisle and the environs. It was handed in as an Oral Question on 10th June, was transferred to the Written list and I received an answer dated Tuesday, 15th June. I had…asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list all the properties under the Licensing (Abolition of State Management) Bill which will be disposed of, and give full details of the hereditaments.My answer from the Under-Secretary of State was:I will send the hon. Member a list of the properties concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1971; Vol. 819, c. 73-4.]At four o'clock today I was handed a list of the properties concerned; and it 1477 was only a list, with no details of the hereditaments or the rateable value. It did not say whether they were tenanted property or how much rent was paid. I asked for the full details and so far I have not had them.
I must thank the Under-Secretary for the reply that I have had, however. He said that he was sure that the Secretary of State for Scotland would also send me a list of those in Ross and Cromarty. I have not had that list either. We should at least know what we are disposing of.
But the Under-Secretary of State has given me a comprehensive list of 340 properties to be disposed of in Carlisle, of which 170 are licensed premises. The remainder, over 170, are not licensed premises and vary from brewery flats and houses to cottages and all sorts of hereditaments.
In Committee we suggested a visit to Carlisle and Ross and Cromarty to see the type of property of which we were disposing. This was, of course, turned down. Unless an hon. Member went under his own steam and paid his own expenses he has not been able to see the properties whose disposal he was discussing in Committee.
§ Mr. Garrett
Is my hon. Friend aware that several hon. Members on this side of the House went to see these properties at their own expense and in their leisure time during the short Whitsun Recess?
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Perry
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I am sure that the whole House is thankful not only to those few hon. Members but to the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen)—who is not in the Chamber at the moment—who went at his own expense to find out about the breweries and the conditions in the public houses.
§ Mr. Garrett
Has my hon. Friend any information whether the Ministers have been to Carlisle or to Ross and Cromarty?
§ Mr. Perry
I have no information about that, and at the moment I should not want to tax them with the proposition that they should go. I realise that the Under-Secretary is a very busy man. He has conducted many Bills through the House and has taken part in many debates. He has done a very good job, 1478 and I pay full credit to him. We thank him for much of his work, I should not want to tax him with the task of visiting these places. He has officials who can do that. But when I see 340 properties being disposed of straight away—this enormous block of properties in Carlisle—I am concerned about the people who are occupying them.
I am concerned with the tenants of tied cottages or houses. I hope that they will be protected. If the public houses are sold privately will the present tenants remain? I want an assurance from the Minister that no tenant will be evicted from his cottage or home simply because the owner had him on a tied cottage basis. I believe in a house-owning democracy, and I want to be sure that the present tenants of these cottages and houses are offered these places.
In Committee we had some amusing moments, and we sat long hours, but this is a matter of great importance to us. We oppose the Bill, but we want to make sure that the tenants or managers of the public houses—the little people who are affected by the Bill—receive the right degree of protection.
I want to refer to the breweries and the acquisition of properties under the Bill. The Library has looked out some figures for me relating to five of the largest breweries in the country. On 1st July, 1970, just after the General Election—I should not be so facetious as to say "just after the promises had been made to sell this stuff off"—the price of shares in Allied Breweries was 84½p. On 12th May, 1971—just as the Committee on the Bill began to sit—those shares stood at 125p, an increase of nearly 50 per cent. In the same period the price of shares in Bass Charrington rose from 85½p to 130½p, an increase of nearly 53 per cent. In the case of Courage's they rose from 79p to 115p. an increase of nearly 50 per cent. Watney Mann shares rose from 84½p to 120p, an increase of 40 per cent., and Whitbread's rose from 50½p to 70½p, an increase of nearly 40 per cent.
I would not say that the increase in the values of those shares was related directly to the sale of these establishments in Carlisle, but there is no doubt that from 1st July, 1970, to 12th May, 1971, somebody made a fortune out of breweries.
§ Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Being a man of few words, I did not intend to intervene, but I want to respond to the few remarks made by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen), who is now absent from the Chamber. As an expert in rating and valuation—and heaven knows what else—he made some comments which interested me. They were strictly pertinent to the Clause. In parenthesis, I should have liked to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) into the stock market and conducted a little analysis on the prices of beer shares, but I am afraid that I might be ruled out of order.
The hon. Member for Stockport, North used a phrase which is quite traditional in valuation circles but which I have always regarded with a measure of profound suspicion. I am sorry that he is not here to correct me if I misunderstood what he said, but I thought he said that towards the end of the negotiations it may be necessary to dispose of the remaining properties by private treaty. It was the phrase "private treaty" which aroused suspicions in my mind.
