§ Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 4, line 15, leave out "to" and insert "of".1511
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 4, line 35, leave out paragraphs (h) and (i).
§ Mr. Millan
These amendments deal with the safeguards on Sunday opening. The Bill did not originally provide for Sunday opening, because in the Government's view it was unwise against the background of concern in Scotland about misuse of alcohol to take this step as well as making the other changes to liberalise hours of opening.
The Government were defeated on that matter in Committee and were subsequently defeated on it on Report. However, on Report I moved certain amendments to provide safeguards in the procedure for applying for Sunday opening and the considerations which would be taken into account by the licensing board when considering those applications.
The question of Sunday opening has been settled so far as the House is concerned. We all have our own views about that matter. I still take the view that the House made a mistake, but that is not the issue involved here. We are dealing only with safeguards. I hope that we shall not argue the case for and against Sunday opening again, because that matter has been decided. Many of us have strong views about it. I should love to deliver a speech similar to that which I delivered on Report, but I do not think that would take us much further forward tonight.
Lords Amendment No. 3 removes certain paragraphs from Clause 5(2) relating to Sunday safeguards. The amendment by itself is comparatively minor, but the whole thing hangs together. The further Lords Amendments Nos. 29 and 46 have the effect of removing a reference to Schedule 4 from Clause 53 on permitted 1512 hours and of removing the schedule. The effect of agreeing to those amendments, against my advice, would be that there would be automatic Sunday opening of all 4,000 public houses in Scotland as soon as an order was made to bring the relevant provisions of Clause 53 into operation.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)
Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that this would not mean the automatic opening of all public houses? It is, after all, an option for public houses to open on Sunday.
§ Mr. Millan
Strictly speaking, it is an option to open from Monday to Saturday as well. There is nothing special about Sunday from that point of view. If my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) wants to be pedantic about it, I should say that it would enable all public houses to open immediately on Sunday as soon as the clause was brought into operation. I take the view that that would be highly undesirable.
The purpose of Part I of Schedule 4, which has been eliminated by the Lords, is to provide a procedure under which applications for Sunday opening are made to licensing boards which have the power to refuse them on the ground that the opening and use of the premises on a Sunday would cause undue disturbance or public nuisance in the locality. Part II of Schedule 4 gives a board power to restrict opening hours on Sunday if it is satisfied that the use of the premises is the cause of undue disturbance or public nuisance.
In addition to the motion that I am moving to disagree with the Lords, I am proposing, on a separate paper, to move Amendments Nos. 4 to 9 to the schedule as it left this place. Those amendments have two main purposes. They are to apply to applications for Sunday opening the relevant procedural requirements applicable to applications for licences and to provide for the currency of permission for Sunday opening to be of the same duration as the licence to which it relates.
The procedural requirements which it seems desirable to apply to applications for Sunday opening are the display of a notice at the premises concerned intimating the application for at least 21 days 1513 before the meeting of the licensing board and the giving of written notice of the application at least three weeks before the board meeting to every occupier of premises in the same building as the licensed premises. As the Government believe that the opening of public houses on Sundays could greatly affect neighbouring owners or occupiers, we consider it right to ensure that they are given adequate notice of the possible development. This would be achieved by the addition of the new paragraph 4A contained in Amendment No. 4 which has the effect of applying the relevant procedural requirements in Clause 10. We wish to ensure that applications for renewal of a public house or refreshment licence state whether the licence holder is applying for Sunday opening. New paragraph 11A, contained in Amendment No. 6, would make suitable provision.
In terms of Part I of Schedule 4, as originally drafted, an application for Sunday opening once granted by a licensing board has no limit of time, except that imposed during the currency of a suspension order under Clause 31. It seems sensible and right that the grant of Sunday opening should last for the period of the relevant licence and that it should then require to be renewed when renewal of the licence is sought. The proposed new paragraphs 12A to 12D contained in Amendment No. 9 will have the effect of tying the grant of Sunday opening to the currency of the relevant licence, taking into account the provision for appeals. The remaining amendments to Schedule 4 are essentially drafting amendments taking account of the main changes which I have outlined.
I recommend the retention of Schedule 4. Therefore, I have explained the amendments that I propose to move to the schedule so that hon. Members will be absolutely clear about what we are doing here.
I hope it will be accepted by the House that these amendments, strengthening Schedule 4, do so in a very modest and sensible way. It is nonsense to suggest that they add massive restrictions to the schedule. These are, in fact, very sensible and necessary provisions.
As to the general arguments concerning safeguards, I shall not go through them in the detail that we had on Report. The safeguards in the Bill as it left this 1514 place were entered without a Division. There was a general acceptance, both by those who were in favour of Sunday opening and those who were against Sunday opening, that if Sunday opening were to be permitted in Scotland it would be necessary to write certain safeguards into the Bill—in particular the safeguard of an application under Schedule 4 concerning the rights of people living in the vicinity, and so on. That was well accepted, and I am not aware that the circumstances in which we made that decision have changed in any way since the matter was very fully discussed in this House. I explained at the Report stage what the Government had in mind.
