§ Order of the day for consideration of the Bill on Report read.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)
§ LORD CLWYD
My Lords, I feel some diffidence in intervening in this matter even for a moment, because, as your Lordships are aware, I have no direct right to speak for Scottish opinion. I hope, however, that your Lordships will allow me to say a few words with regard to the Order now under consideration, because I have throughout my public life taken a very special interest in all licensing questions. I am fully aware of the circumstances which have led to the granting of this Order, and of the reasons which are put forward by the Government which render it necessary, in their opinion, for the Order to be confirmed; hut, at the same time, I know that there is a very strong body of opinion in Scotland, not confined altogether to the temperance section of the population, against the confirmation of this Order. That opinion is based upon the general ground that when an Act of Parliament has been passed it is undesirable, unless the reasons for doing so are overwhelming, to suspend its operations even for a short time. Since I understand that very strong feeling does exist in Scotland on the part of a large section of the people there against this procedure, I should not like this Order to be approved without, at all events, a word of protest upon these lines being uttered on behalf of those whose opinions I this afternoon represent.
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Abinger, as 464 I was a member of the Commission that considered this Provisional Order, I think perhaps I might be allowed to say a few words. In the first place the promoters of the Bill brought before the Commission an immense body of evidence to show that the licensing facilities were essential to the success of the Exhibition, and that those facilities would lead to no disorder and to no disturbance of the locality greater than must actually be brought about by the existence of the Exhibition itself. They brought evidence to show further that if licensing facilities were withheld the disorder and disturbance to the locality would be even greater. It must be remembered that this Order does not seek to grant licensing facilities, but merely to allow the promoters of the Exhibition to apply in the ordinary way for licences, just as they would if the area under consideration were not what is called "dry." In reply, those who opposed the Order brought no evidence of any kind at all. Their counsel merely made a speech directed to showing that it was contrary to public policy that a Provisional Order should override a Public General Act.
The Commission, having heard their evidence, were not unanimous upon the granting of the Order, but—I am sure my memory is right and that every other member of the Commission will agree in this—they were unanimous that some means should be found for enabling either the promoters to apply for licences or the inhabitants of the district themselves to decide whether such application should be entertained or no. The alternative suggested was that the date of the "plebiscite"—I do not know what I should call it—on the subject of whether the area should be "wet" or "dry" should be advanced in order to allow the people of the district to decide with the Exhibition in their minds. That procedure, and any other procedure that can be found—certainly any other that was brought before the Commission—involves a very much greater overriding of the Public General Act than the Provisional Order which is now before your Lordships. For this reason the Commission, being unanimous that some steps should be taken, and the majority agreeing that this was the most suitable procedure and involved least disturbance—for after all, my Lords, it refers to an area in which 465 there are no inhabitants—recommended that this Order should be granted. That is the state of the case, and I hope that your Lordships will duly approve the Order.
§ LORD STRATHCONA AND MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, in view of the two speeches which your Lordships have just heard, one from the noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, protesting against the passing of this Order, and the other from the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, supporting it, I do not think your Lordships will expect me to discuss in detail the arguments which have been advanced for and against the proposals of this Bill. A full opportunity for such discussion was given, as the noble Lord has just said, by the Commission which examined the proposal, and it is in accordance with your Lordships' custom to attach great weight to the decisions of Committees and Commissions who have carefully heard all the evidence and arguments. So far as particular objections are concerned, perhaps I may say, however, that in the opinion of the Secretary of State for Scotland no valid objection can be taken to this Bill on the ground that it makes a temporary modification of a Public General Statute. Local legislation frequently modifies General Statutes, and in this case there are exceptional and unique circumstances. The Temperance Act, 1913, was intended to enable the inhabitants of a particular locality to determine whether licences should be refused in the light of the normal circumstances of the locality. In the present case a totally unexpected event has occurred—namely, the establishment of an Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park for a period of about seven months in 1938, with an attendance which is expected to total many thousands, if not millions.
As regards the effect of these proposals on good order: as I think the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has already told your Lordships, the Chief Constable of Glasgow informed the Commissioners that he did not apprehend that the grant of licences within the Exhibition would cause any injury to the amenities or public order. He also mentioned that there are two public-houses within a few hundred yards of the Exhibition grounds, and that they would probably be flooded out, with undesirable results, if ordinary facilities were not granted within the Ex- 466 hibition. It has been suggested that a fresh poll under the Temperance Act might have been taken so as to modify the existing "No Licence" Resolution if the electors so decided. Any such change would, however, have affected the whole "No Licence" area, of which the Park is only a small fraction. It would also have continued for a period of years, whereas the need for modifying the existing arrangements will cease in this instance as soon as the Exhibition closes in the autumn of 1938.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.