I have a great respect for valuers. Valuation is the most non-scientific of all the sciences. It is, perhaps, the most subjective of all the sciences, although it is wrapped in a great deal of esoteric terminology. One of my hon. Friends has suggested, quite improperly, that it is also the most lucrative. I have always seen a subtle connection between the degree to which a thing is esoteric and the financial reward that it attracts.
As hon. Members have said, the Government have more or less committed themselves to disposing of these assets in a notional period of about a year. That raises many objections—objections that are all the more powerful because of the context in which this operation is to be conducted. The Government are not disposing of a few assets scattered around the country; they are disposing of assets of a highly specific character with a high degree of localisation. In Committee somebody—it might have been me, although I hate to repeat myself—said that we have here the classic case of what an economist has referred to as not so much a monopoly as a 1480 monopsony—a situation in which the Government are trying to dispose of assets on a scale that I had not suspected until my hon. Friend gave the figures. They are doing this as the sole sellers, faced with an oligopoly of buyers. That is an extremely good word. It is a little useful shorthand to describe the situation. I am referring to only six or seven of our great brewery monopolies. But this is the situation, however much this is disguised and however much this confrontation is described in other terms.
As will no doubt be discussed later in the Bill, we are going to bring in panels of valuers, and these panels will operate in a true spirit of Adam Smith's invisible hand, the market economy, and so on, but on behalf of the Government, and this will be very well known to the brewers.
Having studied all sorts of economics for quite a long time, I cannot see how this cat and mouse situation—that is all it amounts to—can result in anything other than a position for the Government, by the end of a period of about 12 months, of almost total capitulation. I say that because despite the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) has talked about the value and attractiveness of these assets, we know only too well that as a package these assets have not a uniform attraction for the brewers and that this brewery will be closed. The only attractive assets might be, perhaps, the better hotels or pubs. So they have to look at a situation in which they say, "All right, we want these particular components. We do not want the brewery." Even though they are going round Carlisle in disguise, incognito, or in any particular form, I do not think that they are seeking—
§ Mr. Cant
That might be difficult. I am sorry if I have given offence. I withdraw that, because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks), I hope that I am a reasonable man and I like to be fair to the Government in all circumstances. I do not see a situation in which the brewers can be in any other position than one in which they are trying to take the assets over but to take them over, to borrow a phrase from one of my hon. Friends, at a knock-down price.
1481 This is complicated by the whole question of the process of valuation because with the best will in the world and with the most charitable feelings, especially if we have to accept that some of these smaller pubs will be disposed of to the tenants—I hope there is common agreement on this—the price of a pub can be anything. Anyone involved in local government knows that only too well.
What sort of situation will arise at the end of about 10 or 11 months when the Government are desperate to get this deal clinched—because it is the only success they are likely to have during this Parliament—if their valuers do what, as professionals, they are almost bound to do and say that there must be incorporated in the price of even a humble pub an amount for goodwill? I say this because the only card of authority that I have to play is that as a chairman of a planning committee in a fairly large city, one often has to face this particular problem of buying a pub. If one were buying it as a normal fiscal asset it might go for about £1,000. But it would not be too far fetched to say that if one were selling it complete with its licence and its goodwill, as the tenants of many of these pubs in Carlisle will have to accept as a basis of valuation, it is not unusual for the price to be at least 20 times that amount—£20,000.
In circumstances such as this, the valuers, acting on behalf of the Government and trying to do a job in a given number of months, will be faced with either breaching a principle, that these things should be sold to the sitting tenant, or enforcing the position in which they have to be given to the breweries at, in the aggregate, a much lower price.
The hon. Member for Stockport, North made one or two classifications of these pubs which I found interesting. He said that there were some good pubs. This was a great concession from the hon. Gentleman. He said there were some not so desirable pubs; and he said that there were some awful pubs. That was the sort of unique terminology that he introduced into the discussion. But who is to say which category these pubs fall into? We are moving into a period in which change is the keynote. I have no doubt that, at any rate, the anti- 1482 Common Marketeers amongst us will have read in The Times recently about some strange things which have happened. But these undesirable pubs, these remnants of what certain drinkers like myself believe were some of the good traditions in English public houses, with out the juke box and without the things that are called sophistication—
§ Mr. Cant
I cannot speak with authority about strippers or topless waitresses. My education is obviously incomplete. When talking about valuations, we have the situation in which some of these old-style pubs are fast disappearing, alas, from the English scene, and no doubt to a lesser extent from the more civilised country of Scotland. My wife reads HANSARD and I have to make this occasional concession to her.