Inasmuch as there has been a change in the situation, it is a change relating to Sunday opening, in the sense that since Report we have seen a number of further statistics, reports and so on which give even more information than we had in the past as to the extent of the problem of alcoholic misuse in Scotland. But this would be an argument for strengthening and not for weakening the provisions in the Bill.
It would be a profound mistake, and very much against the sense of the debate that we had on Report, if we were now to consider, as the House of Lords ask us to do, the elimination of these safeguards—and especially the safeguards in Schedule 4.
At earlier stages, many hon. Members described very graphically the problem which some of their constituents had already because of noise, inconvenience and sometimes even rowdiness from public houses open on six days of the week, and they took the view that for those public houses to be open on seven days would cause a qualitative change in the inconvenience to their constituents which they would find intolerable. The safeguards which we put in the Bill related safely to inconvenience. They were not related specifically to the standards of the licensed premises themselves, because I accepted that standards about licensed premises generally should apply to seven days of the week.
But there is a particular sense in regard to noise, inconvenience and the rest in which the addition of opening on a seventh day has particular relevance, 1515 and I think strongly that it should be possible for local residents and other objectors to have these matters argued out at the licensing board. The board at the end of the day, of course, does not need to accept the representations. It is free to make its decisions on the facts and arguments presented to it. But to say that it should not even be possible for people living in the locality of public houses at present open for six days to make representations about opening on Sundays, as the Lords suggest, would cause legitimate offence and possibly considerable hardship to many of our constituents.
Therefore, for these reasons, without going over the matter again in detail, since we have debated the matter extensively before, I ask the House to disagree with the Lords in their amendments. When we come to the appropriate point, I shall ask the House to accept the amendments that I am suggesting to Schedule 4 of the Bill as it left this place.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
Earlier today, we considered Scottish education and went on to consider Scottish rating. Now we have moved to Scottish drinking and that is to be followed by Scottish sex. For once, the Government seem to have their priorities right, even if we disagree about the merits of the arguments.
The Secretary of State gave his reasons clearly for believing that the other House erred in changing the Bill and removing the safeguards which the Government wished to insert in this legislation. In doing so, he made it clear that his personal position remains, as ever, opposed to the principle of Sunday opening. I start from an opposite position. I proposed the amendment in Committee to allow Sunday opening, and it was carried.
Starting from the opposite end to the Secretary of State, nevertheless, I come to the same conclusion. There is a strong case for allowing the safeguards which were inserted by this House on Report to remain in the Bill. I stress that I speak for myself. This is not a matter on which parties as such have views. Some of my hon. Friends will disagree with me, and some Government supporters will disagree with the Secretary of State. But I feel that the circumstances that we are 1516 considering justify safeguards of the type that the Government have indicated.
I read with interest the debate in the other House when this matter was considered and when the noble Lord, Lord Guest, spearheaded the campaign to remove these controls from the Bill. In the course of his speech, the noble Lord said:Can it"—meaning Scotland—not be trusted with the same opening hours on a Sunday as in England? I have said before in this House that Scotland is being treated like a child who is given a sweet and then is told, 'You cannot eat it unless you behave yourself'."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 28th October 1976; Vol. 376, c. 649.]I have heard this type of argument used before, but I do not believe it is relevant to the matter to be determined by the House. I do not think that it is right, either, to say that the matter should be left out because England has certain licensing laws and that, if England does, Scotland automatically should have the same. Equally, there is no case for slavishly departing from the English pattern simply because the English have it in that way. We must consider these matters on their merits.
Are there good arguments in favour of safeguards for Sunday opening now that the House has agreed on the principle itself? In deciding that question we cannot overlook the fact that Scotland does have a very different tradition from England and Wales. In England, particularly the question of Sunday opening is generally accepted, and has been so for many years. It does not arouse great passion or controversy, and it is something which is accepted by the whole population as being natural. I look forward to the time when there is a similar approach in Scotland.
Having said that, however, we cannot overlook the simple fact that the decision of this House to allow Sunday opening, while greeted with approval by the majority of Scots, was strongly resented by a significant minority of the population. It still arouses great emotion, not just from the Free Churches and one or two sectarian organisations but from large numbers of ordinary people who feel very strongly, and it is right that their views should be taken into account.
1517 By accepting that the principle that different opening hours on Sunday is not in dispute at this stage, the House has accepted that different circumstances can and should be applied to Sunday as compared with other times of the week. This is a matter which allows for special safeguards. When considering what safeguards are justifiable or acceptable we must consider that the legislation applies to the whole of Scotland, and not just to urban or rural areas. It affects the whole population, and not just people who live above or next door to public houses.
If we could have differential legislation, and pubs could open whenever people in rural areas—or other areas where people do not have to live next door to pubs—wanted them to do so, there would be an argument for a completely liberal approach. But we must face the fact that we have one Bill affecting the whole of Scotland and we must ensure that special attention is paid to the problems of people who live above and next door to public houses. We must do this through the medium of the licensing court.
There is another factor which is particularly important. If the safeguards are not put into the Bill, automatically every public house in Scotland would be entitled to open its doors on Sunday. That is not necessarily objectionable, but with each and every one of the present licence holders, the licence was granted as a result of an application for six-day opening, not seven. In some areas no objections were raised to the application for a licence but there might have been had the residents known that the licensee would be entitled to open on Sunday as well.
In some areas there were objections to licences but these were overruled by the licensing court. We cannot assume that they would have been overruled if the application had been for Sunday as well as the other six days. Had the licensing court known that the consequence of the licence was seven-day opening, it might in many cases, have refused the licences. The licensing court did not have to consider whether the granting of a licence to any pub in Scotland would result in that pub opening seven days a week. If it had been known, it is reasonable to 1518 assume that in some areas licences might have been refused.
§ Mr. Tom McMillan (Glasgow, Central)
When the publican applied for the licence he applied under the law as it stood and the licensing court granted the licence in compliance with the law. The court must deal with the law as it stands and nothing else.
§ Mr. Rifkind
I accept the hon. Member's point. I am not trying to blame anyone. Of course the applicant applied for his license and the court considered the application in accordance with what the law stipulated at the time. If these safeguards are not put into the Bill, however, a public house will automatically be able to open on the seventh day of the week, even though the merits of its opening on a Sunday were never considered by the licensing court and should not have been as the law stood. The only way to resolve that problem is, as the Government have indicated, by requiring a licensee, if he wishes to open on a Sunday, to go to the court once more and to apply for such permission. The licensing court can then consider the application on its merits and come to a considered decision.
The consequence of not having the safeguards is to enable public houses automatically to open seven days a week, even though the licensing court might not have favoured such a proposal when the original application was made. There are therefore very good reasons why some form of safeguard is necessary. Safeguards must take account of the substantial minority of people who still feel strongly about the whole principle of Sunday opening. Their views should be taken into account, not to lead us to oppose the principle of Sunday opening, but to ensure that not too much damage is done to their view of what a Sunday should be.
It is necessary to have a safeguard because we must take account not simply of public houses in rural areas or those with residences nearby, but especially those in city centres where the permitting of seven-day drinking could create substantial difficulties for local residents. Only by the use of these safeguards will consideration be given to circumstances where a licensee will be opening his premises on the seventh day.
1519 I hope that the House will accept the safeguards. I do not accept every detail of them, but they are reasonable. I hope that they will not become a permanent requirement of the licensing system, but for the next few years, until a new system is properly introduced, they present themselves as a reasonable compromise which will enable people throughout Scotland to welcome the reforms of licensing law and to ensure gradual but steady progress towards a more civilised approach to drinking north of the border.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
For once I find the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) singularly unconvincing and even muddled. They were not entirely straightforward. He advocated the special safeguard not because there might be a nuisance or disturbance, but as a concession to people who oppose the principle of Sunday opening. People in Scotland who object to drinking of all kinds, and particularly to the public houses being open on Sundays should, at the hon. Member's invitation, suggest that Sunday opening would create undue disturbance, but they should do so because they oppose the idea in principle. That is an unsatisfactory argument for the hon. Member to advance since he accepts the principle of Sunday opening. He should not say to people that if they do not like the pubs being open on a Sunday, they should cook up an objection on the grounds of nuisance and by that means secure their objective.
These people have been defeated. The majority has come down in favour of Sunday drinking. If the opponents do not want the pubs to open, they must make their case on general grounds, not on the basis of their attitude, which has been rejected.
§ Mr. Rifkind
The hon. Member is right in one sense, but he must accept that the decision of the House that licensing hours on a Sunday should be different from those for the rest of the week might give rise to a nuisance. Surely a different situation arises on a Sunday, because if it did not it would not be necessary to have different hours.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
The difference is that Sunday is a day when people are not at work, and it is therefore necessary to 1520 have different house from those which apply on working days.
The hon. Gentleman said that we needed a safeguard. It is wrong to suggest that there are no safeguards in the Bill anyway. There are the safeguards which apply to licences on every day of the week. There is the key safeguard in Clause 32, and that will apply if we accept the Lords amendments. Safeguards are already there. The hon. Gentleman merely wants to put in a special set of safeguards which do not apply during the rest of the week.