Whether we like it or not, we are part and parcel of this ritzy revolution in our pubs. The old pubs are being dismantled. Some are not being dismantled in the ordinary sense of being knocked down by bulldozers, but they are being taken down, outside and inside, and exported to the Common Market.
§ Mr. Cant
That is something of a private joke, although before the Bill becomes law I hope to know not only who the Procurator Fiscal is but also the constitutional rôle of the Lord Advocate. I was merely trying to make the point in the serious context of the new Clause.
In whatever category the hon. Member for Stockport, North or any other hon. Member puts a pub, in future a greater premium may be attached to the old-style pub; and middle-aged drinkers like myself may take their nightly refuge in the old style pub which the hon. Member thinks is very bad, highly undesirable, or whatever it may be—spit and sawdust and all.
§ The Clause seeks to provide the Government with a safety net. Although the members of this Government are business men, although they no doubt have a genius for buying and selling assets, and although they are not prepared to do in the case of these State 1483 assets what they are prepared to do in the cases of licences for North Sea gas—that is, throw them on to the mercy of the open market or the mock auction—at the end of 12 months they may be in a highly embarrassed state.
§ Beer defies all the traditional textbook illustrations of being a product with a highly elastic demand. Although there is a buoyancy about the beer market at present, and although, despite the increase in prices, the demand for beer continues to rise, so that the brewers' profits, even net of party contributions, rise substantially, no one can say when this may end. The Government may well get rid of these assets over the next 10 or 12 months in a market which will not be so favourable for their enterprise.
§ In these circumstances, they would be well advised to have such a longstop provision. Unless the Government are prepared to tell the country that they have virtually given the assets away, they would be well advised to have a provision of this sort so that they could call a halt to this undertaking.
§ I said in Committee that we should be more understanding of the Govern ment because they have had so few successes that they must be desperate to put one on to the Statute Book. Many of us felt a certain degree of incongruity in having to spend our time and dissipate our talents in Committee going through these Clauses when there were so many more important things to be done, but in this generous mood in which the Government find us we are prepared—
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
My hon. Friend has referred to party contributions. Many of us are ignorant of what he means. I wonder whether that question comes into this matter. Will he explain the point?
§ Mr. Cant
I will not pursue that matter. It has been touched on from time to time. Doubtless my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will make another brief and oblique reference to it later. I merely said that, even net of tax and net of party contributions, the profits were substantial.
I hope that the Clause will be accepted—I confess that this is more hope than expectation—by the Government in the 1484 spirit in which it is offered, because all that we seek to do is to render them this little service.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
In this wide-ranging debate on the Clause, the whole of which I have heard, I have heard little argument advanced by hon. Members opposite in support of the Clause. Many of the same old fallacies have been repeated. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) again expressed his view that for some reason only public houses owned by the State have bowling greens, and that private breweries do not run bowling greens in public houses. Next time he goes on a visit to Carlisle he may care to look in on the Runcorn division, where I can assure him there are many public houses in private ownership which have bowling greens, as there are all over the country.
The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) trotted out the old crack that he had only the second eleven to answer the debate. On behalf of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office I thank the hon. Gentleman, because in Committee whenever he made such references he used to describe us as the third-rate team that answered debates. I can only assume that we have improved somewhat as a result of the work we have done.
It was fascinating to hear the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) express what I hope will become official Labour Party policy—that apparently, although individual tenants should be encouraged to purchase public houses, the Government should then be prepared to renationalise the public houses without compensation. I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman had read the Clause before he advanced that extraordinary argument.
In case the hon. Member was serious when he said that he hoped that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) would invite his right hon. and hon. Friends to vote in favour of the Clause, I will remind the House of what the Clause does, what its effect would be, and what hon. Members opposite will be voting for if they are so unwise as to wish to advance an argument such as that put forward in the Clause.
§ The Clause would provide, as I understand it, that the powers granted in the Bill to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Home Department and for Scotland to dispose of these premises should continue, that Clause 1 should be passed and, therefore, my right hon. Friends' monopoly position in these areas should go, but that if at the end of 12 months my right hon. Friends have not succeeded in disposing of all the assets, a moratorium of five years should be placed upon the assets which have not been disposed of, although presumably at the end of that five-year period my right hon. Friends could start disposing of the assets again.