He wants special standards on Sundays. I find it hypocritical and unpleasant for people to suggest that it is possible to have noise, disturbance and unpleasantness on Mondays, all sorts of foul habits on Tuesdays, create hell on Wednesdays, but that on Sundays, none of this must occur.
I want the same satisfactory standards applied throughout the week. The safeguard is there in Clause 32 which says:Where a licensing board considers that licensed premises are no longer suitable or convenient for the sale of alcoholic liquor, having regard to their character and condition, and the nature and extent of the use of the premises, the board may decide to hold a hearing with a view to making a closure order".That is far broader because it looks at the internal conditions of the premises as well as the environs and people's behaviour.
If they are unsuitable, a licence may not be granted. We have all had experience of licence applications in our constituencies being turned down or withdrawn if standards or behaviour of people on the premises are unsatisfactory. I find it a particularly odious bit of old-fashioned sanctimonious Presbyterianism for people to suggest that we want two standards—one for Sundays and one for the rest of the week. One of the objectives of a reform of the licensing laws should be to raise standards of pubs and behaviour.
I have read only too often what my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has said on this subject and no doubt I shall hear him again tonight making the same point about tenement pubs. I understand his position and I want to take a much stronger line. If a pub is unfit ad creates a nuisance 1521 or disturbance on Sundays, it should not be open at all. It is curious and Scottish to say that people may be foul all week, but that they must clean themselves up and behave on Sundays.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) will be well aware of double or treble standards with, for instance, one door at the front of the pub being used during opening hours and another door at the back of the pub being used afterwards. I want one proper standard.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that in whatever part of Scotland one may live, there are certain things which give greater offence on Sundays than on other days and that there are things which people would put up with on weekdays but which they find offensive on Sundays?
§ Mr. Mackintosh
It is a particularly odious, hypocritical and unpleasant point of view which says that children may play and make a row on weekdays, but may not make a sound on Sundays. Good behaviour is a seven-day-a-week practice. Whatever standards and drinking habits we want in pubs in Scotland, do not let us say that we can derogate from them for six days out of seven. We must apply the same high standards throughout the week.
This point of view was well put in another place by, among others, the father of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), who is a former Under-Secretary of State. The Minister tonight did not deal very fully with the subject of alcoholism. The Minister of State in another place completely gave up that argument. He said that alcohol was available in hotels and all over the place in Scotland and that the aim of the Bill was to end the discrimination against one class of premises. I hope that we shall not hear any more of that argument tonight.
Do we want two standards or one good standard? I hope that all hon. Members will vote for one proper standard in public houses and in behaviour and not the old, two-standard hypocrisy which has crept into our lives.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. 1522 Mackintosh), in one of his usual arguments, seems to think that he has the monopoly of common sense and that everyone who disagrees with him is wrong, foolish, misguided or hypocritical. Irrespective of what the hon. Gentleman thinks, along with those whom he would represent, there are a considerable number of people—I suggest a majority—who think that a pattern of living that involves five days' work, one day of recreation and one quiet day is not offensive to the majority. I suggest that the majority like to have one day that is quieter than the rest, one day of recreation and five days' work, although normally those conditions are not available to Members of Parliament, who often have to work for seven days a week in unreasonable conditions, as you are well aware, Mr. Speaker.
If people wish to live their life in that way, why should the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian and some of his trendy friends try to foist their Chelsea ideas on those who are not prepared to accept them? Although I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, I classify the House of Lords as being far more irresponsible. Their Lordships have shown themselves collectively—I should not think of attacking them individually and I do not believe that we are allowed to do so anyway—to be a bunch of clowns.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. In order that all should go well, it is customary for one House not to abuse the other. That is the general rule.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. However, it is clear from their decision that very few Lords live in Glasgow tenements above public houses. It would be interesting to have a statistical survey, but I think we can accept—the Secretary of State may have some information on the matter—that very few Lords live in that style in Glasgow. I am convinced that if more Lords lived in those circumstances their Lordships would not have come to the same decision.
§ Mr. Norman Buchanan (Renfrewshire, West)
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should accept that their Lordships are acknowledged to be experts on the subject. The expression "As drunk as a Lord" is commonly used.
§ Mr. Taylor
It could well be that they have more experience of drink as a practice and as an investment, but I should not like to venture an opinion.
I say to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian and those who feel like him that their Lordships came to their view irrespective of whether a Sunday licence will cause undue disturbance to a locality, even if it will cause an undue public nuisance. Irrespective of those considerations, they are in favour of a public house opening on Sundays. There is no question of that not necessarily happening if one person or two or three people say that they do not like it. We are talking about a general public disturbance or public nuisance in a locality.
One of the advantages of the fragile safeguard that we put in the Bill is that it gave people in the community some sort of say about the life style that they want in their community on a Sunday. I am worried that their Lordships seem to have taken into account only the interests of brewers and publicans, not the interests of the people and the staff. If we have no safeguards, it is quite certain, irrespective of whether it is said that they need not open, that the vast majority of public houses will open on a Sunday.