It is necessary to remind hon. Members opposite about the effect of the Bill. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) used time and again the phrase that it was right that if these premises had not been sold within 12 months they should revert back to public ownership. He spoke of the possibilities of these public houses becoming cobwebbed and dilapidated as they lay empty waiting to be sold. The Bill means nothing of the kind. All it does it to remove the monopoly position of the Secretary of State in these areas and requires him to dispose of the properties held by him
…on such terms as appear to him expedient in the public interest.…
The Bill specifically provides, by retaining the powers under the 1964 Act to continue to trade in the area, that, until these public houses or licensed premises are sold, they should continue in operation with the scheme being run by the Secretary of State. We are removing the monopoly position of the Secretary of State but he retains his powers to carry on trading until disposal. There is no question of putting the premises up for sale empty for 12 months and then bringing them back to public ownership. They will remain in the ownership of the State until the moment of sale and will continue, under the powers of the Secretary of State, as part of the scheme until they are sold.
§ Mr. Ashton
If a brewery were to move in and build a brand-new public house on an estate, which had an effect on the trade of existing State pubs, what would happen if those pubs had to cease 1486 trading because of lack of business and therefore could not be sold?
§ Mr. Carlisle
Because of the monopoly position of the Secretary of State, a brewery which attempted to do that now would have to have not only a licence from the local justices but the permission of the Secretary of State. Once the Bill is law, however, since it affects the Secretary of State's monopoly position, such a brewer would be in exactly the same position in the State districts as he would if he wished to build anywhere else. He would be subject to the obtaining of a licence from the local justices and he would have to satisfy them that there was a need for the new public house. In these circumstances, it is not practical to envisage a new public house being built and putting other public houses out of business.
§ Mr. Cant
But is it quite as simple as that? Once the monopoly power is diminished and a brewery is in a position to come in and build a new pub, it has to get a licence from the justices. It also has to get a licence from the local planning committee. What the local planning committee almost invariably does, as it will not deliberately produce excess capacity, is to say, "You can have this licence, provided you will give us three of the licences that already exist". That means that those three tenants are out of business.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The hon. Gentleman is right. I overlooked the fact that, if a brewery wants to build a new public house, it has to get planning permission. But I was asked what would happen to the State-owned public houses if a new public house was opened on a housing estate, and I was pointing out that, in order to build a new public house, the brewery would have to obtain a justices' licence and also, as the hon. Gentleman reminded us, planning permission, and that applies in the present State management districts as it does to any other part of the country. The effect of the Bill is to leave the Secretary of State trading in the area until he has disposed of the property, as he is required to do…on such terms as appear to him expedient in the public interest…under Clause 2.
The only purpose of new Clause 1 is to ensure that if, at the end of 12 months, the Government have not sold all the 1487 properties, they must not attempt to sell the remaining premises for five years. It is difficult to see the logical justification for such an argument. Nor is there an economic justification. I thought that hon. Members opposite would say, as they said in Committee, that because I had mentioned that we hoped to complete the sale within 12 months, I was going so far as to suggest that we were committed to sale within 12 months and that there would be pressure on us to sell. But hon. Members opposite have literally stood that argument on its head.
Rather than being under pressure to sell unless we have new Clause 1, the reverse is the case. As the Bill is drafted, there is no time limit within which the Secretary of State may sell. All there is is a general requirement on him to sell…on terms … expedient in the public interest…Our estimate is that to sell all the numerous properties will take about 12 months. We might take less time than that; we may take longer. But we shall do it on the terms which are expedient. The effect of new Clause 1 would be that everyone would hold back. They would see that the Secretary of State was required to dispose of the assets within 12 months or keep them for another five years. They would recognise that he would not want to hold on to the properties for another five years and would prefer to sell them within the 12 months. The pressure would be on the brewers to hold back until the end of the 12 months, when they could come to us and say, "You cannot hold out any longer. If you do not accede to our price now you will be stuck with the remaining properties for another five years".
Thus, far from saving the Government from a forced sale, as the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Michael Cocks) suggested would happen, the effect of the new Clause could be to force the Government into a sale on inexpedient terms at a time when it would be to their advantage to stand out against the terms being offered. All the cards would be stacked in the hands of the prospective buyers, because they could wait until shortly before the 12-month period had elapsed and then say, "Sell now or you will have to keep them for another five years". 1488 Looking at this as a matter of expediency, if, for example, we had sold 90 per cent. of the premises within the 12 months, there would be tremendous pressure on us to get rid of the remaining 10 per cent. before the fatal date was reached because the Secretary of State would not want to keep the remaining 10 per cent. for another five years, with all the cost of running them that would have to come from the return that they would get. Far from being a safeguard against the Government being forced into a sale, the new Clause would force the Government into a sale against their will. It would be likely to reduce the price that the Government could get on behalf of the tax payers rather than increase it.