In some places it will be a licence to print money. According to all the evidence, it will lead to more drinking, and, therefore, to greater income. In the absence of any safeguards, it is almost inevitable that the majority of public houses will open. On reading the debate in another place it seems that no consideration was given to the position of staff.
§ Mr. Tom McMillan
I wish that I were in a position to act as a shop steward for staff in public houses. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that they are some of the worst-paid members of the community, especially those who work for brewers? When the Bill becomes an Act, I should like to be in a position to negotiate their new wage terms.
§ Mr. Taylor
Yes, that is something that we should all think about before we change laws.
I am worried that these changes are being made with no attention being given 1524 to the intolerable living standards and life styles of those who work in public houses. Managers of public houses are on duty for six days a week. If they choose to carry out their responsibilities properly, they may well be in the position of having to be on the premises seven days a week if the Bill as it stands becomes an Act. It is intolerable that we should go ahead with proposals that will inflict that sort of life style on some one who works in a public house.
We should take into account not only the interests of brewers and publicans and those who will make a considerable amount of extra money out of the Bill, but the interests of those who live in our communities in Scotland and the interests of staff. I therefore feel that we should have safeguards.
The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian said that he did not like the idea of two tiers of decision. What we should have had in the Bill is a two-tier system based on incentives whereby one could get extra facilities only if one were prepared to play one's part in improving facilities. What I refer to as the safeguard of Clause 32 is not a safeguard in relation to the effect on the community. It is a safeguard only in relation to the premises. It concerns premises which are suitable or fit for the selling of drink. Even if a public house is made of diamonds with glass, it can still cause considerable offence in a community if it makes provision for Sunday drinking.
Therefore, I agree entirely with the Secretary of State. We have made a major blunder in permitting Sunday opening, as we do in the Bill. However, if we are to destroy the few fragile safeguards that have been inserted just because their Lordships have come to that decision, we shall make the situation a great deal worse and we shall inflict a pattern of life upon people who certainly do not want it, and we shall have no provisions to provide for it unless we have the present safeguards.
§ Mr. Canavan
The proposed restrictions in Schedule 4 would be unfair. They would operate unfairly, first, against the individual publican or the prospective licence holder. The duplicity of standards as proposed by the Government would mean that many prospective 1525 licence holders would have to cross two hurdles if they wanted to have their establishment open on a Sunday. The Government have not satisfactorily explained why they want to impose these double standards. There is much to be said for the argument that if a pub is not good enough to be open on a Sunday, then it should not be open during the week anyway.
I understand the problems in constituencies such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). I used to live in a tenement in his constituency. I know that in such urban areas there are problems associated with people coming out of pubs at 10 p.m. or, as the Bill proposes at 11 p.m. It is not nice to hear disturbances at night or to find one's stair messed up with urine in the morning.
I have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) with much respect. However, his argument concerned stopping a particular pub opening throughout the whole week, or perhaps providing better toilet facilities inside and outside pubs. It is an argument for stopping people urinating where they should not do so and having more adequate police supervision. However, surely he would not argue that urinating in a close on a Sunday is any worse or any better than urinating in a close from Monday to Saturday.
The Sunday restriction order as proposed in Schedule 4 is unfair in another respect. Paragraph 15 says:The licensing board may make a Sunday restriction order in relation to individual premises or in relation to a group of premises in respect of which the same type of licence is held.That means that if there has been misbehaviour in one particular establishment the board has the power to impose a Sunday restriction order not merely on that establishment but on establishments in the whole area. One pub in an area may be responsible for a Sunday restriction order covering the whole area. Therefore, some good licensed premises could suffer from this restriction simply because of bad behaviour at one particular establishment.
I recognise, too, what the Secretary of State said—that if the Lords amendment is accepted we shall have a great number of pubs, not necessarily all— 1526 opening on a Sunday. It is optional, but I expect that most pubs would open on a Sunday and that this may present difficulties concerning the conditions of work and payment of staff, and so on. They are not insurmountable difficulties. No pub will be forced to open. It will be purely optional.
There is a great case for fighting for better conditions for the bar staff irrespective of Sunday opening. They could have a more flexible shift arrangement. I have experience of having worked in a pub. I was employed by one of the biggest licence holders in Scotland, Scottish and Newcastle Brewers. At that time I was paid the princely sum of five bob an hour. Last year the pre-tax profits of Scottish and Newcastle Brewery exceeded £30 million. There is plenty of money in the brewers' pockets to pay the staff decent wages, so let us not listen too much to those who exhibit pseudo-sympathies for the staff. So long as the staff get organised through trade unions to fight for better conditions and better pay, they have nothing to fear.
If the Government's proposals go ahead there will be unfairness towards the consumers as well. The existing law is that only hotels with four or more bedrooms can apply for a seven-day licence. In some areas there are plenty of hotels, but in other areas people who want a quiet drink on a Sunday have to walk miles to get a pint. In areas where there are no hotels and clubs it is unfair that the consumers should have to travel a long distance to get a quiet pint on a Sunday night.
In urban areas where there is a scarcity of hotels we sometimes have a situation where it looks as if everyone and his brother, sister and granny squeeze into the public bar of the hotel and there is absolutely mayhem on a Sunday night. There is nothing more degrading to the so-called Scottish Sabbath than the public bar of some of our hotels in Scottish cities on a Sunday night. People crowd together in barbaric conditions because that is the only place where they have the opportunity to get a drink. If there were more and better facilities, people's drinking standards would be far more civilised and that would lead to a far more civilised society in Scotland.
1527 It is interesting to note that it is 16 years since the first Guest Committee reported. Guest recommended the Sunday opening of pubs. At that time the Government diluted the Guest Committee's recommendations. They did away with the stupidity of the bona fide traveller nonsense which applied on a Sunday. Now, only hotels with four or more bedrooms can get a seven-day licence. Often they are pseudo-hotels which do not cater for residents. They have four wee rooms, which they call bedrooms, just to get a seven-day licence.
In 1973, the Clayson Committee recommended the Sunday opening of pubs. Again, here we have the Government of the day diluting the recommendation by making the restrictions proposed in Schedule 4.
I see that there are four Members of the Scottish National Party present tonight. SNP Members are always complaining about unfair disparities between Scotland and England. I hope that they will join us in Lobby tonight. One unfair disparity between Scotland and England is the licensing law, particularly in respect of the opening of pubs on Sunday. Hon. Members who back in their constituencies might hypocritically condemn Sunday opening are not averse to knocking it back here during the week. I hope therefore that all 11 SNP Members come into the Lobby with us tonight. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) is not here. She might be on the vino in Brussels rather than on the whisky downstairs, for a change. But I hope that as many SNP Members as possible will support us in the Lobby tonight.
Surely the Scottish people, by and large, are responsible—
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) to refer to another hon. Member in that way?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is never acceptable for an hon. Member to make charges against other hon. Members if any implication can be drawn from the remark made by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) I know that he would wish to withdraw it. Perhaps he would make it clear.
§ Mr. Canavan
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, and withdraw that comment. I merely suggested that the hon. Lady is having a wee refreshment in Brussels tonight rather than downstairs.
Can the Scottish people not be trusted to have the same drinking facilities as can the English on a Sunday? Can they not be trusted to have the same civilised standards? I think they can.
I find myself in a strange position since on this occasion I disagree with a Labour Minister and agree with the House of Lords. However, what convinces me that I am on the right side is when I hear the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) saying that he will vote with the Government on this issue. I still believe that the Lords should be abolished, but in this respect its Members have shown a far more enlightened attitude than have the Government.
§ Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With due respect, I believe that there was an imputation made against the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing), with whom I am not politically in alignment. I do not think an adequate apology was made to the hon. Lady.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) had withdrawn his remark.
§ Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)
I am worried that for the second time this Session I find myself agreeing with the policy advanced by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), even though I do not agree with his language or his imputation.
I do not intend to reopen the debate on alcoholism, which was well ventilated in Committee and on Report. Those who are interested in trying to improve this problem have had their say and have indicated how best the situation can be dealt with. I personally feel that the licensing laws of Scotland will not make any major difference one way or the other to the illness of alcoholism.
We must decide tonight whether we want to remain in the present situation, which is entirely unsatisfactory. Do we want a compromise such as that put forward by the Secretary of State for Scotland and by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), or 1529 should we try to raise the standards by implementing the ideas of the Clayson Committee? After all, this important subject comes before the House only once every 25 years and therefore we should take the opportunity to grasp the nettle. We cannot let matters stand as they are.
A compromise is always an unsatisfactory solution. Therefore, we should accept the wise advice of Lord Guest and other noble Lords in another place who debated these matters at length and advanced admirable arguments about their reasons for dealing with the amendments in the way in which they did.
It is difficult in Scotland to legislate for the whole country at once. Grave fears have been expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) and others who represent urban constituencies in which tenement pubs are common place. The situation in those areas is very different from the situation in rural towns and in the countryside in other parts of Scotland.
Hon. Members have already mentioned the grossly overcrowded hotels in Scotland on a Sunday. Once we have given way on the principle of the consumption of alcohol on a Sunday—which has been the case for some years via the hotels—I believe that we should move into the area covered by the Clayson Committee, which took the view "Let us try to ease the pressure on Sundays and try to bring higher standards into the pubs than now exist". That is the whole tenor of the Bill. Then we shall reduce the consumption of alcohol, because people will not be fighting like tigers to get into the cramped cocktail bars in those hotels that are open.