That is my main argument against the new Clause and I am sure that, if the Opposition reflect upon it, they will realise that it would be economic nonsense to put it into the Bill when the Bill already puts a duty on the Secretary of State to dispose on terms which appeared expedient to him. This point was made effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) and other of my hon. Friends.
I take the other point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach). Let us imagine that, as envisaged by the new Clause, we have got to the end of the 12 months and sold 75 per cent. of the premises. What will happen to the remaining 25 per cent. which have to be held for five years? The brewery will be left with a number of uneconomic outlets.
§ Mr. Carlisle
It could still happen but there is a greater danger of it happening under the new Clause. Is the Home Office to carry on producing beer which cannot be sold and to keep those premises for five years? What real concern will there be to repair, maintain or improve those remaining public houses when it is known that they will be got rid of at the end of five years? It has to be remembered that the overheads will continue during that period.
What is the argument in favour of this new Clause since I do not believe it to be justified on grounds of logic or economic sense? In the end it must come down to the remarks of the hon. Member 1489 for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). Within that period of the 12 months and the five years there may be a General Election and there may be a change of Government.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that because of his forethought the State will be left with that little rump of public houses or unlicensed premises which have not been sold off in the 12-month period? Is he really suggesting that it is his contribution to the expansion of State ownership under a Labour Government for them to find, if they were ever to take office again, that they owned six shops, seven hotels and three public houses in Carlisle and perhaps a couple in Gretna? It is a nonsensical argument. If the advantages of State ownership of breweries are so enormous, as has been suggested, I would have thought that he would be thinking on a much grander scale.
The hon. Member for Carlisle, who has attended throughout every minute of our debates but who is not at the moment present, said that he believed that if we nationalised the public houses we would be able to reduce income tax by 2s. in the pound. It seems that he has got it wrong, because it is the corporation tax paid by the brewers which helps provide the money needed by the State. The Carlisle State Management Scheme pays no tax at all. If the effect of nationalisation was that the State lost all income from the breweries it would have the effect of increasing income tax by 2s. in the pound, rather than reducing it by that sum.
§ The new Clause provides no protection, it reduces the bargaining position of the State as the seller of the public houses, and makes economic nonsense. It would leave a Government with a few properties left in an area which was no longer protected by any form of monopoly and which it was not in the interests of the public to run. I know that I will be chided for saying what I have said in Committee, namely, that I do not believe it is the duty of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to be running a few public houses in one particular area of the country. Running public houses is surely a matter for 1490 private enterprise, not for the State. If it is for the State, it is certainly not on the basis of this new Clause which would leave the State with a handful of pubs in one small area in the North-West of England.
§ It came ill from the hon. Member for West Fife to comment about the importance that the Government placed on the debate in putting two days at the disposal of the House for Report. The hon. Gentleman knows that it was at the request of his Party that the two days were provided. Having listened to the standard of the speeches on this new Clause I think that the Opposition could have found a better use for the time.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ross
I have heard that speech somewhere before—I heard it in the morning, in the afternoon and at two o'clock in the morning. May I remind the Under-Secretary of State—when he talks about two days being provided for the debate we were only able to finish because I withdrew a considerable number of Amendments, to be discussed later, on Report.
§ The Amendment deals with what happens when the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland begin, as they must as soon as this Bill gets Royal Assent, to get rid of these properties. In Carlisle the figure of more than 340 properties was given. It was the Under-Secretary who said that he hoped to complete this process within a year. That is 340 properties—about 170 public houses all in the same town—hotels and off-licences. If ever there were a buyer's market, there it is. It is bad enough to be in the position of having to get rid of these properties. Now the Home Secretary's deputy tells us that he will do it in a year, and that in advance of the passing of the Act, certain decisions have already been taken—and this applies to the Secretary of State for Scotland and as well—by the licensing bench in Gretna and in Cromarty Firth and the justices bench in Carlisle so that additional licences will immediately come into being. What kind of bargain will the State get out of this?
The more the sale is concentrated in time, the more the nation will lose. What we are dealing with here is something that was valued some years ago at about £4¾
million. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that there are certain embarrassments and difficulties for him in this? After all, he will be held responsible to the extent to which this is just handed over. He can reach the position, under the conditions which he has laid upon himself, when he must sell whether he likes it or not. He said—and I underlined the phrase:
on terms that are expedient.