There is much more to the matter than the simple prevention of the consumption of alcohol on Sunday. The Secretary of State's amendments would restrict the opening of public houses more than would the Clayson proposals or the proposals put forward in another place.
Therefore, I believe that it is much better to take the wise advice of Clayson and to accept all the problems of staffing and so on that may follow. The incentives of good pay and conditions overcome many such problems. We should look towards the end of the century and try to raise the whole standard of public houses and hotels in Scotland. We shall not do that by continuing restrictions.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
It would be unfair to pretend that I had not intended to speak until I heard the attack made by my hon. Friends the Members for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on the speech I was not going to make, but it is a new and flattering experience for me to have a speech of mine attacked before I had uttered even a word of it. It is all the more remarkable as, unlike more distinguished hon. Members, I had not even issued to the Press an embargoed copy of what I was going to say.
My hon. Friends are correct. I come to the debate with a strong commitment to the Government's amendment because I represent a constituency in which a large proportion of my electors live in tenements piled on top of a public house, quite often one that serves not only that locality but the region as a whole, including the area which my hon. Friend represents and the area in which he lives.
My hon. Friends will be relieved to hear that I do not propose to rehearse the many arguments with which I wearied the Standing Committee on behalf of those electors. I am sufficiently wise to know that if I have not yet moved my hon. Friends with my electors' problems I shall not succeed tonight, but it is worth recalling that on Report in July there was no doubt that the majority of hon. Members were sympathetic to the safeguards then approved to protect the people in that position.
§ Mr. Cook
That would explain some of my hon. Friend's speeches.
Those safeguards gained the support of both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), from the Opposition Front Bench, described them as important and desirable. That view was shared by many hon. Members in the Chamber that night. Unfortunately, that desirable and 1531 important compromise was upset by the decisions of the other place.
It is not open to us in this debate to question the constitutional arrangements or raise the partisan decisions that have been made over recent weeks, but pertinent questions about a two-Chamber system are raised by a situation in which this House, after prolonged debate, arrives at a balanced compromise only to see it destroyed by another place, which clearly was not listening to our debate.
I have studied with care the debate in the other place. I have read what was said by the noble Lords before they took their decision. I am aware that "Erskine May" advises me that I must be courteous and moderate in what I say about the other place. I labour under the same constraints as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor). Yet I must say I found the contributions to that debate disappointing.
It is hard not to come away from that debate with the impression that those who participated lacked comprehension of the way in which working people live in an urban environment in Scotland. Lacking that comprehension, they lacked compassion for the problems that come with it. As the hon. Member for Cathcart has said that the only people for whom concern was expressed in that debate were publicans who might fail to get through such tests as might be applied by the licensing board.
Two arguments were produced in the course of that debate. First, why are we different from England? The provision does not exist in England and people asked why such a safeguard should be written into the law of Scotland. I do not yet despair of the hope that we may make laws for Scotland that are not only different from those of England but also better.
There is a real difference which is why we have to provide these safeguards. The urban environment in Scotland is different from the urban environment in the English regions. There are some people who live above public houses in England, mostly the publican and his family. But nowhere in England does the figure approach the large number of families—often up to 20 in a tenement—piled on 1532 top of a busy public house such as I can take hon. Members to within my own constituency. The situation is different and there must be safeguards. We need make no excuse when people point to the difference in the laws between England and Scotland.
The second argument was that if the public houses are open on six days of the week they should necessarily have a right to be open on the seventh day. That is exactly what my hon. Friends and the noble Lords were saying. That is what the Bill would provide within the safeguards.
People who urge this argument are labouring under a misapprehension. We are not saying that we should prevent a pub from opening on the seventh day because of the quality of the pub or the character of the publican or the people who go there. The reason we are saying that there should be safeguards to prevent that public house being opened on the seventh day relates purely to its location. Location is not catered for in Clause 32. That clause refers tocharacter and condition, and the nature and extent of usebut not to location. What we are dealing with is not a licensing matter but a planning matter.
As the hon. Member for Pentlands said, tenants of public houses in the past have gone to the planning committee and have received permission to be open on six days. But they might not have received that planning permission if the planning committee had been aware that they would be open on Sunday. That is a well-understood planning principle and it applies to fields other then licensed houses.
§ Mr. Cook
My hon. Friend has served on a planning authority but he may not have served on the planning committee, as I have, and as other hon. Members have. As any Member who served on a planning committee is aware, the hours for which a premises will be occupied—whether they be a public house or an industrial or commercial concern—are highly relevant to the decision that the local planning committee takes.
1533 If one asks for permission to open an industrial premises the committee will ask the hours on which it will be open. One is more likely to get planning permission if the premises are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. than if one has work shifts throughout the night and on Sundays.