With all due respect, that is not what the Bill says. He as a lawyer, would know that such a term would be contested in the courts. But the saving words are put in
…as appears to him expedient…
It can be the most unreasonable price, but so long as he can say that it appeared to him to be expedient he is covered in the courts.
§ Where are these properties in Carlisle? My hon. Friend the Member for Batter-sea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) eventually elicited the information that there were about 340. Many were public houses in the old days, and more than 340 public houses were taken over by the State in 1915. Incidentally, I ought to point out that it was not a Labour Government at that time. This was not a scheme which began in the days of the Labour Government, and the Tory Party supported it then
§ Most of these properties, some of which are no longer licensed premises, having been taken out of use as licensed properties, but retained by the State management, are in the centre of Carlisle. I have heard it suggested that two-fifths of the centre of Carlisle is owned by the State management.
§ What wonderful opportunities there are for development and exploitation! The hon. and learned Gentleman has visited the State management hotel, so I was told, and saw the Angel Hotel, which was a temperance hotel, which was bought by Tesco, not as a hotel, but for development purposes. With development possibilities, these premises are very much undervalued. I am glad that hon. Members opposite appreciate that they are to be sold off and that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland have limited themselves to a year in which to get rid of the properties.1492
§ My hon. Friend's proposal is that if, a year after they have been put up for sale, they are not sold, which gives about six months for the preliminaries and advertising and so on, they should be retained as part of a continuing State Management Scheme. That is what worries the brewers. It is said that the brewers will not buy. It shows the power of the brewers that they say that instead they will put up new pubs, acting on the comfortable guarantee that they will get licences.
§ Hon. Members should keep reading the Press on this subject, for the Press is full of stuff about the brewers. We have a director of Allied Breweries, which has had an increase in profits of from £19 million to £23 million in the first 32 weeks of this year. The brewers are now getting a return for the hundreds of thousands of pounds which they collect and give annually to the Tory Party. They do not need to have their policy quoted in Tory manifestoes, because they have direct power through the chairman of the Scottish Tory Party—the chairman of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. The tie is as close as the name McEwan Younger, a nice collection of names connoting the breweries in Scotland.
§ These transactions will be watched, and what we have tried to do in the new Clause is to protect the Minister. The brewers are not concerned about the Bill, but they are concerned about the legislation which it removes from the Statute Book. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been honest with us, he would have referred to the Clause which we were not able to discuss in Committee because of the speed with which the Government pushed the Bill through. The Secretary of State and the Home Secretary will lose their power of management, but they will not lose their power under Section 102 of the 1964 English Act to be in the business and, so long as they are in the business, the brewers will not be satisfied.
§ The brewers want the Government out of the business as quickly as possible, not because of the nice profits which will accrue from Carlisle—because they do not care very much about who owns the pubs in Carlisle so long as it is their beer which is being supplied—but because they are concerned about the power of the State to be in the business remaining on the Statute Book. That is the reason for speed. If the new Clause were accepted, 1493 when the Tories left office—and they will and the people of Scotland wish that the election were tomorrow—the threat to the brewers would still be there, and the threat of extension would still be there.
§ One or two of my hon. Friends explained the complexities of valuation and striking bargains. I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman to be able to tell us that, no matter how he sells the pubs, the brewery will continue to exist. If he reads the company report of Allied Breweries in the Financial Times this morning, he will see that it has been able to increase its sales not of local brews, but through the more economic and efficient use of a more national provision of different brews, and the country's tastes in beer will have to change to suit the brewers, regardless of what people may like. This is the way to the higher profits, and I gather that Allied Breweries are looking forward to the next 20 weeks with even greater glee.
§ What will happen to the brewery? Will any of the brewers bid for it? If they do, what will they do with it? Will they not bid for it only to prevent it from falling into the hands of someone who might use it? Will they not probably close it down? This is an important aspect of the sale of the property. The hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware of the complexity of the job which he has undertaken with such glee.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the more offensive part of his remarks, to which I do not propose to respond, would he explain what he meant by his comment about influencing the licensing justices, which must have been implied by what he said about the brewers obtaining additional licences? Is he suggesting that the applicants for licences, brewers and others, will be able to influence the licensing court, to persuade justices to give additional licences, and that this is a responsibility of the Government? Is he saying that there is corruption in the courts as well as in the Government? If so, let him say so.
§ Mr. Ross
I only report that the brewers said that they were not interested in buying, but would build their own new premises. They can build their own new premises only if they have a guarantee of a licence. I expressed my surprise. I 1494 should have thought that I spoke for all in saying that they have no right to take it for granted that they will be able to get licences. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support us in a provision to ensure that there is no proliferation of licences following this deal.
We are dealing with a situation which has been settled for about 60 years—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Board-man) should have been on the Committee with us. We would have enjoyed his presence. We have heard more speeches today from the Government back benches than we heard throughout our Committee sittings.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can leave the matter there. He was a member of the Labour Cabinet. He was Secretary of State for Scotland and, I presume, among other things, had responsibility in the administration of these matters in Scotland. He has clearly implied that the brewers had the power by money to affect the decisions that they get from the licensing justices.
§ Mr. Carlisle
The right hon. Gentleman certainly left that impression. If he says that he did not intend to give that impression and does not believe that, he should clear up the matter by saying so.
§ Mr. Ross
I have a very good memory of what I said, and what other people have said, as the hon. and learned Gentleman should know from our Committee proceedings. I said that the brewers had power of finance in respect of what they supplied to the Tory Party and they did not have to rely on manifestos to get their way with it. It is wrong and untypical of 1495 the hon. and learned Gentleman to seize on this point at this time and—
§ Mr. Ross
I have not finished. We are not in Committee. We would have enjoyed the presence of the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), too, in Committee. He might have done what other hon. Members opposite could not do—speak in support of the Government in the dirty job that they are doing.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-West said that he would not refer to any of my more offensive remarks. He and his party had better live with the fact that the brewers make very generous contributions to the Tory Party. It is as simple as that. If people are wrong to draw conclusions from the fact that this Bill was not in the Tory Party's British manifesto, where did it come from? [HON. MEM BERS: "The brewers."] The hon. Gentle man knows quite well that the objection of the brewers—
§ Mr. Ross
Not at the moment. The objection of the brewers is to the continuation by statute of the power of the State to do as was proposed in Section 102 of the Licensing Act—to supply and retail intoxicating liquor in England and Wales, and then relate it to a particular district. Not until that provision is removed will the brewers be satisfied, and it cannot be removed until all of the premises—and the definition of "premises" in the English part of the Bill relates to intoxicating liquor—are disposed of. Only when the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland by order get rid of the offending provisions will offence cease to be given to the brewers.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) has tried to intervene about six times. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is not giving way. The hon. Gentleman must not persist.
§ Mr. Ross
I shall come to the points made in some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite. If the brewers were asked whether they preferred the Bill as it is or the Bill with the new Clause inserted, I can assure the House that they would say, "Let us have the Bill as it is".
When the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) suggested that the property would be allowed to decay, he was speaking only for himself. Certain restrictions may well have been placed on State management in the latter days of the Conservative Party's 13 years of office when the Tories in Scotland were putting on the pressure. The pressure to get rid of State management in Gretna and in the Cromarty Firth came from the Scottish Tories. But let them go and see these properties. I think that the hon. Member for Stockport, North would agree that certain of the properties in Carlisle—some of them old, some of them very new—were a credit to any business and a considerable attraction. But if the Minister hamstrings himself by selling them all at once the State will not get the best bargain.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that this was a wrecking and mischievous new Clause. It is not, and it is not so intended.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. and learned Gentleman may continue to say, "Of course it is". To my mind, it is protective and helpful from the point of view of the State and of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Home Secretary. He said that the public have a right to know about these matters. He referred to what we would do if there was a General Election. Does he not think that the public in Carlisle had a right to know that the Government would do this? Does he deny the fact referred to by my hon. Friend the Membere for Carlisle (Mr. Ron Lewis) that the Tory candidate there went out of his way to say that the Conservatives would not do this?
§ Mr. Ross
I am asking the questions at the moment. I am dealing with this Bill, not with a Bill which will come after the next election. It might have been better if the hon. Gentleman had confined himself to the Bill, but to be relevant might have destroyed his argument and robbed him of the opportunity of making a speech.
I visited Carlisle with some of my hon. Friends. I do not know how many public houses I went into within about three hours. The only other day, Mr. President—[Interruption.] I am already talking in French terms. The only day with which I can compare it was when, with Eric Linklater and Jack House, I visited seven distilleries on Islay in one afternoon.
In Carlisle we met the people concerned during out visit. The Government should stop to consider whether, in their rush to dispose of these properties, they will be unfair to individuals. The most exaggerated phrase I have heard today was that used by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Kinsey), who said that the Minister's proposals were fair, just and above suspicion. There are no proposals in the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill which one could call a proposal. There is only a power given to the Government, and how they carry it out I do not know. I would like to think they would be fair. [Interruption.] Is the Under-Secretary of State suggesting that there are proposals in this Bill? There are no proposals in this Bill. It is not as though it were even very long. It would take me five minutes to read out the whole thing, and there is no proposal in it. All it says is:The Secretary of State shall dispose of property held by him for the purposes of Part V of the Act … on such terms as appear to him expedient in the public interest…".