If my hon. Friends the Members for Berwick and East Lothian and West Stirlingshire are to be thoroughly logical, what they should say is that no factory should be given planning permission to be open unless it could be open on a Sunday The logic of their approach to public houses is that if one is not prepared to give planning permission for Sunday, those with planning permission for only the other six days should be shut.
That will not happen. Licensing boards and planning committees will not take away the livelihood of those who already have permission to operate six days a week. It is a chimera to think that a licensing board will weed out those which are not fit to open on Sunday and close them down for the other six days. I think that my hon. Friends understand that.
But even if elected members were prepared to do that, it would be unnecessarily harsh. There are public houses which open six days a week which are well run, in which there are no disputes and where people do not urinate when they leave, even up the adjacent stair, and where those living nearby have lived for decades with the background noise, nuisance and smell and do not want to close them for the six days.
All they say is that they do not want them open on a Sunday, on their day of rest, when all the family are at home. They are entitled to object. Unless we replace these paragraphs they will not have that right. We have the duty to restore to them that right which the Lords sought to deny them.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) summed up the argument against the Government's motion—a motion which I support—in a way which showed a profound misunderstanding of the Government's argument. He said that those who supported the amendment supported two standards 1534 while he supported one good standard. He said that we were supporting two levels, one for the six days of the week and a different one for Sunday, and that that was hypocrisy. He wanted a high standard, hopefully improving, on all seven days.
It is not like that at all. Far be it from me to pretend that there is not a great deal of hypocrisy about drink in Scotland; of course there is. But a sizeable proportion of the community regards Sunday as different—whether for sacred reasons or because of the respite it offers from the hurly-burly of the previous six days. They apply different standards to it and that is not hypocritical: they simply look upon it differently.
People who take that view often consider other activities than drinking in a different way on Sunday. For example, the fact that many people do not approve of league football on Sunday does not mean that they disapprove of league football. They simply argue that mass entertainment in our major cities with all its resulting complications is not desirable on a Sunday.
I therefore do not agree with the hon. Member that support for the Government's motion is a cantish or hypocritical approach to a real problem. In a strange way it will make the legislation more flexible and permit a more sensitive approach to local situations even than the local option, which was what I supported.
Now, particularly in the urban areas, with very large districts—it could probably not be based on anything smaller—the local option would become virtually meaningless. Under the Government's proposal, the circumstances obtaining in particular places and affecting individual public houses would be scrutinised. I think that that commends the Government's proposals.
In a moderate, restrained and well-structured speech—I say that without offence—the Secretary of State repeatedly used the word "safeguards". That is a good word to look at. It means that one is trying to protect, to respond to and to be careful of the problems and attitudes of groups of people. Surely that is a good thing to do. I shall certainly be doing that in supporting the amendment.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I am surprised by some of the remarks that I have heard today, bearing in mind that we are seeking to put back into the Bill provisions with which we were perfectly satisfied when it left this House and to which many hon. Members have referred as desirable safeguards.
When I questioned my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) about this matter, I did not get the impression that the people who were arguing the desirability of Sunday opening were lacking in vigilance. I thought that they were following the Bill carefully and closely. When I made my speech, I suggested that, although I was not entirely happy about the safeguards, if these safeguards were necessary for Sunday opening, they were equally necessary for Monday, Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
We are making a new start. I suggest that the standards that we set for Sunday should be the standards for weekdays as well. Only by accepting these standards and applying them to the rest of the week can we have the desirable improvement which has been asked for. I do not think that we shall get that improvement without doing anything. We had this improvement business in 1953 when we first embarked on Sunday opening. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) told us some sad tales about his granny, and all the rest of it. The one person who would never be seen in a Scottish pub was my hon. Friend's granny.
We want to see these standards applied. My hon. Friend made his heart-burning cry. Apparently he is opposing his right hon. Friend and saying that he is on the side of the Lords. One can imagine that the first hymn next Sunday will beWho is on the Lord's side?But we must not forget that the next hymn will probably beCourage, brother! do not stumble".I hope that we shall not waste much time. I am not happy with the Bill as it is. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)—I think this was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—said that we were dealing with the whole of Scotland. This was a balanced Bill when it was produced. I had something to do with it when I 1536 was Secretary of State for Scotland. We are taking away from different parts of Scotland and areas of cities the right to make up their own minds in the form of a referendum. We are wiping that out.
I find it very difficult to understand why another place should now say that, without any safeguards, there will be an automatic right given to all pub owners to open on a Sunday. I think that the other place is living up to its irresponsibility in a democratic sense.
Sunday is different from the other days of the week, and I am delighted that it is. Trade unionists think that it is different. If a man works on a Sunday, he gets more than for working during a weekday, because Sunday is the recognised day of rest. The pattern of life on Sunday is different.
When the Bill left this House—