§ We invited him at various times, and will again, to put, in a Schedule to the Bill, what the proposals are, but till that comes it is quite wrong for anyone to say that the proposals are fair, just and above suspicion.
§ I sincerely hope that my hon. Friends will join me in the Lobby, because I think this new Clause is necessary and desirable. The hon. and learned Gentleman talked about "more than a year", and that was the first time he has ever done that, but I think we should decide this by going into the Lobby.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Would my right hon. Friend deal with the point about the brewers' contributions to Tory Party funds? This is causing a great deal of disquiet in the country and it is one of the points which ought to be explained—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member may be right in his last observation—but not on this new Clause.
§ Mr. Ross
I hope that we shall get an opportunity to do that. I am sorry that one of our new Clauses relating directly to this has not been selected, but I think that there may be occasions during the evening when we may be able to advert to this and be in order.
However, as to this new Clause, I advise my hon. Friends to support it.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
I shall not be a minute, but I believe that the brief which the Minister read out was prepared for him by the brewers. The brewers do not like this new Clause, and that is sufficient for the Government.
§ Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 169.1499
|Division No. 389.]||AYES||[7.11 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Buchan, Norman||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Doig, Peter|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Carter, Ray (Birmtngh'm, Northfield)||Dormand, J. D.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce|
|Ashton, Joe||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Driberg, Tom|
|Atkinson, Norman||Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Beaney, Alan||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Dunn, James A.|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Concannon, J. D.||Eadie, Alex|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Conlan, Bernard||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Ellis, Tom|
|Booth, Albert||Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Evans, Fred|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bradley, Tom||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Lawson, George||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Galpern, Sir Meyer||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Ginsburg, David||Leonard, Dick||Rankin, John|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham N.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Lomas, Kenneth||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Loughlin, Charles||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Hamling, William||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Sandelson, Neville|
|Hardy, Peter||McBride, Neil||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Harper, Joseph||McCann, John||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Sillars, James|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Maclennan, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Horam, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Marsden, F.||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Taverne, Dick|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Tinn, James|
|Hunter, Adam||Mendelson, John||Torney, Tom|
|lrvine, Rt. Hn. SirArthur (Edge Hill)||Millan, Bruce||Varley, Eric G.|
|Janner, Greville||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Ogden, Eric||Whitlock, William|
|Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||O'Halloran, Michael||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Orme, Stanley||Woof, Robert|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Palmer, Arthur|
|Kelley, Richard||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kinnock, Neil||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)||Mr. John Golding and|
|Lamond, James||Pentland, Norman||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Latham, Arthur||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Fell, Anthony||McLaren, Martin|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Astor, John||Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Mather, Carol|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fowler, Norman||Maude, Angus|
|Bell, Ronald||Fox, Marcus||Mawby, Ray|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Benyon, W.||Gardner, Edward||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Biffen, John||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Body, Richard||Gray, Hamish||Moate, Roger|
|Boscawen, Robert||Green, Alan||Molyneaux, James|
|Bowden, Andrew||Grieve, Percy||Money, Ernle|
|Bray, Ronald||Grylls, Michael||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Brewis, John||Gummer, Selwyn||Monro, Hector|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Gurden, Harold||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||More, Jasper|
|Bryan, Paul||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Buck, Antony||Hawkins, Paul||Mudd, David|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hayhoe, Barney||Murton, Oscar|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Holland, Philip||Nott, John|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Holt, Miss Mary||Onslow, Cranley|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hornby, Richard||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Clegg, Walter||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Coombs, Derek||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Peel, John|
|Costain, A. P.||James, David||Pounder, Rafton|
|Critchley, Julian||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Crouch, David||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Curran, Charles||Kilfedder, James||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj, -Gen. James||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Raison, Timothy|
|Dean, Paul||Redmond, Robert|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Knox, David||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rost, Peter|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Le Marchant, Spencer||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Emery, Peter||Loveridge, John||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Eyre, Reginald||McCrindle, R. A.||Simeons, Charles|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Tebbit, Norman||Wilkinson, John|
|Speed, Keith||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Spence, John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Sproat, Iain||Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Stainton, Keith||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)||Vickers, Dame Joan||Mr. Hugh Rossi and|
|Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Waddington, David||Mr. Tim Fortescue.|
|Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|